More Babas, Please!

More Babas, Please! by Marion Mutala, Illustrated by Olha Tkachenko Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $14.95 ISBN 9781927756928 Award-winning author Marion Mutula’s latest book, More Babas, Please! is a happy celebration of grandmothers. All grandmothers everywhere. “Big ones, small ones, fat ones, tall. Curly-haired, straight-haired, wig-wearing, bald.” The rhyming has an almost sing-song rhythm which seems so natural that you instinctively know that a lot of work has gone into making it seem so effortless! The layout is classic and clean with lots of white space and large type, perfect for early readers and grown-ups with bad eye sight. Each left page features a beautiful full page colour illustration by Ukranian-born illustrator Olha Tkachenko. Although the book celebrates grandmothers of all nationalities, Mutala’s love for her Ukranian heritage and her babas is a constant thread throughout the book. She uses Ukranian words like holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and dyakuyu (thank you) and for non-Ukranian speakers there’s a helpful glossary at the back of the book. There’s even a recipe for Baba Sophie’s Borscht! The book gave me a warm feeling as I reflected on my own grandmother. It speaks to all the good that grandmothers do…

Decolonizing Poetics of Indigenous Literature, The

The Decolonizing Poetics of Indigenous Literatures by Mareike Neuhaus Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $29.95 ISBN 9780889773905 The highly readable academic text The Decolonizing Poetics of Indigenous Literatures by Mareike Neuhaus is meant as a “handbook or manual designed to teach holophrastic reading so that readers may apply this method in their own approaches to Indigenous writing.” Neuhaus thinks of Indigenous poetics “primarily as a way of making sense of Indigenous expressions, as a set of tools that readers may use when they read Indigenous texts.” According to Neuhaus, “Indigenous storytellers working in their ancestral languages may express and event and its participants using a single word.” This is called a holophrase. “Holophrastic reading, on the other hand, is concerned with reading for holophrastic influences in English-language texts by Indigenous storytellers and writers.” Her aim is to guide readers in understanding how “Indigenous literatures grow out of different realities than do Anglo-American literatures.” Oftentimes Indigenous authors record stories with their community as their intended audience, as such, their adherence to standard English is not always the intention. In terms of structure, this book is very well laid out, and surprisingly transparent in its uses. The…

Shepherd’s Watch

Shepherd’s Watch by Counios & Gane Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 9781927756959 Shepherd’s Watch is the second book in the Shepherd and Wolfe mystery series by Regina authors Angie Counios and David Gane. I’m always a bit wary of being introduced to a new author or series but this book exceeded all my expectations. I loved it so much, in fact, that I went out and bought the first book in the series so that I wouldn’t miss out! The books revolve around the lives (and adventures) of two high school students, Tony Shepherd (well-adjusted, athletic and bright) and “wise-ass troublemaker”, Charlie Wolfe. In the first book, Along Comes a Wolfe, Tony’s girlfriend goes missing and it’s suspected that a serial killer is at work. The boys investigate and barely escape with their lives. Shepherd’s Watch is set a few months later at the lake where Tony and his family are spending the summer. Charlie arrives at the cabin unannounced and soon the boys are investigating the disappearance of a local man who has inexplicably gone missing. From the start of the book, I had an idea of where the plot was going….

Virgin Envy

Virgin Envy: The Cultural (In)Significance of the Hymen Edited by Jonathan A. Allan, Cristina Santos and Adriana Spahr Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $27.95 ISBN 9-780889-774230 Until I read Virgin Envy: The Cultural (In)Significance of the Hymen, I never knew that viragos are Latinas who assume “‘male’ traits and [transgress] popularly accepted gender roles.’” I didn’t know that sexual abstinence in Stephanie Meyer’s popular Twilight series is a subject of academic study, nor was I aware of the sketchy business of virginity testing as a literary motif in both medieval romance novels and contemporary English Orientalist romance literature. The trio of editors for this illuminating eight-essay collection by University of Regina Press invite readers to consider the myriad political, social, cultural, and literary complexities concerning the “utter messiness” of virginity. Firstly, the editors tackle the difficulty of a singular definition of “virginity,” and point to subjective and objective meanings, and the notion that the hymen is not always “the signifier of virginity,” (boys and queer people lose their virginity, too). The editors and writers of this text “go beyond the hymen” in their considerations of virginity, and this makes for an especially provocative treatise….

Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality

The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality by Blair Stonechild Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $32.95 ISBN 9780889774179 Blair Stonechild’s background, experience, the extent of his research, and the careful attention with which he presents the ideas make his latest book, The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality, an important contribution to knowledge. He has been highly involved in talking with elders to compile their oral knowledge; Stonechild summarizes the ideas of the elders, then comments on the ideas presented using his own spare conversational tone. While I am not from an Indigenous culture, community, or spirituality, reading this book allowed me a greater understanding of life, its stages, and its challenges. On an intellectual level, this is the most believable book about spirituality that I have ever read. This is an academic book, not a spiritual text in itself, but it does outline some very basic concepts that I find highly believable, and simple enough to inform understanding and even day to day living. It is not my place to summarize the ideas contained in this book, but I can present some of the basic concepts that I find particularly stimulating: that each person is a…

Magnificent Nahanni, The

The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place by Gordon Nelson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-460-5 Can man and nature live in harmony? Can they even co-exist? These are issues Gordon Nelson addresses in The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place. Nahanni National Park Reserve, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, is indeed impressive. Nelson describes a magical place with cliffs, canyons, caves, and a waterfall even higher than Niagara Falls. This is a place where wildlife predominates – bright flowers, butterflies and birds, caribou and wolf. The Nahanni River itself “stands out among northern rivers, not because of its size but because of its unique grandeur and rich natural diversity,” he says. All these attributes have been described in other books, but what sets Nelson’s apart is his detailed description of the enormous efforts required to preserve this lush landscape, focusing on the long struggle to conserve the river and its watershed as a national park reserve. The name of the Nahanni River likely evolved from the mysterious Indigenous people who inhabited the area. Nelson notes that the name has a “vague mystical flavour” suggesting the inhabitants…