My Father's Secret wasn't always the name of my novel. For the longest time I stubbornly clung to the title A Nation's Shame. My wife was the first person to review my manuscript. She suggested I change the title because it didn't quite sit right with her. She thought it sounded too academic. Like a fool, I dismissed her concerns.
I went through the initial planning phase for the novel with my design team and they came up with the cover mockups above. I told them I wanted a Canadian flag and an open sea included in the design. When I shared the covers with my closest advisors, the middle cover got the thumbs up (I liked the one on the far left). However, two of my advisors felt strongly that the title needed to be changed. From their perspective, A Nation's Shame didn't sound like a work of fiction. To them, when you superimpose the title onto the cover art that I had selected, the book looked more like an government report than a novel. In other words, they agreed with my wife's position—the one I dismissed after she read my draft manuscript. Now I had two different sources telling me the title I coveted was a bust. This created a bit of a crisis for me. Here I was in the design phase of a self-published book and my title had to go.
This wasn't a very pleasant experience for me. It took a few days, and quite a few emails to my advisors—and even more discussions with my wife (who I now refer to as my business manager)—before we settled on My Father's Secret. I actually came up with the title while I was laying down for a nap, trying to calm the stresses that had come with the scrapping of A Nation's Shame. My business manager/wife rejected a lot of titles, but when I said My Father's Secret, she responded, "That could work." I dare not dismiss her a second time.
For the record, my wife has been my number one supporter through the entire process of writing and publishing the novel. While I was a bit of a stubborn fool early on, I came to rely on, and take to heart, her advice. If it weren't for her guidance, I would have given most of my books away or charged people a pittance. She kept me on point. And she was right to do it. I am not just saying this: she is the yin to my yang. I would be a floundering idiot without her there to balance things out for me.
As it turns out (I have shifted back to the title of my book now), calling the book My Father's Secret was the right move for two reasons.
Put in the context of our entire national history, the Air India tragedy, the inspiration behind My Father's Secret, constitutes a colossal failure of government and law enforcement to do the right thing. It is also a massive, collective failure of the Canadian people to do more than pay lip service to multiculturalism, and to recognize that the bombing of those Air India planes was an attack on the fabric of our nation. I maintain that Canadians should be ashamed that the terrorist bombings and mass murder of 331 people has been relegated to a mere footnote in our nation's history. To date, there has been no true reckoning for what happened in and around June 23, 1985.
However, when the Air India tragedy is juxtaposed with what Canada has done to Indigenous people, a compelling argument emerges wherein our white, mostly male, predecessors participated in a long, drawn out form of genocide. We tried to 'take the Indian out of the Indian.' We tried to destroy families and First Nations. An honest account of our history demonstrates that we tried to make the Indigenous people disappear. Thank god we failed.
While the Air India tragedy is shameful (and I will continue to vigorously defend this position), the attempted long-term subjugation and elimination of Indigenous people is our nation's shame.
Sean Patrick Dolan's Blog
Sean Patrick Dolan is the author of the thriller, My Father's Secret, inspired by the Air India Bombing.