Canada Reads 2013: Turf Wars

9 Dec

Canada Reads is nearly upon us, with the debates airing on February 11-14. This year, to shake things up a bit, Canadians were asked to vote for the book they thought best represented the literature from the region they live in. Broken down into five “turfs”, voters nominated the best of the best from: BC and the Yukon, Prairies and North, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces.

The nominated contenders + titles are:

1. BC and Yukon: Carol Huynh defending Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

2. Prairies and North: Ron MacLean defending The Age of Hope by David Bergen

3. Ontario: Charlotte Gray defending Away by Jane Urquhart

4. Quebec: Jay Baruchel defending Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan

5. Atlantic: Trent McClellan defending February by Lisa Moore

I applaud CR for narrowing in on the varying regions of Canada, as I hope this will aid in breaking down the myth that Canadian Lit is homogeneous in nature. By reading all of these titles, it will become very clear to the reader that the literature coming out of the East Coast is of a predominantly different ilk than the literature coming out of the West Coast and so on and so forth. It is true that Canadian literature has always had deep roots in its own culture, but with the drastic differences of climate/politics/landscape/inhabitants from province to province, it’s ridiculous to assume that the works being produced throughout the entire country could ever be one and the same. And this will also give readers the opportunity to gain insight into the relevant topics that are impacting and inspiring ways of life for Canadians in other regions than their own. The nominated Quebec title Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan is a prime example of this, as it focuses on the pertinent divide between the French and the English in this country.

Looking over the list, I am convinced this is going to be the most engaging ie. competitive Canada Reads to date. Not only will the contenders be defending their particular titles; they will also be defending the territory in which they themselves live. A sense of acute regional pride should be at play during the debate. Being from Ontario myself, one might assume that my allegiance will be with Urquhart’s title. Having lived in other parts of Canada, I do not seem to possess that regional pride that so many others exhibit. Not to say that Urquhart’s Away is not worthy of being in the race. It certainly is. It’s a beautiful novel, with sensuous prose. And being of Irish descent, I was engrossed by her portrayal of the Irish immigrant adapting to the Canadian landscape. Even if Away does not win, it is a book that should be read. That goes for the other four books as well. Not to say that you will enjoy reading all five books, but you will no doubt learn something valuable of the people + history of that region.

I have read three of the five titles so far, and out of those three I have selected a title to which I am currently tentatively cheering for. I use the term tentatively, as my mind could very well change once I have read the final two books. And even once I have settled on a winning title, my decision could be further swayed based on one or more of the impassioned campaigns of the contenders. This is what makes the debates so exciting!

The debates are still months away, and yet I am already looking forward to tuning in. I would recommend my readers do the same. And if you are from the Toronto area, certainly try and attend one of the live debate sessions. I love CR because not only does it celebrate Canadian literature, but it gets Canadians excited about reading Can Lit. Canada is home to some amazing talent, and I always think it is a shame when Canadians are not familiar with the works that are being produced in their own backyard.

And for anyone interested in winning all five books, go to this CBC link: http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads/win-a-set-of-the-canada-reads-2013-books.html

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