The debates generally went how I thought they would but there were a few surprises.
Ziya Tong, defending Max Eisen’s By Chance Alone, beat out Chuck Comeau defending Homes, to win this year’s Canada Reads! Both of these books are amazing in their own right and both stories deserved to win but I am thrilled with this decision. I was really impressed with the debates this year too especially from Ziya as it was her great debating that cinched the win between these two amazing stories.
Homes has nothing to be ashamed of and the authors of the book should be immensely proud of their accomplishments in getting this far and in sharing such a brave and amazing story. If you don’t know the backstory on Homes, you have got to read-up on it.
The debates generally went how I thought they would with the voting, though I was surprised that The Woo-Woowas voted off in the first round as I expected it to at least make it to the second. I thought that Susannewould be voted off first. Nothing against Susanne as it was the most beautifully written out of all the books this year but it didn’t match the theme as well as the others. The Woo Woo was a personal favourite of mine but so was By Chance Alone and it was very tough for me to rank them beside each other. I actually really enjoyed all the books this year nearly equally, with my least favourite being Brother. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Brother, it just didn’t stack-up as well compared to the other four.
It was a good Canada Reads year, with book selection and debates, and I hope to see more quality like this again next year!
You know it’s really hard to put different types of books against each other. I’ve said it before but I think Canada Reads should pick a type of book for each debate and stick to it. For example, all memoirs, all YA, or all dystopians for example, as it would just be more efficient, effective, and easier to pick the one that meets the select theme for the year. This year included 3 memoirs, a creative memoir and a work of fiction.
I decided on Homes as I think it was truly the most moving as my jaw-dropped when I learned about the age of the author sharing the story. It’s also an extremely important and timely topic that people in Canada need to read more about. While also being moving read, the book is also an extremely enjoyable read and I think it will come out as the fan-favourite this year too.
Soooo this was really hard! I changed my mind so many times about the book I enjoyed the most but in reality I enjoyed all the books but for different reasons. For example, Brother ended being my least favourite but I think it’s because it just didn’t fit in with the other books as it is the only full-on fiction book in the list. Susanne is a creative-memoir that had elements of truth and I found its prose beautiful. Homes and By Chance Alone were intensely moving, where with The Woo-Woo I found it both moving, shocking, humorous, and entertaining.
This is a trainwreck of an upbringing that you can’t help but sympathize with, as you berate yourself for laughing at the strangeness of it all.
ebook, 304 pages.
Read from March 3, 2019 to March 9, 2019.
Lindsay Wong describes the Woo-Woo as a Chinese superstition that ghosts are the cause of bad things in your life, which unfortunately for her and mental-health-ridden family, meant an array of irrational behaviour followed by never seeking treatment. This book is in the Canada Reads 2019 shortlist after a few near misses in previous years so no doubt this book will be a fan favourite for the debates.
Lindsay and her siblings are first generation Chinese-Canadians. Her family came over from Hong Kong and settled in Vancouver which has a large Chinese population giving the city the appropriate nickname of Hongcouver. She lives in an upper-middle-class neighbourhood with her mother father, brother and sister, and for a short time her grandmother. Lindsay basis of daily dealings with her family and her life included things like swearing, name-calling, bribes with money, escaping life decisions and people with makeshift camping trips, and smothering bad feelings and “ghosts” with junk-food. Shouting matches, arguments, grudges and personal hang-ups are what Lindsay thought being a family was all about.
Despite her family having a comfortable income Lindsay wore old, dated clothes and showered once a week. Lindsay lacked the social skills to make friends but her aggression made her an excellent hockey player, an endeavour her father bribed her into to achieve some sort of Canadian-dream status. Her father insisted that she was extremely stupid and fat as some messed up means of motivating her to achieve more along with a sick sense of dark humour. While her mother fell prey to the mental illness that plagued her own mother resulting in her being obsessed with ghosts and trying to protect her family from them. Her protection came in the form of insisting that her family never show any emotion as to not invite the ghosts in, terrorizing midnight wakings, lighting Lindsay’s feet and bedding on fire, day-long walks in shopping malls, and more.
Lindsay grew up in fear the Woo-Woo as she saw it slowly wreck her grandmother, her mother and eventually even her Aunt, whom she thought was safe. Without the means to empathize and deal with normal human situations in a healthy manner, Lindsay was in constant worry about her own mental state. Despite all this Lindsay managed to get into a university far from home where she was relieved to finally escape her family, only to find that the Woo-Woo seemed to have followed her there.
Even with these enormous hurdles to overcome, Lindsay seems to have found peace and understanding with her upbringing. Despite the dark and sometimes traumatizing events that Lindsay endured she approaches her story with a stoic and entertaining sense of dark humour. This is a trainwreck of an upbringing that you can’t help but sympathize with, as you berate yourself for laughing at the strangeness of it all. It brings awareness to the stigmas around mental illness and the barriers we still have to overcome, especially culturally, which healthcare systems could benefit from learning more about.
If you live in Vancouver, I would absolutely say this is a must-read. This is also a relevant book for those looking from some reprieve from their own families and mental health struggles.
The most moving part of this story comes from Lindsay finding the courage to write such an intimate memoir about her family, especially since she is writing from a standpoint of success in battling her inner Woo-Woo and family troubles. It’s a testament to the power of healing yourself and finding faith in yourself against the odds.