In My Opinion: Find the comfort and compassion in history

The urge to bury oneself in a snowdrift has been particularly tempting lately. But this off-again-on-again winter, with its blizzard-like snowfalls that seem to collect and melt in the course of an evening, has prompted me to seek other channels for calm and escape: a historical talk there, a quirky play or art opening here. Most often, though, I’ve been at court – buried in Tudor fiction since late fall.

And while Henry VIII and his advisors are increasingly feeling less like an escape and more like a parallel for America’s 45th president and the company he keeps, there’s still nothing like curling up with a good book to escape these winter doldrums and gain some perspective.

This issue’s Beach Books section offers several excellent avenues for local literary engagement and comfort.

Ron Kasman turns comic book fantasy on its head, using the visual medium to tell the story of a different, but not so fantastical, type of quest. Other works of fiction visit entirely different worlds – vampires, small town Ontario.

Some choices stay closer to home. Local heritage conservationist Scott Kennedy takes his readers on a journey through the history of Don Mills, while Jim Sanderson transports us back to Toronto Island in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

And for those who don’t want to escape, but want to understand more fully the political climate we live in, Joyce Nelson’s deep dive into the economics of the Bank of Canada is an eye-opening account of the privatization of Canada’s public assets and our new economic reality, and offers ideas to improve the system.

Another account that helps in understanding today’s headlines can be found right in these pages.

Riccarda Balogh, a familiar face to many as a longtime resident and teacher in the area – and an accomplished participant in many a Beaches Spring Sprint – shares her story on our centre pages, part of our Canada 150 coverage.

Riccarda came to Canada from Hungary as a refugee in the ‘50s. Her escape was not easy, as you will read. But despite hardship and loss –  or perhaps, because of it –  she managed to foster a resilient, generous spirit that has stuck with her through her years in Canada.

This is part one of a two-part memoir, written by her hand, and I hope you will join us for its thrilling conclusion next issue.

This neighbourhood is a welcoming one, full of heart. Just look at the many people who have helped make the East End feel like home for those who arrive to our country under duress. But as more and more people make Canada their home this spring and summer –  particularly those crossing North American borders on foot, arriving outside of official channels – and we see increasing attempts to villainize those fleeing oppression and strife, stories like Riccarda’s need to be shouted from the rooftops. These stories are a reminder of history, of who we believe ourselves to be on the eve of Canada 150, and of the good that can grow from hardship

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