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Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics (2020)
Book Reviews

Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics (2020)

A firsthand account of bucking trends and becoming the first woman elected Mayor of Montréal.

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Surprisingly, and not so surprisingly, Costa Rica and Rwanda are the top two countries that have more than 50% representation of women in their government. It’s fascinating to see the steps a person has to take to gain a foothold in politics, let alone the sexism women across the world have always had to deal with. I know, you’d think Canada wouldn’t have to deal with archaic patriarchal systems but unfortunately, we’re not quite as progressive as everyone in the world tends to think we are.

That’s the behind-the-scenes look Valérie Plante and Delphie Côté-LaCroix (with translation by Helge Dascher) present in their graphic novel, Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics, a firsthand account of Plante’s experience becoming the first woman elected Mayor of Montréal.

Simone Simoneau, Plante’s alter ego, hits a plateau in her job and wants to create more impact, to change the world. On a camping trip, she asks the Universe to provide her with a new challenge and the Universe responds in a BIG way. Action/Reaction Montreal, the municipal party in Quebec, is looking for new city council candidates and Simoneau’s name pops up on their radar. During the interview, it becomes painfully obvious why they need her – the room is full of men!

It’s gratifying when someone chooses you to be a part of a political movement, I’m sure. And as someone who hasn’t been involved in politics before, Simoneau has to leverage her contacts and go door-to-door in order to raise the necessary $5000 for her campaign. If you haven’t ever had to solicit money from complete strangers, it can be a nerve-wracking and painful process. But Simoneau perseveres and she manages to raise the money needed.

No matter what, starting out in any job can be overwhelming, especially if you’re making big promises to people in your district. But Simoneau is relentless in her pursuit of her goal. She pulls together an amazing team of diverse volunteers and stands her ground on policies she knows may not make her popular in politics. It’s refreshing to see women who won’t back down in a world that’s primarily dominated by men. The sexism is quite evident when Simoneau sees her posters vandalized with mustaches, the word slut and penises drawn on them.

Valérie Plante and Delphie Côté-LaCroix have created a quaint graphic novel about such vital issues, the drawings illustrated with just a hint of Frenchness to them. I enjoyed reading the journey Simoneau takes in order to get started in her political career, and win as the first woman elected as mayor. Despite her success, Simoneau has to maintain regular life with her kids — she is a mom, first and foremost. It just goes to show an uncomplicated process people can take if they choose to become involved with politics.

The evidence is clear that the world – and not just Canada – needs more women in politics. Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics lays the journey out for everyone to see in vivid detail and striking illustrations – the process doesn’t have to be as convoluted as it can seem on the outside looking in. Those wanting to change the world and create more impact for generations to come need to step up and become the change they want to see – and women can’t be afraid to take chances in politics.

About the Author: Evelyn Wong