Alexandra KittyC/O Gerhard Greeve

Alexandra Kitty’s new books encourage students to explore new perspectives and experiences

Many have taken advantage of the past year to start new businesses and tackle new projects, including McMaster University alumna Alexandra Kitty, who penned a number of books. This past year she published four: The Art of Kintsugi: Learning the Japanese Craft of Beautiful Repair, The Dramatic Moment of Fate: The Life of Sherlock Holmes in Theatre, The Mind Under Siege: Mechanisms of War Propaganda and A New Approach to Journalism.

Kitty graduated in 1994 with an honours bachelor of arts in psychology, after which she went on to pursue a career in journalism and education. She has described her time at McMaster as having been hugely influential on her writing because it taught her about perspective and the ways in which our perspectives inform our reality.

“I think it was the biggest influence in my writing because I realized how much of our perceptions were not reality. Psychology is the study of how not just the brain works, but how the mind works and how we can be deceived . . . I think that was probably one of the greatest helps for me. I think it totally set my trajectory with what I studied and what my career was afterwards. Just not in the traditional way,” said Kitty.

 

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Though her books explore a vast variety of subjects, the idea of perspective is one of the linking threads across all of them. The Art of Kintsugi explores how broken bits can be repaired, restored and even embraced, while The Dramatic Moment of Fate discusses Sherlock Holmes’ different incarnations on the stage over time. The Mind Under and A New Approach to Journalism both explore the journalistic importance of perspective and asking questions.

“[T]he unifying theme is that there’s multiple perspectives, even within us. There isn’t a single one right answer . . . So if we’re a little more understanding, and we understand plurality and diversity, we can see we get more information. The more perspectives and filters we use, the more different information we can see,” explained Kitty.

“[T]he unifying theme is that there’s multiple perspectives, even within us. There isn’t a single one right answer . . . So if we’re a little more understanding, and we understand plurality and diversity, we can see we get more information. The more perspectives and filters we use, the more different information we can see,” explained Kitty.

This awareness of perspective and its importance is something she hopes individuals will take away from her books. For students especially, she hopes it will help them understand and connect different perspectives, particularly the analytical and emotional.

 

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“A lot of times when we’re doing academia, we think that we are not supposed to put emotion in it. We just need to build up our emotional literacy. Sometimes you’re feeling uncomfortable, and you don’t know why and [my] books show you to trust your instinct, to trust your judgment, to trust your feelings and to be able to trust your perceptions of reality to be able to see the truth because basically that’s what we need to do — see the reality in order to find the truth,” said Kitty.

Another thread that connects Kitty’s books is the benefit and influence of first-hand experience on one’s perspective. Kitty felt it was essential for her to have experience with the subjects she wrote about. She began all her books by exploring the subjects personally and gaining experience with them.

 

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“If I was writing about Sherlock Holmes in the theatre, I would go watch the plays. If I was writing about kintsugi, I was doing the actual kintsugi. I went into journalism to study journalism. You can’t know about something unless you’ve walked through it and had skin in the game and you’ve done it yourself,” explained Kitty.

“…You can’t know about something unless you’ve walked through it and had skin in the game and you’ve done it yourself,” explained Kitty.

She also hopes her work will inspire students to do the same.

“So if you’re interested about a problem in something, go to the eye of the storm, I think that’s the main message. If you want to know the truth, you absolutely have to go and look at what’s the mechanics, where are the failings?” encouraged Kitty.

Understanding other perspectives and seeking out new experiences are important to students not just in their academic lives, but also in relationships and personal interests. Kitty’s work shows that no matter what students go on to do after their time at McMaster, there are certain ideas and skills that will always be important.

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