Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Feature! Badami, Hill & Lindberg Books Remain to Battle It Out on CBC Canada Reads

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Bone and Bread

Today marks the halfway point for CBC Canada Reads 2016. The panellists sat down with host Gill Deacon for day two of four this morning at the CBC building in Toronto, after having voted off Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter (Penguin Canada), defended by Adam "Edge" Copeland, in a tie-breaking nail biter on day one.

Deacon guided the panellists through a two-part debate, focusing on the books that had gotten less attention yesterday. The Illegal by Lawrence Hill (HarperCollins) was first on the docket, defended by Clara Hughes. Panellist Bruce Poon Tip joked about the difficulty of arguing with the well-liked Hughes, saying "going after Clara is like killing Bambi". He opened gently, acknowledging that "Lawrence Hill is a Canadian treasure" but went on to point out that Hill has already won Canada Reads once, for his bestseller The Book of Negroes.

Poon Tip went on to take issue with the fictional setting of The Illegal, with which the other panellists agreed. Copeland took it a step further, comparing Hill's novel to "an action adventure flick for Will Smith in the 90s".

Vinay Virmani brought the conversation back to the literary, cautioning the other panellists from simply comparing a hierarchy of the issues the various books present and urging them to focus on the craft and storytelling aspects of the books instead. "Let's leave topicality aside for a moment... Let's talk about these books as works of fiction", he said. As the conversation turned to the issue of whether a novel needed to be set in Canada to be an essential Canadian read, Virmani went on to argue that "we have the world in this country", asserting that Canadians could identify with and enjoy novels set anywhere in the world.

As the conversation turned to Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (HarperCollins), defended by Poon Tip, panellist Farah Mohamed came out swinging, mentioning that she struggled to get to the end of the book. When the unconventional time structure of Birdie was mentioned, Poon Tip cautioned readers against "colonizing the book", discussing the flexible nature of time in storytelling traditionally employed by the Indigenous groups represented in Birdie. Poon Tip also discussed his trip to the Kelly Lake Cree Nation, which he took as preparation for his role in the debates after selecting Lindberg's book.

Copeland, a free agent after Minister Without Portfolio was voted off, joined Poon Tip in defending Birdie.

The last book under the microscope today was Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz (House of Anansi Press), defended by Mohamed. Deacon asked the panellists whether the book's long length (445 pages in paperback) worked for or against it. Hughes mentioned she found it overly detailed, and further more the depiction of disordered eating didn't ring true for her, a survivor of anorexia. When Poon Tip observed it felt like "three or four books in one", Mohamed spun his comment, saying "if you're overwhelmed by it, that's success."

When the vote was taken, Hughes voted to expell Bone and Bread, while Mohamed voted against Birdie. Poon Tip's vote was revealed to be the second one for Bone and Bread, at which point he murmured "I'm sorry" to Mohamed. The fourth vote was Copeland's, also for Bone and Bread, at which point Nawaz's title was categorically expelled. Virmani jokingly protested against reading his, the final vote, which no longer counted, but Deacon revealed to the crowd that he has also marked Bone and Bread.

Mohamed took a moment to acknowledge Nawaz's achievements in Bone and Bread and why she loved and selected the book. "I don't think you've seen the last of Saleema," she said. "This book ignited a feeling in me that I haven't had in a while... [After reading it], I picked up the phone and called my sister."

Stay tuned to Open Book for more Canada Reads news as the competition becomes fiercer and finally selected a winning title this Thursday, March 24.

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