Sunday Book Review: "This is My Country, What's Yours?"

I was a bit worried when I picked up Noah Richler's literary atlas of Canada, "This is My Country, What's Yours?" There's a lot of ways for a book like this to go wrong. It could be dry, self-important or both. But I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Although the title sounds like something a redneck might slur after last call, this is an amusing and informative read. Richler combines Canadian history with a broad knowledge of our land and culture as seen through its storytellers. Its scope is as big as Canada, ranging from the oral traditions of the Inuit and First Nations to the modern work of recent immigrants. Richler's real accomplishment is managing to discuss all of this in such intimate and entertaining detail.

If "This is My Country, What's Yours?" has a problem, it is that there is no real center to the book. Rather, the center is everywhere. But this echoes Richler's philosophy of Canada as a nation that is being formed by its myths and is in the process of growing up; a place that is nowhere and is slowly becoming somewhere.

He has, in the writing of this atlas, contributed an important part to that process. I actually feel like a better Canadian for having read it.

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