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Author

BELONGING: THE PARADOX OF CITIZENSHIP (2014)

Never has the world experienced greater movement of peoples from one country to another, from one continent to another. These seismic shifts in population have brought about huge challenges for all societies. In this year’s Massey Lectures, Canada’s twenty-sixth Governor General and bestselling author Adrienne Clarkson argues that a sense of belonging is a necessary mediation between an individual and a society. She masterfully chronicles the evolution of citizenship throughout the ages: from the genesis of the idea of the citizen in ancient Greece, to the medieval structures of guilds and class; from the revolutionary period which gave birth to the modern nation-state, to present-day citizenship based on shared values, consensus, and pluralism. Clarkson places particular emphasis on the Canadian model, which promotes immigration, parliamentary democracy, and the rule of law, and the First Nations circle, which embodies notions of expansion and equality. She concludes by looking forward, using the Bhutanese example of Gross National Happiness to determine how we measure up today and how far we have to go to bring into being the citizen, and the society, of tomorrow.

Room for All of us (2012)

In this unusually revealing personal inquiry, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson explores the immigrant experience through the people who have helped transform Canada. The Canadians she befriends—whether an Ismaili politician, a Holocaust survivor, a Chilean artist, or a Vietnam War deserter—illustrate the changing idea of what it means to be Canadian and the kind of country we have created over the decades. Like her, many of the people who came to Canada did not have a real choice; they often arrived friendless and with a sense of loss. Yet their struggles and successes have enriched our country immeasurably.

Written with humour and insight, and enriched by Clarkson’s own memories of her trajectory from Hong Kong refugee to distinguished Canadian figure, Room for All of Us is a tale of many destinies and an unforgettable portrait of a changing country and its people. In this exciting and revealing personal inquiry, former governor general Adrienne Clarkson explores the immigrant experience through the people who have helped transform Canada.

Extraordinary Canadians series - Norman Bethune (2009)

Norman Bethune—the most famous Canadian in the world, hero to a billion and a half Chinese—was a surgeon, medical inventor, tumultuous romantic, and advocate for the poor. Adrienne Clarkson makes fascinating sense of this complicated man by showing how every stage of his life prepared him for what followed. Born on the Canadian Shield, he worked with illiterate labourers in rough lumber camps, and later interrupted his medical studies to become a stretcher-bearer in World War I. Having battled with tuberculosis both as a patient and as a doctor, he created the first mobile blood-transfusion unit in the Spanish Civil War. Bethune died serving the guerrilla forces of Mao Zedong, but throughout his life he was driven to ease human suffering, and in doing so he embodied a new Canadian spirit of internationalism. 

Heart matters: A memoir (2006)

Adrienne Clarkson’s beginnings—her family escaped from Japanese-occupied Hong Kong in 1942—were a harbinger of the drama that would echo through her life. After growing up in Ottawa, and studying in Toronto and France, she launched a successful CBC television career that lasted nearly three decades.

Then in 1999, Clarkson returned to Ottawa to become Canada’s twenty-sixth Governor General—an office she transformed through her commitment, style, and compassion. Travelling thousands of kilometres to small communities in Canada and abroad, Clarkson reached out to Canadians everywhere, particularly to the North’s Aboriginal population. She also met with international figures from Queen Elizabeth to Nelson Mandela and Vladimir Putin, and hosted foreign dignitaries—including one whose entourage had to be dissuaded from sporting loaded pistols inside Rideau Hall.

Clarkson forged a unique bond with the military in her position as Commander in Chief and travelled to Kosovo, Bosnia, the Arabian Gulf, and twice to Afghanistan to visit Canadian troops. Her determination to invest meaning in all her official actions created controversy at times, whether it was refashioning Rideau Hall into a real home and showcasing it for the public, or including writers and artists on state visits. Clarkson reflects on some of the behind-the-scenes machinations with a close-up view of how politics sometimes works.

Heart Matters is more than a public life remembered. It chronicles an astonishing journey through triumph and turmoil. The always poised Clarkson reveals that life was not as smooth as it appeared, and with remarkable candour and poignancy, she reflects on the heartaches of her earlier years—her beautiful but troubled mother, the death of an infant, a divorce, and the estrangement from her two daughters and their later reunion.

Insightful and inspiring, Heart Matters is an extraordinary work by an extraordinary Canadian.

Adrienne's Book List

6 books Adrienne Clarkson wants you to read.