Starving Ukraine
University of Regina Press / 12 January 2018

Starving Ukraine: The Holodomor and Canada’s Response by Serge Cipko Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $80.00 ISBN 978-0-88977-506-0 Imagine going without food for an entire day. Then imagine being deprived of food for weeks or months. This is the situation Serge Cipko describes in Starving Ukraine: The Holodomor and Canada’s Response, a comprehensive and focused study of starvation in Ukraine, part of the Soviet Union, from 1932 through 1934. Except in Ukrainian circles, the Holodomor seems to have been largely forgotten. The term comes from two Ukrainian words, moryty holodom, meaning “extermination by hunger.” Citing reports of emaciated children, people eating field mice, and even cannibalism, Cipko says conditions were so severe that Joseph Stalin’s wife committed suicide in protest. Famine in Ukraine, known as the granary of Europe, had an impact on Saskatchewan, a wheat-producing province with a large Ukrainian population. Saskatchewan small towns such as Hafford, Hague, and Krydor held rallies to support relatives in Ukraine who were asking not for money but for grain and flour. When Hafford residents tried to gather half a million bushels of wheat for shipment to Ukraine, the Soviet government declined the offer, saying there was no…

Extended Families: A Memoir of India
Coteau Books / 2 January 2018

Extended Families: A Memoir of India by Ven Begamudré Published by Coteau Books Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-927-4 Ven Begamudre’s Extended Families: A Memoir of India is an intriguing book, not only for the story he tells but for the way he weaves that story. Born in India, he came to Canada when he was six. Based on a journal he kept of his first trip back to India in 1977-78 when he was twenty-one, this memoir is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Short pieces allow readers a peek into his life, displaying his personality traits, or quirks. He’s quick to anger and slow to forgive, and shows no tolerance for beggars. “I learn to shoo the children off with a backward wave of a hand,” he says. Begamudre incorporates East Indian mysticism into his life story. He also wrestles over the question of whether he’s Indian or Canadian. He feels like an Indian in Canada, but in India he’s referred to as that Canadian boy. He marries a Canadian woman, only the second time anyone in his extended families married a non-Indian. In his fluid prose, a highly observant Begamudre uses precise wording to provide elaborate details, as…

Regina Indian Industrial School (1891 – 1910), The
Benchmark Press / 8 December 2017

The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological Narrative by Douglas Stewart Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $20.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-35-9 When an Indigenous boy ran away from the Regina Indian Industrial School in the 1890s, a teacher caught up to him, tied a rope around him, and forced him to run behind a horse-drawn wagon the eleven miles back to school. This is one of the horrific incidents Douglas Stewart relates in his book, The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological Narrative. In the first section of his book, Stewart analyzes his findings in a historical overview of the school. In the second, he provides a chronological narrative of its operation from 1891 to 1910 and its destruction by fire in 1948. By presenting both positive and negative aspects, he tries to paint a balanced portrait of the school. Commissioned by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, Nicholas Flood Davin penned a report recommending that industrial schools be established in the Prairies. Operated by the Presbyterian Church, the Regina Indian Industrial School opened in 1891 with Rev. A.J. McLeod as principal. In spite of Indian Commissioner David Laird’s glowing report that students have…

Living Skies
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 November 2017

Living Skies by Craig Hilts Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $54.99 ISBN 978-1-988783-05-5 There’s nothing like lightning, baseball-sized hail, and tornadoes to get one’s adrenaline pumping. There’s also nothing like a serene sky after a rain to calm a viewer. Craig Hilts, in his hardcover coffee table book Living Skies, has experienced both. He invites readers to look skyward and enjoy a visual feast of pigmentation and textures, especially noticeable in the swirling colours of the aurora borealis. Some photos spread across two-pages, providing a panoramic view of prairie horizons. Occasionally Hilts combines two similar photos, merging them so precisely on facing pages that the combined photos appear as one seamless image. His more than 150 colour photos range from scenic landscapes to the tumult of angry skies. Sometimes the scenery can seem so calm while storm clouds churn above. No wonder Saskatchewan has earned the title, Land of Living Skies. Hilts notes that a green sky, eerie to behold, is usually a warning of an impending tornado and/or severe hail. He’s experienced the rapid-fire force of baseball-sized hail smashing into his vehicle, but fortunately the protective shielding he developed offered some protection. No stranger…

My Soul Still Dances
DriverWorks Ink / 26 October 2017

My Soul Still Dances: Living with Parkinson’s by Sister Adelaide Fortowsky, with Sister Rosetta Reiniger Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-38-8 No one can ever know the pain inflicted by Parkinson’s disease – unless they’ve experienced it. Sister Adelaide Fortowsky, an Ursuline Sister, lived with this disease for more than twenty years and wrote about her ordeal in a diary. Published as My Soul Still Dances: Living with Parkinson’s, she records the progress of the disease as she slowly deteriorates. Born Bertha Fortowsky in 1930 on the family farm near Cavell, SK, she was so frail at birth that a midwife, fearing the newborn wouldn’t live, baptized her. She joined the Order of St. Ursuline in 1950, taking the name Sister Adelaide, and made her final vows in 1956. After teaching elementary school in Saskatchewan villages and towns for twenty-nine years, she joined the staff at St. Angela’s Academy, an all-girls high school with live-in students, at Prelate, SK. She taught until 2003, when her Parkinson’s affliction became severe. This is not an easy read. Parkinson’s has no known cause or cure. When “normal” activities were no longer normal, Sister Adelaide felt trapped in her…

Biblio Files
University of Regina Press / 24 August 2017

Biblio Files: A History of the Regina Public Library Edited by Susan Birley, Anne Campbell, and Jeannie Mah Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-482-7 When is a library more than a library? When it contains not only a wealth of books but CDs, DVDs, art gallery, film theatre, historical archive, computer access, and multiple programs. Biblio Files: A History of the Regina Public Library, edited by Susan Birley, Anne Campbell, and Jeannie Mah, explores these aspects of the Regina Public Library over more than a century. This book covers the gamut of Regina’s chief librarians from the first, J.R.C. Honeyman, to the current, Jeff Barber. All brought notable achievements. Ron Yeo, for instance, convinced the library board to purchase Canadian books directly from Canadian publishers rather than American and British ones, and Ken Jensen brought automation to the Regina Public Library, making it a forerunner in library automation in Canada. According to editor Anne Campbell, Yeo’s ambition was to make the Regina Public Library the “biggest, best, and first.” Among many firsts, the Regina Public Library’s writer-in-residence program, established in 1978, was the first of its kind in Canada. The library had its…

Fiery Joe

Fiery Joe: The Maverick Who Lit Up the West by Kathleen Carlisle, with Eileen Forrieter Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-485-8 Fiery Joe: The Maverick Who Lit Up the West is a fascinating story of an incredible man. For those with a political bent, Joseph Lee Phelps was a man of many accomplishments. For those just interested in a good story, his standout feature is his personality. Author Kathleen Carlisle has produced a well-documented character study of an intensely political man. She credits Eileen Forrieter as co-author because her master’s thesis forms an integral part of this book. Using interviews with Phelps and his contemporaries, Carlisle brings him to life on the page. Phelps’ heart was firmly planted in the soil. Actively involved in numerous farm organizations, he juggled work as a telephone lineman in the Wilkie district and tended to his growing family. He later served as president of the Saskatchewan Farmers Union and was instrumental in establishing Saskatchewan’s Western Development Museum. After Phelps was elected to the Saskatchewan legislature as the member for Saltcoats in 1938, a Leader-Post columnist described the rookie: “He is a fighter. He has punch. He has…

Road Through Time

Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move by Mary Soderstrom Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $26.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-477-3 Mary Soderstrom’s Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move may well be the most intriguing archaeological analysis since man set wheels on pathways. Partly memoir, it’s really a condensed history of civilization as seen through its roads. Soderstrom tells the story of humanity tramping through time, exploring, discovering, and moving on. The great trek started with early humans leaving Africa possibly as early as 80,000 years ago and continues to this day. One of the most fascinating chapters is also the most mysterious. Soderstrom outlines possible routes humans may have taken to reach North America. Some facts are known. She notes, for instance, that “every Native American throughout the western hemisphere shows common kinship with people who now live or who did live in parts of Northern Siberia.” But much is conjecture, so she titles the chapter “Mystery Roads.” One mystery she does explain is why, for most of its production period, the Model T Ford was available only in black, and it wasn’t because Henry Ford particularly liked that colour….

To Climb a Mountain
Jean Forbes-King / 5 June 2017

To Climb a Mountain. Growing Up in the Canadian West: Adventure Amid Turmoil and History by Jean Forbes-King Review by Keith Foster ISBN 978-0-9958599-1-3 Jean Forbes-King’s To Climb a Mountain. Growing Up in the Canadian West: Adventure Amid Turmoil and History is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure story of her late husband, William Forbes-King, who endures the devastating drought and depression of the Dirty Thirties, becomes an orphan at age fourteen, and is drafted into the Canadian Army as a teenager. Bill’s father, a British Army officer, survives the German gas attack at Ypres in the First World War but passes away before Bill is born in 1926. The next year, Bill’s mother leaves England with her two boys, moving to the small prairie community of Cadillac in southern Saskatchewan. As a “freckle-faced kid with sun-bleached hair,” Billy Forbes-King is a prankster. He’s also bullied, often coming home with a black eye, bruises, or bloody nose. He later learns why his older brother, Jim, who also bullies him, was himself ridiculed and bullied. After Jim joins the Royal Canadian Navy, Bill and his mother join him in Victoria, BC. Travelling by train through the Rocky Mountains, Bill is overwhelmed with their…

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…