Canada Reads is too competitive, a friend suggested today. Too brutal. He doesn’t tune in.
I imagined my book La Chiripa in that competition, advocated, I would hope, by someone just as fierce as its feisty, teenaged, flaming-redhead protagonist, Pira.
But what if the incredibly popular national host asked one of those negatively slanted questions, as he did today, “In which book were you least able to identify with the characters?”
Terrified that some panelist might vilify Pira or Alma for shallowness or failure to grow, would I be on the phone, or Tweeting? “Leave my book alone, damn it!”
What about today’s last question: “In which book did you experience the least emotional impact from the characters?” (Sorry for paraphrasing, Jian!)
I’d be hammering on the door, probably, shouting, “A zillion readers can’t be wrong! Give me back my book!”
This entire event is so full of Canucktitude, I’m oozing maple syrup. Or maybe drowning in it. I hadn’t realized until today that these books are supposed to be about Canada. Or its history. Yes, we are still at that stage. Proof? This question: “Which book does the best job of portraying Canada’s history?”
Maybe Jian didn’t actually say, “Canada’s history.” Maybe he said only, “History.” It hardly matters, since all five books portray Canadian and only Canadian history. It suddenly occurred to me that it was more than likely that these five books had been chosen with Canadian history as one of the criteria.
Oh oh. This is the point where my novel could lose. Probably no one would argue that it does less than a great job of portraying Guatemalan history, as Guatemala is the setting where my little Canadian family acts out a crucial chapter of its story. But I’d have to go pound on the door again unless La Chiripa’s advocate piped up, “It is Canadian history. It shows how Canada has had its head in the sand all these years about world affairs and the impact of that willful blindness on one family of Canadians.” Wow. Give that panelist a bottle of maple syrup, a big one.
Besides, the antagonist, Matt Wayne, is really an American. That ought to count for something. Something about the history of American-Canadian relations.
Nope. I’m not ready to lay my book-baby down on the altar of Canada Reads, no matter the perks that follow the sacrifice. I think I’d have a nervous breakdown. The book is strong and ready; the author, not so much.
I should have played hockey. My parents should have bought me boys’ skates and forced me to get up in the dark for practice, perhaps the first girl in Alberta to compete in a boyish sport. What were they thinking, these silly European DPs? Then I would have had a real Canadian story to tell.