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Our January Book Recomendations

Hello PISA community! We are so excited to be back to school, and hope you enjoyed your winter break as much as we all did! For our first blog post back we wanted to share the books that we have been reading in our time off. We hope you enjoy these recommendations and look forward to this semester!

Maia Lugar- PISA President:

TW: sexual assault

The book I was engrossed in over the holiday break was Bagman: A Life in Nova Scotia by Donald F. Ripley, a ‘bagman’ (an individual involved in political fundraising or donation solicitation) for the Conservative party from the ‘70s to the ‘90s. An Indigenous man born and raised in rural Nova Scotia, Ripley was disillusioned by politics from an early age. After experiencing drastic highs and lows in his career, his final straw was being fined $115,000 and receiving an indefinite suspension from his career as a stockbroker for ‘unethical conduct’. After publishing Bagman, he went on to earn a law degree at the age of 64, which he used to do pro-bono work for veterans.

The book covers a wide array of events, starting in 1949 with the selection of Robert Stanfield as Nova Scotia Conservative party leader, and ending in the 1990s, with the scandal that lost Ripley his career. From the story of Donald Marshall Jr., an Indigenous man sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, to Gerald Regan, the Nova Scotian Premier charged with rape thanks in part to Ripley’s tenacity, Ripley brings many instances of misconduct (and outright criminality) to light. Published in 1993, It is a fascinating read both for those who know the players and are invested in the Nova Scotian political system, and for those who are tired of hearing Canadians talk about how much better our government and political systems are than our neighbours to the south.

The book is dedicated to Donald Marshall Jr., and to give an idea of Ripley’s perspective while writing the text, here is an excerpt from the dedication:

“Some, who do not know the despair of suffering an injustice, may think rough talk or animosity too coarse, culturally unacceptable, or even unnecessary. But defiance is all the disadvantaged have to sustain their sanity lest the bitterness should consume them”.

It evidently presents a biased and disgruntled perspective, but it is certainly an enjoyable read, as long as it’s taken with a grain of salt.

Marie Pier Allard- PISA Vice-President:

Hello everyone, I hope you all had an amazing break, and you are ready for this new semester. We are really happy to be back with another book review. On my part, I decided to write about a book I read over Christmas which is the biography of the first female Prime Minister of Quebec, Pauline Marois: Au-delà du pouvoir. Ever since she was young, Ms. Marois’ always had a strong desire to help and be actively engaged within her community. This passion will later be the basis of her political work, which is the fight against social inequalities.

Beside her position as PM, she also occupied many positions within the government, and was appointed minister at least ten times. In her book, Ms. Marois discusses her personal background and how her personal story shaped the woman she became. It mentions the importance of education, the importance of a strong and tight community, but more importantly she illustrates the difficulties of being a woman in the political world. For instance, she explains how family services were nonexistent at a time in Quebec, making it hard for women to be involved in certain fields, especially positions of power. This will become an important battle for Ms. Marois, during which she encourages young women to hold positions of power within their workplace. Her book is, in my opinion, an inspiring work for young women in politics. Throughout her career, Ms. Marois always was a strong advocate for women. In fact, between 1981 as 1983, she succeeded Lise Payette as the second Minister for Status of Women, and will keep her engagement in the fight for women through different feminist organizations.

This book presents an interesting point of view and discusses important historical points. Even if you do not necessarily agree with her political ideology, I would definitely recommend this book. No matter the criticism she received throughout her career, Pauline Marois marked Quebec history by not only becoming the first female prime minister but also throughout her political work and her engagement for the beloved “Nation of Quebec”.

Carrie Robinson- PISA Director of Communications:

Hello everyone, I hope you all enjoyed your time off! Over the break I was given Barack Obama’s newest book A Promised Land, and have not been able to put it down since. This book details Obama’s early life, the beginning of his political career, his campaign for president, and his first years in office.Split into three sections, this book covers Barack Obama’s early life and political career, his campaign for President of the United States, and his first few years in office. As you may know, Obama had many unique issues confronting his presidency— including being the first African American president, the 2008 housing and financial crisis, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and school shootings. It is both an educational and thoroughly entertaining read that I would recommend to any politics student— especially if you are interested in campaigns, economic policy and/or the inner-workings of Washington.

Additionally, I finished reading Educated by Tara Westover over winter break. This book is a memoir written by a woman who was raised by isolationists in the mountains of Idaho who followed a strict mormon faith. Tara was never issued a birth certificate, never enrolled in public school and the government did not know that she existed until she decided to enroll in University. “Educated” is a fascinating story about family loyalty, faith, and the power of an education. It is an intense and eye-opening read that will make you feel incredibly lucky to be getting a formal education like you are at Bishop’s. I would recommend it to any politics student, specifically if you are interested in religion, sociology or education.

Victoria Perak- PISA Director of Events:

Hi friends! I hope you all had a happy holiday season and great start to 2021! Over the break I was gifted The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and I have not been able to put it down. This novel is based off interviews conducted by Morris with Holocaust survivor Ludwig Sokolov, known as Lale in the text, where she builds a fictional story around Sokolov’s lived experience. Lale, a young Jewsih man, is stolen from his home and shipped off to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942 to work at the Nazi concentration camp. As he struggles to survive, Lale seems to have a hope that keeps him going everyday. He builds close relationships with the other men in his bunk, friendships where they look out for one another. Eventually, he is given a new role as the tattooist of the camp and is instructed to permanently mark on every prisoner’s arm the number given to them by the Nazis. As time passes, Lale falls in love with a woman in the same camp named Gita. Morris tells a story of unconditional love between the two and tells that lengths that they are willing to go to to protect each other. However, Morris also does not shy away from the reality that millions of people faced in conception camps. The hardship, abuse and terror that so many faced shows true strength and resilience, even during a time where there was no end to the horror in sight.

As a history junkie, with an interest in creative writing, this novel was an absolutely amazing read. The influence of history, inspired by the real stroy of a holocaust suvivor, gave the novel an extra level of depth. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, politics, social sciences and anyone who is looking for a good read!

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