We didn’t have much of a revolution. We barely had a civil rights movement.
Many nations were born of fire and blood, but the Canadian identity isn’t found in conflict or controversy. We do have a history of tension and conflict. To our detriment, we swept much of it under the rug for decades.
For a long time, Canadians defined themselves by highlighting how we weren’t American. As a nation, we grew up trying to get out of the shadow of the U. S. of A.. The past 40 years have been different. We’ve brought innovation and critical thought to the world stage. Canada has become a country of renown, even before our Prime Minister was a social media super star.
But recent achievements don’t contribute to the majority of our collective understanding of who we are.
Canada is the nation that embraces each other. And we embrace other nations. Although we have our rough, hard hitting edge, we always shake hands after the game.
Here are 6 books that dig deep into what it means to be Canadian. From the people who were born and raised on this land, to the people who landed here and adopted this dirt as their own. These diverse perspectives begin to form a picture of what it means to be Canadian.
An Accidental Canadian by Margaret Wente
If you’re tapped into Canadian media at all, it’s hard to miss Margaret Wente. She writes for the Globe and Mail and comments on Canadian attitudes and our place in the world.
Peggi, as she is more commonly known, grew up mostly in Chicago, but moved with her family to Toronto after her mother and father divorced.
Canada is an open book to Peggi, one that she’s not willing to put down. Read the intro to An Accidental Canadian and see if her bluntness doesn’t provoke you further into the book.
Bilingual Being by Kathleen Saint-Onge
French and English, as peoples and as languages, have a complex relationship in Canada.
Kathleen grew up in Quebec City, speaking French at home and English at school. The two languages played distinct roles in her life as she endured abuse and fought for her identity.
This autobiography doesn’t just tell her story, it provides a cross-section of the life that millions of Canadians live, nestled between French and English.
The Blacksmith and the Beekeeper by Wes Henderson
Hugh Gourlay, the Blacksmith, and Cathie Gourlay, the Beekeeper, are a perfect picture of the Canadian frontier spirit.
Hugh hand-crafted parts and pieces for farm equipment. Cathie tended the bees and took on side projects to supplement Hugh’s income as a blacksmith.
Endurance and determination are glittering veins through their story as the Gourlays successfully adapt to 40 years of social and technological changes.
How to be Canadian by Will & Ian Ferguson
Humour exposes character. How to be a Canadian will draw out laughter for any Canadian.
The title is purely ironic. Much of the humour in this book needs an awareness of Canadian culture. Otherwise, sincere students of Canadian values will be gravely misled.
For the 33 million of us who call the Great White North home, this should get you and your neighbours snickering, possibly howling, depending on how much Crown or Molson you’ve had.
My Life as a Dame, Edited by Stephen Clarkson
The best of Christina McCall’s journalism and some unpublished works made it into this one volume, collected and edited by her husband, Stephen Clarkson.
Christina was a feminist and a journalist in a time when women were still marginalized in most of society.
Her words would inspire or enrage entire portions of the population. No matter what you thought of Christina, there was no denying her impact on the Canadian psyche during some our nation’s most defining years.
Piece by Piece, Edited by Teresa Toten
Fourteen young-adults that have adopted Canada as their new home tell their stories.
There’s a variety of forms: cartoons, poetry, and essays. There’s some compelling conversation and straight cutting statements.
All of it is sincere and vulnerable. Many who come to Canada, hoping to call it home, actually experience shock and confusion when they arrive.
These stories open our understanding to what it means to be a Canadian as an outsider trying to settle in.
What do you think it means to be Canadian?
We want to hear from you. Did you land here or grow up here? Are you from the west and come east? Did you leave the city for the cottage life? Was your family farmers or scholars?