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Nation builders

Author Charlotte Gray presents new book on Canadian visionaries

The book The Promise of Canada by Charlotte Gray which goes over the history of Canada on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. The Promise of Canada looks back on 150 years of Canadian history and asks What does it mean to be Canadian? (Photo by Chelsey Harms/SAIT)

The book The Promise of Canada by Charlotte Gray which goes over the history of Canada on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. The Promise of Canada looks back on 150 years of Canadian history and asks What does it mean to be Canadian? (Photo by Chelsey Harms/SAIT)

Charlotte Gray has recently written The Promise of Canada, a book about the unsung heroes of Canada, in light of the country’s 150th anniversary.

Gray will be appearing at a WordFest-hosted event in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 24.

“I hope readers will appreciate the quiet strength of this country, which is built on pragmatism and modesty,” Gray said. 

“Just because modern Canada was not born in bloodshed, like too many other countries, doesn’t mean we haven’t had heroes and dramas of our own.”

The Promise of Canada details the lives of nine influential Canadians, including George-Étienne Cartier, Emily Carr, Tommy Douglas, Margaret Atwood and Elijah Harper.

“Each was an idealist of a kind. They were all people who stuck to their visions, whether those visions were aesthetic, political, scholarly or subversive.”

Gray said most of these people also overcame a variety of obstacles, such as Madam Justice Bertha Wilson, who had to deal with the entrenched sexism of the legal profession after being the first female appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Gray said she avoided profiling prime ministers because she wished to talk about people whose impact on Canada has often been undervalued or forgotten.

“I wanted to explore ideas that lie below the surface static of election campaigns and national crises.”

The book contains numerous snippets of knowledge about the subjects, including insight into Preston Manning’s close relationship with his father and gossip about George-Etienne Cartier’s mistress.

Gray said she wrote The Promise of Canada to be an engaging book for all readers. She avoided stuffing it with dates or making it read like a textbook.

“I love history, and I love writing. But most of all, I love reading about the past when it is presented in a lively, accessible way.”

Gray was born in Sheffield, England, and studied at Oxford University and the London School of Economics. She started her writing career as a newspaper columnist and a magazine editor in England before moving to Canada in 1979.

“As an immigrant, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes this country unique.”

Both a biographer and a historian, she has written 10 literary non-fiction books and is an adjunct research professor in the Department of History at Carleton University.

“Each generation since Confederation has reinvented what it means to be Canadian, and it has been fun charting the changes.”

WordFest presents Charlotte Gray on Thursday, Nov. 24 at the John Dutton Theatre. For tickets or more information, please visit: http://wordfest.com/session/wordfest-presents-charlotte-gray/

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