Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Dirty Dozen, with Ward Kaiser

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Writers can't always be sure how their readers will react to their books. In his version of the Open Book Dirty Dozen, Beamsville author Ward Kaiser shares comments he received in response to his provocative new book, How Maps Change Things: A Conversation about the Maps We Choose and the World We Want. His responses are shown in italics.

Twelve Surprises from the Writing of How Maps Change Things, by Ward Kaiser

  1. “It’s far more focused on Canada than I expected.” (You wanted Tajekistan, maybe? Hold on: I may get to that next time!)

  3. “Really interesting subject matter… so I was all set to buy online … until I noticed it was by a religious guy, so I decided it couldn’t possibly be any good.” (You don’t buy from religious guys; I don’t sell to prejudiced people. Are we even?)

  5. “A book about maps and politics and the environment and critical thinking? Nah. We only do reviews of religious books.” (Response from the editor of a faith-based periodical.) (Hey, if your faith shows no concern for the real world, then my world has no room for your faith.)

  7. “Your analysis of how one skewed map fed into the fateful decision to go to war in Iraq is outstanding. But it makes the Bush Administration look bad. I’d advise omitting that chapter or at least softening it.” (Somewhere I got the impression that in an open society authors, like other citizens, were free to express their opinions; and that in return for that privilege they had an obligation to make sure of their facts and their logic. I note you do not call the evidence into question, only that some of your favourite politicians might be uncomfortable with releasing the essential information, right? Why not bring the facts out into the light of day and trust readers to make up their own minds?)

  9. “Speaking as a marketing specialist, what you say about the religious far right — how intolerant attitudes show up in their maps and how in turn the maps they choose bolster a narrow vision — my question is, Are you willing to lose that significant market segment? You will, you know!” (So…?)

  11. “You place a lot of emphasis on acceptance and fairness for all people. Is that a realistic goal in today’s competitive world? If not, why bother chasing a dream?” (An impossible dream you call it? But isn’t that the best kind?)

  13. And I, as author, was surprised when one person, prominent in cartographic circles, got his nose out of joint when he felt his insights didn’t get enough kind words or attention. (Stroking egos is not my goal — sorry. Your ideas, like anybody else’s, will have to compete in the marketplace. Better luck next time!)

  15. “I’m a career cartographer. I wish you’d drop that quote about maps being propaganda! How can we build respect for the profession if people read that?” (Are maps propaganda? Some say yes, some say no. Please see the frontline in Chapter 2 and its explanatory Note to develop an informed opinion.)

  17. As a geography teacher, I never use the Mercator world map and don’t have colleagues who do, either. So why critique it as though it is still widely used? (I answer this question, with documentation, in Chapter 4. Reading it may lift the Surprise! Factor right off the page and plant it in your mind.)

  19. “I’ve studied maps, enjoyed maps and written about maps for years, but getting into this book opened up new ways of seeing their widespread influence in human affairs.” (It’s people like you who keep authors like me at our desks, never tempted to turn to tennis or TV sales as a career.)

  21. “The Camp David talks [on the Israel-Palestine issue and building peace in the Middle East] are a great example of the amazing things we can learn from maps –and how not using maps may render our best intentions powerless. What a stunning expose!” (Cue in the response to Surprise #10 here, preferably with trumpet fanfare.)

  23. “I’ve never been much of an activist, but reading How Maps Change Things is a powerful eye-opener. A new awareness of maps will be part of my toolkit. And linking up with people who share a vision of how we can transform the world. (Thank you! A cup of coffee can lose its kick in two or three hours; a comment like this can keep an author charged up for a week. Keep up the good work!)

Born in Ontario, lived for a time in France, passed exams in five languages, Ward Kaiser still has trouble understanding one common word in English. That word is retire. He has enjoyed being a publisher, pastor, justice activist, counselor in a juvenile delinquent centre and university lecturer, as well as the author of a syndicated column and eight books. He’d rather be doing any of them than playing golf! Crazy? Of course! But who ever said authors were normal?

For more information about How Maps Change Things please visit Ward Kaiser's author website.

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

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