In his warm, easy style CBC’s Q host Jian Gomeshi again hosted and moderated Canada Reads.
Canada Reads is an annual contest in which five shortlisted books by Canadian authors are selected from among many. Each of the five is championed by a person who is usually well known in the country in some field or another.
Those five participants make the case for why the book they’re recommending should be chosen as the must-read Canadian book for the current year. They also serve as a panel and cast votes. One book is eliminated each day, until one remains and is announced the winner.
The winning book this year is “The Orenda,” by Joseph Boyden (published by Hamish Hamilton), and was championed by Wab Kinew—Canadian aboriginal musician, educator and broadcaster.
The novel is set in the early 17th century—long before Canada’s confederation year of 1867. A Huron warrior by the name of Bird, a young Iroquois girl called Snow Falls, and a French Jesuit Missionary named Christophe are major characters in the story.
My focus in this post is not on the winning book, nor on its effective champion, Wab Kinew – although I’m sure either of them would be worthy of glowing attention.
So then, what is the gaze-raiser for me?
It is the manner in which the championing panelists conducted themselves when pitching the respective books and discussing their comparative merits compared to the others.
The medium of radio requires that the audience “out there” must listen attentively to pick up the tenor and intonation of what is being said in the studio, in a discussion such as this, in order to correctly gauge the atmosphere present among the participants.
The participants debated with intensity. Emotional tension mounted high as panelists expressed strong opinions with considerable passion. One so strongly believed in the value of the book she championed that she came close to tears as the final elimination vote drew near. And yet, through it all ran a strong current of mutual respect and they worked together in a collegial manner.
Respect and collegiality.
My assessment was borne out, for I heard those terms used several times by others in reflecting on this year’s great Canadian book debate. . . . Respect and collegiality—qualities so rare nowadays, it seems.
If our halls of government at every level, and council chambers and church boardrooms could demonstrate and own those sterling qualities . . . if they could be functioning and maintained, I wonder how much good might be accomplished.
Bringing it home.
Would an adjustment in our own personal demeanor when participating in conversation or group discussion, in which contrasting opinions and conflicting views are expressed, lead to better understanding and more productive outcomes?
Raising the quality of private and public discourse through collegiality and respect elevates the spirit and sightlines on the issues at hand, and yet lowers the temperature and cools temperaments of those involved.
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children’s / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing). Finalist – Word Alive Press. ISBN: 1897373-21-X. The book has found a place in various settings with a readership ranging from kids to senior adults.
His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate (of Southwestern Ontario). His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario. Peter’s current book project comprises a collection of 52 column articles, interspersed at points with brief inspirational statements of encouragement.