Canada is a country of immigrants and so on I Read Canadian Day, I think it’s important to ask what we’re reading. I know that I sorely missed my own ‘Canadian’ reflection in the books I read as a child. Now, when I volunteer with immigrants, I recognize that there’s an inevitable lag in reading one’s own story in mainstream literature. After all, many immigrants come here seeking economic improvement and becoming an author is no guarantee of financial stability. Others come to Canada as refugees . . . like my parents did in the 1950s. Writing memoirs wasn’t on the top of their to-do list either. They had a language to learn and travel debts to pay off. (Yes, refugees coming to Canada had to repay the boat trip.)
Immigrant parents like mine, regarded literature as ‘brotlose kunst’ (bread-less art). It was beyond my family’s comprehension that I would study literature for eight years at university.
When it comes to reading Canadian there might be a necessary generation gap before telling the stories of the immigrant population that makes up modern Canada. And, the First Nations of this land, robbed of their very identity, have also only just begun to use our book-method of telling stories. I appreciate that I Read Canadian Day is more about the struggling publishing world than it is about the empowerment of readers through stories. Balanced financial books are a prerequisite for a thriving publishing scene. But on this I Read Canadian Day, I want to reach out to those still unpublished, perhaps unwritten or even untold, stories that lurk in our diverse population.
By the way, this week I’ve been reading Marsha Skrypuch’s book, Don’t Tell the Enemy. It’s about how Ukrainians were murdered by Germans. Marsha comes from the Ukrainian background, I come from the German background. Here we are, in Canada, on I Read Canadian Day, telling the stories that our extended families handed down to us. I've also recently read two other books telling stories written by children of post-Second World War immigrant Canadians. Michelle Barker's My Long List of Impossible Things and Secrets in the Shadows by fellow Ronsdale author, Heige Boehm.
This is what Canada has given us . . . on I Read Canadian Day . . . I am grateful for international, intergenerational Canadian stories.