Alexa McDonough’s impact on Canadian politics cannot be measured solely by election victories or seat tallies. As the first female leader of a mainstream Canadian political party, she helped transform Nova Scotian and Canadian politics. In the process, she transcended party affiliation and gender to become simply "Alexa" to Canadians across the country.
In this authorized biography, veteran author Stephen Kimber chronicles Alexa’s life and political career and with it, weaves a narrative of the changing attitudes towards women in politics, from her early battles as the lone female MLA in a hostile Nova Scotian legislature to her leadership of the federal NDP to her role as senior stateswoman in Jack Layton’s shadow cabinet. Along the way, Kimber delves into McDonough’s personal life to uncover the origins of her political career: her upbringing in a wealthy family committed to progressive politics, her tightknit circles of female friends, her personal metamorphosis from "wife-of" to "leader-of," and her emergence as a political leader whose importance goes beyond partisan politics. The result is an engrossing story of one of Canada’s most beloved politicians, whose common touch and lifelong advocacy of progressive causes made her a significant player in Canadian public life.
"Stephen Kimber masterfully recounts the life and times of an important Canadian. Kimber’s gift is to present his subject as a fully rounded person — a woman whose life was full of love and joy as well as grit and vision. I was only vaguely acquainted with Alexa McDonough although I know many who admired her. This wonderful biography makes me wish I had known her better."
"Alexa McDonough tackled important issues for Canada at a time when even talking about these issues would result in anything from laughter to sneers to threats. I’m thankful that this book is written so that a record of her work exists and won’t be taken for granted. It is a gift to those of us who have followed in her giant footsteps and to those who may be inspired yet to do so. Kimber candidly covers her journey but treats her story with great care. Her humanity shines through."
"A powerful and beautifully written biography of an important Canadian activist, feminist, and trailblazing politician. Her inspiring story, illustrating Alexa’s genuine motivation to make real change, is what propels women to run for public office. We are so grateful for Rosemary Brown’s advice ‘You Should’ when Alexa was asked to run for office. ‘You Should’ would be my advice to all young women in Canada. Read this book to better understand that when you add women, politics changes for the better."
"A deeply personal, yet objective, informative, and thought-provoking account of the life of one of Canada’s most inspiring parliamentarians. Alexa McDonough not only changed the face of politics in Canada and her beloved Nova Scotia, but she transformed lives and political processes. Alexa! offers readers a documented legacy of a political leader we could emulate. This book will inspire generations to continue the work she started."
"Stephen Kimber has written a wonderful account of Alexa’s unique contributions to politics: a deep commitment to people, not in the abstract but as real individuals and families facing a struggle; to social justice writ large; and to building a movement in Nova Scotia and across the country. More people will get to know a truly remarkable woman whose intelligence, charm, and humour have worked their way into our hearts."
"From the very first page of Alexa!, we’re given a look into the motivating forces that inspired her life and her work to make people’s lives better. From bringing awareness to the challenges faced by Black people in Africville and overhauling Halifax’s welfare system to her important role in advancing women’s rightful place in Canadian politics, this biography chronicles Alexa’s growing determination to build a better Canada."
"I never had the opportunity to know or to work with Alexa McDonough — but I really wish I had. Her story is a rich piece of Canada’s political story. Her heart, her compassion, and her commitment to politics connected to real people are a profound counterbalance to the prevailing cynicism that threatens the very foundations of democracy. And we need more women’s stories. It was such a pleasure to read the story of this feisty, principled, brilliant woman who persevered through highs and lows, who defied the odds and the men who tried to bring her down, and who always found the light in the moment. Alexa touched the lives of millions of Canadians. I owe her a particular debt of gratitude for blazing a trail for women in leadership. This book is a delightful, important read!"
"Excellent and highly recommended ... Alexa! is a compelling and well-written portrait of a trailblazing, influential politician."
"Kimber’s appealing biography sheds light on the dynamics of the charismatic personality of this woman from Nova Scotia."
"A moving and delightfully descriptive account of Alexa McDonough, who successfully navigated the testosterone-fuelled world of elected office, winning the leadership of both the Nova Scotia NDP and the federal party. As a former political journalist who spent years covering women in politics, I had the opportunity to watch McDonough in action. Kimber’s account is spot on. He sugar-coats nothing, and McDonough, a private person, who was under a spotlight for most of her career, helps him tell the story."