Facing History reads Canada Reads: 5 Books that Challenge Stereotypes and Change Perspectives

Posted by Gillian Aitken on March 12, 2015

CBC's battle of the books - Canada Reads 2015 - is taking place from March 16-19th. Canada Reads involves five prominent Canadians debating which book all of Canada should read.

Each year the theme for the event relates closely to our work at Facing History and this year’s theme, One Book to Break Barriers, is no exception. The panel must decide the one book out of the five chosen that best "challenges stereotypes and changes perspectives." The debate over which book to pick takes place over four days beginning March 16, and is live streamed on CBC.ca at 10am EST and broadcast on radio and television each day.

As a staff and board, Facing History Canada will gather on March 19th to watch and discuss the final episode of Canada Reads, when the panelists decide which of the five contenders is the “One Book to Break Barriers.” Each of us has chosen at least one of the five books to read and defend. We aim to learn from each other by discussing our opinions of the books and drawing connections to Facing History themes such as identity, “othering,” membership, and participation.


This year, the books being debated, and their respective champions are:

And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, championed by singer Martha Wainwright

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee, championed by actress Kristin Kreuk

Ru by Kim Thúy, championed by Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, championed by activist and social entrepreneur Craig Keilburger

When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid, championed by television host Elaine "Lainey" Lui

The host facilitating the debate is Canadian journalist and musician Wab Kinew.

Literature is so much a part of discovering and uncovering our identity as individuals, and collectively as a nation. The collection of books Canada Reads has assembled covers a diverse range of topics that broadly expose many different aspects of the lives of Canadians: migration, gender and sexuality, religion, victimization, colonization, multiculturalism, the list could go on. The stories represent our history and who we are today.

Debating the narrative and characters of these selected books provides a space for Canadians to discuss the controversial issues that are shaping our country’s collective identity. These books ignite uncomfortable conversations that may not surface without literature first acting as a catalyst. Reading stories enables us to empathize at a profound level and, as a result, encourages tolerance, compassion, and changing perspectives - qualities that we hope to bring out in each other and young people across Canada.

FIND strategies for raising controversial conversations into your classroom.

RAISE QUESTIONS about what multiculturalism and belonging mean through stories that spark our thinking.

COMMENT: What books and resources do you use in your classroom to challenge stereotypes and change perspectives? Share by commenting below!

Topics: Professional Development, Canada, English Classroom, Literature


This is where Canadian Facing History and Ourselves teachers and community members meet to share reflections, scholarship and teaching practices that will inspire, challenge and improve teaching and student learning. Our stories provide a window into diverse Facing History classrooms in Canada, and invite you into the discussion.

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