Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Jane Christmas

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Jane Christmas

The WAR Series (Writers As Readers) gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Jane Christmas is the internationally renowned author whose lively and insightful memoirs, What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim, Incontinent on the Continent and The Pelee Project have earned her a place on the roster of Canada's favourite travel writers. Her newest book, And Then There Were Nuns, just published with Greystone Books, tells the tale of Jane's decision to heed the calling she'd been ignoring for her entire life. The very day that her sweetheart finally proposed to her (and she agreed), Jane decided to embark on a journey of discovery to four different convents to find out if she might be "nun material" after all. In fact, what she learned during this time inspired her to actively fight for women's rights within the church.

Today, Jane tells us about the books she would be sure to keep by her side during for a life of contemplation.

The WAR Series, with Jane Christmas

The first book I remember reading on my own:
Sounds Fun. A 1950s book about a fictional club of girls and boys who went on neat adventures and also devised interesting crafts.

A book that made me cry:
A Moveable Feast. My first Hemingway book, and I am ashamed to admit I only read it last year. Incredibly, I found it in a flat I was renting in the same Paris neighbourhood where Hemingway lived during the 1920s. I picked it up reluctantly — I had no interest in Hemingway — and it grabbed me at the first line. For the next few days I felt as if I was living in the book. I was so distraught when it ended!

The first adult book I read:
Exodus, by Leon Uris. My dad was a voracious reader, and after he read Exodus he remarked at how good it was. So I picked it up and started reading it. I was 11. I can’t say I understood it all but it sure felt like a muscular book.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. I had lost my job (a week after 9/11) and was feeling extremely fragile. This book not only made me laugh, it validated my writing style, of which I had always been self-conscious because it lacked literary gravitas. I loved Bryson’s conversational tone.

The book I have re-read many times:
The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. This book changed the way I looked at faith and religion, and during my discernment to become a nun it helped me cope with the isolation and the sense of rebelliousness that was rising in me. It’s like a compass for me now, and I keep dipping into it for direction.

The book I would give my seventeen-year-old self, if I could:
The Seven Storey Mountain. Seventeen was the age at which I began to seriously think of entering a convent, but I lacked the vocabulary and the confidence to articulate my religious sentiments. Merton was an outsider, and I would have been able to identify with that.

The best book I read in the past six months:
Venice, by James (later Jan) Morris: A fascinatingly forensic study of this romantic city. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova: I’m not a fan of vampire culture but this was a gripping thriller.

The book I plan on reading next:
Quiet, by Susan Cain

A possible title for my autobiography:
Slipping out of Tight Genes

Jane Christmas is the author of What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim: A Mid-life Misadventure on Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela (2007), Incontinent on the Continent (2009), and The Pelee Project: One Woman’s Escape from Urban Madness. Since the publication of The Pelee Project in 2002, her writing has earned Christmas a devoted international following. Born and raised in Toronto, Christmas graduated from Carleton University in Ottawa and worked her way through the editing ranks of The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail, The National Post and The Hamilton Spectator.

Jane Christmas found her writing voice — direct, funny, insightful — when she moved to Pelee Island, Ontario and wrote a series of columns for The National Post about disconnecting from urban life. Her books have been published in Canada, USA, Australia and Germany. Christmas lives in Devon, England.

For more information about And Then There Were Nuns please visit Jane Christmas's website.

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

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