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Simcoe Libraries 'squaring off against each other' for Simcoe Reads 2021

BWG Library is excited to reveal Emily Dahlgren as the 2021 Simcoe Reads Champion
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7 Libraries. 7 Books. 1 Winner.

It is time for Simcoe Reads 2021 and Simcoe Libraries are squaring off against each other again as local champions debate their books.

BWG Library is excited to reveal Emily Dahlgren as our 2021 Simcoe Reads Champion! Emily is well known in our community and has chosen to champion the great book Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. Ayesha at Last, a modern and Muslim spin on Pride and Prejudice, won the 2019 Cosmopolitan Book of the Year and was a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist. Emily describes Ayesha at Last as, “a story about love – but it’s so much more than that. It is also a story about family, religion, tradition, morals and acceptance.”

Over the next three months, we encourage everyone in Bradford West Gwillimbury to read Ayesha at Last and then join us for an author visit (via zoom) with Uzma Jalaluddin on August 19, 2021. Space will be limited and tickets will be available beginning Monday, July 5. Check the BWG Library Facebook page for the registration link, which will be posted on Monday, July 5 at 9:30 a.m.

Read all seven Simcoe Reads titles (The BWG Library has multiple copies of all Simcoe Reads 2021 titles available for loan) and choose your favourite. The books are listed below and information is available on the BWG Library website.

Ayesha At Last, by Uzma Jalaludin

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn't want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can't get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.

A Mind Spread Out On The Ground, by Alicia Elliott

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground is a personal and critical meditation on trauma, legacy, oppression and racism in North America. In an urgent and visceral work that asks essential questions about Native people in North America while drawing on intimate details of her own life and experience with intergenerational trauma, Alicia Elliott offers indispensable insight and understanding to the ongoing legacy of colonialism. What are the links between depression, colonialism and loss of language--both figurative and literal?

Elliott makes connections both large and small between the past and present, the personal and political--from overcoming a years-long history with head lice to the way Native writers are treated within the Canadian literary industry; her unplanned teenage pregnancy to the history of dark matter and how it relates to racism in the court system; her childhood diet of Kraft dinner to how systematic oppression is linked to depression in Native communities. With deep consideration and searing prose, Elliott extends far beyond her own experiences to provide a candid look at our past, an illuminating portrait of our present and a powerful tool for a better future.

Gutter Child, by Jael Richardson

Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable are forced to buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. In this world, Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies taken from the Gutter and raised in the land of opportunity as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government.

But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina finds herself all alone, a teenager forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of who she is and where she belongs. When Elimina’s life takes another unexpected turn, she will discover that what she needs more than anything may not be the freedom she longs for after all.

Richardson’s Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s journey through a fractured world of heartbreaking disadvantages and shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all too recognizable reality who must find the strength within herself to forge her future and defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.

The Company We Keep, by Frances Itani

In this warm, bittersweet story, set in the same town as Remembering the Bones, five strangers find solace and new friendships as they grapple with grief in its many guises. Hazzley is having a hard time after the death of her husband. When her longtime friend Cassandra, café owner and occasional tea-leaf reader, suggests that Hazzley start up a conversation group, Hazzley posts a notice on the community board at the local grocery store. Four people turn up at the first meeting: Gwen, a recent retiree who is similarly getting over the loss of a husband; Chiyo, a 45-year old dance instructor who became accustomed to checking the notice board for news on behalf of her gossip-loving mother who had become too ill to go out; Addie, the daughter of a psychiatric nurse who is pre-emptively grieving a close friend who has breast cancer; and Tom, an amateur poet who, having been deprived of home baking since becoming a widower, comes to the first meeting hoping cake will be served.

With a good deal of humour and world-weary savvy, Cassie watches over the group and bears witness to the interaction and weekly exchange of stories, some of which she knows are true, some fabricated, and all of which she can see are pulling this small group together. In the end, all five find themselves on previously unimagined paths, learning that new beginnings are possible, and that they are never past the stage when life can still surprise.

Centaur’s Wife, by Amanda Leduc

Heather is sleeping peacefully after the birth of her twin daughters when the sound of the world ending jolts her awake. Stumbling outside with her babies and her new husband, Brendan, she finds that their city has been destroyed by falling meteors and that her little family are among only a few who survived.

But the mountain that looms over the city is still green--somehow it has been spared the destruction that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Heather is one of the few who know the mountain, a place city-dwellers have always been forbidden to go. 

At times devastating, but ultimately redemptive, Amanda Leduc's fable for our uncertain times reminds us that the most important things in life aren't things at all, but rather the people we want by our side at the end of the world.

Greenwood, by Michael Christie

They come for the trees. It is 2038. As the rest of humanity struggles through the environmental collapse known as the Great Withering, scientist Jake Greenwood is working as an overqualified tour guide on Greenwood Island, a remote oasis of thousand-year-old trees. Jake had thought the island's connection to her family name just a coincidence, until someone from her past reappears with a book that might give her the family history she's long craved.

From here, we gradually move backwards in time to the years before the First World War, encountering along the way the men and women who came before Jake: an injured carpenter facing the possibility of his own death, an eco-warrior trying to atone for the sins of her father's rapacious timber empire, a blind tycoon with a secret he will pay a terrible price to protect, and a Depression-era drifter who saves an abandoned infant from certain death, only to find himself the subject of a country-wide manhunt. At the very centre of the book is a tragedy that will bind the fates of two boys together, setting in motion events whose reverberations we see unfold over generations, as the novel moves forward into the future once more.

Indians on Vacation, by Thomas King

Inspired by a handful of postcards sent nearly a hundred years ago, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace long-lost uncle Leroy and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe.

“I’m sweaty and sticky. My ears are still popping from the descent into Vaclav Havel. My sinuses ache. My stomach is upset. My mouth is a sewer. I roll over and bury my face in a pillow. Mimi snuggles down beside me with no regard for my distress.

‘My god,’ she whispers, ‘can it get any better?’”  

By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple’s holiday in Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.