February 27, 2012

Metamorphosis by David Suzuki

This is Suzuki's 1987 biography, written when he was about 50 years old. I read it years ago, but now re-read it, skipping only the very detailed parts about the years he spent studying fruit flies.

I found it an intriguing book for a number of reasons. Every resident of B.C., at least, should read it for its highly personal account of the consequences of the Japanese internment during World War II. Suzuki was a young lad when he and his family were abruptly uprooted and forcibly moved to the Kootenays, losing everything they owned. I had not realized (but Suzuki explains it very clearly) that after the war, the Japanese were not really welcome to go back to Vancouver. They were pressured in every which way (and most of them bowed to this pressure as they had little choice) to move east instead. Suzuki's family landed up in Ontario where some of their relatives had gone. It is a story of terrible shame for Canadians, not least because as the Prime Minister admitted in the midst of the evacuation, not one single incident of a Japanese Canadian being a threat to Canada's security had ever been documented. 

Suzuki also writes knowledgeably about academic life and in particular the life of a passionate scientist, and the costs to his family of his dedication to his work. It's a bit discombobulating at times as he documents, with disconcerting honesty and humility,  his own arrogance as a young husband and academic.

The other part I found quite interesting is his inside look at the workings of the CBC, how it's funded and how the politics of being employed there worked (and didn't work) for him. 

Suzuki was the keynote speaker at a teacher's conference I was at in Vancouver in 1988, shortly after the book was written. It was great - he gave the speech his all; there was no sense that this was just another duty for him. 

All in all, this is a good read. I see David Suzuki as an important part of my Canadian cultural heritage. He's a thoughtful man who is willing to change his mind and he has changed a lot in the past 25 years. In 2006, he published another autobiography about the years after 1987, called  David Suzuki: The Autobiography. It was his 43rd -  and, he said, his last - book. I'll be interested to read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment