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Welcome to the holidays! Our featured content today includes a recap of Spring hits Too Dumb for Democracy and Airborne and a closeup on Rebecca Fisseha's groundbreaking debut Daughters of Silence.
In an era overshadowed by income inequality, environmental catastrophe, terrorism at home and abroad, and the decline of democracy, David Moscrop argues that the political decision-making process has never been more important. We’ll all need some of his friendly advice before the year is up.
And now that the federal election has come and gone, let's take a look back on the journey that David Moscrop's Too Dumb for Democracy has taken.
Airborne: Finding Foxtrot Alpha Mike is the story of a father who passed on his love of flying to his son. After his father's death at age 66, Jonathan Rotondo dove into trying to find the plane his father loved. This tribute to Antonio Rotondo is written in three sections, including family history, Jonathan’s own experience in air cadets, and the trek to recover Antonio’s plane, Foxtrot Alpha Mike.
It seems as though I’ve waited all summer for a day like this: a warm August afternoon cooled by a brisk breeze bringing lines of neatly formed cumulus clouds marching across the royal blue heavens.
The clouds, each one both alike and unique, advance roughly southeastward. The vanguard of the formation, a loose gaggle of ragged patches, has only just drifted over the field at Rockcliffe as I roll my biplane out of the shade of the hangar. Ten minutes later, we are threading our way northwest through the tip of the main column and climbing quickly behind the eager tug of the Lycoming engine.
We stop the climb at our usual 1,700 feet and, from our new vantage point inside a cloudless trough, spy a long cloud front stretching across the horizon before us. It appears as though a massive, snow-covered mountain has been turned onto its peak so that its low, rolling foothills loom over us like a giant shelf at great altitude. It is as if a great hand wielding the sharpest and most precise of razors has cleaved the edge of the front to form the straightest of lines for many miles. From there, my goggled eyes trace the flanks of the colossus down to a point far in the distance where it vanishes behind the green mounds of the Gatineau Hills.
My mind is quiet when I fly. Normally, it’s a chaotic mess — even though my exterior rarely betrays it. I wasn’t always like this. Years ago that stillness and peace was easier to find, and I could hold onto it longer. It happens to all of us — that noise. It is the echo of all our triumphs and failures, our discoveries and losses. Here, aloft, those voices are silenced.
I used to be a day dreamer. I’m not anymore. Life moves too quickly with work and family and obligations to permit the mind to wander. In an airplane, it’s equally frowned upon. Flying, after all, is serious business. Still, we’re alone up here — the biplane and me. No co-pilot looks at me sideways; I’ve no passenger to fret over. It’s such a lovely afternoon that it would sinful to waste this opportunity for silence and peace.
Reminiscent of the deeply immersive writing of Taiye Selasi and Arundhati Roy, Rebecca Fisseha's Daughters of Silence is psychologically astute and buoyed both by metaphor and by the vibrant colours of Ethiopia. It's an impressive debut.
Grieving her mother's recent death, Dessie finds herself stranded in Addis Ababa — her birthplace — where she is confronted with her conflicted past. Ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano fills the skies. Flights are grounded throughout Europe. Just as the volcano's eruption interrupted Dessie's work life as a flight attendant, so too does her mother's death cause seismic disruptions in the fine balance of self-deceptions and false histories that uphold her family.
"A story of trauma and reckoning, of flight and return, told honestly, written boldly." — Tessa McWatt
Babbaye had interrogated me about this land at the farewell party for my family, the day before we left Ethiopia. I was eight years old. The party had to be at his house because our own house was empty, ready for tenants. He called me over to where he sat, pinned my arms at my sides so that I stood as rigid as a proper Little Patriot, and asked me the second impossible question of my life.
“My child, tinishwa arbegna, how do you feel about leaving this land?”
Land, I knew, meant the whole of Ethiopia, which I’d only ever seen on a paper map, but which Babbaye had walked across. Or so it seemed to me. My head was full of the stories my father had told me about Babbaye’s valour as an arbegna during the five years of resistance to the Talyan — as my grandfather says “Italian” — occupation in the thirties. During those years, Aba said the Patriots became known for possessing a spirit of bloodthirsty, come-what-may defiance toward foreign interference. They let their hair grow into unkempt Afros because they had vowed to cut it only when Ethiopia was deloused. They had developed a lion’s palate for raw meat because to make fire was to betray their location in the bush and mountain hideouts from which they launched attacks on the Talyans, making them regret the day they dared to pursue empire.
Babbaye had called me his little arbegna since I was five years old, but my Ethiopia was much smaller than his. My Ethiopia was made up of the patches of land on which stood his house, our house, my school, my parents’ workplaces, the Bole airport park and observation deck, the Ghion pool, and Sodere Resort. To these places, I had none of the deep attachment I knew Babbaye had to his Ethiopia. I was attached to him. He was my land. About leaving him, I felt heavy with the weight of emptiness, like the rooms in our house.
The author recently attended the Writers Trust Gala in Toronto.