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Annie Ernaux’s The Years, Things I Know to be True, and Angela Davis’s surprise

Too much good stuff going on. I’ve just read a superb book and watched great TV and now am just in from a stupendous piece of theatre. 

Let me tell you about the least of these, one of my favourite programs, Finding Your Roots, with Henry Louis Gates; his researchers delve far into the backgrounds of all kinds of famous people, and often surprising things turn up. But this week’s was astonishing; one of his guests was Angela Davis, black revolutionary and Communist, leader of or connected to various far-left movements including the Black Panthers

Well, it turned out that the biological father of Angela Davis’s adopted mother was white. Not only that, but going further back, one of Davis’s ancestors came from Britain to America on the Mayflower! By this time, Davis could hardly speak for surprise. In the end, they always show the DNA pie chart of heritage, and Angela Davis is 48.5% European. The other guest, an American politician who also identified as 100% black, also discovered a white grandfather and is 53% European. 

Why do we call Barack Obama the first black president when he is 50% white? I am particularly sensitive to this as a 50/50 split myself. Hybrid vigour, as my dad said. Henry Louis Gates, who always identifies wholeheartedly with his black guests, told us at one point he’s 50% white. As I’ve always said, the more cappuccino babies there are in the world, the better off we’ll be. 

I had to rush to finish Annie Ernaux’s The Years to get it back to the library today. I’ve never read anything like it, brilliantly original — a history not so much of her life but of her times, from her birth in 1941 to 2006, French politics, international politics, what’s happening in the world, everything — consumption, conversation, young people and old, what was changing as the world changed. It’s not an easy read but it’s fascinating and eventually you’re swirling along on the ride — because by the end, she is us, we are her, no longer a provincial French schoolgirl but a grandmother trying to figure out this new age and what her children and grandchildren are talking about. Riveting.

Then today I went to see a matinée of Things I Know to be True, recommended by my friend Julia. I’m so glad she urged me to go see a marvellous production of a marvellous play. It looks on the surface like a kitchen sink drama, and it is, literally — the kitchen sink figures. But it’s really about how complicated families are, the dynamics, marriage, siblings, each one struggling to figure out how to live. What matters is that in the end, this screwed up histrionic crew come together when it matters most. The cast is perfect. I could not recommend it more highly. 

My happy place: the theatre. After seeing Un Beau Matin a few days ago, I’m drowning in complex family dynamics and extra-marital agony. Bring it on. Oh, and I spent the intermission chatting with the woman sitting behind me, who turned out to be Veronica Tennant, for decades Canada’s prima ballerina, seeing the play for the second time. I asked if she still dances and she said, No, I can hardly move. I should have told her about Nicky’s dance party.

We had a big dump of snow after several spring-like weeks, so it was a slushy day. But I am richly filled with art. And now, the next library book, brand new. Time to go sit by the fire with a glass of wine. A small glass of wine. 

My cup runneth. Etc. 

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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