Friday, 31 July 2020

Miracle Creek Christmas

Finished July 25
Miracle Creek Christmas by Krista Jensen

This novel features Riley Madigan an art teacher who has left behind a love affair gone wrong in California and come to the small mountain town of Miracle Creek to escape and recover. There, she revitalizes the school art program, participating in creating the set and props for the school production of Peter Pan, and begins to renovate an old house she's bought.
Her art work on the set attracts the attention of Mark Rivers, a local firefighter who is still recovering from a work-related accident that left him with severe burns, as well as the loss of his best friend, another fire-fighter. Mark's mom was an artist, and she passed away from cancer when he was a teenager, but Riley's work reminds him of his mom's style and he wonders if her can convince her to help him replace a sentimental piece of his mom's that was also lost in a fire the same year he was injured.
Riley isn't looking for a romance, feeling disillusioned by her recent relationship, and she also has baggage from other losses in her life. Part of her wants to fix up the house and move on, but she has also started to make connections in town, and enjoy the setting and the people.
There is miscommunication to start, and wariness on both sides of this developing romance, but Riley and Mark have things in common and services that they can offer each other in a practical way.
I liked how Mark brought Riley out of her comfort zone, exposing her to people that needed her in a different way and to the landscape around them. I liked how Riley looked beyond the scars to see Mark as a person with his own issues. A nice read.

The Sparrow Sisters

Finished July 24
The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

This book takes place in a small seaside town in New England called Granite Point. The town's only doctor has recently retired and sold his practice to Henry Carlyle, a doctor who has previously worked in emergency medicine in Boston and in the military in Afghanistan. He has a leg injury and a back story that is gradually revealed.
The town's residents are friendly and close knit. Among them are three sisters who live together in the house that they grew up in, and who run a garden business selling plants, flowers, and produce. There were four sisters, but one died of cancer, under the care of the retiring doctor. The youngest sister Patience (from Impatiens) has a touch that she may have inherited from an ancestor who was accused of being a witch. Patience uses the herbs and other plants they grow to make tonics that many people in the town rely on. The new doctor is a bit taken aback by this practice, but when he meets Patience, they have a connection that they both acknowledge.
The other two sisters, Sorrel and Nettie are protective of Patience and also have their own personal connections to men in the town that they've never acted upon. There is also a young boy in town, whose mother died and whose father isn't coping well. He hangs around the gardening business a lot and Patience has taken him under her wing, teaching him plants and giving him cookies from the amazing bakery in town. He's got some health issues and when he's off his meds, Patience has used a tonic to help and also tried to get his father to step up.
One interesting thing that becomes a plot point is the way that Patience's moods manifest. Different herbal scents come off her due to her mood, and the weather seems to be affected as well. Her body temperature fluctuates as another sign of what's happening to her internally.
When a tragedy hits the town and a local reacts emotionally, a county prosecutor sets his sights on Patience and things get really crazy in town.
I found this book fascinating and I liked the way that the people in the town reacted under the pressure, particularly the women.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Life in the Studio

Finished July 23
Life in the Studio: Inspirations and Lessons on Creativity by Frances Palmer

This inspirational book features glimpses inside the studio, house, and gardens of successful potter Frances Palmer. The book is arranged into 3 parts and is full of photographs. There are also recipes in each section.
Part one is "Begin as You Mean to Go On" and talks about the importance of awareness. She covers centering, self-reliance, and inspiration. Palmer talks about the types of clay that she works with: white earthenware, terracotta, and porcelain. She goes on to discuss processes including glazes, throwing, handbuilding, and finishing (handles, pedestals, beading, holes, ruffles, fluting, sculptural gestures, drawing, and painting. She also discusses value here.
Part two is "Routine is Everything" and here she talks about where and how she works, showing her workspace setup, both now and earlier in her career. She shows the tools she uses and talks about how she uses them, and she talks about her agenda and how she plans her time. Also in this section is an extensive discussion about her garden. She is particularly interested in Dahlias, and shows a wide variety of types that she has growing. One thing in this section that I found enlightening was the idea of embracing the random. She shows how she creates and uses flower molds in her work. Along with her garden, she also talks about beekeeping as she has ventured into that area at her home. The final thing in this section is deadlines and how to use them.
Part three is "Looking Forward" and her she covers a number of things about her career. First is how she does open studios and why she's made the decisions she has around this. She discusses the various collaborations that she's engaged in, and how she approaches these. There is a great visual how-to on arranging a bouquet, along with how she documents her work. She moves on to how she expanded to encompass other things in her work and how she photographs her work, preferring to do it herself as others don't see her creations as she does. This leads naturally into listening to your inner voice. She ventures back into the garden again with a visual on forcing bulbs. She reminds us to be kind to ourselves and to keep learning and growing.
This was a great overview of her work, but also provided insight into how one might approach one's own creative ventures.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Start Without Me

Finished July 22
Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

This novel has two main characters who meet in a random way and have a big effect on the direction of each other's life. Adam is an alcoholic who has been clean for just over nine months and who is joining his family for Thanksgiving, something he is very nervous about. He was a musician and after a stint in a good rehab facility changed his life in a big way. He stopped being a musician and took a job in a bank. He moved from the East Coast to California. He still misses Johanna who was his band mate and girlfriend, but who had issues of her own. This is his first time back with family and he panic's when something goes wrong.
Marissa is a flight attendant. She is married to a guy she met at college who has a very different background from her. She grew up with an alcoholic mother, moving often to avoid financial situations, and she and her sister were often left alone. Her husband Robbie is from an achieving family, with his mother a judge and his father a senator. His sister runs a nonprofit she created. They are also different culturally from her experience, with his dad black and his mom Jewish. She never feels accepted visiting them, and is very aware of her more disadvantaged background. She arranged to have flights over this weekend, with a break just long enough to join them for dinner. She and Robbie have been fighting a lot lately, partly about money as she doesn't want to accept handouts from his parents. Now, though, she has another problem. Recently, she'd encountered her high school boyfriend on a flight she was working and gave into the impulse to sleep with him, something they'd not done back then. And now she is pregnant. Her flight attendant friend has encouraged her to have an abortion, and she knows that is the logical thing to do, but her guilt is huge.
When Marissa and Adam encounter each other in the restaurant of an airport hotel, they begin to share their stories, and then find themselves sharing more as they go through this holiday. There is a lot to discuss in this novel, and my copy came with discussion questions to get you started.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Closed Casket

Finished July 20
Closed Casket: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah

This story takes place at an Irish manor house of Lady Playford, a famous English children's author. The author has invited a number of people to her house for a weekend, including Inspector Catchpool of Scotland Yard and Hercule Poirot.
Lady Playford's son Harry and daughter-in-law Dorro are also living there as is her daughter Claudia. Her daughter's fiance, Randall Klimpton, a pathologist from Oxford is visiting. Lady Playford has also invited the two principal lawyers from her law firm, Orville Rolfe and Michael Gathercole, and we see her early meeting with one of them as she discusses making a significant change to her will.
Besides these people, there are also staff members: Hatton the butler, the cook Brigid, the maid Phyllis, Lady Playford's secretary Joseph Scotcher, and Scotcher's nurse Sophie Bourlet. Scotcher is suffering from a kidney disease and is not expected to last much longer.
Catchpool and Poirot are not entirely sure why they are there, but the expect it is to prevent something from happening.
Lady Playford is a very manipulative woman who likes to have things her way, and she was the sole recipient of her husband's estate, unusual in those times, although her son did get the title. Claudia is a very forthright young woman, resentful of pretty much everyone and everything and a strong feminist in some ways. Gathercole, her lawyer, originally applied for the job as her secretary and has been a lifelong fan of her writings, crediting them with his success in life. As Lady Playford puts her plan in action, she fails to account for a variety of other variables and it does not unfold to her satisfaction at all, and it is now that Catchpool and Poirot must work together to figure out what has really happened and who is responsible.
An interesting novel, with a more convoluted plot than I prefer. Poirot is himself and it is all neatly wrapped up, but there are many casualties and a sad ending.

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind

Finished July 19
The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery by Barbara K. Lipska with Elaine McArdle

This memoir is a fascinating look at one experience with aggressive brain cancer that beat the odds. Lipska is the director of the Human Brain Collection Core at the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States, and spent her career studying mental illness from a neuroscience perspective. She had already survived breast cancer and melanoma, when her melanoma returned, this time in her brain. The symptoms she exhibited as she went through diagnosis and treatment were similar to those of people with dementia and schizophrenia.
Due to her career, connections, and family, she was able to call on experts and become aware of new treatments early in the process. Her husband Mirek is a computer engineer. Her daughter Kasia is an endocrinologist at the Yale School of Medicine. Her son Witek is a neuroscientist in the Brain Modulation Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. Her sister Maria is a physicist and chief of therapy in the radiation oncolology department at Brighton and Women's Hospital in Boston. The symptom that led to the discovery of her tumours was a loss of vision in one part of her visual field. She knew to get to a doctor and received an MRI the next day, which showed the tumours. Her entire family started doing the research of treatments, and she was able to get accepted into a experimental treatment program that included immunotherapy.
She was able to recover memories from her worst times with the tumours after she recovered and put those together with the observations of her family to create this book, detailing her own viewpoint as well as what others saw, giving a unique insight into the entire experience.
Some of the experiences were extremely frightening to read, including the independence she was still insistent on when she was highly impaired.
A fascinating read.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Me and You

Finished July 14
Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti, translated by Kylee Doust

This short novel focuses on a young man, with most of the story taking place when he was a teenager, over a week. Lorenzo Cuni is not socially adept. He has spent time watching his peers and trying to mimic their behaviour to fit in, with limited success. He isn't picked on like he used to be, but he doesn't have any close friends.
On a weeklong school holiday, Lorenzo has told his parents that he was invited to go on a ski trip by fellow students, and now he has to figure out how to manage this. Setting up a spot in a storage space in his apartment complex basement that his parents never use, he stashes supplies and activities to occupy himself with during the week. But he must find a way to manage his mother's phone calls, and deal with an unexpected visitor, his half-sister.
The present day has him connecting once again with that sister, honoring the special connection they developed during this time, and recognizing how she helped him emotionally.
I found this book extremely poignant and really felt for the young Lorenzo as he tried to manage the expectations of those around him.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

The Pretend Wife

Finished July 13
The Pretend Wife by Bridget Asher

This is a light romance novel, with a little bit of a twist. Gwen Merchant is out on a summer day standing in line for ice cream for herself and her husband, Peter, when she is surprised by the appearance of a college boyfriend, Elliot Hull, in line behind her. She finds herself both annoyed by his presence, as they parted after an incident that is described later in the book, and happy to see him because she genuinely likes him. He asks her out, and she lets him know that she is married, and then he gets himself invited to a party that she is going to later.
At the party, something happens to indebt her to him, and she finds herself agreeing to pretend to be his wife in order to help him with a lie that he's told his mother who is very ill from cancer and expected to not last much longer. Peter is the one that initially pushes for this, although he does have second thoughts. Gwen is intrigued to see more of Elliot's family and remembers meeting his mother briefly years ago at a college event after they'd broken up.
Gwen's backstory is important here. Her mother died in a single vehicle accident when she was very young, and Gwen was in the car at the time. Her father, a scientist, was a loving but distant man, very involved in his research into fish sounds. He still lives in the house that she grew up in. He hasn't discussed her mother with her much, avoiding the subject where possible, and she has a lot of unanswered questions.
As we see Gwen relate to Elliot, his sister and niece, and his mother, we also see her reach out to her father to finally learn more about her mother including the circumstances of her death. I found this book quite captivating with its flawed characters and enjoyed the read.

The Reluctant Tuscan

Finished July 12
The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian by Phil Doran

There were aspects of Doran's experience that I quite liked, such as his efforts to learn the language, and aspects that I didn't like, such as how the local people were often caricatures of various Italian stereotypes and his humour, which is in the style of the sitcoms that he wrote for as a career.
At the beginning of the book there is a disclaimer that all the events are true, but some of the place names and all of the people's names have been changed to ensure their privacy. This is good, but given some of the people's secrets, if you know Phil and his wife and where they actually have a home in Tuscany, I would think that some of these secrets might still become associated with the actual people, which is worrying given the promises made to those people.
There is the usual issue of Italian bureaucracy and the machinations used to sidestep and overcome it. Having never dealt with this, I couldn't say if these are real or exaggerated, but certainly at times it feels a bit much.
This memoir covers a year or so during which Doran's wife, a sculptor and lover of Italy, buys a ruined house with many issues and sets about making it into a home. One of her motivations is worry about the stress Doran has over getting his scripts accepted now that he is no longer on salary to a particular show or studio. She believes getting him away from California will help his health. Given the stress around this project, I'm not sure how successful this ploy was, but he did get a book out of it anyway.
Despite the stereotypes, one did get glimpses of the real humanity in the people he encountered, and some of them were more interesting to me, and I would like to know more about them, such as the young female mechanic.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

The Iron Queen

Finished July 10
The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

I started this book quite a while ago, having read the first two in this fantasy series for teens. Somehow it got set aside and I recently picked it up again. It continues the story of Meghan Chase and picks up where The Iron Daughter left off.
Meghan is with her mortal father and Ash working to improve her skills as something has happened to make her ill when she uses fairy magic. She and Ash and Puck have been banished from fairyland, but an emissary is sent to request their return to fight the new Iron King who is bent on destroying the lands of Summer and Winter in Faery forever. They are losing ground everyday, and they believe that Meghan is their only hope to survive. Meghan is unsure of her ability to win, but she is willing to try, with several conditions, including all three having their banishment withdrawn.
Meghan grows over the course of this book, both in her powers and her understanding. There is a lot going on, and characters from the previous books in the series return here.
I liked the various creatures that Kagawa has created for this series, and their abilities and quirks. I like the mischievousness of Puck, and the loyalty of Ash, and I like to see Meghan both have concerns and deal with them. She's an interesting character and a good female character in terms of independence.
As usual, because this is not the last book in the series, the ending does leave you wanting to know more and I know I have the next book here somewhere, so will be digging it out soon.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Sleepless Nights

Finished July 7
Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick

I was drawn to the title and I knew the reputation of the author. When I picked it up and read the introduction though, I felt it to be imposing. No worries though as it was much more relatable than the introduction led it to be. I felt the introduction to be very academic and off-putting, not what I've seen in other NYRB books that I've read.
This novel was partially based on Hardwick's own experiences, and her own observations of those experiences. It is not a linear book, but its rambling nature felt very natural and wasn't confusing as each section dealt with a particular experience or time in her life. It felt very open and self-aware, but of course she wrote it looking back not in the moment. She met a lot of interesting people who came from a variety of life experiences themselves and brought that to whatever relationship she had with them. She doesn't judge, she just observes. And her writing is absolutely beautiful. It is written in a very approachable way, yet one must stop reading and consider things from time to time as many of the situations described ask for that depth of examination.
A lovely little book.

14th Canadian Book Challenge - My Signup Page

I haven't done these right from the first year, but I've done a fair number of them.
This year I will try to go one better than last year for a nice round 30.

I'll also participate and run the book club I'm doing this year.
I meant to put up the post sooner, but it was only when I went to post my first book that I realized that I had not.

13th Canadian Book Challenge - My Reading Roundup


I was definitely doing this challenge, as I was the host this year. I completed 29 books, a reasonable number for me. 
1. What Happens Next by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff. Finished July 1
2. Peace River Country by Ralph Allen. Finished July 7
3. Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman. Finished July 18
4. My Puppy Patch by Theo Heras, illustrated by Alice Carter. Finished July 29
5. Beyond Fate by Margaret Visser. Finished on August 1
6. The Gown by Jennifer Robson. Finished August 24
7. The Migration by Helen Marshall. Finished August 28
8. Lili Macaroni by Nicole Testa, illustrated by Annie Boulanger. Finished September 9
9. A Better Man by Louise Penny. Finished October 1
10. Triceratops Stomp by Karen Patkau. Finished October 12
11. Nutcracker Night by Mireille Messier and Gabrielle Grimard. Finished October 20
12. Prairie People by Robert Collins. Finished October 26
13. See What Flowers by Shannon Mullen. Finished November 19
14. Bad Ideas by Missy Marston. Finished December 9
15. Sugar Falls by David Alexander Robertson and Scott B. Henderson. Finished December 26
16. Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez by Christiane Duchesne & Francois Thisdale. Finished January 17
17. Finding Lucy by Eugenie Fernandes. Finished February 2
18. The Great Halifax Explosion by John U. Bacon. Finished February 6
19. Spinster Kang by Zoe Roy. Finished February 29
20. Parting Shot by Linwood Barclay. Finished March 11
21. How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa. Finished May 20
22. The Haircut by Theo Heras and Renné Benoit. Finished June 9
23. Harvey Holds His Own by Colleen Nelson, illustrated by Tara Anderson. Finished June 11
24. Tickled Pink by Andree Poulin, illustrated by Lucile Danis Drouot. Finished June 14
25. The Egyptian Mirror by Michael Bedard. Finished June 15
26. The Dog Patrol by Rob Laidlaw. Finished June 16
27. Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson, illustrated by Tara Anderson. Finished June 17
28. Without a Guide edited by Katherine Govier. Finished June 29
29. My Discovery of America by Farley Mowat. Finished June 30

When We Were Birds

Finished July 5
When We Were Birds: Stories by Maria Mutch

This collection of stories have a large element of fantasy about them. Elements of the natural world enter the lives of people in unusual and interesting ways. The book has three parts with a few stories in each. Prefacing each story is a photo or drawing, sometimes with a quotation that relates to that story. For instance, in the first story, the peregrine at the end of the world, the image is a diagram plate of a bird skeleton, and the story has a young female peregrine turn into a woman, but one is unsure whether she was a woman that turned into a peregrine, that turned back into a woman, and her fate remains unclear as well. I liked her though. There are also other images within the stories that add meaning.
Other stories include a theft that is both planned and unplanned and results in a different ending than the one the narrator imagined; a woman that believes people go missing and leave some sort of electrical presence behind, but her therapist lover doesn't agree; a hurricane's effect on a marriage; a woman who inexplicably begins to have small messages come out of her; and a man who runs from his lover after she is injured, not looking to help her.
Some stories are reimaginings of fairy tales such as Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, or Bluebeard. Two involve Glenn Gould as a muse.
The stories are mesmerizing and I loved them.

The Murder List

Finished July 3
The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan

This novel follows Rachel North a law intern, formerly chief of staff to a senator. When she was working for the senator, she got called for jury duty. She went, but the woman who stepped up to fill in for her was a newcomer to the office and soon after the trial, she was found dead near a dumpster. The lawyer for the defendant Jack Kirkland has approached Rachel to ask some questions surrounding the jury's experience, and is with Rachel when she hears the news. He also represents the person charged with the murder.
In the present, Rachel has married Jack, and is now in law school. She has been selected as an intern in a D.A.'s office, Martha Gardiner, the D.A. who worked the case of the dead woman from the senator's office.  Jack is not thrilled that she working for Martha, but Rachel sees it as an opportunity.
There is more going on than the reader realizes at first though, and both Martha and Jack are strong characters who don't like to let things go.
As Rachel works with Martha, she finds herself being drawn into the case from the past in an interesting way.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

The Last of the Country House Murders

Finished July 2
The Last of the Country House Murders by Emma Tennant

This book was definitely a surprise. I'd picked it up from the title, thinking it a cozy British mystery, but instead it is a weird dark dystopian fantasy novel. The story takes place at some undetermined future time. Most of the wealthy class in Britain is now housed in institutions where they have small personal spaces and spend most of the day outside on the grounds of the institution. The lower classes appear to have devolved completely and lost the ability to use language. Tourists come from other countries for general tours and for special events.
The upcoming special event here is a murder scheduled in the last country house. The house's owner is scheduled to be murdered in a few days and those that pay can get closer access to the event. A man, working for the government has been designated as the detective and he has chosen which detective (from a selection of famous literary detectives) that he will personify. He must travel to the country house, do research on the man who lives there and talk to him, determine what suspects should be invited to attend to make the event more interesting and determine who the murderer will be. But things don't go as planned, and the detective feels under pressure himself.
We get no real backstory on why society has ended up in this place, but we do see a variety of viewpoints, although mostly very superficially. Besides the detective, and the man who will be murdered, we see a few people from his past, and we see some American tourists.
The props seem to be less substantial and even those no longer living appear in some situations. There are other figures who seem to have a supporting institutional sort of role as well.
This is a very odd book, and not one that captured me.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Music for Tigers

Finished July 2
Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman

This fantastic middle school book brings together the beauty of music and the environment along with human diversity. Louisa is the narrator here and she has been sent from her home in Canada to stay for the summer with her veterinarian uncle in Tasmania. Louisa's mom is Australian and engaged in a research study that would leave Louisa home alone for longer than her parents like. Louisa has brought her violin with her, intending to keep up her practicing for an upcoming audition for the Toronto Children's Symphony Orchestra. The rest of her family is into science and she doesn't feel they understand her interests.
When her uncle Ruff meets her at the bus and leads her into the rainforest, she is made suddenly aware of the new environment that she will be living in for the next few weeks. The family camp is in poor repair, and lacks many of the things that Louisa would expect. She is staying in a cabin last used by her older sister several years ago, and not cleaned in preparation for her visit. The only electricity in in the main cabin where the kitchen and her uncle's sleeping quarters are.
Luckily the environmental camp near by, run by a childhood friend of Louisa's mom, offers an Internet connection and other amenities. The son of the camp director, Colin, is close to Louisa in age and comes to stay at her uncle's camp for a variety of reasons. Colin is a great character, and his attitude helps Louisa to come out of her shell, as does the family history that Ruff shares with her.
As Louisa learns about the history of this part of Australia, about the animals that live here and that have become endangered, she finds herself more interested in the science than she has before. And some of the animals might be interested in her music as well.
Colin is on the autism spectrum and has special interests in the environment and in cooking, which is a great help to Ruff and Louisa. And as Louisa and Colin begin their friendship, they find they both have things to offer each other and more in common than they might have thought.
I really enjoyed learning about this part of the world, a part of Australia that I have not visited, and about the wildlife that is native to it. I also enjoyed seeing Louisa grow over the course of the book and become more engaged with people and the world around her, while still valuing her music.

Friday, 3 July 2020

14th Canadian Reading Challenge: Book Club Overview

I offered to do a book discussion each month and there were some signs of interest. To make it easier to participate, I am choosing the books for the year now to give people time to seek them out. I have decided specifically not to choose brand new books, so people may be able to find them in libraries or used book stores if cost is an issue.
Near the end of the month, I will do a Zoom meeting for anyone interested to talk about the book. For those with poor internet connections, there will also be a post where you can make comments.


July 2020: Marie Chapdelaine by Louis Heman
   This is one of Canada's earliest novels and it is available free online if you can't find a copy.
August 2020: The Afterlife of George Cartwright by John Steffler
   The novel takes a closer look at an historical figure from 18th-century Labrador
September 2020: Starlight by Richard Wagamese
   The last book from one of our cherished Indigenous writers, with themes of mercy and compassion
October 2020: Obasan by Joy Kogawa
   A story of the Japanese Canadians, their evacuation, relocation and treatment during WWII
November 2020: The Wars by Timothy Findley
  One of the best novels written about the First World War, in honor of Remembrance Day
December 2020: Hockey Dreams by David Adams Richards
    Part essays, part memoir, a look at what hockey means to Canadians
January 2021: The Break by Katherena Vermette
    Award-winning family saga with Métis characters
February 2021The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy
  Another classic French Canadian novel with themes of poverty
March 2021: As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross
   A classic story of life in the Depression era told in the form of a journal
April 2021: Sanaaq: An Inuit Novel by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk
   The first Inuit novel, written by an Inuit woman over two decades
May 2021: The House of All Sorts by Emily Carr
   Before getting recognition for her art, Carr ran a small apartment building and these stories tell of
   those experiences
June 2021:  A Map to the Door of No Return by Dionne Brand
   A book that explores the relevance and nature of identity and belonging in a diverse world

My Discovery of America

Finished June 30
My Discovery of America by Farley Mowat

This short book is the story of a few days in the spring of 1985 when Mowat attempted to fly to the United States for a planned book tour and speaking engagement at a private college. At the airport, he cleared customs and immigration and was waiting at his gate when an immigration agent came to him and asked him to return to the immigration area. After an interview, he was denied entry with no explanation.
He didn't just return home. He contacted his publishers, and went to their office in Toronto, and he worked with them to find out what was happening and why. It turned out that the McCarran Act, enacted in the McCarthy era to keep certain types of visitors to the United States out with no transparency was still on the books, and that under Reagan, its use have been revived. Despite being told various stories of past actions dating back to 1968, Mowat had visited the U.S. many times, including other book tours. Perhaps it was the topic of his most recent book, Sea of Slaughter, that drew new attention, but the government wasn't going into details.
There are a lot of echoes here of more recent U.S. immigration barriers and attitudes, including one immigration staffer who was on record as saying "We also exclude rapists, drug pushers and terrorists -- not just Canadians." When I read that I was reminded of Trumps remarks about Mexican immigrants.
Mowat received extensive media coverage, in Canada, the United States and internationally. He also received many letters from individual Americans, and it is this discovery that the title refers to. With the exception of three letters, every letter he received was apologetic, embarassed, or otherwise unhappy with their government's actions. It is this that he discovered, that Americans are not necessarily the government that represents them.
One can only hope that that is still true.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020