Becoming Canada: Our Story, Our Politics, Our Future (book review)

A month or so ago, I was invited to be part of a select group of 200 bloggers worldwide who Eco-Libris invited to review and have 200 reviews published on November 10th, the 2nd Annual Green Books Campaign. Unfortunately, around then I was completely sick and swamped, and right now I am still swamped but wanted to have this review out, as I have found the book I was assigned, “Becoming Canada: Our Story, Our Politics, Our Future” by Ken Dryden, an extremely interesting read.

On Wed., Nov. 10, at 1 p.m., 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases. This year’s participation of both bloggers and books has doubled from the event’s inception last year.

The 200 books to be reviewed are in a variety of subjects including cooking, poetry, travel, green living, and history, and come from 56 publishers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. that are participating in the Green Books Campaign. This diversified group of publishers includes both small and large presses who all print books on recycled and/or FSC-certified paper.

This year’s campaign is supported by Indigo Books & Music, the largest book retailer in Canada, as part of its efforts to draw attention to the need for more environmental paper in book publishing. This is a core goal of Indigo’s environmental program, reinforced by Indigo’s industry leading environmental paper policy.

On to the review of Becoming Canada…

From the perspective of a comparativist like me, Becoming Canada is primarily a historical analysis, not much of a comparative one (I am different from other bloggers who participated in the program in that I teach in a department of political science, although my focus is environment and public policy). I’m not a Canadianist, though (I compare Canadian-Mexican-US environmental policies), so take my review with a grain of salt. I’m offering my honest view of the book.

As way of introduction, Ken Dryden has been in fact a Canadian politician and lived in Canadian public life for many years, so he has much of an insider’s insight into the way Canadian policies have been created and implemented. While I admit that I had no clue who he was before I was asked to review the book (as I mention above, I’m not a Canadianist), I’m utterly fascinated by the stories he tells in Becoming Canada. This book does not purport itself to be a definitional analysis of what Canada is and what it’s supposed to be. Defining Canada is such a controversial topic, and Dryden is not controversial in his analysis, in my view. He tells the story of Canada as he understands it, as he lived it and as he looks to the future.

A longitudinal (and at times rather too-detailed) account of the history of Canada and Canadian politics, I found that Becoming Canada explored in too much detail the role of the United States of America in defining what Canada is in the 20th Century, and the first four chapters of the book really felt much like a combination of an auto-biography of Dryden himself interweaved with a historiography of the Canadian political landscape. It’s no surprise, though, and the writing style completely suits Dryden and his history in Canadian sports and politics.

I found the last 3 chapters of Becoming Canada a lot more focused on what Canada should look like, and on Dryden’s view of Canadian-ness. As I re-read the earlier sections of Becoming Canada (after reading the book from cover to cover), I understood what Dryden wanted to portray in his book. He wanted to share his vision of Canadiana but needed to provide the historical and cross-national, continental context for it. I was slightly surprised and somewhat disappointed that Dryden eschewed Mexico in his analysis of Canada within a North American context, but I am definitely not surprised that the focus of the book was so strong on the role of the United States in shaping Canadian political life. Becoming Canada is a profound-yet-not-overwhelming, easy-to-read first-hand account and plea for a united, healthy and strong Canada. Dryden’s vision is extremely interesting and you should read this book.

Becoming Canada
Our Story, Our Politics, Our Future
Written by Ken Dryden
Category: Political Science
Format: Hardcover, 248 pages
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
ISBN: 978-0-7710-2945-5 (0-7710-2945-4)

Pub Date: October 19, 2010
Price: $28.99

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