EMWF Panel: Wild World

Thursday October 1, 8:00 - 9:30 p.m. EST (online)

Presenters: Wade Davis, Magdalena: River of Dreams, Steven Heighton, Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos, and James Raffan, Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic

Host: Laura Trethewey, author of The Imperiled Ocean

Take a journey down the wild Magdalena River. Walk in the footsteps of a polar bear on Hudson Bay. Stand on the beach in Lesvos, the landing place of refugee sea crossings. During this session, audience members will have a birds-eye view to stories of landscapes, people, events, and cultures far-flung from our own experience. Journey with Wade Davis, Steven Heighton and James Raffan as they reveal the research, expeditions, consultation, and documentation behind their compelling new books. Part memoir, part history, part journalism, part creative non-fiction – these titles will transport you to new places that will inspire a sense of wonder, and perhaps, a call to action for the future of our planet.

This event includes closed captioning.


Magdalena: River of Dreams
By Wade Davis
Published by Knopf Canada

A captivating new book from Wade Davis--award-winning, bestselling author and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence for more than a decade-- that brings vividly to life the story of the great Río Magdalena, illuminating Colombia's complex past, present, and future

Travelers often become enchanted with the first country that captures their hearts and gives them license to be free. For Wade Davis, it was Colombia. Now in a masterful new book, the bestselling author tells of his travels on the mighty Magdalena, the river that made possible the nation. Along the way, he finds a people who have overcome years of conflict precisely because of their character, informed by an enduring spirit of place, and a deep love of a land that is home to the greatest ecological and geographical diversity on the planet. Only in Colombia can a traveler wash ashore in a coastal desert, follow waterways through wetlands as wide as the sky, ascend narrow tracks through dense tropical forests, and reach verdant Andean valleys rising to soaring ice-clad summits. This rugged and impossible geography finds its perfect coefficient in the topography of the Colombian spirit: restive, potent, at times placid and calm, in moments explosive and wild.

Both a corridor of commerce and a fountain of culture, the wellspring of Colombian music, literature, poetry and prayer, the Magdalena has served in dark times as the graveyard of the nation. And yet, always, it returns as a river of life. At once an absorbing adventure and an inspiring tale of hope and redemption, Magdalena gives us a rare, kaleidoscopic picture of a nation on the verge of a new period of peace. Braiding together memoir, history, and journalism, Wade Davis tells the story of the country's most magnificent river, and in doing so, tells the epic story of Colombia.

Wade Davis is the author of twenty books, including One River, The Wayfinders, and Into the Silence, which won the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, the top award for literary nonfiction in the English language. Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society from 1999 to 2013, he is currently Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. In 2016, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2018 he became an Honorary Citizen of Colombia.

Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos
By Steven Heighton
Published by Biblioasis

In the fall of 2015, Steven Heighton made an overnight decision to travel to the frontlines of the Syrian refugee crisis in Greece and enlist as a volunteer. He arrived on the isle of Lesvos with a duffel bag and a dubious grasp of Greek, his mother's native tongue, and worked on the landing beaches and in OXY—a jerrybuilt, ad hoc transit camp providing simple meals, dry clothes, and a brief rest to refugees after their crossing from Turkey. In a town deserted by the tourists that had been its lifeblood, Heighton—alongside the exhausted locals and under-equipped international aid workers—found himself thrown into emergency roles for which he was woefully unqualified.

From the brief reprieves of volunteer-refugee soccer matches to the riots of Camp Moria, Reaching Mithymna is a firsthand account of the crisis and an engaged exploration of the borders that divide us and the ties that bind.

Steven Heighton’s most recent books are The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep, a novel that has just been optioned for film, and The Waking Comes Late, which received the 2016 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. His work has received four gold National Magazine Awards and has appeared in Granta, Tin HouseZoetropeLondon Review of BooksBest American Mystery StoriesBest American PoetryTLR, and five editions of Best Canadian Stories. His novel Afterlands was cited on year-end lists in the USA, the UK, and Canada, and is in pre-production for film. In 2020 he will publish two books, a nonfiction account of the Middle Eastern refugee influx on Lesvos, Greece, and a children's book drawing on the same events. Heighton is also a translator, an occasional teacher, and a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review.

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Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic
By James Raffan
Published by Simon and Schuster

From bestselling author James Raffan comes an enlightening and original story about a polar bear’s precarious existence in the changing Arctic, reminiscent of John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce.

From the top of the world, Hudson Bay looks like an enormous paw print on the torso of the continent, and through a vast network of lakes and rivers, this bay connects to oceans across the globe. Here, at the heart of everything, walks Nanurjuk, or Nanu, one polar bear among the six thousand that traverse the 1.23 million square kilometers of ice and snow covering the bay.

For millennia, Nanu’s ancestors have roamed this great expanse, living, evolving, and surviving alongside human beings in one of the most challenging and unforgiving habitats on earth. But that world is changing. In the Arctic’s lands and waters, oil has been extracted—and spilled. As global temperatures have risen, the sea ice that Nanu and her young need to hunt seal and fish has melted, forcing them to wait on land where the delicate balance between them and their two-legged neighbors has now shifted.

This is the icescape that author and geographer James Raffan invites us to inhabit in Ice Walker. In precise and provocative prose, he brings readers inside Nanu’s world as she treks uncertainly around the heart of Hudson Bay, searching for nourishment for the children that grow inside her. She stops at nothing to protect her cubs from the dangers she can see—other bears, wolves, whales, human beings—and those she cannot.

By focusing his lens on this bear family, Raffan closes the gap between humans and bears, showing us how, like the water of the Hudson Bay, our existence—and our future—is tied to Nanu’s. He asks us to consider what might be done about this fragile world before it is gone for good. Masterful, vivid, and haunting, Ice Walker is an utterly unique piece of creative nonfiction and a deeply affecting call to action.

James Raffan is a prolific writer, speaker, and geographer, and the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Circling the Midnight SunEmperor of the NorthBark, Skin and Cedar; and Fire in the Bones. He has written for a variety of media outlets, including National GeographicCanadian GeographicUp HereExplore and The Globe and Mail, and produced radio and television documentaries for CBC Radio and the Discovery Channel. His work has taken him all over the world. He is an international fellow of the Explorers Club, a past chair of the Arctic Institute of North America, and a fellow and past governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, service for which he was awarded many medals, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. From 2010 to 2013, he traveled through the Arctic Circle, spending time in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland, as he researched and wrote on culture and climate change in the North. He lives in Seeley’s Bay, Ontario. Visit him at JamesRaffan.ca or follow him on Twitter @raffjam.

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Laura Trethewey is an ocean journalist whose writing has appeared in Smithsonian MagazineCourier International, the WalrusGlobe and MailCanadian Geographic and at Ocean.org, the multimedia storytelling site of the Vancouver Aquarium. The Imperilled Ocean is her first book.

Want a copy of the books featured on this panel?
The Bookshelf (Guelph) is our bookselling partner for this event. If you would like to purchase a copy of one of the books from this event, you can order online at bookshelf.ca or phone 519-821-3311 x1. Free shipping or curbside delivery in Guelph. $10.00 shipping cost outside of Guelph.

Thank you to our supporters:
The Angel Gabriel Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Department of Canadian Heritage, Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation, League of Canadian Poets, Open Book, The Ontario Arts Council, The Pollock Family Fund and Wellington County.