Jian Ghomeshi, Marina Nemat, and Arlene Dickinson during happier times at the Canada Reads launch event in November
When Canada Reads resident blogger Terry Fallis (who won last year for his novel The Best Laid Plans) accidentally posted a spoiler on Twitter that Marina Nemat’s Prisoner of Tehran was the first book to be voted off the 2012 competition, little did he know the drama was just beginning.
Selected earlier as the readers’ favourite in an online poll, Prisoner of Tehran was voted off in a tie-breaker by model Stacey McKenzie, and actor Alan Thicke dismissed the memoir for not being Canadian enough (“This is not called Tehran Reads”). Still, it was Quebec judge Anne-France Goldwater who was quickly vilified on social media by Nemat supporters. Goldwater suggested that while she believes books about human rights are important, she would have “preferred truer stories” that are “better representative of the people.” (She also referred to Something Fierce author Carmen Aguirre as a terrorist).
The drama continued on Facebook, where Nemat posted a defence of her book:
Prisoner of Tehran was just voted off Canada Reads simply because it is the most popular in Canada according to the polls. Thank you Canada for your vote of confidence, which is what really matters to me. The judges seemed to be interested in winning only and not in which book actually has more merit. Very disappointing and irresponsible I think, but I will survive and continue speaking out. Thank [sic] again for your support!
In the comments following her message, Nemat says her supporters will attend the rest of the debate, which ends on Feb. 9, and will hold up copies of her book in protest.
Later in the afternoon, Nemat posted a second Facebook message, this time asking for a public apology from Goldwater:
Please let me be clear that I have no problems with being eliminated from Canada Reads. What I have a problem with though is that Ms. Goldwater, one of the panelists, called me a liar and called Carmen Aguirre a terrorist! That is not okay. I hope she can produce evidence to back up her claims. If not, I would like to receive a public apology from her.
But regardless of what was said during the competition or how high the books are held, nobody can argue that Prisoner of Tehran is not on this week’s Canadian nonfiction bestsellers’ list.
Here are just some of the reactions from Twitter about today’s show: