Camilla Gibb Is Happy That Her Book Deals With Sadness

K.J Mullins interviews Toronto writer Camilla Gibb

Camilla Gibb believes in keeping journals, in fact her students at June Callwood Professor in Social Justice are required to keep one during their studies using an actual pen for the art of writing. With five award winning books under her belt Gibb knows the importance of catching those moments that may be forgotten if not written down in the moment. 
Camilla Gibb

Camilla Gibb is the author of 'This Is Happy,' one of the five shortlisted books for this year's RBC Taylor Prize to be announced on March 7 in Toronto. Snow was falling outside as we sat in the lobby at Toronto's King Edward Hotel to discuss her book and how life has changed since it was written. 

Gibb said that her book was documenting a moving target (the birth and first few years of her daughter's life) while looking back to her own upbringing. That moving target, life in motion, has grown in the two years since the book was written. Gibb's story is one that many can relate to; mental health issues, a childhood where silence ruled in place of experiencing feelings and the ending of a relationship with the daunting task of becoming a single mother. As a new mother Gibb built a secure family unit for herself and her daughter with several close friends and family members. 

Reading the book one feels a kinship with the author. As the pages turn the reader becomes invested with this young woman, cheering her victories and wanting to console her during the hard times. By the end of the book you feel like she is a cherished friend that you want to succeed. 

Meeting her face-to-face those same sentiments come through, warm yet reserved Gibb is kind and sentimental. She smiles easily and is clearly devoted to her young daughter. “She is now 5. This is so far my favourite age with her,” the loving mother gushed. One big difference in how her daughter is being raised compared to her own childhood is the use of language to express feelings. “She tells me what she is feeling easily. If she is angry and sad she says so.” 

Like other single mothers in their early 40s she has concerns about her own life, and the reality is sometimes life is not easy. She makes sure to take time for herself including weekly appointments with her doctor. 

Life moves on. Gibb noted that many of those featured in her moving memoir are starting families of their own. Gibb's young daughter is the nucleus for this family of the heart who remain close while moving forward in their own lives. The loving nanny Tita is now a mother herself. Adventurous Miles is about to get married. Gibb's brother is still living in Vancouver, struggling with his demons.  “Each person in my daughter's life serves a different purpose,” Gibb said relating that Miles is the one that her daughter has rough and tumble time with. At the end of the day though it is Gibb who is the nurturing one, mothering with her entire being. 

Gibb's own mother as always remains a constant in her life. There were some concerns that others would she her as cold after reading the book but Gibb smiled confiding that she has heard that many thought her mother came off as sexy and mysterious, after all she did have that spy background. 

Born in the UK, long time resident of Toronto Gibb said that in the past she didn't feel 'at home' in Toronto. That changed once she gave birth to her daughter explaining that with the city being her home has made it feel more like home to Gibb as well.

Sharing the intimate parts of her life could have been hard but the reaction from readers has been an amazing thing for her, who share with her stories of their own lives. “what people have brought back to me has been ten fold,” Gibb shared with a truly happy grin that brightens a snowy day.

Feature story by K.J. Mullins
KJ Mullins


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