Sunday, October 9, 2011

Piece By Piece, edited by Teresa Toten

Right off the bat, this should probably be two posts; the first to explain why it has been such a long time since I have posted (suffice it to say between I have been busy writing the manuscript for Reality Rules II and not will not blog about books that ALSC's Notable Children's Books committee might discuss.) So, I was delighted to come across a book that I really enjoyed, that I'm really sorry doesn't meet the criteria for Notables. Speaking of which, if anyone (Buehler? Anyone?) is going to ALA Midwinter in Dallas, our meetings are open and we will be discussing lots of great books. There, now I don't have to write the other post.

So, a great book. Teresa Toten has edited (and contributed a stirring opening) to a collection of 14 original stories - which is considered by its publisher, Puffin Canada, as an anthology of biographies, so it will be in my collective biography sub-genre.  The full title of the book is: Piece by Piece: Stories About Fitting into Canada, which is a *much* better description of the contents. The authors' stories vary considerably, although they do share some common themes, which will resonate strongly with immigrants of all ages. The contributors all had difficulties in communicating, from authors who arrived and had to learn to speak english, to Richardo Keens-Douglas, who had to lose the lilt of his accent in order to get work as an actor, to Rachel Manley, whose impeccable English did her no good whatsoever in francophone Quebec.

The authors came to Canada for different reasons and found varying levels of welcome; Rachna Gilmore grew up enamoured with Anne of Green Gables but found out that even marrying an Islander did not make her a local, and Linda Granfield found the level of anti-Americanism in 1970s Toronto to be almost more than she could bear. Throughout all of the tales runs a current of love for home, and the assurance that becoming comfortable in a new country does not ever mean one stops missing the place that helped shape us. These aspects provide the books with a universal appeal: anybody that has left their home and moved to another province, state, or country will be able to understand just how wrenching it can be to try and fit in, and how difficult homesickness can be.

It is a book that will start discussions and could supplement them. It will also lead readers on to these authors' titles, providing options from nonfiction to literary fiction, historical fiction, readers choice awards and a number of others.

The included authors are: Svetlana Chmakova, Rachna Gilmore, Linda Granfield, Richardo Keens-Douglas, Alice Kuipers, Rachel Manley, Boonaa Mohammed, Mahtab Narsimhan, Dimitri Nasrallah Marina Nemat, Richard Poplak, Rui Umezawa, Eva Wiseman, and Ting-Xing Ye.