Tag Archives: Canada Reads 2018

‘Precious Cargo’ by Craig Davidson

With tickets already secured for the second day of Canada Reads 2018, I want to try to read as many books on the short-list as possible before March! This year’s theme is: One Book to Open Eyes.

Precious Cargo is a memoir of a young man’s temporary job as a bus driver for special needs kids. Davidson’s book is inspirational and funny. He is honest about his initial fear at spending so much time with a bus full of students with so many physical and emotional challenges, and admits he took the job just because he needed the money. But Davidson’s journey ended up being much more significant than the drive to school and back. Those kids taught him about ‘self-acceptance’, a lesson he needed to learn to have the courage to be a writer after all.

I applaud this story because our society needs to support those who have special needs and not to stigmatize them.  So many amazing people and their families achieve great things against the odds despite a special need of some kind. And yet those kids want to be treated just like any other kid.

Although I appreciated Davidson’s journey and commend his compassionate approach to his job and the entertaining way he tells us about his year on the bus, what I did find disappointing was not hearing from the kids themselves. It was a story about them, not from them. So even though I struggled a bit with the book being more Davidson’s journey than the kids’ journey, I’m glad those with special needs will have a voice at the Canada Reads 2018 table. Let Canada’s eyes be opened to this very important topic and our behaviour as a society. Let acceptance and support be what opens our eyes!

‘Saints and Misfits’ by S.K. Ali

The Canada Reads shortlist is out! I started reading from the longlist already, and I am sad that this one didn’t make the cut. I’ve never read a book from the point of view of a Muslim teenage girl before, and I think this Young Adult debut novel written by a Toronto based teacher, was very much in line with the Canada Reads 2018 theme: One Book to Open Your Eyes. It seems to me that we could use more stories from and for Muslim women living in Canada.

The voice in this girl-power story features Janna Yusuf dealing with her parents divorce, trying to fit in at school where a lot of people don’t understand her religion, and navigating adolescence in the best way she can. A boy at school who she’s been crushing on likes her back, but Janna knows her family will not approve, and another who is well respected in the Muslim community, assaults her at a friend’s party…who are the saints, misfits and monsters? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

The importance of this novel is capturing authenticity and nuance in Muslim life and getting away from unhelpful stereotypes. Ali has done a great job of giving the average Canadian teen some tools for understanding the diversity in our society. I loved this remark from a Goodreads review, Softlykaz wrote: “Seeing yourself represented in a book when you live in a world that sometimes puts you in a box and being able to identify with the MC is the equivalent of walking in the cold and then suddenly the sun hits your face and it’s like a warm hug you didn’t ask for but it happened.”