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LETTER: Septuagenerians' book club loving Zoom

"Thanks to the efforts of the St. Albert Public Library's reader services librarian, Luise Mendler-Johnson, the seniors club members are meeting again via Zoom."
COVID-19 put a stop to the monthly meetings of the St. Albert Seniors Reading Book Club established in 1999 as a test project in celebration of the United Nations’ International Year of the Older Person.

Thanks to the efforts of the St. Albert Public Library's reader services librarian, Luise Mendler-Johnson, the seniors club members are meeting again via Zoom, the easy-to-use video conferencing platform that offers the best video, audio and screen sharing experience from the comfort of each others’ home. All that’s needed is a camera and a mic and a computer or tablet.

The Giver by Lois Lowry was the May 2020 book for discussion on Zoom. The book was a frequently challenged book with the American Library Association, with many readers wanting the book removed from library shelves. The Giver is a dystopian book that came out in 1993 for young adults. Many people questioned its position in a society that had no choices, no memories with practises that seemed questionable, with words like “release” sounding sinister to the weak and young or the old and weary.

With COVID-19 firmly entrenched in the province, with families locked down in self-isolation, with a prescribed two metres distancing in place when venturing outside, and with masks and PPEs mandated, The Giver sounds utopian.

June this year was assigned to Canada’s foremost Indigenous author, newspaper columnist and journalist, Richard Wagamese’s book, One Native Life.  The first paragraph of this book was exquisite: “The sublime moments of life are like the first push of light against the lip of a mountain. You watch that pink climb higher, become brighter, slipping into magenta, then orange, and then into the crisp hard yellow of morning. As the light changes, you can forget the pink that drew your eye, and it’s on mornings when you see it again that you really know it touched you, altered things for you, gave you cause to celebrate. This book was born in the hush of morning.”  

Richard Wagamese wrote about the profound hardship he suffered while growing up in foster care. While in his teens, he managed to discover the treasures and opportunities awaiting him in libraries. With only a Grade 9 education to his credit, Richard Wagamese wrote several novels and worked as a newspaper columnist, lecturer and screenwriter. He died in 2017 at 61.

COVID-19 has brought a spate of racist news with Indigenous overtones in Canada, with the RCMP admitting that systemic racism is inherent in the RCMP.

Next month’s read is Molly of the Mall: Literary Lass and Purveyor of Fine Footwear written by Heidi L.M. Jacobs, born and raised in Edmonton. She recently won the $15,000 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.  The medal is one of Canada’s oldest literary prizes and honours the best Canadian book of literary humour published in the previous year.  Heidi L.M. Jacobs is now working as a librarian in the University of Windsor.

Eva Rafols

St. Albert