This evening I went to see Lawrence Hill speak at the Toronto Reference Library. I love going to author talks, and this fall the Eh List Series is featuring the most amazing writers, including Salman Rushdie, Geraldine Brooks, and Shilpi Somaya Gowda. He talked about his new book, The Illegal, that focuses on the plight of refugees. I haven’t read this one, but I did read The Book of Negroes years ago and I loved it. I’m always fascinated by men who have the ability to get into the mind, body, and emotions of a woman. Clearly they are in touch with their feminine side! Other authors who have done so beautifully are Khaled Hosseini (A Thousand Splendid Suns) and Wally Lamb (She’s Come Undone). It was a pleasure listening to him speak for an hour. He has a very serene presence. I was particularly moved by his description of his long-term humanitarian work. He has volunteered with an international women’s rights organization for over thirty-five years, and in the last few years, has been involved in creating book clubs in prisons across Canada.

When you’re reading books, you realize that the world’s not all about you. You’re not the only one going through these trials and tribulations. You get to have a little empathy for other people. The book club is a good way to meet the right sort of people. Because I find that the people that read a lot, they’re never in trouble.

– Inmate at Beaver Creek Institution

I know books have done that for me. Sometimes they are the only way for me to get out of my own head, to connect emotionally with the plight of another.

I love this picture (image above) that I found in a Globe and Mail article. The inmate is holding The Year of Wonders, written by Geraldine Brooks, about a woman trying to survive during the time of the plague and rise above the tragedy in order to help those around her. Can’t wait to see Geraldine speak next month!


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