Drought and Depression
University of Regina Press / 24 April 2018

Drought & Depression (History of the Prairie West Series, Vol. 6) edited by Gregory P. Marchildon Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-539-8 Grandma Knox recalled that after her father ploughed up seven acres of virgin prairie, he seeded his entire 1933 crop to oats. “He just seeded it by hand,” she wrote. “Beautiful crop. Grew up about six feet high, and froze right down in August. Wasn’t even good feed.” This one incident pretty much encapsulates the frustrations prairie farmers felt during the Great Depression. By recording and recounting his grandmother’s experiences, Clinton N. Westman brings the flavour of the past to life. His article is just one appearing in Drought and Depression, edited by Gregory P. Marchildon. A collection of fourteen articles by fifteen authors, it’s the latest book in the History of the Prairie West Series. Each book in the series is based on a particular theme. As the title suggests, Drought and Depression focuses on the Dirty Thirties on the Canadian Prairies. This selection of articles was originally published in the Prairie Forum journal between 1977 and 2009. The advantage of this book series format is that it gathers all…

Sleuth
University of Regina Press / 19 April 2018

Sleuth: Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries by Gail Bowen Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $18.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-524-4 If you’ve ever considered writing a mystery novel, Gail Bowen provides the perfect opportunity in her latest book, Sleuth: Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries. She reveals the secrets to her success and offers a step-by-step, how-to process for other writers to emulate. Bowen coaxes writers – all writers, not just those working on mystery novels – to ask themselves, “What do I hope to accomplish with this piece of writing?” In her opinion, giving readers pleasure is ample enough reason to write in the mystery genre. She’s been writing for thirty years and offers her wealth of experience and encouragement to aspiring writers. “If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re a real writer,” she says. Bowen stresses the need for accuracy. Just because you’re writing fiction doesn’t mean you can play loose with the facts. If a reader finds just one discrepancy in logic, the entire novel may become suspect. Emphasizing the mantra to show, don’t tell, she encourages writers to incorporate all five senses into their writing. She shows the importance of subplot and…

Spaces to Fill
Benchmark Press / 23 January 2018

Spaces to Fill: And A Century To Do It by Jack Boan Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $25.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-34-2 “When a door opens, walk through it.” This is one of the chapter titles in Jack Boan’s autobiography, Spaces to Fill: And A Century To Do It. It’s also Boan’s personal philosophy. He’s walked through many doors in his 100-year-long life. Boan was born in 1917, a few miles southeast of Briercrest, SK. He ran away from home at age five but returned later that day. He started selling newspapers when he was eleven, boarding the two trains that stopped at Briercrest daily. After tinkering with radios, he worked as a farm labourer, earning fifty cents or sometimes a dollar a day, good money for a fourteen-year-old. Boan relives experiences with his relatives. One day, while enjoying a family reunion near a river, he noticed his brother’s head submerging. Young Boan was able to pull him ashore. When World War II broke out, Boan enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, attaining the rank of sergeant. Airsickness was a major problem for flight crews, so Boan purchased small paper bags from a grocery store for just such…

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…