The Human Books

Roksana Bahramitash: Iranian immigrant and sociologist
Roksana Bahamitash earned her PhD in Sociology from McGill University.She is the winner of many awards such as the Eileen D. Ross award (2003-04). Her Post doctoral research was selected by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) as one of the three most distinguished research projects in Canada and submitted to the Canadian parliament. In 2006 she won a three-year research grant from the SSHRC. Bahramitash has taught at McGill University and Concordia University and worked with several international development agencies including the Canadian Development Agency (CIDA), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and more recently the World Bank. Bahramitash has recently completed a survey female entrepreneurship in Iran funded by the World Bank. Her first book was “Liberation from Liberalization: Gender and Globalization in Southeast Asia” (Zed, 2005, reprinted in India 2008). This book has been translated into Persian and published by SAMT as a university text book in Iran. Her recent books are entitled “Veiled Employment: Islamism and the Political Economy of Women’s Employment in Iran“ by Syracuse University Press (co-edited with Hadi Salehi-Esfahani) 2011 and “Gender in Contemporary Iran: Pushing the Boundaries“ with Rutledge, (co-edited with Eric Hooglund) 2011. She has produced a documentary on women in Afghanistan, Beyond the Borqua. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Chair of Islam Pluralism and Globalization at the University of Montreal.

Gabrielle Bouchard: trans and an advocate for trans people at Concordia University
Gabrielle Bouchard is a trans woman who is the Peer Support and Trans Advocacy Coordinator at the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy. Trans-feminist, she does research on and advocacy for trans people’s rights.

Andrew Chang: CBC News Montreal co-anchor
As co-anchor of CBC Montreal’s supper-time newscast, Andrew Chang has led Montrealers through virtually every recent major event in Quebec. He anchored Montreal’s 2011 federal election night special, which saw the unprecedented rise of the NDP in the province, and the resulting collapse of the Bloc Québécois; he was also the first, among local English television networks, to tell Montrealers about the assassination of mafia godfather Nicolo Rizzuto.

Before becoming an anchor, he worked as one of CBC’s chief staff reporters, covering breaking news at both the local and network level – from the Dawson College shootings, to the collapse of the de la Concorde overpass in Laval, to a month-long stint on the Parti Québécois campaign bus during the 2008 provincial election. During this time, Andrew was also working as a video journalist – interviewing the newsmakers, writing and reporting the story, shooting and editing the video, and finally presenting it all on CBC News: Montreal. With a camera over his shoulder, Andrew spent years producing both news-length and feature-length reports, from across the province.

Now Andrew co-hosts CBC News: Montreal at 5, 5:30 and 6, every weekday evening. On weekends, it’s a different story though – he spends his time snowboarding, hiking, and indulging in one of his many other passions: music.

Rabbi Lisa Grushcow: openly gay, married parent of two children, Rabbi Andrea Myers’s partner
Born a Conservative Jew, Rabbi Lisa Grushcow is now the Senior Rabbi of the Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Westmount, the oldest Reform synagogue in Canada. She is the first woman to attain a senior rabbinical position in Montreal. Rabbi Grushcow studied at Oxford for three years as a Rhodes Scholar where she engaged in Jewish-Christian-Muslim interfaith dialogue and studied European liberal Judaism. A lesbian with a wife and two children, Rabbi Grushcow is an advocate for the LGBT community.

Rabbi Andrea Myers: author, openly gay, married parent of two children, Rabbi Lisa Grushcow’s partner
Rabbi Andrea Myers is the author of  The Choosing: A Rabbi’s Journey from Silent Nights to High Holy Days (Rutgers University Press, April 2011). After receiving her BA in neuroscience from Brandeis University, she studied for two years in Jerusalem. She was ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion (AJR), an interdenominational seminary in New York City. She is a member of the New York Board of Rabbis, and has led congregations from the Rocky Mountains to the Borscht Belt. In Montreal, she is teaching at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom.

Marlene Jennings: Executive Director of the YM-YWHA, former Member of Parliament
Marlene Jennings was the first black woman from Quebec to be elected to Parliament, serving five terms as the MP for Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce – Lachine riding. She became partially blind in 2011 and is also one of the few MPs who has had a physical disability. She is currently head of the Montreal YM-YWHA.

Georges Laraque: former NHL enforcer and sports commentator, ex-Hab, vegan
“Ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed of playing in the NHL. “ It is almost every little boy’s dream. But the road to professional hockey was tougher for Georges Laraque, because of the racism he encountered along the road.  He often thought of quitting but he read an autobiography that changed his life and helped him reach his goal. After a career as an enforcer in the NHL, Georges Laraque turned to politics…and became the deputy leader of the Green Party. That’s in addition to becoming a sports commentator on TVA sports – a leading French language television network.  Laraque became a vegan in 2009 to protest animal abuse by the meat industry. He owns two raw vegan restaurants called Crudessence.

Jason Edward Lewis: First Nations game designer and Concordia University professor
Jason Edward Lewis is Associate Professor of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University. He is a digital media artist, poet and software designer who founded Obx Laboratory for Experimental Media. At Obx Labs, he directs research and projects to assist aboriginal communities tell their stories through creative new media. He also co-founded and co-directs the Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) research network that is investigating how aboriginal people can participate in the shaping of our digital media future, and he co-directs workshops combining traditional stories and game design at the Kahnawake First Nations’ high school. Lewis is deeply committed to developing intriguing new forms of expression by working on conceptual, creative and technical levels simultaneously. His creative work has been featured at the Ars Electronica Center, ISEA, SIGGRAPH, Urban Screens and Mobilefest. His writing about new media has been presented at conferences, festivals and exhibitions on four continents and his work with AbTeC has won multiple awards.

Andrew Ploevets: former bully, who works with LOVE – reaching out to youth at risk
“‘You should be nicer to him,’ a schoolmate had once said to me of some awfully ill-favored boy. ‘He has no friends.’ This, I realized with a pang of pity that I can still remember, was only true as long as everybody agreed to it.” This sentiment, expressed by Christopher Hitchens in his memoir, is one to which almost everyone can relate. Bullying, the act of negatively singling out an individual simply because they are different, is an experience that transcends cultural and economic backgrounds. Some individuals are courageous enough to recognize their own role in the bullying of another person and to instead choose LOVE over HATE. Andrew Ploevets is one such person who has owned up to his past culpability. Now in his 30s, he is speaking out against bullying and trying to help victims. Through his choice to love, the cycle is broken and the common experience of bullying becomes not so common after all.

Lela Savic: Romani, activist for her community
Lela Savic is a Romani journalist and documentary filmmaker living in Montreal. She was born in Yugoslavia and knows much about the stereotyping and racism Romani people face in Europe and in Canada.

David Testo: former Impact player and gay advocate
David Testo had an incredible soccer career. Starting in college playing for the University of South Carolina, Testo later played professionally for the Richmond Kickers, the Columbus Crew, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the Montreal Impact. There is, however, one thing that separates Testo from most other athletes. As he announced through an interview in 2011 to Radio Canada, he is gay. Since publicly coming out, Testo has received a great deal of support from his friends and former teammates. “You just have to imagine all the guys out there struggling with the same issue, and maybe if I take this step, it will create some kind of moment of change,” said Testo, who believes we are beginning to head in the right direction, but still have a lot of work to do. He currently resides in Montreal working as a yoga instructor, and campaigns against homophobia in sports through the activism campaign “You Can Play.”

Kim Thúy: author of Ru, 2012 Giller Prize nominee
Forced to leave her birthplace of Saigon as a child, Kim Thúy made a new home in Quebec and became a Canadian citizen. Now only 44 years old, she has led an incredibly varied life, earning a number of degrees from Université de Montréal and working as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer, and restaurant owner. After several career changes, she began writing with great success. Her debut novel Ru earned international acclaim and won the 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award for French-language Fiction as well as a prestigious prize at the Salon du Livre de Paris. “It is about the privilege of the lucky few who have survived chaos and seen beauty coming to them in the most unexpected ways,” says Thúy of Ru. The novel captures the physical and emotional struggles of a child fleeing from Saigon, causing some controversy in Vietnam where the history of the “boat people” is controversial and politically sensitive.

Frank Verpaelst: musician, computer support technician, blogger and a dwarf
Frank is a Montrealer with a zest for life.  Born with dwarfism, he’s now 49 years old and stands 4 foot 7 inches tall. His joints grew unevenly and, by the time he was ten years old, he’d spent several long stretches of time in the hospital having surgical procedures. He’s married to a regular-height woman and they have one daughter who does not have dwarfism. He does tech support for corporate clients and, in his spare time, blogs, podcasts and plays musical instruments. A natural-born storyteller, he’s one of the warmest individuals you’ll ever meet. 

Father John Walsh: Catholic priest, former radio host, and interfaith blogger
Born in Montreal, Father John Walsh has been a priest for over 45 years, spreading his ministry to schools, and police and fire departments. He has also taught at Concordia University, been a CJAD radio talk-show host, and is a published author who has lectured in the United States as well as Canada. Currently, he is a blogger and co-founded with Muslim and Jewish colleagues the interfaith blog, Father Walsh studied at the Université de Montréal as well as the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.