Chow’s (midlife) journey


Olivia has now written more books than Rob Ford has read,” said David Worsley, co-owner of Words Worth Books, as he introduced the highly esteemed politician, Olivia Chow, to a theatre full of enthusiastic clapping. 

On Jan. 21, Chow stopped at The Princess Twin Cinema in Uptown Waterloo as part of a tour that she is undertaking to introduce her first book, My Journey. She plans to make her next stop in Toronto. 

Chow’s memoir chronicles the first 50 some odd years of her life, beginning with her childhood in Hong Kong and covering all the way to her present position as a political powerhouse. The book is a record of her struggles, accomplishments, and hopes for the future. 

Some parts of the book describe instances of poverty and abuse that she experienced as a young woman, and others the times of joy spent with her husband and,  former NDP leader, the late Jack Layton. Other passages address her journey through the grief over the death of her much beloved husband, as well as her reaffirmation in the beauty and peace of life.

As a politician who could possibly run for the position of mayor of Toronto, many members of the audience were pushing her to reveal her political agenda during the presentation. Chow offered them little certainty, instead stressing her views on the importance of team co-operation and her faith in the government’s ability to purge itself of inadequacies and rejuvenate itself in order to improve the lives of all citizens. 

Chow said that she would rather have a discussion on the possibilities for change that people can accomplish co-operatively, like improving the lives of the poor, for instance. 

“We need to focus on what brings us together. Power lies in togetherness. I want to focus on the good,” she said. 

Even though Chow was reluctant to talk about running for mayor, members of the audience just wouldn’t drop the subject, and eventually Chow offered her opinion of Toronto’s controversial leader, saying, “We are so much more than Rob Ford. I don’t want my grandkids to have Rob Ford as their role model. I don’t think parents want Rob Ford as their kids’ role model, so yeah, we need a change, but am I the person? I’m not sure, so when I make a decision I’ll let you know.” 

Even though Chow managed to avoid giving anyone a solid answer on the possibility of her running for Toronto mayor, she still achieved momentous applause and chuckles of approval from the audience for at least acknowledging her distaste towards Ford. 

According to Chow, My Journey was very much inspired by her negotiations with the loss of her husband. During her time of mourning, many people reportedly came up to her and asked about how she was handling not having her husband by her side. Often they would share with her their own personal experiences with grief and loss. Chow eventually realized that she had a story to tell and, with some further encouragement from a friend, she began to write her tale. 

Still, Chow found that writing the book was no easy task. In an interview after the show, she said that one of the greatest barriers in the construction of My Journey was her doubts in her ability to take on such a large commitment. 

“The hardest roadblock was to believe that I could actually get it done. In the beginning I thought, ‘Can I really write a book?’” said Chow. “And once I did an outline, I thought, ‘Really, can I actually start?’ So, once I overcame that, then it flowed.”