Our focus on community connections continues with this cross-genre list of twelve recent books that delve into community and community building in singular and fascinating ways.
About the book: How is it that the internet connects us to a world of people, yet so many of us feel more isolated than ever? That we have hundreds, even thousands of friends on social media, but not a single person to truly confide in? Radha Agrawal calls this “community confusion,” and in Belong she offers every reader a blueprint to find their people and build and nurture community, because connectedness—as more and more studies show—is our key to happiness, fulfillment, and success.
A book that’s equal parts inspiring and interactive, and packed with prompts, charts, quizzes, and full-color illustrations, Belong takes readers on a two-part journey. Part one is Going IN—a gentle but intentional process of self-discovery and finding out your true energy levels and VIA (values, interests, and abilities). Part two is Going OUT—building on all that you’ve learned about yourself to find those few special people who feed your soul, and discovering, or creating, the ever-widening groups that align with your aims and desires.
As the Co-founder and CEO of the popular global morning dance community Daybreaker, Radha Agrawal developed an immense offline community with her team of Community Catalysts in 25 cities and on a dozen college campuses around the world by creating a physical space for people to connect, self-express, sweat, and dance. Now, Radha offers the life-changing strategies, tips, and tricks for making friends that will light your fire and give you the exhale of “Ahh, I’m home.”
Hope Blooms: Plant a Seed, Harvest a Dream, by Hope Blooms, foreword by Arlene Dickinson
About the book: There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but Jessie Jollymore has experienced through the youth of Hope Blooms, an inner city initiative she founded that engages at-risk youth, that sometimes it takes the children to raise the village. A dietitian who worked in inner city health for 15 years, Jollymore witnessed the challenges people face every day with food security, isolation, discrimination, and poverty. An idea bloomed of creating sustainable, youth-driven micro-economies: growing local food systems, growing social enterprises, and mentoring youth to become leaders of change. This led to over 50 youth ages 6 to 18 leading the way in growing over 3,000 pounds of organic produce yearly for their community, building innovative outdoor classrooms, and building a successful Fresh Herb Dressing social enterprise, with 100% of proceeds going toward growing food, and scholarships for youth.
In this inspiring, vibrant book, the youth behind Hope Blooms tell the story of the social enterprise they built from the soil up, the struggles of "creating something from nothing," successfully navigating the world of business, and ultimately building resilience and leaving behind a legacy. Includes youth's words of wisdom, stories, and poetry, and over 75 colour photos.
Black Writers Matter, edited by Whitney French (Forthcoming in February)
About the book: An anthology of African-Canadian writing, Black Writers Matter offers a cross-section of established writers and newcomers to the literary world who tackle contemporary and pressing issues with beautiful, sometimes raw, prose. As Whitney French says in her introduction, Black Writers Matters “injects new meaning into the word diversity [and] harbours a sacredness and an everydayness that offers Black people dignity.” An “invitation to read, share, and tell stories of Black narratives that are close to the bone,” this collection feels particular to the Black Canadian experience.
Neighbourhood: Designing a Livable Community, by Avi Friedman
About the book: In Neighbourhood: Designing a Liveable Community renowned architect, professor and urban planner Avi Friedman describes the planning of a neighbourhood in Middlesex Centre, a rural municipality in southern Ontario. Friedman explores the points where design—both good and bad—effects our homes and community life. In his quest to build a new kind of neighbourhood, Friedman describes the architectural and community touchstones, both local and global, that have informed his work over the years.
Worrisome signs—climate change, depletion of natural resources, unrelenting urban sprawl, the tyranny of the automobile, the decline of face-to-face human contact—have motivated us to rethink home and community design. in the view of Avi Friedman, these issues that have brought us to a perfect storm of challenges and force us to question fundamental practices.
Tilly and the Crazy Eights, by Monique Gray Smith
About the book: When Tilly receives an invitation to help drive eight elders on their ultimate bucket-list road trip, she impulsively says yes. Before she knows it, Tilly has said good-bye to her family and is on an adventure that will transform her in ways she could not predict, just as it will for the elders who soon dub themselves “the Crazy Eights.”
The Crazy Eights each choose a stop—somewhere or something they’ve always wanted to experience—on the way to their ultimate goal, the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque. Their plan is to travel to Las Vegas, Sedona, and the Redwood Forests, with each destination the inspiration for secrets and stories to be revealed. The trip proves to be powerful medicine as they laugh, heal, argue, and dream along the way. By the time their bus rolls to a stop in New Mexico, Tilly and the Crazy Eights, with friendships forged and hearts mended, feel ready for anything. But are they?
Little Yellow House: Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood, by Carissa Halton
About the book: “Ma’am, you sound like a very reasonable person. Can I advise you to just move?”
Carissa Halton and her young family move into a neighbourhood with a tough reputation. As they make their home in one of the oldest parts of the city, she reflects on the revitalization that is slowly changing the view from her little yellow house. While others worry about the area’s bad reputation, she heads out to meet her neighbours, and through them discovers the innate beauty of her community. Halton introduces us to a cast of diverse characters in her Alberta Avenue neighbourhood—including cat rescuers, tragic teens, art evangelists, and crime fighters—and invites us to consider the social and economic forces that shape and reshape our cities.
Beyond Walls: Theatre Passe Muraille 1968-1975, by Peter Jobin, photographs by Robert Nasmith & Lionel Douglas
About the book: Beyond Walls is an insider's look at the early development of Theatre Passe Muraille, from its origin as radical and provocative theatre company out of Rochdale College to its evolution into a Toronto cultural institution that has helped to shape Canadians' perception of homegrown theatre.
Seven Seasons on Stowel Lake Farm: Stories and Recipes that Nourish Community, by Lisa Lloyd, Elizabeth Young, Haidee Hart & Jennifer Lloyd,
About the book: Told through the voices of four women at the heart of the project, Seven Seasons on Stowel Lake Farm is a multi-layered, evocative exploration of life on a sustainable organic farm that has been at the forefront of North America's slow living and local eating movements. Stunning photographs and transporting descriptions of nature feature alongside mouthwatering yet uncomplicated recipes and crafting tips.
Through a bounty of personal stories of Early Spring, Late Spring, Summer, High Summer, Autumn, December, and Deep Winter, the rich life of Stowel Lake Farm comes alive. From harvest dinners to Thursday work parties, looking after free-range children to handling the summer hay bailing, planting early seeds to celebrating the New Year, each experience offers a meaningful celebration of people working and living together on the land.
Readers are transported to life on the farm while learning some of the tips, tricks, secrets, and recipes grown from years of work. Local harvest, slow food recipes include Squash and Sage Risotto, Wild Spring Nettle Soup, Herb-Encrusted Leg of Lamb, Pavlova with Roasted Rhubarb Compote, and Fresh Chèvre Cheesecake, nestled alongside key seasonal activities such as maximizing spring vegetables, saving seeds, making nature tables, and dying eggs. Suggestions go deeper than simply the practical, however: Seven Seasons shares emotional lessons from community living and prioritizing family, including the importance of sharing gratitude, the importance of walks, and celebrating together.
Seven Seasons on Stowel Lake Farm is more than a book, it's a place: one that readers can immerse themselves in time and again, through recipes, storytelling, and lessons. Steeped in insights that celebrate nourishment - both physical and emotional—this stunning, original book will inspire readers to cultivate their own rich traditions of food, family, and community—wherever they live.
Rooster Town: The History of an Urban Métis Community, 1901–1961, by Evelyn Peters; Adrian Werner & Matthew Stock
About the book: Melonville. Smokey Hollow. Bannock Town. Fort Tuyau. Little Chicago. Mud Flats. Pumpville. Tintown. La Couleeese were some of the names given to Métis communities at the edges of urban areas in Manitoba. Rooster Town, which was on the outskirts of southwest Winnipeg endured from 1901 to 1961.
Those years in Winnipeg were characterized by the twin pressures of depression, and inflation, chronic housing shortages, and a spotty social support network. At the city’s edge, Rooster Town grew without city services as rural Métis arrived to participate in the urban economy and build their own houses while keeping Métis culture and community as a central part of their lives.
In other growing settler cities, the Indigenous experience was largely characterized by removal and confinement. But the continuing presence of Métis living and working in the city, and the establishment of Rooster Town itself, made the Winnipeg experience unique. Rooster Town documents the story of a community rooted in kinship, culture, and historical circumstance, whose residents existed unofficially in the cracks of municipal bureaucracy, while navigating the legacy of settler colonialism and the demands of modernity and urbanization.
- Read a recommended reading list on Indigenous urban communities by Evelyn Peters, author of Rooster Town
Better Together: Creating Community in an Uncertain World, by Nikki Tate (Children’s Nonfiction)
About the book: Better Together explores how people gather in groups of all kinds to fulfill the basic human need for companionship. From the smallest units of parents, siblings and friends to global organizations that try to build on a foundation of common human experience to meet their goals, people working together are a powerful force for change. Too often, we look at someone and see all the ways we are different. People all around the world come together to build things, teach and entertain each other, and provide everything from better health care to good food to security and education. Better Together examines the many ways we are the same, no matter where we live.
It's Our Time: Honouring the African Nova Scotian Communities of East Preston, North Preston, Lake Loon/Cherry Brook, by Wanda Taylor (Forthcoming in July)
About the book: The Black Loyalists were the first large group of people of African ancestry to settle in Halifax, in 1782. In 1796 the Jamaican Maroons arrived. Then in 1813, Black refugees fleeing the United States came. These Loyalists, Maroons, and refugees settled in the Preston area, and although some subsequently left for Sierra Leone, many stayed and established the largest community of African Nova Scotians in the province. Since then, the Preston township—comprising North Preston, East Preston, and Lake Loon/Cherry Brook—has become a web of vibrant neighbourhoods with a rich and complex history.
With care and precision, award-winning writer Wanda Lauren Taylor delves into the history and development of this area, the organizations and churches that helped bolster the population, and the struggles, successes, and personal stories of several Preston-area residents. Through interviews and archival documents, Taylor shows how a resilient group of marginalized people built a thriving community that generations of African Nova Scotians can be proud of. Contains seventy-five images, both contemporary and archival, of the people and places around Preston.
The Leamington Italian Community: Ethnicity and Identity in Canada, by Walter Temelini
About the book: The Leamington Italian Community intertwines personal and family stories with both empirical and intuitive writing to offer new historical insights into the complex social, economic, and psychological causes and effects of the migration phenomenon. Walter Temelini meticulously reconstructs the history of immigration and settlement in Leamington, Ontario, of Italians from the southern regions of Lazio, Molise, and Sicily. He explains how, despite their regional differences, three generations between 1925 and the 1990s forged a cohesive, socially conscious, and unique agricultural community by balancing their inherited values and their newly adopted Canadian economic opportunities. Temelini's groundbreaking research draws on testimonial and documentary evidence gathered from in-depth interviews with hundreds of residents, as well as on original archival information and Italian-language histories translated by the author and previously unavailable to English-speaking readers. He concludes his study with an investigation into the award-winning novel Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci, one of the community's most celebrated descendants. Drawing parallels between Ricci's narrative and the development of the community, Temelini demonstrates that ethnicity can be transformed successfully into a powerful universal archetype, and a creative force of identity. A pioneering and authoritative work, The Leamington Italian Community creates an intimate portrait within a global framework, delving into issues both timely and timeless, that will interest and inform the general and specialized reader alike.
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