In the winter of 2016, Brigitte Berry received an email from Helena Merriam, the library technician program coordinator, saying she had just won the first prize for the Algonquin Reads competition.
“I was surprised because I didn’t remember signing up for that,” said Berry.
Berry is a third-year business administration student and is looking forward to starting her Bachelors in Commerce at Nipissing University this fall.
For Berry, who comes from a mixed background – half Canadian and half Filipino – culture means everything as it helps to understand people and the world at large.
She was born on July 27, 1993 in Canada, where she has lived all her life. Her mother is an immigrant from the Philippines and she has an older brother.
“I like reading – or I enjoy reading,” said Berry.
“But, I don’t like reading extensively.”
When Berry first enrolled at the college, she was in the journalism program, and after a year she realized that journalism wasn’t really what she was passionate about.
“So, I enrolled in the three-years business program,” she said.
Berry took a popular Canadian literature class last semester as an elective, and her teacher Catrina McBride had them read a book called Man, written by a Vietnamese-Canadian, Kim Thuy, and write a 1,500 words essay on it.
While her mother was from the Philippines, Berry was born and raised in Canada. She and her family have been to the Philippines several times.
This is how her connection with Thuy, the author of the book Man impresses her.
“It’s a nicely written book,” she said with a smile.
“And almost poetic in the sense that the author writes her thoughts and memories as a Vietnamese immigrant coming to Canada.”
Berry confessed that she hasn’t really read any thing else that extensively. She is passionate about culture, so she could relate to the writer.
“My essay was specifically analyzing how the author contrasts Canadians and Vietnamese,” explained Berry.
It was her teacher, McBride who had submitted her essay for the Algonquin Reads contest.
Every year, the Algonquin Reads project selects a Canadian book and the prizes go to the best creative piece, critical essay and book review.
Berry’s essay won as the best critical essay for the Algonquin Reads 2016, and she received a $75 check in the mail as a prize.
“This was a pleasant surprise to me,” said Berry.
“I am not a creative writer but I really enjoyed reading that book.”