This week we’re featuring four books on important Canadians. You can find out more about each book below, but first, pick your favourite cover!
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MARY PICKFORD Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart:
Mary Pickford’s ambition, passion, innate talent, and savvy business acumen sent her career into the stratosphere and set the blueprint for the modern movie star. Born Gladys Louise Smith in 1892, Pickford was raised in a house on University Avenue in Toronto and began her acting career on the stage. However, her determination led her to the new world of motion pictures, where she not only revolutionized acting method but negotiated her own terms for the highest salary for any actress and complete creative control over her films — unheard of behaviour for a woman of that period.
Pickford co-founded United Artists in 1919 with Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin, which turned the existing studio system on its head. The actress’s subsequent marriage to Fairbanks incited a fan frenzy comparable to today’s obsession with couples like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Although Pickford’s star faded with the advent of talking pictures, she was the catalyst for the culture of Hollywood celebrity that enthralls us today.
SIMON GIRTY Wilderness Warrior: During the American Revolution and the border conflicts that followed, Simon Girty’s name struck terror into the hearts of U.S. settlers in the Ohio Valley and the territory of Kentucky. Girty (1741–1818) had lived with the Natives most of his life. Scorned by his fellow white frontiersmen as an “Indian lover,” Girty became an Indian agent for the British. He accompanied Native raids against Americans, spied deep into enemy territory, and was influential in convincing the tribes to fight for the British.
The Americans declared Girty an outlaw. In U.S. history books he is a villain even worse than Benedict Arnold. Yet in Canada, Girty is regarded as a Loyalist hero, and a historic plaque marks the site of his homestead on the Ontario side of the Detroit River.
In Native history, Girty stands out as one of the few white men who championed their cause against American expansion. But was he truly the “White Savage” of legend, or a hero whose story was twisted by his foes?
THE ASTONISHING GENERAL The Life and Legacy of Sir Isaac Brock: This book is about Major General Sir Isaac Brock (1769 – 13 October 1812). It tells of his life, his career and legacy, particularly in the Canadas, and of the context within which he lived. One of the most enduring legacies of the War of 1812 on both the United States and Canadian sides was the creation of heroes and heroines. The earliest of those heroic individuals was Isaac Brock who in some ways was the most unlikely of heroes. For one thing, he was admired by his American foes almost as much as by his own people. Even more striking is how a British general whose military role in that two-and-a-half-year war lasted less than five months became the best known hero and one revered far and wide. Wesley B. Turner finds this outcome astonishing and approaches the subject from that point of view.
TOM THOMSON Artist of the North: Tom Thomson (1877-1917) occupies a prominent position in Canada’s national culture and has become a celebrated icon for his magnificent landscapes as well as for his brief life and mysterious death. The shy, enigmatic artist and woodsman’s innovative painting style produced such seminal Canadian images as The Jack Pine and The West Wind, while his untimely drowning nearly a century ago is still a popular subject of fierce debate.
Originally a commercial artist, Thomson fell in love with the forests and lakes of Ontario’s Algonquin Park and devoted himself to rendering the north country’s changing seasons in a series of colourful sketches and canvases. Dividing his time between his beloved wilderness and a shack behind the Studio Building near downtown Toronto, Thomson was a major inspiration to his painter friends who, not long after his death, went on to change the course of Canadian art as the influential – and equally controversial – Group of Seven