Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997
Knox Presbyterian Church120 Lisgar Street (at Elgin)

Writing Your Lifewith Alison Pick,Donna Thomsonand Catherine Gildiner

Hosted by Lee Ann Eckhardt Smith

Writing Your Lifewith Alison Pick,Donna Thomsonand Catherine Gildiner

Hosted by Lee Ann Eckhardt Smith
Knox Presbyterian Church
120 Lisgar Street (at Elgin)
Alison Pick - Photo by Emma-Lee Photography
Catherine Gildiner
Donna Thomson - Photo by Natalie Wright

How does one conjure the essence of a life in words, and distill it all into the pages of a book? Meir Shalev frames the challenge in the following way: “Human memory awakens and extinguishes at will. It dulls and sharpens actions, enlarges and shrinks those who perform them. It humbles and exalts as it desires. When summoned, it slips away, and when it returns, it will do so at the time and place that suits it.”


Join our three intrepid authors for a journey into memory and a conversation on the challenges inherent in tackling a memoir. And we might even try to answer Jill Ker Conway’s question: “Why is autobiography the most popular form of fiction for modern readers?”


From Alison Pick , the Man Booker-nominated author of the novel Far to Go, comes Between Gods , an unflinching memoir about family secrets and the rediscovered past. As a teenager, Alison made a discovery that instantly changed her understanding of her family, and her vision for her own life, forever. She learned that her Pick grandparents, who had escaped from the Czech Republic during WWII, were Jewish—and that most of this side of the family had died in concentration camps. Alison recounts her struggle with the meaning of her faith, her journey to convert to Judaism, her battle with depression, and her path towards facing and accepting the past and embracing the future—including starting a new family of her own.


Donna Thomson’s life was forever altered when her son Nicholas was born with cerebral palsy. A former actor, director and teacher, Donna became his primary caregiver and embarked on a second career as a disability activist, author and consultant. A riveting and redemptive family memoir, The Four Walls of My Freedom is her account of raising a son with cerebral palsy and a passionate appeal to change the way we think about “the good life.”

Coming Ashore is the third and final volume in Catherine Gildiner ’s New York Times bestselling memoir series. Picking up her story in the late ’60s at age 21, she whisks the reader through five years and three countries, beginning when she is a poetry student at Oxford. In 1970, she moves to Canada. While studying literature at the University of Toronto, she rooms with members of the FLQ (Quebec separatists) and then with one of the biggest drug dealers in Canada. Along the way, she falls in love with the man who eventually becomes her husband, and embarks on a new career in psychology.


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