Grad’s debut novel sparks bidding war

People keep telling Canadian author Joseph Boyden that his novel Three Day Road was the book he was meant to write, began Rebecca Caldwell’s profile May 12 in The Globe and Mail. While pleased, Boyden finds the comments unsettling, since his book is only his debut novel – albeit a debut novel that pitted publishers against each other in a bidding war that bumped the manuscript’s price tag up to six figures. “It’s actually a bit frightening. I hope I have another book I’m meant to write, but it’s so true,” the 1991 York grad said during a recent interview while he was in Toronto for an appearance at the Harbourfront International Reading Series. “It deals with all the different parts of me and where I come from.”

Three Day Road is the story of Cree snipers Xavier Bird and Elijah Weesageechak, who served in the Canadian Army during the First World War.

The author’s father was a decorated Second World War veteran. And Boyden describes himself as part Métis, specifically Ojibwa. Growing up in Toronto, he would spend summers on reserves on Georgian Bay; he later taught on reserves near James Bay. Although it is part of his heritage, Boyden is quick to make clear that his own experience is not much like the majority of native Canadians.

Although he counts among his influences Canadian authors Robertson Davies and York’s Michael Ondaatje, and Americans Jim Harrison and Louise Erdrich, he reserves his highest praise for writer Bruce Powe, who teaches English and was one of his instructors while he was an undergrad at York. Boyden earned a BA in humanities and creative writing at York in 1991.

Ontario budget boosts aid to students

On Wednesday, Queen’s Park gave students like Jennifer Mikhael some relief by reducing the amount of money middle-income parents are expected to contribute to their children’s education in order to qualify for student loans, reported the Toronto Star May 12. She is among those who stand to gain from a provincial budget that included $6.2 billion for colleges and universities by 2009-2010. Mikhael’s entrance to York’s Schulich School of Business means about $8,000 a year in tuition plus other expenses. “Hopefully now I’ll qualify for OSAP because I need it,” she said.

Early succession planning is vital

A recent study by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce predicted 500,000 owners of small businesses – those with less than $5 million in revenue – will retire within five years, reported the Toronto Star May 12 in a story about the importance of having a succession plan. “One of the worst cases is if the owner ‘harps’ on until they’re 80 and doesn’t give the (successor) a chance to run the business,” said Rein Peterson, professor of family enterprise and entrepreneurship at York’s Schulich School of Business. “You have to train the successor in how to be the owner, and the founder needs to back off.” Peterson said some succession plans provide the owner with the right to interfere in the business operations if certain profit or sales targets are not met. Before a majority stake in the business changes hands, Peterson said, the successor might be required to reach certain financial targets.

York-born Dancemakers still strong after 30 years

Talk about metamorphosis! The Toronto-based troupe Dancemakers is concluding its 30th anniversary season with a four-part program inspired – with varying degrees of looseness – by Ovidean transformation myths, began the National Post’s Michael Crabb in a May 12 review. This neatly brings the show under the marketing umbrella of the city’s multi-disciplinary, six-month-long Metamorphosis Festival. For those with long memories, it also illustrates Dancemakers’ own extraordinary transformation.

Dancemakers began when a group of talented York University dance department graduates decided to put on a show in the fall of 1974. What was intended as a one-off event morphed quickly into a modern-dance repertory troupe performing both original Canadian choreography and works acquired from abroad. It had lovely dancers and, by and large, eschewed the more extreme forms of dance experimentation in favour of the modern-dance mainstream.

Canlit scholar to be honoured

Clara Thomas is being honoured by York University for four decades as a member of its faculty and for her work as a pioneer in the study of Canadian literature, reported the London Free Press May 12. The Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections in the York University Libraries will be dedicated May 24. Thomas was one of York’s first two female faculty members. She is currently a Canadian Studies Research Fellow at York.

On air

  • Sergei Plekhanov, coordinator of the Post-Communist Studies Program in York’s Centre for International & Security Studies, analyzed US President George Bush’s visit to Russia, on TVO’s “Studio 2” May 11.
  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, discussed the constitutional rights of Canada’s Liberal Party and opposition parties when it comes to a non-confidence vote and the involvement of Canada’s governor general, on CBC Newsworld May 11. Monahan’s comments were also aired on CFWH-AM in Whitehorse.
  • CBC Newsworld aired a profile May 11 of Chen Kupperman, a 14-year-old math student and tutor at York.