Alexa McDonough’s impact on Canadian politics cannot be measured solely by election victories or seat tallies. As the first female leader of a mainstream Canadian political party, she helped transform Nova Scotia and Canadian politics. In the process, she transcended party affiliation and gender to become simply “Alexa” to Canadians across the country.
In this authorized biography, veteran author Stephen Kimber chronicles Alexa’s life and political career and, with it, weaves a narrative of the changing attitudes towards women in politics, from her early battles as the lone female MLA in a hostile Nova Scotian legislature to her leadership of the federal NDP to her role as senior stateswoman in Jack Layton’s shadow cabinet. Along the way, Kimber delves into McDonough’s personal life to uncover the origins of her political career: her upbringing in a wealthy family committed to progressive politics, her tightknit circles of women friends, her personal metamorphosis from “wife-of” to “leader-of,” and her emergence as a political leader whose importance goes beyond partisan politics. The result is an engrossing story of one of Canada’s most beloved politicians, whose common touch and life-long advocacy of progressive causes made her a significant player in Canadian public life.
Winner, Evelyn Richardson Award for Nonfiction
Jury Citation: “In Alexa!, Stephen Kimber grabs hold of his artist’s brush and paints a striking portrait of a woman who—with fire in her spirit—blazed a path on the political stage. Each brush stroke gives the reader more insight into what motivated her and fueled her desire to shape the political narrative. Stories woven through firsthand accounts, extensive interviews, and meticulous research are intriguing, and at times difficult, humorous, and deeply personal. Evident through the writing was Alexa’s championing spirit and persistent resolve to fight for women in areas that stretched far beyond politics. With carefully crafted imagery and detailed accounts of her life, Stephen Kimber peels back the layers, and gives readers unique access to Alexa, as he reconstructs this remarkable journey of a legend. His work is not only incredibly timely, but it speaks loudly to the social, cultural, political, and evolutionary landscape that was and is.”
Alexa! was also a finalist for
the 2022 George Borden Writing for Change Award
and the Atlantic Publishers’ Marketing Association’s Best Atlantic-Published Book Award.
What Others Say
“Kimber’s appealing biography sheds light on the dynamics of the charismatic personality of this woman from Nova Scotia.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“Excellent and highly recommended … Alexa! is a compelling and well-written portrait of a trailblazing, influential politician.”
— The Sidebar
“No stone goes unturned, no detail spared … Packed with loads of fascinating details, in-depth explanations about how different parts of the government work, and a who’s-who of Atlantic Canadian activists, artists, businesspeople, scholars, and politicians … A recommended read for those interested in the history of the NDP and/or women in Canadian politics.”
— Miramichi Reader
“It was such a pleasure to read the story of this feisty, principled, brilliant woman who persevered through highs and lows, who defied the odds and the men who tried to bring her down and who always found the light in the moment. This book is a delightful, important read!”
Former Premier of Ontario
“Kimber’s account is spot on. He sugar-coats nothing, and McDonough, a private person, who was under a spotlight for most of her career, helps him tell the story. Spoiler alert: the ending is bittersweet.”
Former Globe and Mail columnist
“A deeply personal, yet objective, informative and thought-provoking account of the life of one of Canada’s most inspiring parliamentarians.”
Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard
“It’s everything I hoped for — a portrait of one of our great political leaders, written by one of our best writers.”
“Kimber’s book is a wonderful and detailed account of Alexa’s rich life, that Nova Scotian woman who broke a glass ceiling of her time, just for being a woman.”
“This touching biography portrays a woman of spirit, a true feminist, who paid a personal price for her life in politics.”
“As a political historian who has written extensively on Canadian social democracy, the NDP and its predecessor the CCF, I found the book informative and it brought back many memories of significant events and colourful individuals… For those who want to know more about this remarkable Canadian political leader, Stephen Kimber’s book Alexa! is a worthy in-depth biography. It is a tribute to this special person whom I was honoured to call a friend and colleague. She sought to give voice to the less powerful. Hers was a quest for a better world. We urgently need more such leaders in this hyper-partisan and perilous world.”
professor emeritus, Royal Military College of Canada
and former JS Woodsworth Chair in Humanities, Simon Fraser University.
“From the very first page of Alexa!, we’re given a look into the motivating forces that inspired her life and her work to make people’s lives better. From bringing awareness to the challenges faced by Black people in Africville and overhauling Halifax’s welfare system to her important role in advancing women’s rightful place in Canadian politics, this biography chronicles Alexa’s growing determination to build a better Canada.”
— Jagmeet Singh
“Stephen Kimber masterfully recounts the life and times of an important Canadian. Kimber’s gift is to present his subject as a fully rounded person — a woman whose life was full of love and joy as well as grit and vision. I was only vaguely acquainted with Alexa McDonough although I know many who admired her. This wonderful biography makes me wish I had known her better.”
— Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell
“Alexa McDonough tackled important issues for Canada at a time when even talking about these issues would result in anything from laughter to sneers to threats. I’m thankful that this book is written so that a record of her work exists and won’t be taken for granted. It is a gift to those of us who have followed in her giant footsteps and to those who may be inspired yet to do so. Kimber candidly covers her journey but treats her story with great care. Her humanity shines through.”
— Megan Leslie
“A powerful and beautifully written biography of an important Canadian activist, feminist, and trailblazing politician. Her inspiring story, illustrating Alexa’s genuine motivation to make real change, is what propels women to run for public office. We are so grateful for Rosemary Brown’s advice ‘You Should’ when Alexa was asked to run for office. ‘You Should’ would be my advice to all young women in Canada. Read this book to better understand that when you add women, politics changes for the better.”
— Hon. Carolyn Bennett
“Stephen Kimber has written a wonderful account of Alexa’s unique contributions to politics: a deep commitment to people, not in the abstract but as real individuals and families facing a struggle; to social justice writ large; and to building a movement in Nova Scotia and across the country. More people will get to know a truly remarkable woman whose intelligence, charm, and humour have worked their way into our hearts.”
— Hon. Bob Rae
“Throughout the book [Kimber] maintains a fine balance between the public and the personal, and the tone is usually just right: friendly and irreverent simultaneously.”
— Lydia Perovic
“In Stephen Kimber’s superb biography of Alexa McDonough … he documents how McDonough — now retired and living with Alzheimer’s — has always worked hard to right wrongs, at home and abroad.”
— Atlantic Books TodayClick here for reuse options!
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