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Shandi Mitchell reading 16 May 2012

The 2012 Reading Series at The Charles W. Stockey Centre continues with a reading on Wednesday 16 May, at 7:30 pm, by Shandi Mitchell reading from her novel Under This Unbroken Sky. I have been enthusiastically recommending Under This Unbroken Sky to readers since it’s publication in the fall of 2009. It is one of the best books I have ever read – an intense and absorbing story, brilliantly written and shaped. I have sometimes described it as a novel similar in intensity to The Kiterunner, but set on the Canadian Prairies – there is the same sense of impending disaster – you know that something terrible is going to happen to someone, but you don’t know when or to whom. It is an exceptional novel.

Under This Unbroken Sky was the winner of The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best First Book Award, and The Thomas Head Raddall Fiction Award, and was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Most recently Under This Unbroken Sky was awarded the 2012 Kobzar Literary Award. Jury members Denise Chong, Nino Ricci, Randall Maggs and M.G. Vassanji, called Under This Unbroken Sky a "compelling and poignant narrative that honours the ancestry of many Canadian Ukrainians who worked for a better life during the depression era." The Kobzar award is presented biannually since 2006 awarding $25,000 to a literary work that best presents a Ukrainian Canadian theme.

Accepting the award, Shandi Mitchell said, "It did mean a great deal to come back to the Ukrainian community with this story. It meant a great deal to say a story that my baba could never speak aloud. Those silences are chasing generations. We are losing all our narratives, and we need to gather them."

Under This Unbroken Sky began as Shandi Mitchell resolved to gather her own family history after learning the truth about the death of her Ukrainian born grandfather. What she discovered was “stories untold, stories lost and forgotten”.

As she was “gathering up the pieces“ of her heritage she found that as she re-visited the Prairies where she had grown up, before living for twenty years in Nova Scotia, she was also finding the pieces of herself – making discoveries she had not known she was seeking.

Under This Unbroken Sky follows two families, related by birth and marriage, living on the Canadian Prairies in the 1930’s. Isolated by language and geography they struggle to clear the land, plant their crops, erect a shelter for themselves and their animals, to make a home for their children. Their challenges are great, and so is their courage.

Literary readings provide a great opportunity to learn about authors and novels and I know that this reading by Shandi Mitchell will be an exhilarating and intellectually stimulating evening for all.

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