Michael Barnholden's Reading the Riot Act (Anvil Press) re-approaches historical riots from scratch: attempting to unearth causes previously buried by media spin through interviews with participants and observers both. His examination shows not only a Canada that riots more frequently than we think, but one that does so for more just reasons than losing a hockey game, too.
To celebrate Canada150, we’re turning the page on the most celebrated historical moments and highlighting the footnotes for a change. Take a trip down literary lane with us as we share books on aspects of Canadian history and notable people that don’t always get due attention.
ALU: What brought you to publish Reading the Riot Act?
BK: Part of Anvil's mandate is to publish books about Vancouver and its history, especially aspects of the city's history that are not so well known, e.g.: Vancouver Confidential,
Sensational Vancouver, and This Day in Vancouver. Many locals are familiar with the more recent sports riots, like the Stanley Cup Riot, or the APEC riot, but many are not aware that Vancouver has a long history of rioting, going back to the Anti-Asian riots if 1907 or the Unemployment Riots of the 1930s. I feel, as a Vancouver publisher, that it is crucial to make sure that the full story of our city — including all perspectives — is told and made available to each new generation of readers.
ALU: What impact do you think this work has on Canadian culture/history?
BK: Riots are generally seen as a negative eruption, a sign of impasse, a conflict or negotiation that has come to a stalemate. Sometimes they appear to be about something quite banal, such as "We lost the hockey game." But they are obviously rooted in much deeper disaffections and frustrations that are not being addressed. Hopefully, we can learn from past experiences and be able to avoid such violent and destructive responses in the future. At least, that is the hope.
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Thanks to Brian of Anvil Press for answering our questions, and Anastasia Scherders for facilitating. Remember, buying a copy of
Reading the Riot Act means you get a 2017 poster-calendar, too.
Also, don't forget to follow along with the rest of our #ALUneverforget picks on the
Instagram as we book-hop through the centuries, and check out our
history timeline showcasing still more books that tell Canadian history like it is, or should we say, was.
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