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Canada Reads 2019 winner

Saturday, Mar 30, 2019 at 2:24pm

Ziya Tong, who championed Max Eisen's Holocaust memoir By Chance Alone, is the winner of Canada Reads 2019.

Published in 2016, By Chance Alone recounts Eisen's own traumatic memories of his family's imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War.

Tong, a science journalist and herself an author, passionately defended By Chance Alone during four days of vigorous literary debates, proving to us all why the memoir is "the one book that will move all Canadians". She was ultimately decided as winner by the panellists during the final debate on March 28, 2019, thus beating out runner-up Chuck Comeau who was defending Homes, the memoir of Abu Bakr al Rabeeah written with Winnie Yeung.

The other three books that were part of Canada Reads 2019 included David Chariandy's Brother, defended by Lisa Ray; by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette's Suzanne, defended by Yanic Truesdale; and Lindsay Wong's The Woo Woo, defended by Joe Zee. The debates were hosted by Ali Hassan.

To read more about Canada Reads, and to stream the debates online, visit CBC's website.

Categories: Awards, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Canadian Lit

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By Chance Alone

- Max Eisen

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Winner of Canada Reads 2019! Finalist for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize. In the tradition of Elie Wiesel's Night and Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz comes a bestselling new memoir by Canadian survivor More than 70 years after the Nazi camps were liberated by the Allies, a new Canadian Holocaust memoir details the rural Hungarian deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau, back-breaking slave labour in Auschwitz I, the infamous "death march" in January 1945, the painful aftermath of liberation, a journey of physical and psychological healing. Tibor "Max" Eisen was born in Moldava, Czechoslovakia into an Orthodox Jewish family. He had an extended family of sixty members, and he lived in a family compound with his parents, his two younger brothers, his baby sister, his paternal grandparents and his uncle and aunt. In the spring of 1944 five and a half years after his region had been annexed to Hungary and the morning after the family's yearly Passover Seder gendarmes forcibly removed Eisen and his family from their home. They were brought to a brickyard and eventually loaded onto crowded cattle cars bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau. At fifteen years of age, Eisen survived the selection process and he was inducted into the camp as a slave labourer. One day, Eisen received a terrible blow from an SS guard. Severely injured, he was dumped at the hospital where a Polish political prisoner and physician, Tadeusz Orzeszko, operated on him. Despite his significant injury, Orzeszko saved Eisen from certain death in the gas chambers by giving him a job as a cleaner in the operating room. After his liberation and new trials in Communist Czechoslovakia, Eisen immigrated to Canada in 1949, where he has dedicated the last twenty-two years of his life to educating others about the Holocaust across Canada and around the world. The author will be donating a portion of his royalties from this book to institutions promoting tolerance and understanding.

Brother

- David Chariandy

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A CANADA READS 2019 FINALIST
A Penguin Book Club Pick
Now now an acclaimed film directed by Clement Virgo and starring Lamar Johnson, and Aaron Pierre

Winner of the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, David Chariandy's Brother is his intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, and tightly constructed second novel, exploring questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.


          With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home. 
     Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry--teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves. 
     Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael's dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.
     With devastating emotional force David Chariandy, a unique and exciting voice in Canadian literature, crafts a heartbreaking and timely story about the profound love that exists between brothers and the senseless loss of lives cut short with the shot of a gun.

Homes

- Abu Bakr al Rabeeah , Winnie Yeung

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Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Politcal Writing. Audience choice winner of Canada Reads

In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria - just before the Syrian civil war broke out. Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was ten years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy - soccer, cousins, video games, friends. Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful, and urgently necessary book that provides a window into understanding Syria.

Suzanne

- Anais Barbeau-Lavalette , Rhonda Mullins

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Eighty-five years of art and history through the eyes of a woman who fled her family - as re-imagined by her granddaughter. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette never knew her mother's mother. Curious to understand why her grandmother, Suzanne, a sometime painter and poet associated with Les Automatistes, a movement of dissident artists that included Paul-�mile Borduas, abandoned her husband and young family, Barbeau-Lavalette hired a private detective to piece together Suzanne's life. Suzanne, winner of the Prix des libraires du Québec and a bestseller in French, is a fictionalized account of Suzanne's life over eighty-five years, from Montreal to New York to Brussels, from lover to lover, through an abortion, alcoholism, Buddhism, and an asylum. It takes readers through the Great Depression, Québec's Quiet Revolution, women's liberation, and the American civil rights movement, offering a portrait of a volatile, fascinating woman on the margins of history. And it's a granddaughter's search for a past for herself, for understanding and forgiveness. 'It's about a nameless despair, an unbearable sadness. But it's also a reflection on what it means to be a mother, and an artist. Most of all, it's a magnificent novel.'- Les Méconnus

The Woo-Woo

- Lindsay Wong

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2019 CANADA READS FINALIST Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction; Winner, Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize; Longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons when they should really be on anti-psychotic meds. Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the "woo-woo" -- Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo's sinister effects; when she was six, Lindsay and her mother avoided the dead people haunting their house by hiding out in a mall food court, and on a camping trip, in an effort to rid her daughter of demons, her mother tried to light Lindsay's foot on fire. The eccentricities take a dark turn, however, and when Lindsay starts to experience symptoms of the woo-woo herself, she wonders whether she will suffer the same fate as her family. At once a witty and touching memoir about the Asian immigrant experience and a harrowing and honest depiction of the vagaries of mental illness, The Woo-Woo is a gut-wrenching and beguiling manual for surviving family, and oneself.