Community Reader Profile: Michelle Dodds

Name: Michelle Dodds

Job Title: Executive Director, North Shore Women’s Centre

Best book I read in 2011: Since becoming a mother in June 2010 I haven’t had much time to read, but have been drawn to books about women’s survival in dire circumstances. Even Silence Has an End, by Ingrid Betancourt is a gripping account of a politician who was held captive for six years in the jungles of Columbia by the FARC guerrilla movement. I also read Mellissa Fung’s book, Under an Afghan Sky, about her month-long captivity near Kabul. Several years earlier, I read Prisoner of Tehran, by Marina Nemat. In all cases, I appreciated how the writers narrated their personal stories within a larger social and political context. They bravely allow readers into their most intimate thoughts and feelings and reveal how they were able to not only survive their ordeals, but also exert remarkable strength, courage and integrity within the most horrific situations. As well, they refuse to draw stereotypical or one dimensional pictures of their captors, choosing instead to show the contradictions and complexities of their personalities and the social structures within which they reside.

Needless to say, since my daughter was born, I have also been reading a lot of baby/toddler books, and have really enjoyed the Simply Small series by west coast Canadian author/illustrator, Paola Opal. It is hard not to fall in love with Opal’s cute, determined baby animal characters who learn about perseverance, problem-solving and friendship. We are particularly fond of Saffy (the giraffe) and Perry (the polar bear)!

I will read any book by: Naomi Klein and Vandana Shiva. They both get to the heart of issues and have such insightful, current and accurate analyses.

Best place to curl up with a book on a rainy day: I enjoy reading in transit, so being able to watch a (mild!) storm at sea from a cozy seat on the ferry is always fun.

Best place to lounge with a book in the sun: A garden or park bench. 

A book I know I should read, but haven’t: There are so many! When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, by Gabor Mate has been recommended. 

A guilty pleasure favourite: I love mystery novels with a woman protagonist, and hopefully a feminist bent. Sara Paretsky is a favourite author in this genre. I enjoy the way that she weaves social issues into her stories and isn’t afraid to put her detective, V.I. Warshawski, into situations where she has to use her body in very physically demanding ways. 

The book I push on all my friends because it is soooooooo good: I read All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver around the same time. Though Ozeki’s book is fiction and Kingsolver is writing about a real year in her family’s life of eating locally, they both make convincing arguments about the importance of food security in such creative and engaging ways that I couldn’t put either of them down.

Where you can find me: www.northshorewomen.ca

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