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Why Does Reading Matter?


Daniel Coleman teaches and studies Canadian Literature, the literary and cultural production of categories of privilege such as whiteness, masculinity, and Britishness, the literatures of immigration and diaspora, and the spiritual and cultural politics of reading. He has published Masculine Migrations (U Toronto P, 1998), The Scent of Eucalyptus (Goose Lane Editions, 2003), White Civility (U Toronto P, 2006) and In Bed With the Word (U Alberta P, 2009. He has co-edited ten scholarly volumes on various issues including early Canadian culture, Caribbean Canadian writing, masculinities, postcoloniality, race, the retooling of the humanities, and displacement for the University of Alberta Press, The Journal of West Indian Literature, Essays on Canadian Writing, Mattoid, Jouvert, Masculinities, and Textual Studies in Canada.

Why Does It Matter?

In Shyam Selvadurai’s most recent novel, The Hungry Ghosts, the main character Shivan is a teenager newly arrived in 1980s Toronto. He’s settling into the new city with his mother and sister, having fled the civil war in Sri Lanka. He’s lonely in his new surroundings. One day he sees a pamphlet entitled “Are You Gay?” in a bookstore. He slips the pamphlet into the book he buys and smuggles it home, not looking at it until his family is asleep before he has the courage to read it. A few days later, he calls the number in the pamphlet, which introduces him to gay life in his new city.

In this brief part of his story, you get a powerful illustration of why it matters. Why reading matters. Why the central activity of the humanities matters. Reading the pamphlet releases Shivan from the isolation he feels as a…

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