Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Live over Skype!

For the first time ever, Algonquin Reads hosted an author reading session over Skype.  Richard Wagamese, the author of Indian Horse, lives in British Columbia and graciously agreed to fit us into his schedule, corresponding nicely with the Algonquin Learning Resource Centre’s Library Week, in October. The event was held in the beautiful Mamidosewin Centre, and the staff there treated us to Moose stew and other refreshments.   The technology for the Skype session went off without a hitch, thanks to our wonderful ITS team.  The only problem was…. I couldn’t get the author to sign my copy of the book!
It was a great session, attended by staff, faculty and students.  Richard Wagamese read a selection from his book and answered questions from the audience. He was funny and serious and gave helpful advice to aspiring authors in the audience.  He even gave us a sneak preview of his next book, Medicine Walk, coming out in April. 
Thanks for all the assistance from the Learning Resource Centre the Mamidosewin Centre. And a big thank you to everyone who attended!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Congratulations to Alice Munro!

Algonquin Reads is all about promoting Canadian literature and encouraging the love of reading. We also wish to bring people together across Algonquin College to enjoy books, discuss books and participate in activities together with people we may not otherwise meet.

So we were ecstatic to learn of Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize of Literature, the first Canadian author to do so.  This is an exciting time for Canadian literature, for books and for reading.  Congratulations to Alice Munro!

Richard Wagamese coming to Algonquin!

Richard Wagamese will be coming to us live over Skype, on Thursday Oct 17 from 12-1. Join us in the beautiful Mamidosewin Centre, in the Student Commons building at Woodroffe campus, Algonquin College. He will be reading selections from his book, Indian Horse, the 2013-2014 Algonquin Reads book.  Free refreshments will be served! Hope to see you then!

For more information, please contact Helena Merriam at merriah [at] algonquincollege.com

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Welcome to Algonquin Reads!

If you are new to Algonquin College, or new to Algonquin Reads, welcome!  If you are a returning fan, happy to have you back!

Algonquin Reads is a student and faculty initiative to get the Algonquin College community to come together and share the enjoyment of reading. We pick a new book each year and encourage everyone to read the book and participate in events throughout the school year. 

This year's book is Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese, a great read, and an important book, as well. We hope to have a variety of activities throughout the year, and hope you can join in with us.

Our first event is a fundraising book sale on Oct 9 and 10th, to raise money for our student writing contest and author talks. 

For more information about Algonquin Reads, please contact Helena Merriam at merriah@algonquincollege.com

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Indian Horse is the Algonquin Reads book for 2013-2014!

Great Summer Reading – Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

At the President’s coffee break in March, we asked YOU to help choose the Algonquin Reads book for 2013/2014. The voter’s choice was Indian Horse, a Canada Reads 2013 contender and Globe and Mail top 100 book for 2012. Indian Horse follows the life of Saul, an Ojibway boy, starting with his family in the Northern Ontario bush and continuing through his time at residential school, from which he is saved by his gift for playing hockey. On the rink, he discovers an almost magical escape, but he is unable to keep that magic alive as his talents take him into the racist world of competitive hockey in the 1960’s. The descriptions of the land and the characters will pull you in, and you will keep rooting for Saul the whole way through. Read it this summer, and you’ll be ready to participate in the Algonquin Reads events starting in the fall. It’s coming to Connections – The Campus Store soon.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Student Contest Winners

Congratulations to our Student Contest Winners!

Daniel Mask, a second year student in Business Accounting, won first prize for the Creative category for his Chess board representation of Canada's Political Landscape. See image below.

 Cassandra Serre, a first year student in Business Accounting, won first prize for the Critical essay category, for her piece entitled: "Real-life politics through Fallis' satire. See her entry below.

Daniel Mask's winning entry:

Canada’s Political Landscape

My art piece entitled “Canada’s Political Landscape” features a chessboard map of Canada over a backdrop of the colours for the political parties of Canada. I was inspired to do this piece because of the frequent mentions of chess in the novel, and I also think politics draws many analogies to the game of chess. The first analogy that came to my mind was that politics and chess are both just games. The books demonstrates this point very well. In the book many actions by the parties were revealed to be motivated not by personal or party beliefs and morals but instead by trying to beat the other party in opinion polls (Fallis, 2007). The same can be said of individual politicians who try to cater to their voters in order to get reelected. Politicians aren’t trying to make a difference they are just trying to win the “game”. Another game- like quality of politics is seen in a section of the book where the main character Daniel is in a meeting with a statistician who is going over the local riding polls (Fallis, 2007). He is pouring over the numbers examining the possibilities just like a player trying to make his next move. In politics many analogies of the pawn chess piece can be made. First, I think the book describes politicians as pawns of higher ranking party members when the “group voting” mentality is revealed in a meeting (Fallis, 2007). This “group voting” is when the top officials determine how the rest of the party should vote on issues. This demonstrates the controlling nature of the party and the pawn nature of the politician. In politics the voters could also be seen as pawns for politicians trying to advance their careers. My chessboard pattern across the map is meant to represent Canada as a game board for the political game. I placed chess pieces on the board to represent politicians and citizens. I used coloured bases on the pieces to represent loyalties to the political parties (Blue- Conservative, Red-Liberal, Orange – NDP). As in chess, these ‘pieces’ are used to advance position, take over territory and sometimes sacrificed.

Cassandra Serre's winning entry:   

 Real-life politics through Fallis’s satire

Terry Fallis’s The Best Laid Plans is busting at the seams with Canadian content and political satire. It is a great novel, especially for Canadian youth. This novel inspires young Canadians to get interested and involved in politics. The Best Laid Plans shines a light on many important real-life issues in Canadian Politics. Three such issues are party rivalry before country, the political fishbowl, and corporate influence on the government.

An issue that plays a large part in the plot of this novel is the rivalry between parties that often causes problems when it comes to making the right decision for the country as a whole. In the novel we see Angus struggle against his own party when it comes to voting for the Throne Speech. Even though he is classified as Liberal Angus believes in the Conservative plan and votes for it. This conflict highlights the fact that most politicians have been trained to believe that if an idea is not from your party it must be wrong. The Canadian government pits the parties against each other which causes them to spend more time trying to take each other down than coming up with logical solutions for the country at large. Daniel is aware of the illogical procedure and he thinks “If a Liberal government had introduced the same Throne Speech, I’d have been proud to support it. But it was our arch rivals’ speech, not ours” (Fallis, 3054). This is exactly the kind of attitude that can be seen in the Canadian government and though it can keep politicians on their toes it also makes it very hard to accomplish anything in a minority government.

A major conflict illustrated, however comically, in The Best Laid Plans is that of the political fishbowl. Politicians live in the spotlight and are expected to be perfect in a whole country’s eyes. This is especially true in today’s society where social media is so important. If a scandal were to erupt involving a politician it would be able to spread quickly thanks to the internet and society’s interest in other people’s failures. It is no secret that people today just love to watch other people fail, just browse through YouTube and you’ll find hours of footage of it. With all of this in mind it is important to find the line between what is relevant to a politician’s ability to serve their country. In the novel an MP is cast out of government and basically exiled because of his personal sex life. This man lost his job and the respect of the whole country for practising a harmless fetish in the privacy of his own home. Eric Cameron was the victim of a fire that caused him to be caught in the throes of passion with another consenting adult and it ruined his life. The man was not committing any crimes, he was not married and had no intention of exposing himself to the public in any way. He was the victim of a house fire, public humiliation and even the theft of his personal DVDs but because of the society we live in he was deemed unfit to do his job. Eric Cameron may have had other faults but the reason he was kicked out of his party and lost the election was because he was caught being imperfect by the public. Though this is obviously a very extreme case used as satire, there have been many cases of politicians’ personal lives being turned into giant scandals. Canadian Politicians today are not as scrutinized and glorified as those in the United States but they still have to watch what they say and do very carefully. Bill Curry, a parliamentary correspondent for the Globe and Mail described the situation as follows.

Reporting on the personal lives of Canadian politicians isn't as rare as it used to be. The flood of political coverage feeding online blogs is partly the reason.

Some politicians are increasingly eager to showcase parts of their personal lives—such as B.C.Premier Christy Clark recently sharing photos of her watching her son's hockey game with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Defence Minister Peter MacKay also voluntarily released his wedding photos to a celebrity magazine in exchange for a charitable donation. (Yahoo! News Canada, 2012)

The constant media coverage can make or break a career and it is more and more difficult to keep personal and work lives separate the more well-known a politician becomes. Sometimes this can be a good thing but it can also ruin careers and draw attention away from what is really important- the issues. Terry Fallis wraps this idea up perfectly in the novel.

We wonder why we’re unable to attract to public life the calibre of people we’d like to see. Well, we pry into their private lives, put their every move under a microscope, and subject them and their loved ones to the most invasive and penetrating scrutiny imaginable. Then, when we find the slightest little thing that even remotely resembles and infraction no more serious than leaving the toilet seat up, we eat them. We get the government we deserve. Yes, we want honesty, transparency, and decency in our politicians. To attract such qualities, we need understanding, sensitivity, and sometimes forgiveness in our voters. (Fallis, 2479)

Corporations can affect the government in many ways, and they often do. In the novel Angus has a hard time with Mr. Haldorson from Ottawa River Aggregate, a branch of a Cleveland based aggregate company. This man wants to expand his factory but needs Angus to use his powers as MP to help him lie and cheat his way through the rules. Haldorson mentions that the previous MP always helped him out when the rules got in the way and expects Angus to do the same. The Liberal Party Leader also expects Angus to go along with the company’s plans. Bradley Stanton calls Daniel at one point to pressure them into moving things along.

Addison, it’s Bradley Stanton. Look, one of our more generous corporate donors is holding onto a big cheque for us until we clear up a little misunderstanding they seemed to have had with your boy, Angus [...] Just sort out this aggregate company’s environmental problem so they’ll release the cheque, okay? (Fallis, 4320).

These pressures existed even though they knew the “the environmental impact would profoundly affect the habitats of several indigenous species” (Fallis, 1068) and that the company was already trying to fight four occupational-health-and-safety-code violations (Fallis, 2008). This example is a bit extreme but this type of thing does happen in real life. In 1985 the minister of fisheries and oceans was pressured by lobbyists to release a million cans of StarKist tuna before they had been tested. The tuna ended up being “so badly spoiled that it wasn’t even fit to be turned into catfood” (CBC News Online , 2005). The minister eventually found a new job but the StarKist employees who lost their jobs when the plant shut down struggled for a long time to find work (CBC News Online , 2005). This is just another example of how corporations can bully and bribe a government into making rash and uninformed decisions.

The Best Laid Plans uses satire to make a usually dull subject, politics, jump from the pages. This novel is inspirational and educational and it addresses some tough subjects. The reader is made to think more critically about the way that party rivalry, the media and corporations affect the Canadian government.


CBC News Online . (2005, February 10). Up the skirt or in the till: Top ten scandals in Canadian political history. . Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/cdngovernment/scandals.html

Fallis, T. (2008). The best laid plans. Toronto: Emblem Editions. Retrieved from Amazon.ca/Kindle.

Yahoo! News Canada . (2012, January 20). Does the public have a right to know about the personal lives of politicians? . Retrieved from http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/canada-politics/does-public-know-personal-lives-politicians-235505369.html

Note: I used the electronic version of The Best Laid Plans on my Kindle so the page numbers will be different.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Help us choose next year's Algonquin Reads book!

Which would you pick of from the following list?  Pick your choices, from our poll at the right of this post. Descriptions of the books are below:

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

Miriam Toews’s third novel is a funny tale of life in Mennonite country. It tells the story of sixteen-year old Nomi who lives with her Dad in a small backward town in Manitoba, ruled by a pious pastor.  Several years before, Nomi’s sister disappeared with her boyfriend and her mother also left, inexplicably.  Nomi pieces together her childhood memories in an effort to discover why she and her father were abandoned. 

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still life is the first in the series of the Inspector Gamache, of the Montreal Surete, mystery novels. It tells the tale of a mysterious death in a small Canadian Village in the Eastern Townships area of Quebec. Penny richly describes the town and infuses her novel with fully developed and interesting cast of characters. 

Inside by Alix Ohlin

The story opens in a dramatic fashion, when Grace, a Montreal psychotherapist, discovers a man on a ski trail who attempted suicide. She saves him and is drawn into his story and his life.  Later we learn more about Grace, her ex-husband Mitch and her former patient Annie, as each tale is unveiled across different time periods, but inter-connected. Beautifully written, we are drawn into the stories of these very different people.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

In Richard Wagamese's novel, Saul Indian Horse introduces himself in the first line of his "memoir": Anishinabeg, of the Fish clan, from the shores of the Winnipeg River. But it soon becomes clear that this pastoral and traditional sense of himself has not come easily, that he has had to fight numerous battles to achieve self-knowledge and self-acceptance.

The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler

Richler's novel, set in Montreal is the story of a child of a Holocaust survivor, who is seeking knowledge of her missing mother. The novel moves through time and a century of family history through Europe, Palestine and Montreal.

Ru by Kim Thuy

Ru, meaning lullaby in Vietnamese, is a beautiful collection of vignettes from the perspective of a newly arrived immigrant woman in Quebec.  Memories of her former life in a palatial residence in Saigon to a crowded refugee camp in Malaysian, to her new life in Quebec, are interspersed throughout.  While in Quebec, she is given a new lease on life, but life becomes difficult again, as she must learn to cope with her son’s autism.  Moving between past and present, memory and present day, Ru is a book that celebrates life in all its wonder.  

Deadline by Stephen Maher

Set in Ottawa, Deadline is a political thriller, full of twists and turns and backroom deals in political life. It opens with freelance journalist, Jack MacDonald waking up, hungover, with an extra Blackberry in his pocket, that everyone wants to get their hands on. His friend, who he was with the previous evening, lies in hospital, after being found in the Rideau Canal.  Meanwhile the Prime Minister of Canada announces he will retire from politics, setting off a power struggle behind the scenes.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book binding workshop

Back by popular demand! Join us for a Bookbinding Workshop and learn something new!
  • When: Monday March 25, 2013 from 1:30-3:30pm
  • Where: CA105b (ACCE building)
  • Fee: $20 per person (for materials), payable at the door
  • Equipment needed: straightedge (a ruler), a bonefolder (some will be available on hand) and a small paperweight
  • Instructor: Mary McIntyre, President, Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild
Limit of 24 people: Register by Friday March 15, 2013 to Helena Merriam at merriah@algonquincollege.com
Brought to you by Algonquin Reads