Reviewed by Marilyn Herbert
Today I’d like to highlight an Inuit author who has seen a lifetime of change in her own family and in Canada’s Inuit north. If you are not familiar with the Inuit word “qallunaat,” it literally translates as “those who pamper their eyebrows,” but figuratively refers to those who live in the south or in non-Inuit environments.
I have met and come to know many Qallunaat … and learned to be cautious with them. Some are nice and kind, but none want to see or understand my Native culture. Some don’t want to know, some don’t have time, some try but find it too deep to understand or accept. They all want to cover it up with their own ways. They always want me to be different, a novelty, and they refuse to see that I am a plain human being with feelings, aches, hatred, the desire to cheat, lie, love, adore, understanding, kindness, humanity, pain, joy, happiness, gratitude, and all the other things that every other being was capable of having, doing, thinking and acting. (p.219, 220)
Mini Aodla Freeman was born in 1936 in Canada’s north, in James Bay. Her memoir Life Among the Qallunaat, first published in 1978, is a glimpse into her life as an Inuk child within a hunting family. But it is bigger than that: It compares and contrasts her rural life with the urban life of Canada’s south.
Aodla Freeman and her family lived on the land, hunting and fishing and moving from winter lands to their summer lands. They were familiar with the Native Cree tribes and dealt with the Hudson’s Bay Company. She grew up in tents and was in for a major culture shock when she came to southern Ontario for the first time.
Summer is here, and there are still plenty of days left to spend reading a book at the cottage, on the beach, or even in your own backyard. Bookclub-in-a-Box’s Marilyn Herbert has put together a list of recommendations for your summer reading list.
Exit West (Mohsin Hamid)
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
Bookclub-in-a-Box loves to support the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company (HGJTC). We were involved with the production of Freud’s Last Session (April 23), and now Bookclub-in-a-Box founder Marilyn Herbert is doing one more talkback for The Jazz Singer on Thursday, June 8. We are offering 20% off tickets to that night’s showing of The Jazz Singer, a classic musical based on the 1925 Broadway play.
About the show: The classic show business story of a son’s struggle between his passion for a Broadway career, and his father’s plans to have him follow in his footsteps as a cantor. This dynamic production features musical numbers by legendary composers and such classic songs as “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” “Mammy,” “Sonny Boy,” and “You Made Me Love You.” Based on Samson Raphaelson’s 1925 Broadway play and adapted specifically for our audience, this classic story is brought to life in a toe-tapping experience you will never forget.
Talkback day: Thursday, June 8, show at 8 p.m.
Location: Toronto Centre of the Arts’ Greenwin Theatre (5040 Yonge St.)
Talkback topic: The Influence of Jewish Music on American Jazz
Harold Green subscribers can also get 15% off additional tickets for all non-talkback show dates by calling the theatre at 416-932-9995 ex. 224. Take your friends and family! And for all show dates, regular-priced tickets can be purchased at hgjewishtheatre.com, or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-2787.
Congratulations to author André Alexis, whose brilliant novel Fifteen Dogs just won the CBC’s annual Canada Reads competition! Five well-known Canadians debated which book was a must-read for the country, and Fifteen Dogs, defended by spoken word artist Humble the Poet, was the last one standing.
For the next 15 days, automatically receive 15% off the Fifteen Dogs book club discussion guide — no coupon code needed. (Original price: $6.98 > Now: $5.93 CAD.)
• Novel synopsis
• Author information
• Character analysis
• Focus points and themes
• Writing style and structure
• Important quotes from the novel
• Book club discussion questions
About the novel: A bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks. André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness.