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Marina Nemat demands public apology from Anne-France Goldwater

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:

  • Theresa Lemieux

    I wanted The Tiger to stay on, but I wish it had a smarter advocate.

  • Rbowes

    Unbelievable move my Stacey MacKenzie, voting in hopes of keeping her own book in the running, she will lose on all counts.

  • Michael

    There’s a blatant error in your article. You write “nobody can argue that Prisoner of Tehran is not on this week’s Canadian nonfiction bestsellers’ list.” But if you follow the link you’ll find that it is #15 on the list.  Were you being sarcastic?

    I hope Goldwater apologizes for her slanderous comments.  This kind of ignorance makes me want to turn off the radio, and pick up a book.

  • Michael

    oops. I think I read that line wrong. my bad. you’re right.

  • Fawn

    It’s a bit of a confusing sentence, isn’t it? :)

  • Farah Mawani

     At a time when there are three Canadians unjustly imprisoned in Iran, two of them sentenced to death, I am shocked
    by Ms. Goldwater’s cavalier disregard for the trauma of unjust
    imprisonment and torture. Her defamation of Marina Nemat by questioning
    the veracity of her courageous story has consequences for all current
    prisoners of Tehran. That is not a joke. I urge Ms. Goldwater, Jian
    Ghomeshi and the CBC to formally apologize to Ms. Nemat, and all those
    who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of the brutal
    Iranian regime.

  • Stephen B Wong

    Double negatives are a logician’s positive. LOL! And this one had three: (1) “nobody”, (2) “is not on”, (3) “nonfiction”. Too many squares of opposition, contraries, contradictories to reframe that sentence (and the lower predicate calculus will have a hard time pulling it off). Kudos to Sue Carter Flinn for that challenge.

  • Jim Russell

    Canada Reads has become a joke.  Why can’t they have people who know something instead of these ignorant opinionated know-nothing.  I’ll be watching Ice Road Truckers instead.

  • Ssnyder

    There are very few Canadian books I will read…maybe I’ll read about the Group of Seven – that’s it. But I could hardly put down Ms Nemat’s book, Prisoner of Tehran! I think every Canadian should read this, to make us realize that we need to defend the freedom we still have here in Canada. I don’t know much about this ‘Canada Reads’. But it sounds just about as useless as the United Nations…in reference to the way it has rejected Nemat’s book. To write this very informative biography must’ve been very painful: re-living of something she wanted to forget. But for the sake of the uninformed (us) it was necessary. ‘Prisoner of Tehran’ should be on school curriculums. 

  • Marco43

    Good to see so many people caring passionately about something. 

  • K. Walsh

    I quite enjoy Canada Reads.  This is a contest, put out there  to draw attention to books written by Canadians.
    It is unimportant which book ultimately wins, because the objective has been abundantly achieved.  Each of the nominated authors will benefit greatly from having interest in their book fanned by the lively discussion, broadcast across Canada. 
    I sincerely doubt that any of the authors would have any bitterness or hard feelings about being voted off, in light of the free publicity their books have received.
    Marie-France Goldwater was spectacularly unqualified for a position on the panel.  At best, I might muse that perhaps she simply didn’t understand the nature of the event, or of slander.  At worst, it might seem as though she took the position to further her personal political agenda.
    Either way, CBC could and should have chosen a better, classier “bad guy” character to round out their panel. 

  • Berthe 2

    Me Anne France Goldwater is not a judge, but a lawyer; however, she plays a judge in a TV show.

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