Sue-Ann Levy was born to a traditional patriarchal Jewish family in which the son was considered accomplished simply for being born, and she realized from an early age that she would not fit into the mold designated for her. An outspoken, right-wing lipstick lesbian, Levy has spent her life challenging the status quo -- from championing the underdog, to taking on the Liberal left, to running as the first openly gay candidate for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party in 2009.
Underdog chronicles Levy's journey through Toronto politics with the same candid, humorous, and self-deprecating approach for which she has become famous for in her daily columns. Persuasive and timely, Sue-Ann Levy will inspire readers to speak up against the inequalities in our political and justice systems.
|Publisher:||McClelland & Stewart|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||862 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Although I’ve completed ten half marathons and too many ten-kilometre events to count in my ten years as a runner, I’m probably the least competitive runner there is. This is in stark contrast to how focused I can be in my efforts to scoop the competition with a story. When I run, I rarely pay attention to how fast I’m going or to the obstacles in front of me. I just run around them. I usually sport one of the latest Garmin watches and a Fitbit, but I do that more to clock how far I’ve gone and how many calories I’ve burned, being ever mindful of the cardio burn of running and that endorphin rush that tends to come about twenty minutes into my route. My three- to four-times- weekly jog has become not just a workout but my special escape from all the stresses of life, a time to deal with personal issues and come up with a list of column ideas. I first took up running at the age of forty-eight, the same week I decided to seek therapy so I wouldn’t turn fifty still being angry about my past. And I am not even referring to living in a closeted relationship for twenty years, but rather to having been brutally assaulted not once but twice in my life, the first time left for dead by my assailant.
I am not a runner who finishes a route quickly. More often than not I have the distinction of being the slowest in my running group. I like to take notice of my surroundings, people watch, and observe the goings on of my adopted city of Toronto. I pass my long runs of two to three hours by challenging myself to find at least one story about the city along the way. I often say I’ve gotten to know Toronto’s neighbourhoods far better when I’ve trained for the half marathons than as a journalist for twenty-six years running.
Taking in the world around me is so important to me that I get annoyed if I have to run alongside someone. While training in the winter of 2014–15 with my running group for my first half marathon in three years, I invariably found myself either at the back of the pack or content to do the runs at my own pace. My running coaches have a hard time believing I can run for up to three hours by myself, but I have no problem doing so. It isn’t just the rather late age I took up the sport, or that I have the furthest thing from an optimal runner’s body, carrying far too much weight above the waist. Rather, it’s just that after years of running away from obstacles in my life, I was content to deal with them at my own pace. I enjoy the freedom to cherish the peacefulness of the world around me, at all times of the year, cold weather or warm, snowstorms or searing heat. What I lack in speed, I make up for in endurance. As in other areas of my life, I am an underdog when it comes to running. But I always reach the finish line.
I have approached my calling – investigative journalism – with the same endurance I put into my running. My readers know this, and I choose to believe that the politicians, bureaucrats, advocates, and activists I write about know that I am not one to back down or run away from controversy or intimidation. I am most satisfied when I’m chasing or breaking exclusive stories rather than allowing myself to be spoon-fed the party line, as far too many of my journalistic colleagues tend to be happy to do these days. No doubt that’s the easier route to take, and the most popular, but it’s not what the public deserves.
Like my columns in the Toronto Sun, this book pulls no punches. I say it the way I see it, in a cheeky and certainly tell-all manner. I hoped, by writing it, I might motivate others to pursue what makes them happy and to be honest about themselves. I hope I can also inspire and give others the courage to deal with their traumas, to come out, and to say what is on their minds. After pretending I was someone I wasn’t for so many years, I have no regrets about speaking out now.
The theme of the book is its title: Underdog – whether I’m talking about my own personal struggles or the causes I’ve championed. I write about political underdogs like the late Rob Ford and my own uphill (and losing) battle to try to win the hearts and mind of voters as the first openly gay and married Progressive Conservative candidate in the Toronto provincial riding of St. Paul’s. I challenge the myths perpetuated by the Liberals and those who align with the left about each other and the ways they indoctrinate voters into believing they truly are compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded. I question what truly motivates politicians like Barack Obama, Kathleen Wynne, and former mayor David Miller, suggesting they are more enchanted with the image they see in the mirror than truly driven by a need to change the agenda and help those who elected them. I suggest that most politicians are really in it because they’re narcissistic, that they’re far too concerned with getting re-elected, and that they’re essentially too cowardly to do what’s right. I respect very few of them. I also tackle the rise in anti-Semitism dressed in the guise of criticism of Israel. If ever an entire people could be called underdogs, Jews are it. I advocate for the poor and homeless, who have far too often been used as props for photo ops by poverty pimps more concerned with keeping themselves employed than with truly helping the vulnerable. I take on waste, mismanagement, and the abuse of tax dollars by politicians, few of whom seem to care about the endless burden they pass on to the people who pay the bills. I am not afraid to tell Ontario’s empowered unions that they are bankrupting the province with their ridiculous 1950s-style demands, or to advise Muslim cabbies – who are licensed to serve the public – that if they don’t want to take my dog in their car (for religious reasons), perhaps they should find another line of work.
In my Twitter handle, I state – with a certain amount of pride – that I’m a shit disturber. My friends and my readers often tell me, accompanied by a laugh, that I really like to stir it up, both in my columns and in my radio spots. There’s no doubt that I get under the skin of many of those I write about. But it’s anything but a “shtick.” I often feel I’m merely saying what is on the minds of many – those who don’t have a soapbox or are too afraid for whatever reason to speak up. As I do in my columns, I hope that in this book – with its many behind-the- scenes anecdotes and my cheeky observations of all things political – I will help inspire people to pay more attention to what politicians of all stripes are doing or not doing for them; will give readers the other side of the story from the endless, mind-numbing political spin often repeated (without question) by all too many of my media colleagues; and will provoke discussion, whether you love me or you love to hate me.