*Reading from Behind

*Reading from Behind: A Cultural Analysis of the Anus by Jonathan A. Allan Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $34.95 ISBN 9-780889-773844 I’m going to take a leap here and suggest that the asterisk that appears on the cover and in the title of writer and academic Jonathan A. Allan’s provocative new book – the first in a series of books about the body by University of Regina Press – is not by chance. *Reading from Behind pokes fun and slings puns at that most base of body parts, the anus, while also situating it – in all seriousness – within a cultural and literary context. In his ballsy, er, assiduous text, Allan laments how society’s historically been phallic-centric, and he attempts to get to the bottom (it’s impossible to help myself) of why the anus gets short shrift. True to his scholarly quest, Allan addresses the anus “head on”: there are sixty pages of comprehensive notes and references here – plus an index – following the eight chapters (with delightful names, ie: “Topping from the Bottom: Anne Tenino’s Frat Boy and Toppy” and “Spanking Colonialism”). Clearly, this book was not written without significant research….

Inside the Mental

Inside the Mental: Silence, Stigma, Psychiatry, and LSD by Kay Parley Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-411-7 You never know who you might run into in a mental institution. When Kay Parley is admitted to the Weyburn Mental Hospital, she meets her father and grandfather. Her grandfather had been there before Kay was even born, and her father entered the institution when Kay was only six. She jokes that “they’d have to tear the place down if it wasn’t for my family.” This is one of many shocking details Kay relates in her book, Inside the Mental, a compilation of eighteen stories based on her experiences as both a patient and later as a nurse at The Mental as she calls it. Most of these stories have been previously published in magazines dealing with mental health issues and in her self-published volume, Lady with a Lantern. After a nervous breakdown in 1948, Kay finds herself in the Weyburn Mental Hospital, originally known as the Saskatchewan Hospital. When she observes a row of patients eating with their hands, mixing orange and toast into their porridge and slurping like dogs, a fellow patient tries to…

Sons and Mothers

Sons and Mothers: Stories from Mennonite Men Edited by Mary Ann Loewen Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $21.95 ISBN 9-780889-774032 I’m a fourth generation Canadian, and unfortunately haven’t been privy to conversations about ancestors’ “old country” lives, which, in my case, would have included several European counties. I’ve always felt a kind of longing for such tales, for knowing where we come from helps make sense of who we are today. After reading Sons and Mothers, Stories from Mennonite Men – a collection of a dozen essays commissioned by Winnipeg writer and educator Mary Ann Loewen – I recognize that the disparate contributors’ common heritage bonds them in an almost familial way. Yes, these Mennonite men have shared so many similar experiences they’re like one large family: a family that sings, reads, tells stories, and worships together; values hard work; practices altruism; and celebrates one another – even when individual beliefs don’t align. Two of the most obvious threads in this affecting anthology are the prominent role that music’s played – for the mothers and for their sons – and how several offspring strayed from the church’s traditional doctrines. What distinguishes the essays are…

Defying Palliser
University of Regina Press / 27 April 2016

Defying Palliser: Stories of Resilience from the Driest Region of the Canadian Prairies by Jim Warren and Harry Diaz Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-294-6 Everyone knows farming is tough. But how about getting just one truckload of grain out of 5,000 acres? That’s what happened to the Downie Lake Hutterian Brethren Colony in 2001. Colony member Sam Hofer recalled touring the field that year. He said the weather was so hot and dry that the crop “seemed to turn brown and dry up as we walked by.” This is just one incident related in Defying Palliser: Stories of Resilience from the Driest Region of the Canadian Prairies. The book could just as well be subtitled stories of resistance, since farmers and ranchers resisted the overwhelming forces of nature in the dry zone known as the Palliser Triangle. Named for 19th century explorer John Palliser, the triangle roughly comprises the southern part of the three prairie provinces. Palliser deemed the area unsuitable for agriculture because of its unfavourable climate. Indeed, this triangle can be as devastating to farmers and their crops as the Bermuda Triangle is to ships and planes. Farmers nevertheless stubbornly…

In the Temple of the Rain God
University of Regina Press / 20 April 2016

In the Temple of the Rain God: The Life and Times of ‘Irish’ Charlie Wilson by Garrett Wilson Published by Canadian Plains Research Center Review by Keith Foster $29.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-288-5 Reading In the Temple of the Rain God: The Life and Times of “Irish” Charlie Wilson is like getting two stories in one, or more precisely, a story within a story. The subject of this biography is one that author Garrett Wilson is intimately familiar with –his father. A family history, this book is also a history of Saskatchewan’s first 50 years as seen through the eyes of one man. In weaving a narrative of his father, Garrett quotes heavily from a combination of diary entries, correspondence, and tape-recorded reminiscences that his sister had the foresight to record. As a result, Charlie is able to tell his own story in his own words. Born in Ireland, Charlie immigrated in 1905, the year Saskatchewan became a province, and settled, appropriately, in Limerick, SK. He wore many hats in his lifetime – homesteader, businessman, politician, and debt adjuster. Charlie hobnobbed with prominent politicians of the new province. A genial host, he had all but one of Saskatchewan’s early premiers stay overnight…

These Are Our Legends
University of Regina Press / 13 April 2016

These Are Our Legends Narrated by Lillooet Elders, Transcribed and Translated by Jan van Eijk, Illustrated by Marie Abraham Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-780889-773967 University of Regina Press is to be commended for its series, First Nations Language Readers, which allows a broad spectrum of readers to enjoy the wisdom, humour, word play, and moral lessons inherent in traditional oral stories and legends. Now the press has added These Are Our Legends to the series, and thus preserves seven short Lillooet legends, originally narrated by four Lillooet (Salish) elders from British Columbia’s interior and painstakingly transcribed and translated by Jan van Eijk, a Linguistics professor at Regina’s First Nations University who’s dedicated forty years to studying the Lillooet language. The volume offers an interesting juxtaposition. The academically-inclined will appreciate van Eijk’s depth of research, evident in his opening “On the Language of the Lillooet,” in which he discusses phonology, morphology, and syntax, and in the extensive Lillooet-English glossary that follows the bilingual stories. His methodology re: collecting the stories – or sptakwlh, which translates as “ancient story forever” – via tape recorder between 1972 – 1979 is also included. These particular stories initially appeared together…

On the Frontier: Letters from the Canadian West in the 1880s
University of Regina Press / 23 March 2016

On the Frontier: Letters from the Canadian West in the 1880s by William Wallace edited by Ken S. Coates and Bill Morrison Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $29.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-408-7 Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall, listening in to the conversations of others? On the Frontier: Letters from the Canadian West in the 1880s is the next-best thing. It chronicles the lives of bachelor brothers William and Andrew Wallace, and their widowed father, Peter, as they immigrate to Canada from England and settle in what is now western Manitoba. Using his keen powers of observation, William corresponds with his sister, Maggie, back in Scotland. He signs his letters as Willie. His brother, Andrew, occasionally adds a postscript. Maggie’s letters, unfortunately, have been lost. What a shame. It’s like listening to a one-sided conversation. According to editors Ken S. Coates and Bill Morrison, William wrote in a stream of consciousness, without concern for punctuation. As editors, Coates and Morrison added the appropriate punctuation to make for easier reading, but kept the wording intact. One theme thoroughly permeating William`s letters are the hardships pioneers faced. Spring flooding would wash away bridges. But…

Fists Upon a Star, Softcover

Fists Upon a Star: A Memoir of Love, Theatre, and Escape from McCarthyism by Florence Bean James with Jean Freeman Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $27.95 9780889774070 Fists Upon a Star is the memoir of a determined theatre director, Florence Bean James. It also chronicles the history of her theatre, the Seattle Repertory Playhouse. The book begins with the opening of the Playhouse, establishing a frank and journalistic voice. James establishes a sense of foreboding through the use of elegant foreshadowing right from the beginning. The reader already knows from the cover of the book that the Great Depression and McCarthyism would enter into the narrative at some point. She increases the suspense by backtracking to her upbringing and education. James decides to follow her teacher’s footsteps and pursue a post secondary education in Boston–quite a thing for a woman born in 1892 in Pocatello, Idaho. It was at Emerson College where she met her husband Burton James. Since they became such a dynamic duo, always working together, it is also difficult to separate her husband from her memoir, for the most part it is a memoir of them and their work. Surprisingly, the James’…

Canoeing the Churchill
University of Regina Press / 18 February 2016

Canoeing the Churchill: A Practical Guide to the Historic Voyageur Highway by Greg Marchildon and Sid Robinson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $34.95 ISBN 9-780889-771482 Call me unusual, but activities that require great strength and endurance, are potentially fatal, and involve the outdoors are my idea of a glorious time. Thus it’s not inconceivable that at some point in my life I may participate in an extensive canoe trip, ie: the Churchill River. Now that I’ve read Canoeing the Churchill: A Practical Guide to the Historic Voyageur Highway, I couldn’t imagine that undertaking without packing along this book, though at a hefty 476 pages, I might be cursing that decision during the many portages on the 1000 km route between Methy Portage and Cumberland House. In this tour de force the authors merge historical fact, journal entries, maps (with all-important entry and exit points), photographs, paintings, legends, a packing list, safety tips, camping suggestions, and so much more while also delivering a veritable stroke-by-stroke (or at least section-to-section) account of what one can expect on this epic journey, including what current services one might find in the various small communities along the route. (If…

Frontier Farewell, Second Edition
University of Regina Press / 2 February 2016

Frontier Farewell: The 1870s and the End of the Old West by Garrett Wilson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-361-5 You can gauge the importance of a book when it is released as a new edition. There’s a reason some books go into a second printing – the demand for more copies is just too great. Back by popular demand, a second edition of Garrett Wilson’s Frontier Farewell: The 1870s and the End of the Old West, with a new foreword by Candace Savage, has been released. As the subtitle suggests, Frontier Farewell focuses on the 1870s. In a single generation, the face of the West was transformed forever. Rupert’s Land was transferred from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the new Dominion of Canada, leading to the First Riel Rebellion at Fort Garry, treaties with the Aboriginal inhabitants in the West, surveys along the International Boundary, the formation of the North-West Mounted Police, and side effects from the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Wilson covers it all. Frontier Farewell is rife with political intrigue. American activists in Minnesota and Dakota Territory coveted the vast territory to their north and wanted to add…