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Book Reviews

The Next Canada: In Search of Our Future Nation

by Myrna Kostash

It’s a daunting task, making sense of an entire generation. Particularly one as polycultural and socially diverse as Canada’s current crop of 25-35-year-olds. So we look to writers to provide perspective and focus, to stamp a path through thickets of data toward clearings of coherence and wisdom. In The Next Canada, however, Myrna Kostash leaves us lost in the woods.

Over the past three years, Kostash – who came of age in the countercultural 1960s – has interviewed dozens of 20- and 30-somethings across the country, from a variety of fields, including politics, business, education, and the arts. The Next Canada addresses some worthy questions: what community means in an age of global consumerism and wired culture; how multiculturalism and the shadow of America affect the Canadian identity.

However, the presentation will discourage all but the most determined readers. Ostensibly organized along major themes, including economy, culture, and politics, the book lurches haphazardly from topic to topic, from person to person. There’s no sense of rhetorical purpose or progression – the author seems to have declared the manuscript a segue-free zone – and the overall effect is numbing.

Kostash’s legwork is commendable, and the book does offer snapshots of many intriguing young Canadians. Editors of magazines like Eyetalian and Zdorov (the latter aimed at Ukrainian-Canadians) offer the perspective of overlapping cultures, while young social workers on the job – at shelters, food banks, and rehab centres – relate powerful stories. The book’s treatment of its subjects, however, rarely moves beyond the fleeting and superficial.

In the end, we learn more about what Myrna Kostash thinks than anything else. Too often she foregoes any discussion of
“the next Canada” in favour of long sermons on the evils of big business, or the importance of public health care. These arguments rely on passion over substance; even sympathetic readers are unlikely to find them compelling or convincing.