What is life like for an immigrant or refugee moving to Toronto? Mike and Christina talk about their experiences serving newcomers in library branches, then Mike interviews staff from the library and COSTI about helping newcomers in their integration journey. Then Mike and Christina give book recommendations about immigration and the newcomer experience.
Books and films discussed:
7 Suitcases by Ahmed Marie, Farah Marie, Hala Marie and Cynthia Spring
We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories From Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai
My Journey by Olivia Chow
The Boat People by Sharon Bala
Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey From Syria in a Wheelchair by Nujeen Mustafa and Christina Lamb.
Resilience and Triumph: Immigrant Women Tell Their Stories by the Book Project Collective
Grandfather's Journey by Alley Say
Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith
The Ward: the Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood edited by John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg, and Tatum Taylor
For Sama (on PBS) directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
Library services and partnerships discussed:
Using the library if you're new to Canada
Settling in Toronto
ESL & Newcomer Programs at TPL
COSTI Immigrant Services
OverDrive (Getting Started with Overdrive guides)
Mike: Welcome to Shelve Under: Podcast, the Toronto Public Library podcast for readers, writers and everyone new to Canada. That's right, today we're talking about newcomers. My name is Mike and I'll be talking with my colleague Christina about our experiences serving newcomers in library branches. Then I'll talk with Elsa, the library's Senior Services Specialist for Multicultural Services, as well as Mirna from COSTI Immigrant Services, about partnerships between the library and community agencies. And as always, we'll end with some book recommendations.
Christina: So, Mike, what made you want to highlight the newcomer services at Toronto Public Library?
Mike: Well, I mean, I was sort of thinking that... About how much my time working for the library has impacted how I see newcomers and the way that sort of my understanding of the newcomer experience has grown thanks to my time working for the library, because really so much of working sort of on the front desk and working on the frontlines in the library, you see this sort of daily struggles that newcomers go through as they're trying to adjust to life in Toronto, in Canada. And that can be things like trying to come into a library branch to use a computer to fill out government forms, trying to access different services, not being aware of the different services that are in the community. Often, a lot of newcomers have children and they're trying to get help for their children to adapt to a new school life and a new language. So just thinking of how much we sort of see those daily challenges that newcomers face and, you know, those challenges that aren't necessarily highlighted a lot necessarily, maybe, when people think about newcomers and what it's like to adapt to life in Canada and Toronto.
Christina: What have you noticed, like any changes since you've been working for the library?
Mike: I'm not sure if I've noticed changes myself. I mean, I sort of don't directly... I haven't had a position that's really directly dealt with newcomers as part of the services that I help provide. And other than the ways that I mentioned of helping people on the desk as they come into a branch. We've got an interview coming up with the library staff member who is who is much more involved with newcomer services in the library as their role. I mean, a lot of things have changed around technology, which has brought its own benefits and complications to newcomers. You know, it's a lot easier for them to connect with family back home and sort of, probably, that I imagine that helps sort of the feelings of isolation that can come when you're moving to a new city or in a new country and you're not familiar with people. But there's a whole host of challenges now where, you know, with so many government forms that are going online for people that may not have Internet access, they may have just challenges using a computer. You know, they may not know they have those technology skills to easily get on and know how to fill out a form online. And then, of course, there's the language barrier where if you're just being told to fill out something online, you know, you don't have that human interaction of someone helping you fill out that form. And, you know, being aware of what information you're supposed to fill out. So a lot of times as library staff, you know, we're helping people, trying to answer, as best as we can, some of those questions when, you know, we're not obviously familiar with these forms ourselves in a lot of cases. So those are some changes that I've seen.
Christina: And yeah, how you were saying at the beginning to you, we don't really, I guess, notice these challenges as much. Or, not notice. Like, I wouldn't know what they, like I can't imagine the challenge it must be to come to a new country and then not knowing how to navigate all these services. Yeah. I don't know if that makes sense.
Mike: Yeah. No, definitely. I mean, it's you know, I was born in Toronto and my family, my grandparents on my mom's side were the most recent people to immigrate to Canada, which was... They came from Austria after World War Two. So like very... My mom is very naturalized, my dad's family has been here going back to United Empire Loyalists. So, you know, this experience is not one that really I had any direct contact with growing up other than friends and their parents. But, you know, as a kid, you don't see what it's like when your friends or their parents are struggling to adapt to a new country or new city. And so, like, really, just like I said, my time in the library has sort of broadened my perspective of a lot of the the difficulties and challenges that come on a daily basis. And I'm really frankly amazed at what people are able to accomplish and do and persevere to adapt to living in a new country and a new city. Like, it's really incredible to me.
Christina: It is. Like, if I could use my mom as an example, she came here with very limited knowledge of English. And she took classes, English classes at Scadding Court and George Brown. And I can't imagine doing that and trying to find a job with your limited skills and then raising two children with my dad. So it's just... I don't know, I feel like sometimes we take things for granted. And, you know, I guess I'm glad that you are bringing these services or highlighting these services, because I think it's important for everybody to know about them. And I guess what newcomers experience or what challenges they experience.
Mike: Yeah, that's sort of what I was trying to do with this one. And I feel like this is really even heightened more now with the COVID-19 pandemic. Trying to navigate a new country has become even harder for people. I was reading an article today about people that had immigrated to Canada just in February, just before, you know, a lot of these lockdowns and everything started changing. And, you know, if you don't have a social insurance number, you're not eligible for a lot of the benefits that are happening right now. And, you know, you're especially isolated because you don't know people likely, or potentially, in a new country or new city.
Christina: And there's no classes you can go to.
Mike: Yeah. Like all those things are changing. And, you know, a lot of information that you may have been given beforehand or coming into Toronto, getting set up through community agencies. I mean, a lot of that information will now have changed. And, you know, maybe the information was translated before, but likely now the information, you know, it takes a while to translate things. So everything's just gonna be coming out in an English first and eventually gets translated to other languages. But there's always going to be a bit of a lag in finding out the most current information about services. And I think about other people who, you know, maybe haven't just you know, they've immigrated.. They've been here longer than a month or so, but you know, they're the ones who are more likely, probably, going to be working jobs where they still have to go out. And, you know, they're not able to work from home, they don't have... Newcomers probably aren't as likely to have the jobs that give them the ability to work from home. So they're the ones still going out and delivering food and working, you know, essential services that are still out there. So it's... I'm thinking about it even more right now as this is all going on.
Christina: Yeah, it's kind of sad when you think about it, actually. So you interviewed Elsa and Mirna.
Mike: Yes. And they'll introduce themselves as well. Elsa works for the library and Mirna works for COSTI Immigrant Services and they do a lot of work together. A lot of the partnerships that the library has in providing newcomer services are with different agencies like COSTI. This is just one of the many agencies that the library partners with to help provide newcomer services within our branches. And as you'll hear in the interview as well, library staff going out and offering services in other locations as well.
Mike: OK. Elsa, we can start with you. So if you want to tell us who you are and explain your role in TPL.
Elsa: So my name is Elsa. I'm the Senior Services Specialist for Multicultural Services for Toronto Public Library. So my role involves looking after the multicultural and newcomer services at TPL as a system.
Mike: And can you give me some examples of things you might be working on in TPL, some projects?
Elsa: I'm so one project I oversee is the library sentiment partnerships. It's a Immigration Refugees Citizenship funded project. And what it is, we, Toronto Public Library, partners with seven settlement agencies to provide information, referral and programs for newcomers at 14 locations. So it means that there are settlement workers at 14 locations supporting newcomers as part of the integration journey. Another thing I help look after is, somewhat, the different city outreach. So, for example, I'm part of the planning team that looks after the City of Toronto's Annual Toronto Newcomer Day.
Mike: Great. And Mirna, if you could introduce yourself and your role and COSTI.
Mirna: So my name is Mirna and I'm the General Manager for Stakeholder Engagement at COSTI. I'm going to talk a bit about COSTI as well. So COSTI is a community based multi-cultural organization that has been working in the settlement sector since the year 1952. I think we are maybe sixty seven years old now. So we provide employment, education, settlement and social services to all immigrant communities and new Canadians and also individuals in need of assistance. Some of the settlement services that we offer include helping them find a house, apply for OHIP, employment training, language training. In relation to my specific role, so it's centred on overseeing the organization's stakeholder engagement. Specifically, I manage the strategic partnerships where I maintain and forge relations with like minded organizations like TPL in the aim of complementing our services so that we ensure that the integration journey of newcomers is as easy as possible for them. I'm going to talk about this, because we're going to talk about TPL later, I'm going to talk about other partnerships as examples. So I work closely with the Together Project and with them we match welcome groups of five or more volunteers with government assisted refugees for settlement and integration support. So the Welcome Group program is based on the hypothesis that when your, in a way, social network is big, your integration is easier and it's easy for you to become independent as well. So far, I think we've helped more than 400 refugee newcomer families, specifically the government assisted ones. Another example is our partnership with the Muslim Welfare Canada. So the Muslim Welfare Canada came up with the initiative since 2016 to help the Syrian families specifically by providing them a welcome home kit. But now we are in a way delivering this welcome home kit to all our government assisted refugees. This, in a way, gives the newcomers a feeling that they are welcomed by their communities and their welcome kits is really essential because it contains around 30 plus items of linens, blankets, cleaning supplies, groceries and kitchenware items as well. In addition to partnerships, I also oversee our volunteer program, because we realized that volunteers, specifically for our work, is key. They help us in a way to welcome also the newcomers that we work with and we have many different positions for newcomers, for volunteers.
Mike: And for the people that are coming in and are coming into COSTI, why are they coming to Canada?
Mirna: I will talk about my own experience and what I've heard from other newcomers. So I came here because I felt, for me, it's the land of diversity, it's peaceful here, and I will find education opportunities that fit my aspirations and my children's aspirations. I hear also the newcomers say almost the same. They feel that they will have opportunities to start maybe their own business or better work opportunities. For refugees, it's a safe haven. They feel they will be able to live safely with their children and have a better future.
Mike: And you mentioned the integration journeys that newcomers go through when they come to Canada. So what is life like for someone coming to Canada either as a newcomer or a refugee?
Mirna: When we talk about integration, it's not easy. Like, there are many stages and factors that affect one's integration. I passed some, in some of them, but the main ones are knowing the language of the country you're settling in, being able to have the opportunity to find employment, finding houses, housing. Also access to health services, education services, your civic engagement and social capital as well. So all of these are factors that affect the integration. And I think at COSTI and, in a way, Elsa's role, is that we work together in the hope of helping newcomers overcome some of these integration barriers so that we may get their settlement journey in a way easier.
Mike: And Elsa, does that match what we're seeing in our library branches as well? And what you see in your role?
Elsa: Yes, I know that like a lot of families come also for family reunification. But part of that is also about opportunities, safety. And it's also is challenging, I think, in our time. I know that for some newcomers, it's a big move to move from one country to another. There's a lot of things to worry about. There's a lot of things to understand. And given the vast information that's out there, it is easier for some newcomers, but it's harder as well, because there's so much information out there, there's so much to digest, there's so much to understand, that sometimes it's hard to distinguish what information is actually credible and what's not. And I think that's what makes it hard and easy at the same time.
Mike: Is there anything that you're doing or the library is doing to try to help people... Direct them to better information?
Elsa: So, yeah, at the library we have welcome documents that's been translated to 40 languages and it lists out all the different things that the library can help newcomers with. We have resources that will help newcomers. For example, we have most of our branches have ESL collections and in a lot of our branches we have multilingual collections and also our staff are equipped to understand how to help newcomers with finding information. And in addition, as I mentioned, the Library Settlement Partnerships, the settlement workers at the 14 locations are always there to assist with information, referral and programs that are catered and customized to the newcomer's needs. So then the five themes that usually come up, as Mirna also mentioned, is health, education, employment, housing and a sense of belonging.
Mike: And Mirna, as you've been working with newcomers and with COSTI, what changes have you seen? Is it easier or harder for newcomers now to come to Canada?
Mirna: From what I've seen, I've been working in the sector now for four years and I always see it as evolving and changing to meet the needs of the newcomers. I can give like one example based on our experience working with the Syrian refugee newcomers. There were specific programs that you're not entitled to enroll in if your English level was I think 4... 5. But because we've noticed that these... Many of the Syrian refugee newcomers who came to the Greater Toronto Area and other areas in Canada, their level of English is a bit lower, so they lowered the benchmark for specific programs like the entrepreneurship programs because many of the Syrians wanted to start their own business. So this is like one example of how I see the sector adapting. Another example is the coordination within the sector. So one of the means of coordination, and I think Toronto Public Library is part of this as well as us, is the Local Immigration Partnerships where community organizations come together to develop and implement local settlement strategies so that we enhance the service delivery to newcomers while promoting effectiveness and, in a way, innovation as well.
Elsa: And it's good for a lot of different community agencies to be part of the LIPs and to be part of, like, to know about the community because through the LIPs there's different services and information that come through. And, you know, you can kind of keep an eye on everything. Also on specific needs, because as we, I think Mirna and I haven't mentioned, is we do know that sometimes newcomers have a lot of pressures, have a lot of barriers to manage, so that their mental health needs to be looked after as well. So there's now more agencies that focus on mental health of the newcomers.
Mirna: Exactly. And here we should, I think, also mention the use of technology in the last maybe four, ten years as well by the settlement sector. For example, we have a specific program called Orientation to Ontario, which supports newcomers to Ontario and ensures their, in a way, smooth transition. It has resources about many topics, like how to get the driver licence and on webinars, for example, how to search for housing, how to rent a house or how to buy a house as well. So all of these webinars are also important. And we're using technology, as I said, which we didn't use before. And I've seen, specifically with the Syrian project, a lot of use of the social media as well as a means to support the community the came.
Mike: Great. What are some common misconceptions you hear about newcomers?
Mirna: There are many, actually. One of them that I keep hearing is that we always, in Canada, bring refugees as immigrants more than any other class. And here, based on the statistics of 2017, 58% of the immigrants that came were under the economic immigration category and then we have another quarter on the family class and only 15% are refugees. So this is one of the misconceptions. And based on the number of UNHCR refugees, it's 1.2 million. So what we are bringing to resettle in Canada is like really minimal compared to the worldwide numbers.
Mike: And sorry to interrupt. Just can you explain a little bit about economic class of immigrant vs. family class just for people that may not be familiar?
Mirna: So the economic class is the skilled, mainly the skilled immigrants, those who have skills and are coming to mainly for work opportunities. The family class, it's like family reunification or sponsoring a member of your family.
Mike: Okay. I interrupted you there. Any other misconceptions?
Mirna: The other one is that refugees and immigrants are a strain on our Canadian economy and they drain our resources. Here I would say that our immigration policy is designed to attract skilled workers and most immigrants bring diverse education experience and are invaluable resources. And as I mentioned earlier, many of them do start their own business, like they are business entrepreneurs and this is actually helping our economy. It's not a burden on our economy.
Elsa: And just adding to Mirna's point, there's also the misconception that newcomers take away jobs. And to use the words of the co-founder of Peace by Chocolate, Tareq Hadhad, he had mentioned many times at his different interviews that immigrants are not here to take away jobs, that actually come here to create jobs, because a lot of them are entrepreneurs and they start small business and they actually create jobs to make the economy more vibrant.
Mike: Great. So we've talked a lot about joint projects and work that's done between community agencies and the library. So Elsa, if you could explain a bit some joint projects that TPL and COSTI have worked on together.
Elsa: So Mirna and I have been working together since 2016. And we started working together because of all the work that both partners had been doing for the Syrian newcomers. We connected by having the library staff go into the different hotel sites where the government assisted refugees were seen temporarily and library staff would go in and do storytime for the families. And we also tried to bring in additional children's programs to let the kids be kids again. And just as a way to introduce the library to the newcomers so that they know that wherever they resettled, they can look for a public library and there'll be free resources, there'll be children's programs, there'll be family programs. There'll be programs that will cater to the parents, to the grandparents, for their business needs, for their community needs, there's a library there to help out. And it started in 2016 and we continued until 2017. And that's when the wave of asylum seekers started to come. And since then, we've been working together to continue the story time, but this time it's for these asylum seekers at the different sites. And we're still continuing on at three sites and it's usually about weekly to bi weekly story time. But last year, we were able to have a community librarian at some of the sites to provide in-person library service. So the community librarian would offer programs that's customized to the client's needs and that could be from user education to looking up... navigating the information systems that we have in Canada and also programs for the kids. She will also make library cards on site and she would explain all the different uses of the library cards and the library services and programs to the clients on site.
Mirna: This is, in a way, one of my favourite that we did together, the mobile library one. And the other one is when you had additionally, remember, when you had additional funding and you were able to bring specific cultural activities to the different centres and one of them was the Indigenous puppet show. It was, for me personally and for the children in the different shelters, an experience to start also knowing about First Nations here in Canada. So I really enjoyed it as well and the children enjoyed it.
Mike: So, Mirna, what impact does a partnership like this have on people who are settling into Canada?
Mirna: At COSTI, we're really grateful for our partnership with Toronto Public Library and the impact has been phenomenal because we've seen children starting picking up the language, even those who have zero knowledge of the language. So after the storytelling sessions, they start like saying hello, thank you. They can introduce themselves as well. In addition, because the different librarians who come on site, they talk about specific community or cultural events, so they also start, in a way, are introduced to the different activities that we have and they start to know about our culture here in Canada, so I see it as really crucial for their integration process. Because many of them forgot about school, many of them, like the specifically the government assisted refugees, before they came to Canada, they have been living in camps and they were out of school for years. So, like, some of them, it would be maybe the first time for them to hold a story in their hands. So this is really important as well.
Mike: And what impact does the library see?
Elsa: For the families, they're finding more time to bond again. That's how I see it. Also, because they also get to meet with other families because, you know, some of the sites are pretty big, right, so they may not see each other and it's a way for them to get together and come together and learn something together and enjoy half an hour of fun, song and music and reading. And also, the kids love to do the crafts. I've seen so many times that kids would complete the craft and bring it to the staff and say... And just showing to the staff how proud they are to have completed the craft and how much joy it brings to them. And again, it's to highlight that, you know, the library isn't just the building. We can be out in the community and be part of the community.
Mike: So we'd like to end with some book recommendations. So Elsa, if you want to start us off with some book recommendations for people about the immigrant experience, they could be fiction, non-fiction.
Elsa: So I'll start with one that it's been one of my latest favourite. It's called "7 Suitcases" and is by children of a Syrian newcomer family who are staying in Guelph. And it's a picture book and it's about a seven or eight year old girl, how she sees her journey from where she was to Canada. And it's Canadian, that's why I'm promoting it, because we read the north. And the other one is by Malala. "We are Displaced" is about her journey and stories from other refugee girls from around the world sharing their experience and how they come about to where they are. One is by... It's an immigrant story and it's by Olivia Chow and is called "My Journey." And it actually talks about how she started in Canada, how she started as a school trustee to the time she's running to become a politician in Toronto and in Ontario. And the last one I'll talk about is "The Boat People" by Sharon Bala. This one is based on a true event. And it's about a group of Tamil refugees, how... from them leaving their country through arriving to Canada, what the process is like. But I think what I love about this book is how Sharon Bala really speaks to the anxiety, the nervousness and all the obstacles that the refugees have to go through in order to come and may or may not get to stay in Canada.
Mike: And Mirna, do you have some book recommendations for us, too?
Elsa: Did I steal all your books?
Mirna: I'm going to talk about one that my daughter is reading currently. It's called "Nujeen." It's her memoir, but Christina Lamb is the one who helped her finalize it. It's about a girl from Aleppo and her story about escaping the war and going to Germany and she's a girl with a disability. So it's really an interesting one. The other one I'm gonna talk about is "Resilience and Triumph: Immigrant Women Tell Their Stories" by the Book Project Collective. It has different stories about women. It's really an inspiring one, like you hear different stories, how they in a way integrated and the journeys they went through and some of their successes as well.
Mike: Great. Well, thank you both so very much for coming in and sharing your experiences and your knowledge with us today. I think people hopefully learned a lot about the newcomer experience and the way both of our organizations work to help newcomers and refugees settle in Toronto. So thank you.
Elsa: Thank you.
Mike: Thanks, Mike.
Christina: That was a great interview. I learned a lot more of the services that the library offered. I didn't realize how much they did and the partnerships that we had.
Mike: Yeah. I mean, you know, not all branches have settlement workers on them. It's usually sort of some of our larger branches may have them. I think you've been at some branches that have had settlement workers.
Christina: Yeah, we have Stanley. And it's been great just watching him work with his clients and just how, I guess, rewarding it is to see the process and the things that they have to deal with. So that's also opened my eyes as well. Yeah, it's great. I think it's a wonderful service.
Mike: I've worked with some of these settlement counsellors sometimes on something called the Newcomer Orientation Week and this is done typically in August for newcomer students who will be entering high school for the first time. And they often sort of partner up with the local branch and they have the students for a week to sort of get them ready for school and take them around the city and get them oriented to what life going to high school is going to be like. And usually one afternoon or morning of that week is going into a library branch, getting them set up with library cards and having a staff member sort of provide an overview of some of the library services that they'd be able to get access to help them out in high school. So I've been able to partner with the settlement workers a couple of times at a couple of branches that I've been at for the Newcomer Orientation Week, which is always a lot of fun. And it's just like one of the many, many programs that they help organize in branches.
Christina: I really like that line that Elsa had said, something about the library not just being a building and being part of the community. And I feel like this is such a wonderful thing to do and it's a nice intro. I feel like if I ever moved to a city... Like, when I lived in a different city, I find that going to a library has been one of the first things that I do and I think this is great.
Mike: Yeah, but it's also interesting too, because people come in with their own cultural understandings of what a library is. Depending on where they come from, you know, the library might not necessarily be free. So that's... I don't know if that's a question that you've encountered a lot as you're maybe making someone on their first Toronto Public Library card, but oftentimes at the end of it, they just kind of go like, "so what does this cost? Like, do I have to pay anything?" And it's always nice to just be able to say like, no, this is all free, this is all things you can access for free.
Christina: That's really interesting because when I do register for cards, I do get that question a lot and that surprised me, but it kind of shouldn't. When I lived in London in Wakefield, when I signed up for a library card, the card itself was free. But I remember borrowing either a CD or DVD and having to pay to do that, but not for books. So I thought that was interesting. And then I thought, oh, wow, Toronto really has a great system where everything is free.
Mike: Yeah, and you know, people can get a library card, you know, regardless of their citizenship status and things like that. So it's always... We are really one of those points in the city, in the community, that we get to welcome people to their new life in Toronto. So I always feel... I really feel like privileged that I get to be part of that process and really welcoming people into the city. It's this wonderful part about working for the library.
Christina: It is great. And I think it was Mirna that mentioned that they have a welcome kit that includes, I think, linen and food or something. I thought that was also like a nice gesture because I guess when you're moving to a new place, you also don't have a lot of things right away.
Mike: Yeah. I mean, you know, the work that these community agencies do is is really tremendous. I know, obviously. So this interview, I should say, was recorded back in late January. So obviously, you know, the world has changed quite significantly since this was recorded. So COSTI has gone online with a lot of their classes now. So they're they're doing all their education and training online. They are still operating... I know they have at least one sort of family shelter that they operate in the city. So that is still going on. But the way they've had to offer all these services has changed significantly as well. And, you know, so my hat goes off to them for adapting and still doing their best to try help newcomers and people settling in Toronto during this time.
Christina: Yeah. It's amazing what they've had to, like, come up with and adapt to the times. So it's wonderful that they're still able to provide some services.
Mike: So there's no easy segue to this, but maybe do you want to get into some of our book recommendations as well?
Christina: Sure. So my first one is actually a children's book called "Grandfather's Journey" by Alan Say. And it's kind of an autobiographical book about his grandfather who travelled to North America and then eventually immigrated to California. But while he was there, he still... sorry, he came from Japan. So he missed Japan when he was living in California, but then he picked up, moved his family and went back to Japan. But when he was in Japan, he dreamt of California. So it's this moment of, I guess, struggling between, not struggling between, I guess, being between two homes and figuring out where is home. And there is a nice line at the end where it's written, "the moment I'm in one country, I'm homesick for the other." So it's, I think on top of like learning a new language, it's just figuring out where you belong and where home is. And it's such a beautifully illustrated book. Yeah. How about you?
Mike: So the first one that I have to recommend is graphic non-fiction. This is available in OverDrive. It is called "Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration" by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith. And this is, like I said, it's a non-fiction book. And it is an interesting one that I sort of stumbled across and is an economic view of immigration and the writer's idea that there should just be open borders everywhere. Which is... it's a bit extreme, I will admit, and this is not something that I agreed with completely all the points. But it was a good book that challenged how I view things. So Bryan Caplan is an economist and so his is largely an economics based view of immigration and the economic benefits that can come out of allowing more immigration into countries, but also with an ethical side of by allowing open borders and letting people immigrate to wherever they wish and to places that will have a higher quality of life, there is also an ethical component where you're improving the quality of life of people who are immigrating to certain countries as well as improving the economic state in that country by allowing more immigration. Did that make sense?
Christina: I think so. I can't even picture that as a graphic novel.
Mike: Yeah, it's actually, it's really well done and sort of a lot of the visual... It's one of those ones where, because it is sort of academic and, you know, it is based on the research that Bryan Caplan has done, the visuals do help to, if you're a more visual learner, to help explain some of the concepts that he talks about. So I've never read anything like this. Like, I had never heard of this open borders theory before. And so to me, I really enjoyed it because it was, you know, just this new way of viewing borders and immigration and both the the economic and ethical side of it. So, yeah, I really recommend that one. Like I said, we do have it in Overdrive, so you would still be able to access it right now. And that was "Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration."
Christina: Wow, that's so interesting.
Mike: And what's your next recommendation?
Christina: It's called "The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood" and it's edited by John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg and Tatum Taylor. And it's a collection of essays by various writers that talk about the neighbourhood that was pretty much demolished. That's the area that's, I think, bounded by College and Queen, Yonge and University. A lot of newcomers and immigrants called that place home and it was considered a slum. So it's a nice, I guess, introduction to Toronto's history. But it's a great look into the city's history of a very diverse neighbourhood and which was also poverty stricken. So, yeah, it's a nice look into our history.
Mike: Yeah, it is amazing how much of the city is has changed and, you know, sort of how neighbourhoods change over time as well.
Mike: So what's your next recommendation?
Mike: I'm going to recommend a documentary. This is available in the TPL catalogue, but only as a DVD, but I actually found out that it is available on YouTube because it's from PBS. So it is available online. And it's a tough one to watch. It's called "For Sama" and it is a documentary made by a journalist in Aleppo. And her husband is one of the few doctors left in Aleppo and they're running a hospital.
Christina: Oh, I think I've heard of this one.
Mike: Yes, I think it was nominated for an Academy Award either this year or last year. And they have a child together, their daughter Sama. So the documentary is chronicling their experience in Aleppo, keeping this hospital open and running while constantly getting bombed and not sure of whether or not to leave the country and dealing with all the conflicting feelings of how do they help their country, how do they, you know, stay for, potentially, to rebuild it versus their, you know, struggle for survival? It does have a lot of graphic imagery because it does take place in a hospital. If you're a parent and you have trouble watching, especially, bad things happening to children, I would not recommend this one. This is one I had to, like, watch in like three different sittings just because it's a bit of a gut wrenching documentary. I find the way I best understand things sometimes this visually, so seeing that first person view of what Aleppo looked like and what life was like there during constant bombings and air raids, this is the best thing that I've seen to really get me to understand how bad things were there. So if you're in the mood for a really depressing documentary right now, depressing is maybe not the right word, but it's, like I said, it's it's a tough one to watch. But I would really recommend it just to really understand what people were going through and what they were fleeing. It was just absolutely incredible and that once again is called "For Sama."
Christina: Wow, I'll put that on my to watch list. So my next recommendation would be, it's a graphic memoir called "Almost American Girl" by Robin Ha. And I just finished this. And it's about a mother who takes her daughter from South Korea to the States on a supposed vacation, but they end up moving there and she doesn't tell her daughter this. So the daughter has a hard time, or Robin has a hard time, I guess, adjusting to this new life and eventually her mother enrolls her in a comic drawing class and it helped her overcome the challenges of belonging and fitting into this new society. And I highly recommend it. It's very touching. And I found myself relating a lot to Robin, even though I was born in Toronto. But it was just being, because of my ethnicity, it's you're always, I guess it's kind of sad to say, but I'm always considered the other. So I relate it to that fact in this book. So I highly recommend it.
Mike: Yeah, that is a really good one. I feel like we could just give all our recommendations of graphic memoirs that people and the immigrant experience in graphic memoir, like, it's a really wonderful genre.
Christina: It's fantastic. We should do an episode on this.
Mike: I really could. I was trying my best not to just give graphic novel recommendations for all of these and because there are a lot of really great ones and that's one. Well, thanks for the great recommendations, Christina. And it was great talking to you, as always.
Christina: You, too.
Mike: Chat soon.