25th Trillium Award

The Dirty Dozen, with Jamie Swift

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Jamie Swift (Photo credit: Bernard Clark)

If you've been alarmed by Canada's increased focus on the military, you aren't alone. Award-winning historian Ian McKay and acclaimed journalist Jamie Swift have teamed up to explore the militarization of Canada and how attitudes towards war and peace in this country are being forcibly changed. Their book, Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety (Between the Lines), is a revealing critical inquiry that dismantles the myth of Canada as a peace-keeping nation. View the tantalizing trailer here.

In today's version of the Open Book Dirty Dozen, Jamie Swift gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the writing of Warrior Nation, describes how Remembrance Day ceremonies have changed and hints at his next project.

  1. I came to my love of reading and books naturally. My maternal grandfather was a zealous reader and amassed a fine collection of books on the American Civil War, his lifelong fascination. (Perhaps there?s a genetic predisposition here). My mother, Olive, was an equally keen reader and book collector who supported the wonderful Montreal Childrens? Library, serving as a volunteer and, eventually, as President.

  3. As a child I accompanied my father, a World War II veteran, to a Montreal cenotaph for Remembrance Day ceremonies. Like many who have experienced the horrors of combat, he did not talk about it, much less speak of the glory of war. The ceremonies were solemn, as they are today. But there was none of the patriotic zeal we see in the Canada-as-Warrior-Nation imagined by the current government.

  5. Although our book Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety is critical of militarism, I was like many young boys. I read lurid war comics featuring a chiseled chap who looked like he was on steroids, ?Sgt Rock of Easy Company.? Rat-a-tat-tat! Kaboom!

  7. Warrior Nation was six years in the making. It?s the longest I?ve ever spent on a writing project, maybe because it took on a co-author a couple of years in. And maybe because Canada?s tragic war in Kandahar unfolded as we were working.

  9. I was a co-founder of BTL Books, a press now celebrating 35 years publishing books that matter. A company with no boss, we started by selling books out of a car trunk, visiting the rich diversity of independent bookstores that existed in 1977.

  11. Here in Kingston we still have one remaining independent store selling new books, two chain outlets and a shrinking number of used book dealers.

  13. But Kingston still has a lively literary scene. Lots of local writers (see below), two universities, one college and seven prisons. Ondaatje?s In the Skin of a Lion and Atwood?s Alias Grace are set in part in Kingston prisons. Roger Caron?s famous prison memoir, Go-Boy, owes something to his Kingston years.

  15. The Kingston WritersFest unfolds every year in late September. It started in 2006. Some ten years before that, I joined a group of local supporters of Cobourg?s Horizons of Friendship (they support projects in Central America) to inaugurate an annual springtime fundraiser ?Writers & Friends.? A couple of pioneers were Rose Richardson and Zal Yanovsky, founders of Kingston?s famous Chez Piggy restaurant. They?re no longer with us, but Writers & Friends lives on, featuring Canada?s pre-eminent writers and musicians.

  17. Warrior Nation is fifth of the twelve books I?ve written that was a collaborative effort. It?s not like I don?t like the solitude of the writing life. But working with others offers lots of opportunity for generating new ideas through lively conversation and the exchange of drafts. Many hands make light work? Too many cooks spoil the broth? Pick your aphorism.

  19. I live in a downtown Kingston neighborhood sometimes known sardonically among local typists as ?The Writers? Block.? Melanie Dugan, Helen Humphreys, Steve Heighton, Eric Folsom and others live in the area. The title story in Steve?s latest collection, The Dead Are More Visible (Knopf Canada), is set in Skeleton Park, the former cemetery from which the neighborhood takes its name.

  21. Skeleton Park, surrounded by streets named for Crimean War battles, is the setting of the end of the introductory chapter of Warrior Nation. The Hiroshima Day commemoration takes place there on August 6.

  23. I?m always unsure as to what my next book project might be. Maybe there won?t be one. But the temptation is always there because writing is a great excuse for learning new things. One of the characters featured in Warrior Nation is the late Tommy Burns, a Vimy Ridge veteran, World War II general, United Nations peacekeeper and Ambassador for Disarmament. By my reckoning, the most interesting soldier Canada has ever produced. And there?s no biography...

    Kingston writer Jamie Swift is the author of a dozen books, from biography and corporate muckraking to political theory and environmental politics. A longtime contributor to Ideas on CBC Radio, he has written articles for numerous Canadian publications, including This Magazine and the Report on Business Magazine. He teaches at the Queen's University School of Business and has held the Michener Fellowship for Public Service Journalism at Queen's. A lifelong political activist, he works on social justice issues for the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.

    For more information about Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety please visit the Between the Lines website.

    Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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