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Canada Reads winner recounts where hate and apathy can lead

The winner has been announced. 

 Defended by television personality Ziya Tong this year’s Canada Reads Winner is Max Eisen, and his book By Chance Alone. His book recounts how he survived Auschwitz during the Second World War when he was only 15 years old. 

Eisen has dedicated his life to educating people about the Holocaust, and the dangers of hate and apathy. 

Tong, a science journalist, won a 3-2 vote against Canadian band Simple Plan’s drummer Chuck Comeau, who was defending Homes, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung. The match was tense, as both defenders attempted to show that their book was One Book to Move You, which was the theme of this year’s Canada Reads. 

In a quote from CBC, Tong illustrates why By Chance Alone is such a moving read. 

“[By Chance Alone] simply differs in scale from any of the losses that we’re talking about in all the books on the table. Because here we’re talking about, not only the loss of his hair, the loss of his clothes, the loss of his name to an identity that became A9892, the loss of all of his worldly belongings except for a pair of shoes, the loss of his home that was given away to his neighbours, the loss of his entire family,  his mother, his father, his aunt, his uncles, his sisters, his brothers, up to 300 members of his own family. He lost all sense of normalcy. And, fundamentally, he lost his human rights.” 

The reason Eisen wrote this book, and the reason Tong chose it to defend, was because it shows what happens when hate runs freely, and how dangerous apathy can be. While Eisen did write this book to show the world the consequences of hatred and apathy, it started with a promise to his father.

“My father and uncle were selected on July 9, 1944, for medical experiments, never to be seen again. We had only seconds to say goodbye, and my father gave me a blessing and told me that if I managed to survive, I must tell the world what happened. That was a big driver for my need to tell this story in the form of a book, and I’ve done this, and here we are today,” Eisen said in an interview with Ottawa Morning. 

The rest of Eisen’s family, including his mother, siblings, aunt, and cousins, were sent to the gas chambers. 

To listen to an interview with Ziya Tong and Max Eisen by Tom Power for q, visit this webpage.

To listen to an interview with Max Eisen on why he wrote this book, follow visit this webpage.

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Deborah van der Linde

Deborah is a librarian who is passionate about books, storytelling, and writing. Thanks to her husband Adam’s military career, they have had the great fortune of living all across Canada. Deborah and Adam have two delightful children and a dog that thinks he’s one of the kids.

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