Famed war pilot’s granddaughter to speak about new book

If you’re looking for inspiration, with a dash of wisdom, you can not only check out Diana Bishop’s new book but also meet her at Collingwood Public Library’s “Author Talks” series. Bishop will be on hand, in her new hometown, Nov. 23 to discuss growing up in the shadow of her famous grandfather, the fighter pilot from World War One.

Dorothy Gebert, public relations coordinator, promises a “unique perspective on Canada ranging from pioneers and war heroes to the oddities of Canadian small-town life” during the three-part series.

Living Up to a Legend is the title of the book that will tie in perfectly with Remembrance Day, allowing the library to carry on the World War One theme all month long. Bishop herself describes the experience of writing this book as a blessing in disguise and source of inspiration.

“I was just really drawn to write this book. I really started it about five years ago while my father was still alive and he was starting to really deteriorate with dementia,” said Bishop. Her mother had passed away and her brother was very busy with work projects so it was Diana who cared for her father throughout his illness.

“That’s when I started to see the world through his eyes and how much of a legend he had to live up to, and I’d always really taken that for granted,” said Bishop. It was just five years ago when Bishop decided to start writing about her family’s history, “It didn’t start from the place of looking at my grandfather’s influence on my life, but that’s what it became,” said Bishop.

She did not actually know her grandfather as he had passed away when she was three years old, “so he was like this superhero to me,” she recalls.

It was at age seven that Bishop began realizing the influence of her grandfather when she brought her grandfather’s medals to school as part of her history project. “When I pulled them out, my teacher just about nearly dropped through the floor,” she says.

At that time is was a matter of sneaking them out of her father’s sock drawer, but nowadays they can be found in the Canadian War Museum and insured for millions of dollars.

She also did a documentary in 2002 called A Hero to Me that aired on Global television and TVO for several years, offering a chance for Diana to get her “feet wet.” That story “didn’t go as deep as the book. The book is a deeply personal memoir.”

Her father was the only son of Billy Bishop and had to fight in the Second World War as a fighter pilot, literally following in his father’s footsteps. “I think this book is for anybody who’s got something to live up to but especially for the baby boom generation who grew up with parents and grandparents who went through the two world wars,” said Bishop.

“We have psychology and psychiatry and post-traumatic stress disorder being discussed in a much bigger way, now…but there wasn’t anything for them. So it’s battle fatigue and shell shock and all of those words but people who suffered from those things were looked down upon and they really suffered,” she noted.

Bishop was surprised by the universal appeal the book had on audiences, saying she was “overwhelmed with the reaction because it was incredibly positive and people were writing and emailing me.”

As for her writing career, “it won’t be about this anymore” and she instead plans to write more about women of her generation, specifically baby boomers who are “struggling to have a voice about who they are,” says Bishop.

Having recently moved to Collingwood, she describes the community as “rich in terms of the quality of people, their interests, their intellectual expertise.”

“I’m really excited about doing this event because I’m going to be much more informal than I would normally be in these presentations and really talk about whatever people want to get in. I want to make it something where we’re really sharing our stories with each other,” says Bishop.

Author Talks is a series presented each spring and fall, which brings popular Canadian authors to Collingwood for an hour of discussion followed by a book signing.

Gebert recommends that even though the talks are free, register for the popular series so that they can plan for the turnout. Due to the success of the Author Talks series, the library has started another one called Traveller’s Tales; “these are people who are willing to share their stories of travel abroad,” says Gebert.

For information, visit: www.collingwoodpubliclibrary.ca.

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