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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > July August 2016 > Non-fiction

Non-fiction

Fall preview 2016

PERSONAL HISTORY

PROFILE

WHEN SIMON & Schuster Canada editor Phyllis Bruce asked Charlotte Gray to write a book for Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017, she gave the British-born historian and author full rein over how to tackle the broad subject.

Over the more than 20 years Gray has been writing bestselling biographical non-fiction for figures such as Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill, she has “become excruciatingly aware of how difficult it is to frame Canadian history in a way that will actually attract viewers. Most people get so little of it in school and then are inundated with other people’s history, whether it’s American or European.” She observed that the country’s military history was already well covered, as are the lives of previous prime ministers, in particular, John A. Macdonald and Pierre Trudeau. “I wanted to do the social history, human history,” says Gray. “The ideas and intellectual history of this country that are not covered. How do I do a biography of the last 150 years that will actually highlight what makes Canada unique in the world today?”

Tommy Douglas at the founding convention of the NDP, 1961 (Library and Archives Canada)
DOUGLAS PHOTOGRAPH BY DUNCAN CAMERON

Her response is the 400-page The Promise of Canada: 150 Years – People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country, due in October. Organized sequentially, the book features in-depth bio graphies of various Canadians – starting with father of Confederation George-Étienne Cartier and concluding with innovative business executive Annette Verschuren – to explore ideas and issues that have helped define the country’s identity and values. The book spans decades and disciplines, dedicating space to artist Emily Carr, author Margaret Atwood, Charter of Rights champion Bertha Wilson, and aboriginal politician Elijah Harper, who helped stop the 1990 Meech Lake accord.

vexpo 67 (Library and Archives Canada)
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FALL PREVIEW More than 145 new titles to make the season a colourful one. Raizel Robin, Brian Francis, Angie Abdou, Melanie Fishbone and more contribute. ZOE WHITTAL defies categorization with her timely new novel. BORDER CROSSINGS In telling the fraught tale of a desperate foreigner in the U.S., David Bergen has written arguably his best novel. Stranger.
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