Few people understand the importance of the arts and cultural sector better than Cameron Bailey. The artistic director of one of the world’s biggest and most important film festivals, Bailey brings a comprehensive wealth of experience to his position, and under his lead the festival continues to grow in size and significance every year. Today, Cameron and the book he was championing for CBC Canada Reads, Ru, by Kim Thuy, won the competition:
The novel, announced Thursday as the winner of CBC’s annual battle of the books, traces a young woman’s journey from to her home in Saigon during the Vietnam War, to a crowded Malaysian refugee camp and then to Quebec, where she struggles to fit in.
For Bailey, Toronto International Film Festival artistic director, the book triggered an emotional response which helped to fuel his impassioned debate.
“I came in with a lot of arguments that were very rational,” he said. “[But] in the end, I had to try and pull from my own heart … I connected with Ru on that level.”
Bailey, whose family came to Canada from Barbados, also argued that the book’s poetic style would be capable of opening the hearts of Canadians who may be suffering “compassion fatigue” when it comes to newcomers.
“There are incredibly dramatic stories sometimes that bring people into Canada,” Bailey said. “Those should be respected and that should be made a part of the Canadian fabric.”
Thursday’s win also proved emotional for Thuy, who followed the broadcast announcing the winner all the way from China.
“It’s incredible,” she exclaimed, calling into the show.
“I don’t know how I feel, I just feel so far from home. I just want to be home today,” said the 46-year-old writer who immigrated to Montreal from Vietnam as a child.
Despite a well-spoken campaign by runnerup famed gossip blogger and broadcaster Elaine (Lainey) Lui, who was defending Raziel Reid’s When Everything Feels like the Movies, the panel ultimately decided that Ru was the best story to challenge stereotypes and shift readers’ perspectives.
The books voted off earlier this week, in order of elimination, were:
Day 1: Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee, defended by Kristin Kreuk.
Day 2: The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, defended by Craig Kielburger.
Day 3: And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins, defended by Martha Wainwright.
Day 4: When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid, defended by Elaine (Lainey) Lui.