Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship by Adrienne Clarkson

Non-fiction pick by Jean-Louis


(House of Anansi Press, 2014; CBC Massey Lectures series)

The Massey Lectures are an annual tradition dating back to 1961. House of Anansi Press, in cooperation with the CBC and Massey College at the University of Toronto ask a public figure to write and deliver a 5-part lecture series on a topic of general interest. This year, the lectures were written and delivered by Adrienne Clarkson (nee Poy), former Governor-General of Canada and a former journalist.

The topic of this year’s series is belonging, or what it means to be a citizen in Canada. Clarkson is ideally suited to this topic as she arrived in Canada in 1941 as a nine-year-old child refugee from Hong Kong. What does it mean to belong? What does it take to be accepted, to feel that you are “from” a place and a people? These are all questions she explores throughout the lectures.

Clarkson has, through her careers as a journalist and as Governor-General, been immersed in questioning what it is that makes Canada tick. Who are we, how do we manage ourselves, what stories do we tell each other, and how do others see us, have really been her life’s questions. She explores these in the book by leading there reader through interesting asides ranging from a look at ancient Greece and the notion of the city state, the story of the Return of Martin Guerre, the concept of ubuntu, and the aspiration of gross national happiness.

The success of the lectures is that they are wide-ranging without being overly scholarly. We all live these ideas in our day-to-day lives and Clarkson draws connections for us in a popular and accessible fashion. The lectures were delivered publicly in cities across the country  and were broadcast this week (Nov 10 Р14) on CBC radio. Each chapter is one lecture so it is easily read in about the same time as it takes to listen to the lecture.

The Masseys are a great Canadian tradition to take part in–check out he book today!

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