Monday, August 27, 2012

Launching Out

This summer I went on a trip to China. I had never been to that part of the world before, and it was a totally new experience. During my stay, I got to meet a lot of the local people in the province where I was based for my teaching engagement. One particular conversation has stayed with me: I was out on an excursion walking beside one of the students when he asked me "What is an important Canadian story? Who are the best Canadian authors"? I felt the pressure my students feel when I ask a question they don't understand. "Ummm... Well there are lots..." (buying time). The only thing I could really think of was The Hockey Sweater. I hadn't read it since grade four, but I tried my best to remember the main points and retell the story in simple English. It satisfied the needs of the conversation but left me unsatisfied. Why do I know so little about the country I have called home for 25 years? What are its stories? Who are its heroes? And what makes us different from the U.S. anyway? More questions include:

Who are the courieur du bois?
What did Isaac Brock do to get a university named after him?
Why do people love Anne of Green Gables?
Why are the circumstances of the First Nations the way they are?
What other great authors has Canada produced apart from Margaret Atwood?
What distinguishes Canadian culture? (I'm tired of saying "we don't have one")

I want to pursue these and other questions, so that's where the theme of this blog comes from. I will use this as a forum to share thoughts from my reading in Canadian history and literature.

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