The Agenda’s year in books: 2017 edition

Here are some highlights from the authors and books featured on the show this year
By Carla Lucchetta - Published on December 27, 2017

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​Throughout the year, The Agenda invites authors to visit the show and discuss their newly released books. Here's a roundup of some of 2017's most insightful conversations, covering topics such as women in politics, racism in Ontario’s north, public-health issues in Canada, feminism and the law, and the NHL’s problems with concussions. 

Non-fiction for the win: the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize finalists

 

The RBC Taylor Prize for non-fiction celebrates Canadian memoir, biography, and creative non-fiction. All five 2017 finalists joined Steve Paikin to discuss their work. Max Eisen wrote about his harrowing experience in a concentration camp in By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz; Matti Friedman recounted his combat experience in Lebanon in the mid-1990s in Pumpkin Flowers: A Soldier’s Story; Ross King — who ultimately won the prize — examined Claude Monet’s wartime art in Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies; Marc Raboy explored the life and legacy of Guglielmo Marconi in Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World; and Diane Schoemperlen remembered her six-year relationship with a convicted murderer in This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications.

Related:

Attack of the 50 Ft. Women: How Gender Equality Can Save the World!, Catherine Mayer

 

British journalist Catherine Mayer co-founded the Women’s Equality Party in the U.K. with the aim of creating “a world that would be equal for all.” Her book describes her experience building a new political party and outlines some of her goals: equal pay, equal representation, shared responsibility in caregiving, equality in education, equal treatment by and in the media, equal health, and an end to violence against women and girls. Mayer explained that it’s critical to consider feminism’s intersection with race and class: “You have to understand that the experiences of women are so diverse. Women are so diverse. And the disadvantages that women experience aren’t just about being women — they often intersect with other factors.”

Related:

What if women ran the world? : EXCERPT: Catherine Mayer, co-founder of the U.K.'s Women's Equality Party, describes how women are still too often left out of the political equation

Smart Girls: Success, School and the Myth of Post-Feminism, Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby

 

Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby, both child and youth studies professors at Brock University, set out to show how girls in elementary and high school experience the pressures of academic expectations, perfectionism, and popularity. As Pomerantz tells Nam Kiwanuka, “In the post-feminist culture — the girl-power culture — where people feel they are empowered and power comes from their own individual choices, the idea of calling oneself a feminist is tantamount to saying, ‘I can’t do it; I can’t handle it.’ But at the same time, in our culture, when we tell young people they don’t need feminism, they’re beyond the need for it, they should be able to rely on themselves — what we’re doing is enabling post-feminism to flourish because young people aren’t equipped with the language of opposition, with politics that allow them to speak up, to speak against sexist jokes they may be hearing, or to talk about representations of women in the media in a more powerful way.”

Related:

How girls question feminism yet embrace 'girl power': While interviewing teens for their book, 'Smart Girls,' Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby discovered some surprising attitudes toward sexism and feminism.

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

 

Shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, Exit West is a love story set against the backdrop of the global refugee crisis. Its author, Mohsin Hamid, spoke to Nam Kiwanuka about his own life, and how it had inspired him to explore themes of migration. “I think that in a couple of centuries, people will look back on this era and think it’s just as strange as we do looking back at people who kept slaves,” he said. “They’ll think it’s so strange that in the year 2017, people thought that the accident of where you were born should so dramatically determine your rights and whether you’re equal in a society or not.”

Related:

Through a magic door to acceptance: Nam Kiwanuka discusses why Mohsin Hamid's novel, Exit West, resonates with her.

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City, Tanya Talaga

 

Journalist Tanya Talaga shines a light on the stories of seven students who died in Thunder Bay between 2000 and 2011. To attend school, many First Nations students must leave home and live far from their families and communities. Talaga told Steve Paikin that Indigenous students are continually subjected to racist comments and acts, told to go back where they came from. When asked if, based on her research for the book, she thought Thunder Bay was a racist city, Talaga said, “I think racism runs through every city. I think that that’s true. I think there are undercurrents of subtle racism that have gone through Canadian society for a long, long time. Statistically, it is a bigger problem there than anywhere else. If you look at Statistics Canada’s latest report, they say that it’s got more hate crimes than any other city. I do believe that to be true.”

Related:

Why Indigenous students risk leaving home for their education: EXCERPT: The needs of First Nations children have been forgotten in a country that prides itself on having one of the best school systems in the world, writes Tanya Talaga.

Matters of Life and Death: Public Health Issues in Canada, André Picard

 

André Picard’s book compiles a number of his Globe and Mail health columns, covering such topics as mental health, marijuana legalization, physician-assisted death, and Canada’s health care policies. He gave Nam Kiwanuka his assessment of health reporting in this country: “I think we’re too medically focused … I think we don’t care enough about policy … I think the biggest failing of health journalism is we don’t contextualize stuff enough. There’s a new study every day, and the public gets frustrated because [the studies] seem to contradict each other. But if you put them into context, people can understand how science is — it’s self-correcting. If you don’t look at one study in isolation, you can say, ‘Listen, this is one of 20,’ and they all sort of have a trend telling this … so little things like that could make coverage better.”

Related:

Reflections on public health issues in Canada: Through his writing, André Picard shines a light into the dark corners of the health care system.

Fairly Equal: Lawyering the Feminist Revolution, Linda Silver Dranoff

In 1969, Linda Silver Dranoff was one of only 14 women entering Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. Now the numbers exceed 50 per cent. In her 38-year law career, Dranoff has seen many legal advances related to women’s rights. Her book weaves together her personal story with Canada’s feminist history. In its introduction, she writes, “I am writing this for feminists —egalitarian women and men — of the present and future. Knowing what we faced, what we achieved, and how easily it can be taken away hopefully will encourage vigilance and sisterhood and solidarity in those who follow us. It doesn’t have to be the way it was.”

Related:

Blazing a trail for feminism and the law: Through a combination of memoir and social history, Linda Silver Dranoff presents an eyewitness account of the revolution in women’s legal rights under the law.

Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Matador and the Future of Hockey, Ken Dryden

 

In Game Change, former NHL goaltender and six-time Stanley Cup winner Ken Dryden advocates for an end to the headshots that have ended careers and lives. NHL defenceman Steve Matador, who experienced multiple blows to the head during his 12 years as a player, died in 2015 at the age of 35. “Anybody who knows the history of hockey knows that from virtually the beginning, we knew there was a vulnerability to the head,” he told Steve Paikin. “That’s why we created the high-sticking penalty. You don’t high stick a shoulder; you high stick a head. It’s why we created an elbowing penalty ... The speed of the game [now] means less space, less time, more forceful collisions.”

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