Sunday, March 18, 2007

Eggs Benny on a Sunday: Books & Brunch

This morning I hopped into my little silver Civic and tootled on downtown to the King Eddie hotel for Books & Brunch. A little eggs benedict, some adorable conversation with the senior citizens at my table, and some great talks from the following authors:

The Honourable James Bartleman started the program off with an inspiring talk about his new book,
Raisin Wine, which naturally led to his literacy efforts for Aboriginal children in Canada. He has established some amazing initiatives, including an annual book drive which has sent over a million books to reserves in an effort to build libraries and ensure that every aboriginal child has a book to call their own. This is a program that gets right to the core of my heart because books had a profound effect on me as a child (as they did for His Honour -- they changed his life completely, going from a poor kid in Port Carling to the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I'd say they had an effect!). I encourage you to read more about the wonderful literacy initiatives, and get involved however you can! And, I also encourage you to read the author Q&A about his book. And then go buy the book at your favourite local bookstore. It's a delightfully devourable read.

Next up was the lovely Kyo Maclear, whose book The Letter Opener is about a woman who works in the Undeliverable Mail Office, and one day discovers that her co-worker has gone missing. Maclear began her talk by reminding us that there actually is a LOT of lost mail out there...some of it with your very own name on it likely sitting in a lost mail bin somewhere out there. Do you ever wonder what's been lost of yours? Letter from an old friend? Bills that never showed up (hoorah!)? How many birthday gifts have gone missing? What a wondrous treasure trove that Undeliverable Mail Office must be!

Guy Gavriel Kay spoke about the way each of our individual pasts have an effect on our reaction to and interaction with a book can have. That's part of the conversation between the author and the reader. If you've just had a terrible argument with a friend, then your interpretation of a book you're reading will be different than when you are having a brilliantly good day. And Kay wants to be the kind of author that keeps you up until three in the morning, even if you have a meeting at 8:00, or have to get the kids off to school, or whatever. He wants you to not be able to put that book not end that conversation between author and reader because you just can't wait to see how it all ends. Will his latest book Ysabel do that for you?

Last but by no means least, Sally Armstrong described her excitement for researching her book, The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor, about her great-great-great-grandmother. It sounds like a fascinating story. And because I don't feel like paraphrasing, here's the book description:

In 1775, twenty-year-old Charlotte Taylor fled her English country house with her lover, the family’s black butler. To escape the fury of her father, they boarded a ship for the West Indies, but ten days after reaching shore, Charlotte’s lover died of yellow fever, leaving her alone and pregnant in Jamaica.

Undaunted, Charlotte swiftly made an alliance with a British naval commodore, who plied a trading route between the islands and British North America, and travelled north with him. She landed at the Baie de Chaleur, in what is present-day New Brunswick, where she found refuge with the Mi’kmaq and birthed her baby. In the sixty-six years that followed, she would have three husbands, nine more children and a lifelong relationship with an aboriginal man.

Charlotte Taylor lived in the front row of history, walking the same paths as the expelled Acadians, the privateers of the British-American War and the newly arriving Loyalists. In a rough and beautiful landscape, she struggled to clear and claim land, and battled the devastating epidemics that stalked her growing family. Using a seamless blend of fact and fiction, Charlotte Taylor’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Sally Armstrong, reclaims the life of a dauntless and unusual woman and delivers living history with all the drama and sweep of a novel.


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