The more we read, the stronger we are

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - Rose­mary Gan­ley Reach writer, teacher and ac­tivist Rose­mary Gan­ley at rgan­[email protected]

Cana­di­ans read. They read, buy, bor­row and talk books. Maybe on Kin­dle or Kobo, but just as likely in hard­cover.

Ev­ery per­son not strap-hang­ing on the TTC is read­ing. In Peter­bor­ough, Kno­tanew and Mark Joki­nen’s, Hunter Street Books and that funky Books on Wa­ter, which spe­cial­izes in used so­cial-jus­tice works, plus Hap­pen­stance and Lake­field Sta­tion Book­shop, all make us a book­ish re­gion. That’s not even in­clud­ing Chap­ters or on­line shop­ping.

Although I miss the card cat­a­logues at Trent’s Bata Li­brary, all that opened space serves more read­ers. At Peter­bor­ough Pub­lic Li­brary, the one with the fine new art in­stal­la­tion out­side de­pict­ing a book cover blow­ing in the wind, I had an hour’s free tu­to­rial with a li­brar­ian, Laura, striv­ing to make me more com­puter lit­er­ate (start­ing with the dele­tion of mul­ti­ple Face­book ac­counts.)

As a na­tion, we avidly fol­low five new ti­tles on ra­dio ev­ery March, on “Canada Reads.” Then we read all five to make up our own minds.

We’ve just con­cluded a na­tional elec­tion. Sixty-five per cent of us voted for po­lit­i­cal par­ties with pro­gres­sive val­ues. I put that pre­vail­ing view, which to my de­light is a deeply anti-Trump­ism one, down to the in­flu­ence of read­ing. Peo­ple who read, learn, re­vise their opin­ions, con­sider, pon­der and are made more sym­pa­thetic.

Count the num­ber of book clubs around here. Mine, orig­i­nated by me, is a solo ef­fort, I am do­ing the choices and my apart­ment is do­ing the host­ing. It has 10 par­tic­i­pants and is just two ses­sions in length. No use wear­ing our­selves out, though I once knew a woman who read a book a night.

Re­cently we dis­cussed with en­thu­si­asm Melinda Gates’ per­sonal mem­oir, “The Mo­ment of Lift.” Next month, it will be the cheery, re­as­sur­ing “Fact­ful­ness” by the well-known TED Talks man, Hans Rosling of Swe­den.

Gates took her ti­tle from her fa­ther’s work on the space pro­gram in Texas, but she broad­ens it to in­clude her own jour­ney to fem­i­nism and her pro­found so­cial con­science, which has led her to make huge, re­peated do­na­tions to part­ner groups in the global south, those work­ing in women’s and chil­dren’s health.

Two weeks ago, look­ing at the per­ils in her own coun­try, she an­nounced one bil­lion dol­lars over 10 years for Amer­i­can women in lead­er­ship.

I had the plea­sure of meet­ing her a cou­ple of times on that com­mit­tee in 2018 when I served on the Gen­der Equal­ity Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil to the G7. She is a warm, in­tel­li­gent and lis­ten­ing per­son with great in­sight. I found my­self say­ing in a friendly man­ner over wine one night, “Melinda, I don’t agree with any sys­tem that makes one so rich so fast, but if any­one has $400 mil­lion to give to the world’s need­i­est women, I would trust you to do it.”

She read­ily agreed. She said that when she be­gan this phil­an­thropic work 20 years ago, Hans Rosling him­self said to her, “The last thing we need is bil­lion­aires in here mess­ing up.” Grad­u­ally, the two be­came com­rades with a com­mon vi­sion.

Melinda Gates is also con­scious that pri­vate philanthro­py, which ac­tu­ally makes up only about two per cent of world de­vel­op­ment aid, will never make all the changes needed. Still, pri­vate money can be a cat­a­lyst for state re­spon­si­bil­ity.

She has ob­vi­ously sat lis­ten­ing to women on a grass mat in In­dia and Burk­ina Faso and other places for many hours. The Gates Foun­da­tion in Seat­tle em­ploys 1,500 peo­ple, many Cana­di­ans, and both she and her hus­band Bill write their own news­let­ters.

Our book club in­cludes a physi­cian who works in global health and spent 12 years in Thai­land, and a woman who ba­si­cally does not be­lieve in for­eign aid as it is de­liv­ered to­day. We hold those ten­sions, and then en­joy spanako­pita, brought by a for­mer li­brar­ian and peace­builder.

Gates is an hon­est writer, who re­veals a great deal about her fam­ily, the chal­lenges of her mar­riage, her re­la­tion­ship with her church and her ide­al­ism.

(Don’t miss the new Net­flix doc­u­men­tary, “In­side Bill’s Brain.”)

HANNAH YOON TORSTAR FILE PHOTO

Peter­bor­ough is a com­mu­nity of book lovers and avid read­ers, Rose­mary Gan­ley writes to­day.

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