My favorite books on belonging and exclusion in Canada

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and a social geographer whose main interest is in examining why some of us are embraced (legally, politically, economically, culturally) by the society we live in while some others are excluded. Probably due to my status as someone who is an immigrant to Canada and also a person with a disability, the topic of belonging and exclusion fascinates me. 


I wrote...

Not Good Enough for Canada: Canadian Public Discourse Around Issues of Inadmissibility for Potential Immigrants with Diseases And/Or Disabilities

By Valentina Capurri,

Book cover of Not Good Enough for Canada: Canadian Public Discourse Around Issues of Inadmissibility for Potential Immigrants with Diseases And/Or Disabilities

What is my book about?

Not Good Enough for Canada investigates the development of Canadian immigration policy with respect to persons with a disease or disability throughout the twentieth century. With an emphasis on social history, this book examines the way the state operates through legislation to achieve its goals of self-preservation even when such legislation contradicts state commitments to equality rights.

Looking at the ways federal politicians, mainstream media, and the judicial system have perceived persons with disabilities, specifically immigrant applicants with disabilities, this book reveals how Canadian immigration policy has systematically omitted any reference to this group, rendering them socially invisible.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Exalted Subjects: Studies in the Making of Race and Nation in Canada

Valentina Capurri Why did I love this book?

This is an exceptionally well-written and meaningful study that has greatly helped me understand how the national subject is conceptualized in Canada. As an immigrant to this country who became a citizen through a challenging and demoralizing process, this book has enabled me to see how some of us are framed as belonging while others are excluded from the Canadian nation. I have also learned how (above and beyond the national mythology surrounding it) multiculturalism has been deployed to boost Canada’s profile as a liberalizing nation while, at the same time, operating as a tool to control ethnic and religious minorities.  

By Sunera Thobani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Exalted Subjects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Questions of national identity, indigenous rights, citizenship, and migration have acquired unprecedented relevance in this age of globalization. In Exalted Subjects, noted feminist scholar Sunera Thobani examines the meanings and complexities of these questions in a Canadian context. Based in the theoretical traditions of political economy and cultural / post-colonial studies, this book examines how the national subject has been conceptualized in Canada at particular historical junctures, and how state policies and popular practices have exalted certain subjects over others. Foregrounding the concept of 'race' as a critical relation of power, Thobani examines how processes of racialization contribute to sustaining…


Book cover of Omar Khadr, Oh Canada

Valentina Capurri Why did I love this book?

Omar Khadr is a personal friend of mine, the gentlest soul I have met since setting foot on Canadian soil. This collection has been essential to my understanding of Canada’s unwillingness to stand up for one of its own citizens. It highlights how belonging in the nation is not necessarily a right all citizens enjoy, and invites a serious reflection on what citizenship means in this country.  

By Janice Williamson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Omar Khadr, Oh Canada as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2002 a fifteen-year-old Canadian citizen was captured in Afghanistan for allegedly killing an American soldier. A badly wounded Omar Khadr was transferred to the US Bagram Air Force base and then Guantanamo Bay detention camp. He would remain there without trial until October 2010, when a military commission admitted evidence considered tainted by Canadian courts. A plea bargain and guilty plea initiated his promised return to Canada a year later. Some Canadians see Khadr as a symbol of terrorism in action. For others he is the victim of a jihadist father and Canadian complicity in the unjust excesses, including…


Book cover of Rethinking Normalcy: A Disability Studies Reader

Valentina Capurri Why did I love this book?

As a person with a disability, this collection spoke to my direct experience of exclusion in Canadian society. Because every chapter is written by a different scholar in the field of disability studies, this edited collection is able to present a diverse range of perspectives that really resonate with the reader, and provocatively question the concept of ‘normalcy’ that is at the root of the discrimination against those of us who do not fit in.

By Tanya Titchkosky (editor), Rod Michalko (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rethinking Normalcy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rethinking Normalcy introduces the growing field of disability studies to an undergraduate audience in a variety of disciplines and programs based in the social sciences, humanities, and health sciences. The authors articulate the depth and breadth of this newly emerging field of study and provide a vibrant foretaste of the kind of work disability studies scholars and activists do to provocatively question the power of normalcy.

Strongly interdisciplinary, this volume draws upon many different social and cultural approaches to the study of disability, and essentially addresses disability as a social and political issue.

The chapters in this book exemplify ways…


Book cover of Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries Into Indigenous Deaths in Custody

Valentina Capurri Why did I love this book?

I was not born in Canada and I only arrived here in my early twenties without being aware of the colonial past or present of my new home. This study has helped me understand that portion of Canadian history and its present repercussions. Equally important, it has highlighted how Indigenous persons have and continue to be dehumanized, excluded and ‘othered’ across the country. 

By Sherene Razack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dying from Improvement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No matter where in Canada they occur, inquiries and inquests into untimely Indigenous deaths in state custody often tell the same story. Repeating details of fatty livers, mental illness, alcoholic belligerence, and a mysterious incapacity to cope with modern life, the legal proceedings declare that there are no villains here, only inevitable casualties of Indigenous life. But what about a sixty-seven-year-old man who dies in a hospital in police custody with a large, visible, purple boot print on his chest? Or a barely conscious, alcoholic older man, dropped off by police in a dark alley on a cold Vancouver night?…


Book cover of Aqueduct: Colonialism, Resources, and the Histories We Remember

Valentina Capurri Why did I love this book?

I really love this study because it provides a crystal-clear example of how colonialism and dispossession have worked in Canada from the legal, cultural, political, and social angles. It also delves into the topic of the histories we, as a country, choose to remember and those we choose to forget, as well as the issue of who is forgotten in the process. 

By Adele Perry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Aqueduct as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1919 is often recalled as the year of the Winnipeg General Strike, but it was also the year that water from Shoal Lake first flowed in Winnipeg taps. For the Anishinaabe community of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, construction of the aqueduct led to a chain of difficult circumstances that culminated in their isolation on a man-made island where, for almost two decades, they have lacked access to clean drinking water.

In Aqueduct: Colonialism, Resources and the History We Remember, Adele Perry analyzes the development of Winnipeg's municipal water supply as an example of the history of settler colonialism. Drawing…


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Book cover of Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old?: Plan Now to Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age

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What is my book about?

Everything you need to know to plan for your own safe, financially secure, healthy, and happy old age.

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Who Will Take Care of Me When I'm Old?: Plan Now to Safeguard Your Health and Happiness in Old Age

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