I’m joking. I’ve been to book launches, and they were lovely, although no one wore berets. I knew
the launch events for Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics would be incredibly special.
But they weren’t just special; they were overwhelming.
In Vancouver, where I was born, a lifetime’s worth of family and friends turned up at the Bill Reid Gallery downtown. There was so much happiness in the room. I got to meet Stephen Lewis, who was in town for the BC NDP Convention. We shook hands, and I thanked him for his advance review of the book. His first words to me boomed out: “Well, it was a bloody good book!” When Lewis took to the podium to speak, he repeated his praise. I’m not sure I can describe how honoured I was; suffice to say, I can never write another book now, because I can’t imagine how to follow up such an endorsement! Rolf Maurer of New Star Books spoke next, and he, too, was incredibly complimentary. When it was my turn to speak, I felt that what I’d planned to say, though heartfelt, was suddenly insufficient following such tributes. As I stepped on stage, I felt like everyone was with me a little in that feeling. But I enjoyed being up there. I genuinely meant all the thanks I had to give, and enjoyed giving them to people. I loved seeing my parents’ faces. I hope they felt that this achievement was theirs, too, because it is. When I thanked my wife, she flashed the ASL sign for “I love you.” Even in that crowd of people, it felt like a private moment between the two of us. Svend spoke next, and he was, as always, charming, funny and rousing. And then, the book-signing marathon began. It was fun sitting beside Svend. I felt like we were teammates in each other’s journeys; he, for cooperating so fully with the book, and I, for tracing his story and sharing it with others. Once and a while, as the line of people waiting to have their books signed continued, we looked at each other and just seemed to wordlessly say, “Wow – look how well this is going!”
And then David Suzuki got to the front of the line and handed me a book to sign. What could I possibly say to an icon I’d admired since I was in elementary school? Truly, one of the strangest things that will ever happen to me, I’m sure. The moment is now a blur. I think I called him David.
I don’t know when I’ll see so many loved ones in the same place again. I’ll treasure the memory
In Ottawa, we filled D’Arcy McGee’s, the legendary bar a block from Parliament Hill. Again, I was incredibly touched to see so many friends and family there. Michelle Douglas, the lesbian soldier who challenged the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the Canadian military, was also on hand to say a few words. We had a good crowd of MPs, too. When I was a political science
student, I used to go to D’Arcy’s hoping to chat with MPs. I was usually ignored. This time, a few MPs asked to have their pictures taken with me – an unfamiliar response in a very familiar setting. We sold out of books. It was crammed. It was loud. It was a great party.
I didn’t know what to expect in Toronto. I haven't lived there and neither has Svend, and at one point I wasn’t sure we should do a launch in a city in which we weren’t as certain of our market. But I'm glad we did! We had an overflow crowd at the Frontier College headquarters, full of friends and family, and we sold out of books again. I was honoured that Stephen Lewis spoke again. I was happy to renew my connection to Frontier College, the respected literacy institution that also counts Svend as a former employee. The current staff and volunteers not only allowed us to use their beautiful head office, but they went above and beyond to help, spreading the word to their former staff (I got to meet a fellow alumnus who’d been a labourer-teacher in 1953), and provided fair-trade coffee and homemade snacks. I felt so proud of my association with the College, but was also humbled by the ongoing commitment so many former colleagues continue to demonstrate as volunteers.
What was most gratifying was that I truly got the sense that this book mattered, that it was really worth writing. In my remarks in Toronto, I opened up a little more about Svend than I did in Vancouver and Ottawa, and told him how proud I was to consider him a friend. And, while he’d said before how touched he was that I wrote a book about him, I think it really hit me for the first time just how much he appreciated it. I’m glad. He deserves it.
I hope to write another book someday. Whatever I end up writing about, I hope it’s something that matters, too.
There are so many people to thank. Many of their names are in the back of the book, but there are others who, since publication, have worked so hard to make these launches a success. I
am grateful to Stephen Lewis for his support, and I’ll never forget his kind words. I would also like to thank the Bill Reid Gallery, D’Arcy McGee’s, Phil Fernandez and Casey Sabawi of Frontier College for the incredible work they did to prepare and promote the Toronto launch, as well as Vanessa Wong, Mary Choy and all the other Frontier College volunteers and staff, my old friend Pamela King for MCing in Vancouver, my ever-talented sister Dana Truelove for MCing in Ottawa, Books on Beechwood, Glad Day Bookshop and John Taylor from the People’s Bookstore Co-op for selling books, Michelle Douglas for her kind words, Mike and Meagan Hatch for the
promotion tips and for helping to spread the word, Brett and Maria Kenworthy for putting Janine and I up in Ottawa, and their wonderful family for all the support, David Suzuki, Audrey McLaughlin and Libby Davies for reading advance copies of the book, Intuition Photography for the amazing photos, Peter O’Neil, Lynda Philippsen, Judy Rebick, Outlook TV and all the other media who
provided such great coverage, and of course, all the friends and family who came and who helped spread the word to everyone they knew.
And, of course, thank you to Svend Robinson for inspiring this book, and now, for his friendship, Rolf Maurer for making it all come together, and most of all, to Mom, Dad, Dana and Janine. Without them, none of this would have happened. Most of us stand on the shoulders of giants when we do good things. They are my giants.
Shots of all three launches can be downloaded for free here, courtesy of Intuition Photography.