Hope is Better Than Fear: Paying Jack Layton Forward (Review)

July 5, 2012

Book cover for "Hope is Better Than Fear".Title: Hope is Better Than Fear: Paying Jack Layton Forward

Publication Year: 2011

Pages: 77

Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays

Source: Review copy from the publisher through NetGalley

From the cover:

An e-book original inspired by the vision of late NDP leader Jack Layton with short, personal essays by a diverse line-up of Canadian writers and activists.

HOPE IS BETTER THAN FEAR reflects upon and looks forward on a number of issues that Jack Layton championed over the course of his extraordinary career as an activist, city councillor and federal politician, including homelessness, feminism, civic engagement, the environment and — very dear to his heart — the Native experience, which is why Random House of Canada is donating its net proceeds from the sale of this e-book to aboriginal youth initiatives, as designated by his widow, the MP Olivia Chow. Taking up the charge to inspire and challenge readers and tap into Jack’s energy, optimism and drive, contributors Tzeporah Berman, Jane Doe, Pierre-Luc Dusseault, David Miller, Rex Murphy and Steven Page, among others, pay tribute to Jack’s record and point out what we need to do next. With this book, we are both honouring his life and work and paying Jack forward.

If you are at all interested in Canadian politics, you’ll know who Jack Layton is. You may love or hate him, depending on your political stripes, but you can’t deny that he – and the Orange Wave – was a force to be reckoned with during the last election.

Hope is Better Than Fear is a very short, concise collection of essays about Layton’s legacy, named after one of the lines in his farewell letter before he died of cancer almost a year ago. Each writer in the collection addresses a specific component of Layton’s life or legacy, from aboriginal affairs to environmental activism. I found most of these essays to be interesting and compelling, even teaching me more about Layton’s political and personal career than I had ever known about before.

There was one essay that didn’t really fit: “A Persuasion of the Person: The Impact of Jack Layton’s Rhetoric” by Rex Murphy. It was way too much theory, and the explanations were almost entirely off-topic. In the grand scheme of the collection, this essay was significantly less personal than the others, and touched on Layton’s life in a much more superficial way. The remainder of the essays, though, were pitch-perfect and enjoyable.

I have to say that this book is probably only interesting and relevant to those who are interested in Canadian politics, but maybe I’m wrong. It could be an interesting read for anyone who wants insight into the progressive, left-wing movement currently moving through Canada, particularly our neighbours to the south. So give Hope is Better Than Fear a try – it’s a quick read and definitely worth the time you will put in.

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