A moving portrait of a Canadian writer and broadcaster that raises questions about how we shape and are shaped by the past.
When poet and broadcaster Mona Gould died in 1999, she left behind thirty-eight boxes of papers. Her war poem, "This Was My Brother," was still a staple of textbooks and anthologies, yet Mona - well known in her youth - had fallen into obscurity in the 1960s. Born at the very time Mona's career was faltering, Maria Meindl became a captive audience for her grandmother's extravagant stories of the past.
Years later, Maria took on the daunting task of sorting through Mona's mountain of papers to create an archive for the University of Toronto's Fisher Rare Book Library. The chaotic state of the boxes reflected Mona's flamboyant and demanding personality, yet they also drew an important picture of the life of a Canadian freelancer in the twentieth century. Mona had begun publishing poetry and features in newspapers in the 1920s and published three books of poetry in the 1940s. In the 1950s, at a time when many women were retreating from the public sphere, she had a successful radio career. Her later journals and letters recount, in agonizing detail, a downward spiral into self-doubt, poverty, and addiction. Maria soon discovered that the truth of Mona's life was even more fascinating than her stories.
Outside the Box brings to life a thinly documented era in Canadian letters through the story of one passionate and conflicted woman. It also charts the journey of an unwilling archivist, coming to terms with family secrets, forgotten history, and the stories that are never told.