The Montreal Review of Books (mRb) recently reviewed my second book, Kicking and Punching: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood. If you’d like to checkout the review, click here.
In 1978, the National Film Board of Canada made a short documentary about Point St. Charles, a neighbourhood they described as the “toughest in Canada.” Click here to watch the documentary.
———————————————————————————————————-SYNOPSIS – from the National Film Board: This short documentary is a portrait of Point St. Charles, one of Montreal’s notoriously bleak neighbourhoods. Many of the residents are English-speaking and of Irish origin; many of them are also on welfare. Considered to be one of the toughest districts in all of Canada, Point St. Charles is poor in terms of community facilities, but still full of rich contrasts and high spirits – that is, most of the time.
Kathy often visits social work schools across Canada. Here she leads a recent round table discussion with social work students from Dawson College in Montréal.
A high school in Montréal has made Kathy’s book With a Closed Fist, Growing Up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood required reading for its English class!
Kathy looks forward to another trip to Montreal soon to talk about her book with the students. Click here to read more about Kathy’s book.
Kathy is coming to Ingleside and Montréal next week!
Ingleside Library, Ingleside ON.
Kathy will be at the Ingleside Library from 6:30-8:00 pm, talking about her book, “With A Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood” and other future writing projects.
Dawson College, Montréal
Kathy will be having a round table discussion with students in Dawson College’s Social Service Program.
McGill University, Montréal.
Kathy will be at McGill’s School of Social Work discussing her book, With a Closed Fist, and the media’s representation of the poor.
One of the unexpected bonuses of having my book published is that lots of readers have been getting in touch with me. I especially love it when someone not only reaches out to share their reaction to my book, but to also share a bit of their own story.
As a working journalist for the past 20 plus years, I already know that every person, no matter who they are, have their own stories to tell. I’ve met and interviewed a lot of fascinating people over the past 20 years, people with stories more interesting, more tragic, more touching, and much more important than any of my own will ever be.
And I remember them all.
Everyone has a history; everyone has a story. And I’m touched by those who take the time to not only offer me feedback on ‘my’ story: “With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood,” but to also share some of the most intimate and private stories from their own childhoods.
Many readers have shared stories of incredible hardships, including early years filled with poverty and for some, growing up with the pain and shame of sexual and physical abuse. Many start off by writing, “I’ve never told anyone this before, but…” then go on to tell a story about some terrible secret or challenge they were forced to endure as a child, but have kept hidden for years. Sometimes even decades.
Many of these people aren’t even from Point St. Charles, the Montreal neighbourhood I wrote about in my book. Of course, that didn’t surprise me. Poverty isn’t unique to my old neighbourhood. Nor is it unique to that time in Canadian history, back in the late 60s and early 70s. Poverty continues to cripple millions of Canadians- the majority of which are children- across the country today.
It’s easier to believe that where I grew up was some sort of an anomaly. A rare event in our country’s history. It’s also easier to believe that physically and sexually abused women and children only live in those ‘tough’ parts of Canada, those really rough neighbourhoods with high unemployment and welfare rates.
But that’s a lie.
Women and children are sexually and physically abused in all social classes. And Canadians of both genders and of all ages continue to live in poverty across the country today. According to a study conducted last year by Angus Reid, one in 11 Canadians live in poverty. That’s three million Canadians.
The rough and tough neighbourhood I grew up in during the 60s and 70s was not the enemy. Poverty is. That, and the common misconception that poverty is somehow a choice.
After speaking at the Montreal “Books and Breakfast,” an event I wrote about a few months ago, I thought I had mostly overcome my fear of public speaking.
A large audience, including many from the publishing industry, all gathered in a large ballroom of a fancy downtown hotel had their eyes trained on me for fifteen minutes straight while I babbled incoherently about my recently published book, With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood.
Looking back, it was sort of like peeling the Band-Aid off all at once. With a machete. For someone with a fear of public speaking it was a ‘trial by fire crash course’ kind of scenario.
In the end, as I’ve previously wrote about here, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Sure, I didn’t exactly sound off-the-cuff with my crumpled-up cue cards scrunched between my sweaty, shaky palms. But I had been afraid that when I walked up to the podium, I’d forget how to speak, becoming temporarily blind, deaf, and mute.
I admit that, looking back, anticipating it was much worse than actually doing it. (Okay, that’s not actually true. Doing it was much worse than anticipating it. I just say this to make myself feel better.)
After the Books and Breakfast event, I figured I’d be up for anything. I was now a war-hardened, veteran public speaker. Compared to the Books and Breakfast, speaking at the Ingleside Public Library would be like just talking to a small group of close friends. Right?
So naturally, I was a complete nervous wreck.
At the Books and Breakfast, something that was surprisingly comforting was the fact that I felt like I couldn’t see the audience. My field of vision was limited to the three inches between my face and the cue cards. The ballroom where the event was held was so large, and the lights were so bright, it was almost like the audience was lost in a fog. Sort of like that saying about “not seeing the forest because of the trees.”
But in the library, I was going to see each individual person. They weren’t some large anonymous crowd who, if I utterly humiliated myself in front of them, I could cry and run off the stage and drive 500 kilometers away and begin the slow, painful process of blocking the memory out and hoping it never resurfaces.
This was a room filled with people whom I’ve known for years and consider many of them to be pretty close friends. People that I really care about what they think of me. Especially considering how personal and raw and vulnerable the subject matter of my book is.
I’d be speaking to people like Jackie from the post office, who my son Scott, at age four, vowed to marry one day. And Sandy Winchester and Margaret Power, two of my children’s favourite teachers, the kind of teachers who make life long lasting impressions on many of their students.
In the end, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself not to worry- that it really would be like speaking to a group of my closest friends. And that I think I’ve finally overcome my fear of public speaking.
An article about “With a Closed Fist” from Cornwall’s daily newspaper, the Standard Freeholder.
By Cheryl Brink
Click here to see the article at the Standard Freeholder online.