House of Anansi Press Inc

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Tireless Runners

A Family History of Indigenous Canada
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The Lost Decades of Uncle Chow Tung
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Reclaiming Social Media for Civil Society
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Chapter One: Social Media Is Surveillance Capitalism. The economic model of social media is organized around personal data surveillance.
Chapter Two: Social Media Are Addiction Machines. The science of targeted advertising and the “engineering of consent” at the heart of social media.
Chapter Three: Social Media Propels Authoritarian Practices. The rise and spread of authoritarian practices worldwide.
Chapter Four: Social Media Is Environmentally Destructive. The negative environmental impacts associated with social media, from electronic mining to energy consumption to cloud computing’s contributions to CO2 emissions (which now exceeds that of the airline industry) to the growing problem of electronic waste.
Chapter Five: What Is to Be Done? A comprehensive strategy of long-term reform is required, extending from the personal to the political, from the local to the global. We need to imagine a better world and start making it happen before it is too late.

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Wish you were here. But don’t worry because I’ll be visiting soon. When the boat can’t come to the sea, the sea will come to the shore.

Isabella. She is coming. The handwriting is unforgettable. Like a birthmark.

Her postcard balances on my fingertips.

It is a vintage card, with pale colours, two girls in a wooden boat. Rowing on the Annapolis River at High Tide. Nova Scotia. It’s not far from where my father grew up, from his childhood town he took me to that one summer. The girls are wearing white dresses. The girl in the stern has the oars and she is facing away from the camera, looking at the girl in the bow. That girl is facing the camera, not her captain in the stern. She is serious, as though she sees something on shore. Children have boated and canoed and sailed on that river for generations. The Indigenous people thirteen thousand years before Champlain came in 1605, before the settlers arrived. It is an old part of the new world, a world built on a society which existed long before.

There’s a moment, a slack tide, where my breath stops, and my mind is empty, where everything stops. Then the beating of my heart, a rush in my ears as though it’s a dream. Sound is simultaneously amplified and muffled. The moment turns. Sweat creeps over my skin, tiny waves undulating down from my hairline, along my spine. It’s just a postcard. Hardly anyone sends real mail anymore. Greetings don’t come on paper. It’s an extra effort to pick up a pen. To write in cursive. Who would make that effort?

Isabella will arrive without warning, I’m sure of that. During visiting hours. She will arrive smelling of pine trees and sea winds. That’s how it will unfold. She will come into this institution as a force of nature, a piece of the world no one can control, and then she’ll leave, only her smell left behind. The scent of summer innocence, lost and found, and lost again. Isabella always liked the smell of the woods. The smell of snow and sun. The scent rising up as summer rain fell on a dirt road. Rain on hot pavement. There is no smell like the earth, the ground, releasing heat into damp air. I like sweet smells. The vanilla heliotrope Isabella’s Granny grew in her summer garden.

It’s been twenty years since I’ve seen Isabella. Since the day at the lake.

Time is running out. There is never enough time. It was my earliest worry.

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We Two Alone

From “The Night of Broken Glass”
A finalist for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, whose jury included Booker Prize winner Marlon James
Published in Let’s Tell This Story Properly: An Anthology of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Nominated by the New Quarterly for a 2016 National Magazine Award
I met my mother for the first time when I was six. I say “mother” because that was what I was expected to call her, and did, though in fact she was my stepmother. My real mother died of tuberculosis when I was five. A year later my father came home with a new wife. He had been studying international law in Chicago despite already having a Ph.D. in political economics from the University of Munich. While he was gone I received a series of brightly coloured linen postcards of the World’s Fair: the Hall of Science, the Avenue of Flags, the iron lattice towers of the Sky Ride. The theme of the fair was A Century of Progress. That’s where my father met Grace.
It was a windless, thick-aired summer day in Changsha when a motorcar saddled with steamer trucks pulled up in front of our house and a woman in a white blouse, wide-legged trousers, and large round sunglasses climbed out. She was beautiful, which made me sad for my mother and scornful of my father, and she looked too fair to be Chinese. As it turned out, she was half Chinese, born of a Chinese father and a German-American mother. That, along with her clothes and her beauty, made her unlike any woman I had ever seen. My father had secured a large two-storey house on the outskirts of town and staffed it with half a dozen servants, all in an effort to make his new wife comfortable, but as soon as they arrived he was stricken by all he had not foreseen. The house had no running water, and despite the need Grace refused to use the privy, which had no seat and emitted at that time of year an audible drone. After pleading with Grace in hushed tones, my father ordered Old Chao into town for a portable commode, a trip of at least three hours. For the rest of the afternoon my new mother paced the courtyard, smoking one Lucky after another, which made her seem feral and caged.
[. . .]
Needless to say, Grace was unhappy in China. Though my father had no particular desire to leave, he began to eye the foreign service. When the Governor for whom he worked recommended the post of First Secretary in the Chinese legation in Austria, my father accepted for Grace’s sake. We arrived in Vienna in June of my tenth year, after a three-week voyage on the Conte Verde through Saigon, Singapore, Madras, Bombay, Aden, and Port Said, and at first everything did seem better. The city was glorious with summer, and everywhere open air orchestras paid homage to the old masters, which made our lives seem set to music. Many nights my parents put on tails and gown and went to balls and receptions, living at last the life for which they were meant.
But it wasn’t long before Grace again felt stranded. She could no more distinguish der, die, and das than she could first and second tones. Then, in the spring, German troops goose-stepped through the Ringstrasse, just blocks away from our townhouse. The crowds that greeted them were lusty, adoring, as was I, my schoolboy fantasies of soldiers and guns come to life. My father did not raise his arm but he didn’t stop me from raising mine. That night, in a scene that would soon become commonplace, hoodlums took to the streets, smashing the windows of certain homes and shops. Thereafter, walking to and from school, I passed storefronts marked Jude and Nicht arisches Geschaeft and blocked by baby-faced men in jackboots and flared helmets. As a visible foreigner and part of the diplomatic corps, my father felt undeterred and often went into these stores despite the piercing glares — and once, an arm held stiffly against his chest. For my mother, annexation was yet another rung of descent in a private tragedy. She chided my father for bringing her to a Nazi-occupied country. His answer: Better the Germans than the Japanese.
At the end of October, thousands of Polish-born Jews were rounded up and sent back to Poland. When a seventeen-year-old boy learned that his family was among those languishing at the border, unwanted by either side, he walked into the German Embassy in Paris and pumped five bullets into the viscera of a minor German diplomat. Two days later, Ernst vom Rath died of his wounds. The seething of the Germans, checked so long as their countryman clung to life, would now be unleashed. This was what my father knew when he came home that afternoon.

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