This picture book is for young and old alike: it shines a light on forgotten, local heroes in our midst. Like Rosa Pryor, who in 1919, became the first black woman to own a business in Vancouver. This title features Rosa and other strong women who dared to demand better – better working conditions, access to education and health care. Women who dared to make learning a priority by creating an “hour-a-day” study club which allowed women to make themselves the priority for at least one hour each day. The author of this book, Naomi M. Moyer, has done a great job of compiling a collection of notable women and sharing their amazing feats of bravery, tenacity, and creativity. (Submitted by Andrea)
I loved “Winners Take All” by Anand Giridharadas – eye-opening and paradigm-shifting look at a different kind of world. (Submitted by Jenny)
Sakamoto’s account of his maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother is compelling reading. Both experienced the effects of World War 2 – his grandfather in a Japanese POW camp and his grandmother the hardships of BC’s forced relocation of its Japanese residents and citizens. We get a detailed look at their upbringing and lives, giving us tremendous insight into the times and character of these people, which is thoroughly engaging.
The book changes after the first half when the author begins his own story, particularly when he focuses on his mother’s journey into alcoholism and poverty, but it still leaves a deep impression on the reader. Instead of dealing with the theme ‘forgiveness’ between two people, in fact two families, with powerful reasons to hate each other, the subject is briefly glossed over. You’re left to assume they nobly put the past behind them when their children marry but are barely mentioned in the second half. Sakamoto is definitely not a great writer, some of his historical facts are incorrect, and the book feels disjointed, but I still recommend it as worth reading. It won the CBC’s Canada Reads in 2018 which says more for its champion, Jeanne Beker, than the book itself, but again, its content holds a strong message for us all. (Submitted by Pippa)
Originally published in 1966, then in translation in 1969, this book has gained recent popularity due to the release of the feature film of the same name. This fictional account of the life of a Jesuit priest in 1640’s Japan is a story that depicts the battle between religious faith and doubt. The “silence” of the title refers to God’s presumed silence to the suffering of the protagonist and those that by association are persecuted by Japanese authorities. The conflict the protagonist faces is both internal and external. The underlying irony of this story is twofold with the protagonist viewing his mission in Japan at first as truly righteous. He does this even in the face of his former mentor and the Japanese authorities pointing out that he is an outsider presuming that he knows what is best for the Japanese by preaching about salvation and in doing so leading those that follow to persecution and death. The other irony which is not overtly mentioned is that although the priest is condemning the Japanese for their persecution of Christians in Japan at the same time in Christian Europe heretics were being persecuted for not adhering to what was thought as the right form of Christianity. Although this book is set in Medieval Japan it is not an overly historic work. One learns more about this time period by reading Clavell’s Shogun in comparison; however this is not the point of the novel. It is instead an internal religious discussion by the writer for readers to understand what it means to worship and have beliefs that are not shared by the majority and considered intrinsically foreign. Silence by Shusaku Endo forces readers to confront how they may have given up their beliefs or ideals in order to conform and survive and get ahead in society. (Submitted by Shane)
This book is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. Giving insight into the beauty, intelligence, and strength of Indian elephants. Even though jungle life in Burma could be dangerous, there were so many descriptions of joy and beauty that were completely transfixing. The dedication that the uzis and the elephant masters gave to the elephants is awe-inspiring. An easy read, that takes you far away, and yet still so close to home. Humanity and the animal world intertwined, doing good, and fighting evil. Loved it! (Submitted by Jamie)
Dave Bidini’s, Midnight Light, is a fun, offbeat, journey through Yellowknife and the surrounding area. Bidini had been at a bit of a cross roads in his writing career, looking for the topic for his next book while watching his newspaper work shrink as the industry as a whole struggled. In the midst of this, he took a short term gig with the Yellowknifer, Yellow Knife’s main paper. The resulting book is part travelogue, part ode to the newspaper industry, and part a series of vignettes featuring a cast of characters. The main through line for the book is formed by John McFadden, a Yellowknifer reporter who made national news after developing a difficult relationship with the local RCMP. This culminated in a trial for obstruction of justice. Midnight Light is a great read for fans of Canadiana, travel writing, and left me plotting a route north to see Yellowknife for myself. (Submitted by Shawn)
I just finished reading The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman for my book club and it was a real page-turner. It’s a fictitious novel based on actual events that occurred in the early 1950’s in Quebec. At the time, many babies born out of wedlock were handed over to orphanages run by Catholic nuns. The province’s Premier of the time, Duplessis signed an order-in-council to turn orphanages into hospitals, thus allowing them to collect federal subsidies. As a result, many of the children in the orphanages were told that they were now mentally deficient, often kept drugged, and made to provide labour in support of the institutions. The children were not schooled, nor were they made available for adoption.
This story follows a 15 year old who finds herself pregnant as well as the story of the child she gives up to one of these orphanages turned hospitals. Mother and daughter never lose hope of reuniting while facing many challenges in their respective lives.
The novel was very well written and I believe it depicted the issues surrounding the times accurately. While it was sometimes difficult to read, it was also eye-opening and engaging. One of the few novels where I’ve shed tears while reading. I highly recommend it. (Submitted by Seline)