Adventures in Ann Arbor Book World

I had such a book-ish weekend – it was glorious. Saturday was spent browsing various local book shops including Litterati Bookstore, which is absolutely gorgeous and has great staff reviews, and Motte & Bailey, where my better half is a regular.

Sunday was spent at the Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair and even though I only browsed it was lovely. Interesting things spotted at the Antiquarian Book Fair:

  • A SIGNED copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. Signed. By Harper Lee. Only $1500 USD. Oh, to be made of money.
  • A beautiful first edition copy of Pride and Prejudice. The second most expensive book that I handled at a price of $1000 USD.
  • A binder full of famous autographs. Including Elizabeth Taylor and Neil Armstrong.
  • So much Tolkien. I think nearly every book had copies of his books and yet I don’t think I saw the same cover twice.
  • I met a bookseller who spent summers on PEI and whose relative worked in costume design for Anne of Green Gables – The Musical. I was SO excited. Plus he had two books signed by The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards which was pretty cool.
  • A copy of Love signed by Her Literary Highness Toni Morrison. It was only $75 and I was so tempted.

Does Reading Diversely Include Reading More Men?

As I’ve mentioned in several previous blog posts, I decided to make a concerted effort in 2015 to not only read more but to expand the diversity of my personal reading. Although I consider myself to be a person who generally values and cares about diversity, that feeling hadn’t translated to my reading. When I took an inventory of my personal reading from last year I found that, in addition to my being in a reading slump, I was reading overwhelmingly white, women. That didn’t sit well with me, hence my commitment to read harder.

So far, I’m doing reasonably well. I’ve gotten a little off track but a detour into the Toni Morrison backlist is hardly a waste of time. This year I’ve read significantly more stuff by women of colour and my TBR pile is more multi-cultural than it probably would have been if I wasn’t mindfully selecting my reading. But there’s one trend that I have not reversed: I’m still reading more books by women than by men. And I’m wondering – is that something I should feel bad about? On the one hand, the lack of male authors in my personal reading means a lack of representation which is technically a lack of diversity. On the other hand, the fact that women remain sorely underrepresented in the industry means that I have a difficult time feeling too badly about this. That’s only half the point though. The real goal of this challenge for me (and I suspect most participants) is to identify the voices that are absent from our personal reading and seek to include them. In general, men are not marginalized voices in literature but am I missing out by reading from a predominantly female perspective?

Perhaps the only way to answer this question for myself is to explore why I gravitate toward female writers and determine if there’s a gap that needs to be fixed. I don’t know why I tend to read more female authors than male authors but it’s something I’ve always done. Perhaps it all began when I was a young reader and had the potentially naive reasoning that I would relate better to female characters and since more female authors wrote stories about girls I sought out female authors. Since the read harder challenge is all about challenging out preconceived notions about the types of stories we may relate to, my gravitation toward female writers may be problematic. Sounds like I should make an effort to include more male authors in my regular reading.

I came to this conclusion and still felt a little weird about it when it dawned on me that reading more male authors didn’t mean that I needed to start reading more white male authors. I sheepishly admit that this obvious point didn’t hit me immediately but now that it has I’m working on a male-author TBR pile that will satisfy some of the Read Harder challenges and extend beyond. I have physical copies of books by Rohinto Mistry, Sherman Alexie, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, and Kazuo Ishiguro and I’m finally next in line for Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao at my local library. My mental list also includes Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose work I’ve never gotten around to, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, because I love his non-fiction.

Does that mean I’m sworn off white male authors? Absolutely not. There’s no way I’ll stop reading Dan Brown, Robert K. Massie, Lawrence Wright, George R.R. Martin, James Salter, or David Sedaris. And I’ve always wanted to really get into Hemingway and see what all the fuss is about. For me, reading diversely isn’t about subtracting from my personal reading but adding to it. I’m adding a little more men and a lot more colour, and my reading world will be richer for it.

PEI Makes History – Twice

The Prince Edward Island provincial elections were held yesterday and they were far more exciting than anyone was expecting. I listened to the results coming in via CBC PEI and it was announced at 8:45 pm AST that they would not turn to hockey as originally scheduled as the election results were still far from conclusive. They also commented that this was the closest election in recent memory.

In the end, the Island made history twice over. First, PEI elected its first ever openly gay premier which makes it only the second province in Canada to elect an openly LGBTQ leader. People like to mock the Island for being backwards but such insults rest on increasingly shaky ground. Not only did Islanders elect a gay man as their leader, but his sexual orientation was essentially a non-issue.

Second, for only the second time a third party has gained a seat in the provincial legislature, and for the first time that seat is held by the Green Party. Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the PEI Green Party, was elected in a landslide district vote following an obviously successful campaign.

Other take-aways:

Many races were very close. Several districts were won by less than 100 votes with one district electing their representative by a mere TWO votes. I expect there will be a recount in that district so that number may change but the sentiment that I expressed via Twitter last night remains valid.

Having said that, I’m not really sure who I’m yelling at in that Tweet because PEI had its highest voter turnout since 1986 with 86.7% of eligible voters casting ballot.

The NDP ran a remarkably close race in District 14 (which happens to be my district) only to lose to the incumbent Liberal at the last moment when the advanced poll results were announced. For a long time it was looking like PEI would have all four colours represented in the legislature but that ultimately did not come to pass.

The PC Party made gains but their leader failed to secure his district. He will likely ask for a recount since he lost by only 24 votes but even if the results are overturned, the PC Party is almost certainly feeling that that contest was too close for comfort. And if the count stands, the Progressive Conservatives need a new leader.

Despite the fact that the Liberals maintain a majority government, the election results seem to suggest that Islanders sought change.

Female politicians didn’t make many gains this time around. Of the 31 women who ran only five were elected which means that the female presence in the provincial legislature is down by one.

People are already talking about proportional representation (which is nothing new). The new premier has hinted that electoral reform may be on his new government’s agenda and pro-proportional representation graphics are already hitting social media. We’ll have to wait and see if this discussion goes anywhere.

That’s the story of the PEI provincial election in a nutshell. I’d like to end on this note – how awkward is this handshake??