5 Questions with GGBooks shortlist authors Michael Kaan & Jocelyn Parr

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Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language fiction, Michael Kaan and Jocelyn Parr answered a few questions for us ahead of their IFOA 2017 appearance. We discussed what it’s like being a debut author, the moment they found out they were shortlisted for the GGs and of course, their award nominated books. You can find both Michael and Jocelyn with the other nominees at the GGBooks @ IFOA event on October 23.

parr-jocelyn-uncertain-weights-and-measuresIFOA: What inspired your book?

Michael Kaan: The Water Beetles is based mostly on memoirs that my father wrote in the 80s and 90s about his experiences as young boy during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in WWII. But what inspired it was mostly the driving need to write and to find a story that I believed would connect to other people. I also wanted to find a way to talk about aspects of the war that are less well-known to western readers.

Jocelyn Parr: A friend happened to loan me a tremendous book called Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. It was filled with many very short, very intriguing articles, one of which described the brain institute that displayed Lenin’s brain in the early years of Stalin. I stumbled upon that article and then read everything else I could find about the institute. There didn’t turn out to be very much because the history of the institute had been systematically erased once the cult of Stalin surpassed the cult of Lenin. When my sources ran dry, I started inventing.


Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us

By: J. Patrick Boyer

Photo credit to Silvestri Matteo.

The celebrated “gift to see ourselves as others see us” requires gaining an objective distance to appraise qualities hard to recognize from too close up. It can be sobering, and instructive. In 2017, Canadians are celebrating a century and a-half of Confederation under 1867’s Constitution by focusing overwhelmingly on ourselves, a self-referencing paradigm, a mirror not a window.

That’s why it’s doubly good to have a dose of realism about how others see us.

In my book, Foreign Voices in the House, those “others” offering such a vantage point are the five dozen presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, and transnational leaders who’ve addressed the Canadian House of Commons, from their perspective on this country, over the past hundred years.

These exceptionally diverse leaders, speaking at intervals ever since Rene Viviani of France and Arthur Balfour of Britain began the tradition in 1917, offer a kaleidoscopic view on a country evolving from colonial status to independent nationhood, in a world constantly remaking itself in geopolitical, economic, and technological ways.


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