Our goal with Embrace Niagara is to share a cross-section on all the things that are enticing about life in Niagara. We sometimes tell a story on a whim, but we usually try to cover a range of topics. However, we are human (and it is our website, after all), so there are some topics that get proportionately more coverage just because we are particularly passionate about them.
This is the third of the author series, Readings at the Roselawn, that we have attended. In his 19th season, host William Thomas has brought such a diverse group of entertaining, thoughtful writers to the stage that we have felt to compelled to share the experiences.
Last week, the featured guest was Jian Ghomeshi. I have listened to Jian on occasion when my travel correlated to his show being on the radio (Q on CBC). He has a beautiful voice (I guess I feel comfortable saying that about another man), a polite (Canadian) demeanour and a well-informed world-view.
I wasn’t aware of Jian’s charisma as a showman and natural sense of humour until it was on display on the stage of the Roselawn alone with a microphone in his hand.
The other, more surprising thing was how relatable his story was to this white middle-aged guy living in Port Colborne.
Of course, why should I be surprised that an Iranian boy who moved to Toronto from England and struggled to fit in should coincide with the issues of my childhood?
In Jian’s book, 1982, his story is certainly coloured by the details of his own personal struggles with finding his place in the world, but they are the challenges that many of us had to overcome. Why aren’t I as cool as my music or movie hero? Why can’t my parents be as pleased by me as much as the neighbourhood boy? What piece of clothing or hairstyle will make me fit in?
I am only a year older than Jian and I could particularly relate to his obsession with David Bowie in 1982. Though I didn’t “want to be Bowie,” his music was a game changer for me at a time when the punk and new wave scene from England was finding its way into the hands of those of us here in North America desperate for music with something to say.
I know how hard that time was for me, finding this great music that spoke to me, playing with clothing and makeup and hair styles to try to carve out my own identity in a small Canadian town. My artistic exploration led to bullying and some serious physical confrontations. I can’t even imagine adding the pressure of being the only “brown family” in a Toronto suburb at a time when the hostage crisis in Iran had marked his culture as the enemy in North America.
Jian’s story is first and foremost a Canadian story. And one that speaks to today’s Canada and the diversity that makes up more and more of our country.
It is particularly interesting to me that even though Jian has been a member of a multi-platinum selling folk-rock group (Moxy Früvous) and he is the host and co-creator of the most popular radio show in CBC history that his first book would focus on a single important year in his life: when he was 14 and his experiences in music, dating and life would forever impact the person he would become.
I have just started the book and it is equally as compelling as listening to that velvet voice weave a story on the radio.
I am glad Jian never achieved his goal of being Bowie, because instead we got the one and only Jian Ghomeshi and that is the voice Canada will treasure for years to come.
Jian Ghomeshi is an award-winning broadcaster, writer, musician and producer. He is the host and co-creator of the national daily talk program, Q, on CBC Radio One and CBC TV. Since its inception in 2007, Q has garnered the largest audience of any cultural affairs program in Canada and has become the highest- rated show in its morning time slot in CBC history. Q is also now broadcast across the United States, on PRI.
Readings At The Roselawn
Nineteenth Season 2012/2013
Host: William Thomas
Readings at the Roselawn is one of the very best venues in Canada for writers to showcase their work.
A fun and friendly sold-out audience of 300 subscribers enthusiastically greets each guest author, just one on stage for each evening.