The Promise of Canada

People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country

The Promise of Canada

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What does it mean to be a Canadian? What great ideas have changed our country? An award-winning writer casts her eye over our nation’s history, highlighting some of our most important stories.

From the acclaimed historian Charlotte Gray comes a richly rewarding book about what it means to be Canadian. Readers already know Gray as an award-winning biographer, a writer who has brilliantly captured significant individuals and dramatic moments in our history. Now, in The Promise of Canada, she weaves together masterful portraits of nine influential Canadians, creating a unique history of our country.

What do these people—from George-Étienne Cartier and Emily Carr to Tommy Douglas, Margaret Atwood, and Elijah Harper—have in common? Each, according to Charlotte Gray, has left an indelible mark on Canada. Deliberately avoiding a top-down approach to history, Gray has chosen Canadians—some well-known, others less so—whose ideas, she argues, have become part of our collective conversation about who we are as a people. She also highlights many other Canadians from all walks of life who have added to the ongoing debate, showing how our country has reinvented itself in every generation since Confederation, while at the same time holding to certain central beliefs.

Beautifully illustrated with evocative black-and-white historical images and colorful artistic visions, and written in an engaging style, The Promise of Canada is a fresh, thoughtful, and inspiring view of our historical journey. Opening doors into our past, present, and future with this masterful work, Charlotte Gray makes Canada’s history come alive and challenges us to envision the country we want to live in.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476784687 | 
  • May 2018
List Price $24.99 (price may vary by retailer)

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Reading Group Guide

High school level teaching resource for The Promise of Canada, by Charlotte Gray

Author’s Note

Greetings, educators!

While I was in my twenties I spent a year teaching in a high school in England; it was the hardest job I’ve ever done. So first, I want to thank you for doing one of the most important and challenging jobs in our society. And I particularly want to thank you for introducing your students to Canadian history, as they embark on their own futures, because it will help them understand how our past is what makes this country unique.

When I sat down to write The Promise of Canada, I knew I wanted to engage my readers in the personalities and dramas of the past 150 years. Most of us find it much easier to learn about ideas and values through the stories of the individuals that promoted them. Most of us enjoy history more if we are given the tools to understand what it was like back then—back when women didn’t have the vote, or back when Indigenous children were dragged off to residential schools, or back when Quebecers felt so excluded that some of them wanted their own independent country. I wanted my readers to feel the texture of history—the sounds, sights and smells of our predecessors’ lives.

If your students have looked at my book, I hope they will begin to understand how the past is not dead: it has shaped the Canada we live in today. I hop see more

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Experience the sweeping history of Canada through its people and ideas, then discover the tales of those who found shelter here from the storm of revolution. Learn the bizarre and fascinating science behind every day phenomena, and answer more than a few age-old questions....

About the Author

Charlotte Gray
(c) Valberg Imaging

Charlotte Gray

Charlotte Gray, one of Canada’s pre-eminent biographers and historians, has won many awards for her work, including the prestigious Pierre Berton Award for a body of historical writing, the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction, the Ottawa Book Award, the Toronto Book Award, and the CAA Birks Family Foundation Award for Biography. Over nine superb biographies, from Mrs. King and Sisters in the Wilderness to The Massey Murder, and masterful books such as The Museum Called Canada and Canada: A Portrait in Letters, she has brought our past to vivid life. Gray is a Member of the Order of Canada and was a panelist on the 2013 edition of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. She lives in Ottawa.