Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Carole Giangrande

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Carole Giangrande

In Carole Giangrande's Midsummer (Inanna Publications), a young woman named Joy is haunted by the spirit of her grandfather, the family patriarch, who many years before had a vision that convinced him that he was blessed. His children reacted to this conviction in different ways, changing the history of the family. When the family is brought together in the year 2000, that history comes to light in new ways, changing Joy's life and relationships.

Today Carole joins us to take on the The WAR Series: Writers As Readers questionnaire, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Read on to hear from Carole about a bear in the army, the magic of reading Woolf, and having one of CanLit's greats for a neighbour.

The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
A picture book called Those Cats by Virginia Cunningham, about a spinster who wanted company and ended up with two cute, frisky cats that got out of hand. So she found two young boys to help her with the cats and the boys got up to mischief, too. The repeating words were those cats! and those boys! I loved it.

A book that made me cry:
Kalila By Rosemary Nixon. A spare and exquisitely written story of parents struggling for the life of their ill and premature infant. The sense of this newborn's presence is palpable — you can feel the warmth of her body and the strength of her life, frail as it was. A Canadian treasure that deserves to be widely read.

The first adult book I read:
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (age 12).

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Wojtek the Bear: Polish War Hero by Aileen Orr. An ursine M.A.S.H and a true story about an orphaned Syrian brown bear that became a mascot for a transport division of the Polish Armed Forces during WWII. He drank beer, chomped on cigarettes, raided the cookhouse for sweets, stole ladies' lingerie and moved artillery shells at the battle of Monte Cassino. Touching, but often hysterically funny.

The book I have re-read many times:
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. More than any other author I've read, Woolf put the experience of consciousness and aliveness on the page, so that we live inside the story in a whole new way. It's wondrous reading.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
Got an hour? George Eliot's Middlemarch, for one. Also, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That's just for starters.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
Poet bpNichol's An H in the Heart, a posthumous reader selected by George Bowering and Michael Ondaatje. My 17 year-old self wrote poetry and would have been thrilled to know that one day, the funny, gifted (and sorely missed) bpNichol would be a friend and neighbour.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
John Hersey's Hiroshima. In a slim work, he gave us six ordinary lives touched by a monumental event, keeping the focus on their simple humanity. Hersey gave dignity to the details of everyday living, allowing that dignity to prevail in the face of catastrophe. This approach is never far from my mind as I write.

The best book I read in the past six months:
David Gilmour's Extraordinary. A perfect novella: two main characters (one of them on the last night of her life), plenty of dramatic tension and heartfelt insight. It's a brilliant book.

The book I plan on reading next:
Bartbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Words and Silence: My Ordinary Life

Born and raised in the New York City area, Carole Giangrande now resides in Toronto. Her novella, A Gardener On The Moon, was co-winner of the 2010 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest. She’s the author of two novels, An Ordinary Star (2004) and A Forest Burning (2000) and a short story collection, Missing Persons (1994). She’s worked as a broadcast journalist for CBC Radio, and her fiction, articles and reviews have appeared in literary journals and in Canada’s major newspapers. She comments as The Thoughtful Blogger (a space for interesting books and intermittent reflection), available through her website at

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