CANADA READS, CBC’s annual book debate, concluded today with a live elimination vote, and Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead has been voted the must-read book for Canadians in 2021. Over four days of spirited debate, moderated by five-time host Ali Hassan, five celebrity panellists championed their chosen Canadian books that speak to the theme, ‘One Book to Transport Us.’ Each day of the competition, one book was eliminated by the panellists until Whitehead’s debut novel was crowned the winner in a broadcast that was available on CBC Radio One, CBC TV, CBC Listen, CBC Gem, CBCBooks.ca and Facebook.
The winning book’s champion is award-winning Mohawk actor and filmmaker, Devery Jacobs. “I’m just so glad that I got to defend this book on such a great platform and also bring attention to Joshua Whitehead’s incredible writing.” said Jacobs. “I felt a lot of pressure representing Two-Spirit and Indigi-queer communities. I’m Mohawk. I’m also queer. But It’s so much bigger than myself and I just feel so humbled and so honored to have been a part of this.”
Whitehead is a two-spirit, Oji-nêhiyaw Indigiqueer scholar from Peguis First Nation. His work seeks to centre the unique experiences of young queer Indigenous people.
“This means the world to me. I’m holding this as a legacy and a fire to keep burning for all Indigenous folks across Turtle Island and I dedicate it to all missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people and their families,” said Whitehead. “I think the book is timely and needed for Canadian readers to see what it means for Indigenous peoples to be living under the weight of ongoing settler colonialism, the ways in which we have been harmed, injured profoundly, but also the ways in which we are powerful beyond measure and hold the highest registers of love for our communities, ourselves and for this land we call Turtle Island.”
In Whitehead’s debut novel, Jonny Appleseed, a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man and proud NDN glitter princess must reckon with his past when he returns home to his reserve to attend the funeral of his stepfather. Jonny Appleseed was on the longlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It also won the Lambda Literary Award for gay fiction.
During the final broadcast, Jacobs was surprised with a recorded audio-greeting from literary giant, Neil Gaimin, who played a role in casting Jacobs as Sam Black Crow in the American Gods television adaptation of his bestselling book of the same name. “Devery is a marvel. I love what she does. I cannot wait to see what she does next. I’m so glad to have been part of your career. You’re brilliant.”
The CANADA READS 2021 debates took place from March 8 – 11, 2021. It was a lively week on the socially-distanced Toronto-set, with panellist Scott Helman finding out live on air that he was nominated for a 2021 Juno Award for Music Video of the Year, and with two of the elimination votes, on day two and day three, ending in tense tie-breakers.
This season, and for the past five seasons, every CANADA READS finalist has appeared on the Canadian bestseller lists following the announcement of the shortlist, and many titles have spent months on these lists.
The books voted off this week in order of elimination are:
The CANADA READS conversation continues on CBCbooks.ca, @CBCbooks on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #CanadaReads.