We Recommend

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, City builder and citizen activist, volunteer, feminist, gardener and avid reader

For nearly three decades, Ceta Ramkhalawansingh provided leadership in the City of Toronto's equity and diversity office. Toronto City Council appointed her in 2014 as the Ward 20 Councillor to fill a vacancy. In her early student activist life, she organized to set up women's studies at University of Toronto. Ceta has worked to save and build affordable housing, to protect and value heritage and to fend off inappropriate development. A volunteer on several non-profit boards, Ceta is the National Chair, The Word On The Street Canada; President, Learnxs Foundation and is a member of Friends of Fort York, Toronto Foundation, Innis College Council and Grange Community Association. Her booklist celebrates Toronto, discovers lost history, examines the impact of colonialism and imperialism, and addresses power relations between men and women, rich and poor, white and black. Her selections are based on her identity as an immigrant and a feminist of colour.

Atwood, Margaret, 1939-
At the beginning of my academic life as we were exploring feminism, I attended a reading of these poems. I was shocked. They are firmly implanted in my memory.
Jacobs, Jane, 1916-2006.
I was introduced to Jane Jacobs' work during the fight to "Stop Spadina", expressway that is. This was on the reading list for one of my undergraduate courses. In 1980, I had the pleasure of being part of a City delegation to Boston with Jane Jacobs as our delegation head. Her teachings about city building guide my neighbourhood work.
Also available in these formats:
Hill, Lawrence, 1957-
This is so beautifully written - even if the stories are so sad. The stories make you want to reach out to the refugees to make them safe.
Good, Kristin.
"Policy nerds" value books which explain patterns of life and which help us understand the role of municipal government, indeed all governments, as they respond to increasing levels of multiculturalism among residents. This is one such book.
Brand, Dionne, 1953-
Cities are complex places and made even more so in a city where over half the population are immigrants from a wide range of countries. And so, here we have the emotional struggles of belonging and connecting. This book won the City of Toronto Book Award.
Atwood, Margaret, 1939- author.
This is quite a romp through many twists and turns. Serious topics such as homelessness, rape, organ theft, murder, raunchy sex, spying and life in gated communities are addressed with irony and humour. It's as some would say, a "scamper".
Smardz Frost, Karolyn.
The winner of a 2007 Governor General Award has the incredible story of runaway slaves Lucie and Thornton Blackburn. We learn about race riots in Detroit, the Blackburns' commercial success in Toronto and their work with others to abolish slavery.
Sewell, John, 1940- author.
The "class of 1969" had reformers who were elected to Toronto City Council, tossing out many of the "old guard" with ties to developers. Aside from the nostalgia of having a front row seat to many of these struggles and reading about the inside political dramas, the book also offers lessons on city building.
Ondaatje, Michael, 1943-
Two of the most significant public works in Toronto are the Bloor Viaduct and the R.C. Harris water filtration plant. These were built by immigrants whose stories are vividly imagined.
Naipaul, V. S. (Vidiadhar Surajprasad), 1932-2018
Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul was born in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago, a former British colony. Violence, tragedy and political opportunism underlie this exquisitely told story of a failed coup.
Clarke, Austin, 1934-2016.
Set on a sugar plantation in Barbados where the work is done by slaves, the absence of humanity shines through. Human beings are abused and cast aside; women are sex slaves of the master. One feels no regret at the demise of the plantation owner.
Beauvoir, Simone de, 1908-1986.
The concept of "woman as other" runs through this classic. It is perhaps one of the first books of the modern era to offer a "feminist" analysis of society.
Also available in these formats: