Leslie Shimotakahara, a young, disenchanted English professor, struggles to revive her childhood love of reading. Returning home to rethink her life, she bonds with her father Jack over discussions about the lives, loves and works of the novelists on their shared reading list – Wharton, Joyce, Woolf and Atwood, to name a few. But when their conversations about literature unearth some heartbreaking, deeply buried family secrets surrounding Jack’s own childhood – growing up Japanese-Canadian in the aftermath of World War II – Leslie’s world is changed forever. Could discovering the truth about her father’s past hold the key to her finally being happy in love, life and career?
The Reading List reveals how literature can sometimes help us expose our past, understand our loved ones and point us toward our future.
About the author
Leslie Shimotakahara Bio
Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and ”recovering academic,“ who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard- pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got lured into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006, writing her dissertation on regionalist and modernist aesthetics in a record two years. After graduation, she got a job at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, where she taught until 2008. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the ivory tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. Since returning to Toronto, Leslie has worked in a range of communications positions for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, Deployment forDemocratic Development, and presently at Waterfront Toronto. Over the past year, Leslie was selected as an Emerging Writer in the Diaspora Dialogues program, and invited to give a reading at The Word On The Street. An excerpt from The Reading List manuscript has been published in the anthology TOK: Writing the New City (volume 5). Back in her former life as an English professor, she published a smattering of essays on American modernism in obscure, critical theory journals (but these are best resigned to the annals of dry academe).These days, Leslie is more engaged in writing for her blog, www.the-reading-list.com, and rereading for inspiration the stories she wrote as a kid and self-published in pretty, Crayola-designed covers.
"An engrossing and charming memoir about getting back to basics: home truths, family, and the life-altering, life-saving power of books." â”Emma Donoghue, author of Room
”The Reading List brims with frankness, provocative wit and acute insights into our hearts and psyches. A journey into the dark night of the soul and into the light of love and reconciliation, it proclaims its relevance in myriad ways. It is the story of a young woman finding her footing in the present by exploring a painful past, accompanied by her father and guided by the literature she loves. It celebrates the power of that literature to illuminate our inner lives and crystallize our desires.“ â”Kerri Sakamoto, author of The Electrical Field
”I’ve read a lot of good memoirs, but it’s a rare talent that can weave together so many threads – family, love, literature, career angst – so effortlessly as Leslie does in The Reading List. She guided me through her life via the mirror of her favourite books and as I came to the end of The Reading List, I found that her own book had become just such a mirror for this reader.“ â”Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung