Sunday, February 22, 2009

Slumdog Controversy

Yesterday I saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire—truly one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story sucked me into another time and part of the world that I confess I know little about. And it was shocking. And humbling. And certainly made me look at the rip in my leather sofa and the scratches on coffee table and my broken California shutters in a whole new and embarrassing light.

Growing up in Western society—in a far from affluent neighbourhood—I learned early in life what real poverty looks like. Having a Romanian uncle who, at the time, was not allowed back into the country he’d escaped from, I was taken on two occasions, 9 years-old and again at 15, to a country that made my lower-middle-class house look like a palace. I remember clearly seeing the white, bare store and asking, “What is that?’ and being told, “It’s the bread store.” “But where’s the bread?” “There isn’t any.” And beside it another empty space. “And what’s that?” “The meat store.” “And where’s the meat?” “There isn’t any.” I remember parked cars, snaking from a gas station in a ghostly line that went on for miles. “Why are they parked like that?” “They are waiting for gas.” Let me guess. There isn’t any.

For a 15 year old, it was an eye-opener and certainly a turning point in my life. I am eternally grateful for that experience as I was able to remind myself often over the years that I have it good.

When I came home from the movie last night, gushing about how great it was, I was taken aback when my babysitter informed me that there was a huge back-lash against the movie in India, that using the word “dog” in the title was derogatory and that the scenes of total poverty in the movie were exploiting those that live in these slums.

I can totally see why there is such uproar, but in my opinion, the movie does less to exploit the poor and more to educate those of us living in a world so far removed from this sort of desperate poverty that we weep freely at seeing these scenes rather than gawk at them as sensational. I firmly believe and live by the adage, “The more places you see, the more you know,” and for all those who never make it out of their own city, let alone province or country and who will never go half-way around the world and experience first hand just how good they’ve got it, this movie can at least transport them for two hours and hopefully have them leave the theatre as humbled as I did.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Week!

It never rains it pours--good things as well as bad--and this week I got a few happy buckets dumped on me! For one, I just received word that Ghost Ride, the first of my Y/A thrillers, will be published by Dundurn! I have nothing but respect for Dundurn--they have excellent books by excellent authors (see: Marsha Skrypuch, Mahtab Narsimhan, Valerie Sherrard, Deborah Kerbel, James Bow, to name a few!) And they have excellent covers! (Can't wait to see what mine will look like!)

Now, as if that isn't enough to keep me grinning for the next, oh, say, year, I also found out this week that I'm the recipient of ETFO's Curriculum Development Award --Women's Program for my teacher's guide for Shadow of the Moon! This thrills me to no end because my personal joke is that I spent more time writing the teacher's guide than I did writing the novel! I've received great feedback from teachers that have used both my guides, but man, to have ETFO acknowledge my work is HUGE!!!

I'm going out to buy a lotery ticket!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Schools and Canadian Authors

I just read an article by Marc Côté (for whom I happen to have the utmost respect!)

and felt his words spoke directly to me for three reasons:

1. Growing up, I loved Edgar Allen Poe.

2. I went on to become a huge Stephen King fan. I also enjoyed the works of Anne Rice, (who was truly an inspiration!) and Dean Koontz.

3. One of my favourite all-time novels is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird AND not only haven’t I read Gwenthalyn Graham’s Earth and High Heaven, I’d never even heard of it. (It’s now definitely on my list of things to read!)

But despite all this, I find myself questioning whether my education and the system’s lack of promoting Canadian authors had anything to do with my taste and the writers I gravitated toward. Media? Absolutely. But not sure about the schools…

In elementary school, two novels I studied that still stand out in my mind today are Luke Baldwin’s Vow (Morely Callahan—Canadian) and Underground to Canada (Barbara Smucker—American). Sadly, I can’t remember many others, though this is more a reflection of my aging mind than anything else.

In high school, I was definitely exposed to a variety of Canadian writers—Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle, and Margaret Lawrence’s The Diviners, are those that come to mind.

I have to agree with Mr. Côté that American and British authors are far better promoted by the media, but by the schools (at least back in my day)?…hmmm…still thinking on that…