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Naheed Nenshi champions Denison Avenue by Christina Wong & Daniel Innes on Canada Reads 2024

Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is championing the novel Denison Avenue by Christina Wong and Daniel Innes on Canada Reads 2024!

A black and white illustration of a street of storefronts with signs in mandarin. Red text at the bottom reads, "Denison Avenue."

Passionate about cities and urban life, Nenshi is excited to share this story told in art and fiction about Toronto’s changing areas of Chinatown and Kensington Market. 

The great Canadian book debate will take place on March 4-7. This year, we are looking for one book to carry us forward.

The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC GemCBC Listen and on CBC Books.

Where fiction and illustration collide

Set in Toronto’s Chinatown and Kensington Market, Denison Avenue is a moving portrait of a city undergoing mass gentrification and a Chinese Canadian elder experiencing the existential challenges of getting old and being Asian in North America. Recently widowed, Wong Cho Sum takes long walks through the city, collecting bottles and cans and meeting people on her journeys in a bid to ease her grief.

Christina Wong is a Toronto writer, playwright and multidisciplinary artist who also works in sound installation, audio documentaries and photography.

Daniel Innes is a multidisciplinary artist from Toronto. He works in painting, installation, graphic and textile design, illustration, sign painting and tattooing.

An Asian woman with glasses smiles at the camera. A white man with a beard wearing a navy beanie looks at the camera.
Denison Avenue is a book by Christina Wong, left, and Daniel Innes. (Daniel Innes, Christina Wong)

“[Chinatown/Kensington Market is] a neighborhood that I’ve pretty much grown up with,” said Wong in an interview that will soon air on The Next Chapter. “My parents and my grandparents, our family, we would just go there on Sundays and go for dim sum and go grocery shopping. So it’s a place that’s like home for me. 

It’s a place that’s like home for me.– Christina Wong

“It’s also where my family association is, the Wong Association, and it’s also considered like another home where I would go and talk to the elders and learn things. So I felt like myself, in a sense, like I could learn more about my culture.”

A passion for books about the immigrant experience

Nenshi was Calgary’s mayor for three terms between 2010 and 2021. He was awarded the World Mayor Prize in 2014 and is recognized internationally as a voice on urban issues. He is a proud first-generation Canadian of Indian ancestry and of Ismaili Muslim faith, which instilled in him the ethic of “seva,” which means “service to the community.” 

Before becoming mayor, Nenshi was Canada’s first tenured professor of nonprofit management at the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University and worked in consulting.

Nenshi loves books about the immigrant experience, community, urban life and cities, that test our biases and don’t fall into tired tropes. An avid reader of nonfiction in recent years, he’s getting back into fiction and wishes to take Canada Reads fans along with him. With Denison Avenue, he hopes to help people who may have stopped reading fall in love with it again.

LISTEN | Naheed Nenshi on IDEAS

Ideas53:59In Defence of Democracy: Naheed Nenshi

Democratic backsliding is speeding up. Is there a way to revive civic engagement and resilience and push back against public apathy? IDEAS host, Nahlah Ayed talks to former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi about the possibility of renewing civic purpose in Canada, as part of a public lecture hosted by the Samara Centre. *This episode originally aired on Dec. 9, 2022.

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