UARR President Participated in ‘Who’s Reading What?’ Featured on Toronto Public Library Website

UARR President Participated in ‘Who’s Reading What?’ Featured on Toronto Public Library Website

This initiative on the Toronto Public Library website “asks Toronto’s famous and not-so-famous residents what books(fiction or non-fiction) they’ve enjoyed recently and why?”

The list of recommended books along with his reflections on the benefits and/or limitations of these books are available online on the Toronto Public Library Website at Who’s Reading What?

Gary Pieters explained that he believes that reading is an important life skill and one of the important critical ‘literacies’ that allow us to make meaningful and relevant connections to the things that matter in our daily lives and its relationship to the wider world.

Gary Pieters, Educator and Voice of Change

Gary Pieters is President of Toronto’s Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and an educator within the Toronto District School Board. He is interested in issues pertaining to equity, diversity and inclusion and has contributed to a large number of opinion editorials and other articles in news publications; has given many presentations as a speaker and conference participant in recent years; and has won numerous awards.

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Barnett, Kristine.
Barnett’s book The Spark provides a compelling first person narrative from a mother into the parenting of her autistic boy Jake and the challenges and opportunities faced by those identified with this exceptionality. This book is a beneficial read for all, as recent statistics indicate that an increasing number of children, as many as one in 68, are identified on the spectrum for some form of autism. Through strong parent engagement along with effective parental advocating, Jake was able to achieve remarkable success in life skills, social skills, educational attainment and academic achievement. Jake’s achievement of his full potential demonstrates that a culture of high expectations for excellence, and building on the strengths of the autistic child through whose eyes this book has been written, has led to remarkable outcomes including early college admission. Highly recommended for parents, educators and practitioners who work with young people or adults with an exceptionality of autism.

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Gara, Larry
The author took an incredibly courageous look at the liberation of enslaved blacks in the United States Underground Railroad of the late 1800s during the era of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Civil War of 1858. Abolitionists such as William Still, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Henry Bibb and many others had a solid reputation for their work in helping enslaved blacks to secure their freedom. The book places the enslaved blacks who were able to secure their freedom as well as that of others at the centre of their liberation. Gara looked at the heroic roles and hardships faced by both white and black abolitionists, and freed blacks. Ultimately, many of the escaped ended up in Canada, during what can be described as the largest early transnational migration of blacks from the United States to Canada. Freed slaves faced hardships in Canada too. Oh yes, Canada during the French and British colonial periods also had slavery (see my article ‘Slavery’s Long Destructive Legacy’ at
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Pasricha, Neil.
Pasricha has woven into The Book of Awesome the joys of the daily events that we encounter regularly in our lives. He takes all of the routine items of our day and skillfully weaves them into life stories that end up being ‘awesome’. The book reads more like a list of ‘awesome’ things that form a part of our daily lives.

Also available in these formats:

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Gomez, Carlos Andres
Gomez, a poet, educator and public speaker, explored new ways of looking at masculinity, gender roles and gender mindset. He makes the case for ”reimaging modern manhood’ that is not centred around reputational notions of power, control, aggression and violence but instead focused on creating healthy relationships, unlearning gender-based violence, unlearning stereotypes and building resilience in the face of racialized sexism/gender-based stereotypes of men. The book relates the author’s own life experiences and how he has navigated the issues identified and at the same time, unlearned certain ways of being and communicating. The author looks at various forms of societal violence including verbal aggression, criminalization, racial profiling and other acts that have a disproportionate negative impact on racialized/men of colour especially black men. A good read for anyone who is interested in the issues that young racialized men navigate in urban settings, beset by racial injustice, economic disparities and achievement gaps in education.
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It Gets Better is focused on sexual orientation, gender identity and ways that people of all walks of life self-identify or have navigated their identities as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) and created inclusive, positive and safe spaces in their various communities. Many issues were identified in the more than 100 messages, stories and narratives including physical and non-physical violence, homophobia, resilience, networks of support, finding one’s voice, peer interactions and the need for role models. The authors also provided examples of ongoing social changes that have resulted in a more inclusive and positive society in the North American context for LGBTQ people. The book serves as an inspiration at a time when many LGBTQ young people whose identity development and social location around their sexual orientation, or gender expression matters. Knowing that some of our young people are LGBTQ, the book retells the experiences of other LGBTQ people on how they were able to navigate their families, friends, schools and other spaces. The book raises awareness on so many levels of some of the opportunities and in other cases, challenges of coming out. As Toronto hosts World Pride in June 2014, this book is an insightful read.

Also available in these formats:

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Dyson, Michael Eric.
Professor Dyson has examined the genre of hip hop from a music form, to an academic discipline worthy of study and publication. Dyson provides a new way to look at the role of the hip hop artist in shaping consciousness by amplifying the message of what it is like to be a product of the environment that our young people inhabit. The reader is led to understand hip hop as a ‘culture of expression’ or ‘expression of culture’ from a philosophical school of thought. Issues including power, privilege, wealth, poverty, powerlessness, adversity, resilience, trust and betrayal are examined through the lens of a message from street culture, rooted in the lives of urban communities – now transferrable to a global audience. Dyson looked at the work of many conscious hip hop artists including NAS, Jayz, Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, Grandmaster Flash, Dr. Dre, Lauren Hill and many more. He showed how their music aligns to the messages of early philosophers including Hegel, Kant, Rousseau, Shakespeare and others.
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Ury, William.
The author of this work was also the co-author of the seminal work Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Ury points out that the opposite of yes is no. He believes that with time dilemmas and other constraints that intersect all aspects of our lives, work, families and interpersonal relations, saying no in some cases is a necessity. Notably his points resonate that with the rise of mobile and social technology, demands on personal time have become a more pressing concern, and the need to be able to say no to some things mean saying yes to others. Ury counsels how to offer a positive no, one that maintains connections and social relationships.

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Porter, John, 1921-1979.
Porter’s work published in 1965 provided a compelling look at the structure of inequality in Canada. Porter took a serious review of class and race in Canada and used a variety of evidentiary sources to show that in Canada, access to power was stratified by race. He demonstrated that social mobility was race-based and that the darker the complexion of the person, the harder it was for that person to be seen as or treated as Canadian. In many cases this is still true. The recent issue of racial profiling in Toronto demonstrated that in Canada’s most diverse city, blacks and brown complexioned persons were stopped, questioned and documented by people at rates that were in some cases more than double their proportion of the population. Porter’s work is as relevant now as it was when it was published in 1965. Other manifestations of the income gap, wage gap, achievement gap and other areas point to a society where there are still disparities that disproportionately affect some groups at a higher rate relative to others. (I have elaborated on this in “Canada is more diverse than ever except in the halls of power” online at
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