Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

CBC Canada Reads Interview Series: Donovan Bailey

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Donovan Bailey

We've already reached the halfway mark in CBC Canada Reads, with two books down and three remaining, vying for the crown and the coveted "Canada Reads effect".

We had the chance to chat with the 2014 panellists and today we're pleased to bring you our conversation with Olympian Donovan Bailey, who has been defending Giller Prize winner Esi Edugyan's historical novel, Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen) this week.

Although (spoiler alert!), Half-Blood Blues was voted off today after a valiant effort on Donovan's part, we're pleased to bring you this conversation, where Donovan shows his passion for Esi's book, and tells us how books can be like your mother's cooking.

Hosted by CBC personality and author Jian Ghomeshi, Canada Reads pits five fantastic Canadian books against one another in a (mostly) friendly competition, with each book championed by a Canadian celebrity in a series of broadcast debates. The 2014 debates run from March 3-6 and are centred around the theme of "What is the book that could change Canada?".

Stay tuned to Open Book: Toronto for coverage of Canada Reads 2014!

Open Book:

Tell us about why you chose this particular book as "the book to change Canada".

Donovan Bailey:

I see a lot of Hero's life as mine — well some of it — and I think part of the entire book resonates with what the world is going through now. Canada being the greatest biggest melting pot in the world. You've got a group of musicians in post war Germany trying to find their own identities and freedom so they can do the things they love to do and want to do.


What is your strategy going into the debates? Is "all fair" in books and war?


I don't know — I don't really have a strategy now. Because the other books, I've got a good overview of each of them and every one has their strong points and their weak points. But clearly, this competition is really about: "my mom's cooking is better than your mom's cooking". So my strategy is to point out my personal experiences in relation to the book and also to look at what society is going through today and how reading the book can teach Canadians that ultimately this is about freedom, which is what all of the characters are going through — freedom and identity.


Where were you the first time you read your selected book?


The first time I read the book, I was on a plane, going to India. To Delhi.


What was it like meeting the author of your book? Did you know one another previously? How would you describe the author?


Oh my, Esi is just — she is five foot one or two of raw brain and academic energy. She's a very classy lady and she definitely knows her thing.


Apart from your chosen book and the others in the competition, tell us about another book you'd love to see all of Canada reading.


Lawrence Hill's Book of Negroes comes to mind, but I think the fact that we're having a discussion about Canada reading is a great thing. I encourage all kids, all people, much the same way I encourage everyone to exercise, to pick up a book and read it.


If your writer wins the competition, how will you celebrate?


Well, I'd probably give her a big hug and we'd have a glass of wine, if she drinks, I'm not sure if she does. Something very nice — just a high five and a smile, and a pat on the back, well done. She's an incredible author and I just want to make sure I do the book justice

Donovan Bailey One of the fastest people on the planet, Donovan Bailey is one of the world's all-time greatest and most dominant sprinting legends. A former stockbroker, Bailey re-focused on his youthful passion for sprinting when he was in his early 20s, and was soon breaking records all over the place. Track and Field News named Donovan "Sprinter of the Decade" in the 1990s. He is a two-time Olympic champion, a three-time world champion and two-time world record holder.

In 1996, Donovan achieved the fastest top speed ever recorded in history at 27.07 miles per hour, a record that wasn't broken until the 2008 Olympics in Beijing by Usain Bolt. Donovan also broke the indoor 50-metre world record in a time of 5.56 seconds, a record that still stands today.

Although he retired from running in 2001, he has remained a prominent name in athletics in Canada and around the world over the past decade, working as a sports commentator for CBC, CTV and Eurosport. He also serves as a board member and spokesperson of Big Brothers of Canada, and is involved with many charitable organizations.

For more information about Half-Blood Blues please visit the Thomas Allen website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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