Tag Archives: protest

Book Review: The Age by Nancy Lee


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

the age


Category: Contemporary Fiction

Author: Nancy Lee

Format: Trade Paperback,  281 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

ISBN: 978-0-7710-5252-1

Pub Date: March 11, 2014


Summary from Publisher:

Set in Vancouver in 1984 as Soviet warships swarm the Atlantic, The Age tells the story of Gerry, a troubled teenager whose life is suddenly and strangely catapulted into adulthood.

Confronted by her mother’s newest relationship, confusion about her father’s abandonment, and anxieties about a looming nuclear incident, Gerry finds a kind of belonging with a group of misfits planning a subversive protest at the city’s upcoming peace march, but her fascination with their leader and her struggle with sexual identity create a rift between Gerry and her best friend, Ian. Bolstered by her grandfather, an eccentric news anchor in the throes of a bitter divorce, Gerry tries to put herself at the centre of the group’s violent plot. As the days leading up to the rally accelerate, Gerry finds herself escaping into a post-nuclear dystopia of her own creation.  Her real life and fantasy life alternate until a collision of events and consequences forces her towards life or death decisions in both worlds.

At the heart of the novel is Gerry’s combative yet tender relationship with the older Ian, as she both yearns for and rejects his protectiveness towards her until it’s too late. Stubborn, tough, and unaware of her vulnerability until tragedy occurs, Gerry navigates a razor’s edge of emotion and events.

– From Chapters-Indigo website

Book Review by Zara

from The Bibliotaphe Closet:

The Age by Nancy Lee is a gritty storytelling of hardened angst and the impending doom of the apocalypse. The both combined is a harsh, but vivid awakening to the grief and anger that simmers not only in our teenagers, but in a world suffocating from the ongoing battle against political and social injustice in its fervor and fight toward some form of equilibrium.

This is a story about Geraldine, referred to as Gerry, an angry and fiercely troubled teenager, an adrogynous-looking girl who de-feminizes her physicality to look and act more like a boy, a kid roughened up perhaps to subconsciously toughen herself up against the pain of her upbringing—or rather in this case, her lack of one—the physical and emotional abandonment of her father.

In response, Gerry attaches herself to an older and exclusive group, one that is more than a bunch of misfits, but a group whose ideology is both dangerous and highly politicized—activists whose plans to participate in a Peace March is more than succumbing to spectatorship, but rather a direct involvement in misguided terrorism.

But, amidst the extremity of the book is a saving grace in a few of the unexpected characters, from Gerry’s grandfather, Henry, a news reporter whose divorce to his third wife plummets him into emotional and financial bankruptcy, yet a reserved kindness to a granddaughter whose life has hardened her to attachment and kindness itself.

Then there is Ian, Gerry’s long-time friend whose poor history has not hindered him from taking on the disguised role of parent and provocator, their relationship magnetic, yet openly combative and antagonistic. For all his social failings, his concern for her welfare reveals itself in his passionate arguments and ultimately, his self-sacrifice.

Randy, her mother’s unkempt boyfriend, while resented by Gerry because he isn’t her father, but the next man in the string of failed relationships her mother has readily entertained, is unexpectedly decent, frustrated as an outsider, ungroomed in his social breeding, but sincere in his quasi-parental efforts and loyal in his attempt to care.

And Clem, a veteran to political angst and an ex-con for crimes that has scarred him into mental degradation, reverts to a child-like demeanor unable to function on his own without the help and care of his daughter, Megan, the leader of Gerry’s misfit “friends,” whose subtlety in manipulation, control, and rage against authority and the mythology of war, instigates paranoia and action during the city’s Peace March.

While the narrative and plot is shockingly gritty, hard, and absolute in its angst and devastation, there is also a parallel narrative that is beautifully lyrical, dreamlike in its apocalyptic imagining between a young man and an older woman in the midst of society that regresses into the terror of savagery because of environmental and societal cruelty and darkness.

The anger, pain, and fear in this book is wonderfully palpable, graphically vivid, and grotesque—and difficult to read because of the strong emotions it evokes. I cried—and not a few mystical afterthoughts of a tear or two, but rather a cry so deep from the bowls of empathy and terror. I was moved.

The teenage recklessness and pain of this novel is indicative of the rumbling fears we hold toward the future, the collective and growing mistrust and angst against a world system spiralling out of control, and the heavy burden of terrorism we sometimes choose to internalize from the devastation of our own minds and lives.


Characters: 4 stars

Pacing: 4 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

Plot: 4.5 stars


Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Random House of Canada on behalf of McClelland & Stewart for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author:

nancy lee
From inside jacket. (c) Anthony Hatley / Millenium Images, UK.


Author of the critically acclaimed Dead Girls, Nancy Lee is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia Creative Writing Program. She lives in Vancouver B.C., with her husband, writer John Vigna.

– From inside jacket


Find information on Nancy Lee on Wikipedia.


The Apocalypse in our minds can take many forms. What is your greatest fear for the future?

How far would you go in a call to action against war? If you read the book, do you think Gerry goes too far in her emotional response to the tragedies in her life?

If you read the book, who is your favourite character in the novel?

Who do you think has the most hope in redemption in the book—or are all the characters so devastated that nothing is left for them except angst, fear, and pain for the future?


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The Life-Lessons Are Out (20 of Them) with the Fight between the ETFO and Bill 115

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The Life-Lessons Are Out (20 of Them)

with the Fight between the ETFO and Bill 115


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

The irony of Bill 115 is that it’s known to be the  Putting Students First Act, which gives the government the power to impose a contract on teachers if their school boards fail to negotiate a new collective agreement by a set deadline.

That deadline was December 31.

And unfortunately no new agreement was made at that time, which led to the Liberal government of Ontario to choose to impose a two-year contract  that enforces elementary and high school teachers to have their wages frozen until 2014 and no longer be able to bank their sick days for retirement.

The imposition is, of course, powered by Bill 115 itself, and while teachers and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) disagree with it as a loss to their right to the democratic process of collective bargaining, the Minister of Education, Laurel Broten, announced that she will repeal Bill 115—but the reality is, not after the power it uses to impose the two-year contract that has recently been put into place.

It’s much like being coerced into lowering your weapon—that is, after you’ve already used it.

So, in response to the imposition of the teachers’ contracts, their frozen wages, and discontinuation of bankable sick days (and probably a lot more that I’m unaware of because I haven’t read it yet), the ETFO and its teachers have promised to continue to protest through job action.

And that was obvious with their plans to officially stage “a one-day political protest aimed at the government on January 11,” where parents were told to refrain from sending their child(ren) to school since (in my case) all Peel board elementary schools from Kindergarten to Grade 8 would be closed.

Parents like myself received notice of this on the afternoon of January 9th in letter-form from the Peel District School Board, only a day and a few hours before the protest was planned to take place—which meant last-minute scrambling for alternative care for our children in lieu of board-wide school closures.

And even though I was one of the luckier parents to suffer less because I’m already a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM) with my three-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son, the interaction and decisions made as a result between the Ontario government and ETFO have certainly made it difficult for parents, children, and the community at large.

But the story doesn’t end there.

As a rebuttal to the ETFO’s effort in protesting against the government through board-wide school closures on the premise they could not “ensure the safety of students on the day of protest”—which they technically did not and could not call a “strike”—was met by the Premier, Dalton McGuinty’s quick action to seek a cease-and-desist order from the Ontario Labour Relations Board in what has now been deemed “an illegal strike.”

Call it what you will from either party—the ultimate losers of this labour battle are the children of which Bill 115 is called to protect and of whom teachers are called to educate.

In an even quicker (but not quick enough) response, the ETFO called off the planned walkout by teachers because the labour tribunal ruled the action would indeed be illegal. But ETFO did this at 4:00 a.m. on the proposed day of the protest, which left some parents, children, and families of school boards, notice of the change as late as 7:15 am, Friday morning.

You can imagine the uproar. The scramble. The confusion. And ultimately, the lack of communication and consideration given to Ontario parents, caregivers, and the children themselves—who had just spent the last 24 hours attempting to accommodate the needs of their children through alternative care and/or activities at the expense of their own wallets, time, and inconvenience—only, of course, to have the decision over-turned at the last-minute.

It’s a much more complex issue than arguing on behalf of labour rights versus implementing more control through financial ceilings in order to manage a $15 billion Ontario deficit. Nor is it just about inconveniencing parents for one or two days.

It is, however, about what lessons are really being taught to our children today on behalf of what has been said to be something ultimately in their favour—but is, in essence, not.

While we opt as a society to readily advocate inclusion, rights, and a protection of rights as well as the importance of fiscal responsibility—while those arguments are true, they have unfortunately moved to the forefront of an active duel between parties that have the power to hold parents and most especially, children, hostage in the educational sector.

In lieu of most recent strikes, one on December 11 and again, the planned, but cancelled “protest,” exactly a month later; this is how children and their parents have been affected (or threatened to be affected):

  • board-wide bus service cancellation
  • Before-School, After-School, and extended day programs offered by third-party providers cancelled
  • Hubs, Readiness Centres, Parenting & Family Literacy Centres closed to students and families
  • some, if not all, extra-curricular activities cancelled
  • missed days of school
  • ultimately gaps in opportunities for learning and access to curriculum and education

And with the recent imposition of contracts through Bill 115 and the even more recent ruling of the one-day political protest as an illegal strike, children are faced with:

  • teachers forced to return to work under contracts that were not collectively bargained for
  • potentially disgruntled teachers who are not only responsible for education in the classroom, but have direct contact with children and the outcome of choices made by the schools they work in as either directed by their union or themselves
  • the cancellation of some, if not all, extra-curricular activities and student privileges
  • a potentially negative or toxic working environment
  • continual protest and battle between the ETFO and the liberal government concerning Bill 115


What the real life-lessons parents, children, and those that live in Ontario are “learning” through this “educational” process:

1. You have a right to feel entitled.

2. If you don’t like something, complain.

3. If your complaints are not being listened to or addressed in the way you would like, complain louder, more often, and for a longer time.

4. If you’re upset enough, just leave. And ask everyone you know to leave with you.

5. Negatively impact people who are not directly involved in your argument as pressure points to your opposition in order to gain leverage in your argument.

6. Saving money is more important than saving relationships.

7. Take sides.

8. It’s important to win an argument. Use all the power you have to win yours. (This is especially helpful if you’re already powerful enough to begin with.)

9. The tighter the pull, the more control you have.

10. The law is the law is the law—so long as it suits your purposes.

11. Shakespeare was wrong with: “What’s in a name?”—Apparently everything. Because you can change it and call it something else—and then somehow it is.

12. If you can’t make someone do something willingly, force him instead. And then make it legal.

13. Rebel for your cause. Then don’t rebel (the very next day) because it might cost you something more than your cause…like $2,000 x 76,000, for example.

14. The legalism of the law is more important than the spirit of the law and those of its people, which it is intended to protect.

15. Inconvenience others at the cost of putting yourself and your needs first.

16. Bullying is not allowed in schools or playgrounds. It is, however, allowed at the bargaining table and in courts.

17. Your decisions and actions don’t affect others negatively or at all— because they’re yours. And you’re entitled.

18. Parents should speak to their Human Resource representatives at work and ask them to implement or extend bankable sick days—because parents may need them to stay home if and when there is a last-minute teacher protest or strike. Or not. But, just in case.

19. Extra-curricular activities and student privileges are not important in the educational system because they are not mandatory.

20. Home-schooling is a viable option.


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