Tales of the Modern Nomad
Early Byrd Productions / 7 July 2017

Tales of the Modern Nomad: Monks, Mushrooms & Other Misadventures by John Early Published by Early Byrd Productions Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $26.99 ISBN 978-0-9952666-0-5 Rarely do I read a book that takes the top of my head off (in the best way), but Tales of the Modern Nomad-a candid travelogue and first book by Saskatoon backpacker John Early-did just that. Well-written, entertaining, illuminating, original, cheeky, and real-in that it features both positive and negative experiences-I read chapters of this book aloud to two visiting backpackers in their twenties and thirties, and they were relating and laughing right along. To quote the author’s father: “You couldn’t make this shit up if you tried.” Early’s young, and many of the experiences described in this hefty, full-colour hardcover-with maps, photographs, anecdotes, trivia, poems, art, doodles, and quotes ranging from Eckhart Tolle to Charles Bukowski-may have special appeal for those who possess the desire to surf in Sayulita; zip-line between Laos’ tropical rain forest treehouses; or, as Early recounts in the section titled “Down The Rabbit Hole,” eat “Mystery Mushrooms from an Indonesian Road Stand,” but as one who’s backpacked and been to many of the locales he writes about (ie: Bali,…

Memoirs of a Muhindi

Memoirs of a Muhundi: Fleeing East Africa for the West by Mansoor Ladha Review by Michelle Shaw $25.95 9780889774742 Published by University of Regina Press Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West is a little book that is packed with richness. It’s a personal story filled with fascinating anecdotes, but it’s also a perspective of historical events that not many people know much about. Mansoor Ladha was born on the island of Zanzibar and grew up in the East African country of Tanzania. A third-generation Asian in a predominantly black African nation, he grew up in a close community of Ismailis (a branch of Shia Muslims and followers of the Aga Khan). At the time Tanzania was under British colonial rule but everything changed with the dawn of independence. Ladha was proudly nationalistic and considered Tanzania his home. But as a young man he was forced to consider otherwise. “The full realization that we were not wanted in Africa came to us, the whole Asian community, in 1972 when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled the country’s eighty thousand Indians, Pakistanis, and Ugandan Asians… This ethnic cleansing soon spread to neighboring Kenya and Tanzania…where many families lost everything.”…

Glad I Dropped In
Benchmark Press / 18 January 2017

Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore by June Mitchell Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $20.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-27-4 Anyone looking for the pure pleasure of getting lost in a good book need look no further than June Mitchell’s Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore, a memoir sure to evoke both laughter and tears. June, or Junie as she refers to herself in the early portion of the book, tells her life story as she recalls it. In those earlier sections where she has no recollection, she narrates as an outside observer, based on what she heard from others. June inherits her socialist leanings from her parents. Her mother, Marjorie Cooper, becomes the third female Member of the Saskatchewan Legislature, serving four terms for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. June’s father, Edward Cooper, is a high school teacher and fellow member of the CCF. June also develops her social activism from her Aunt Luella. When she witnesses a man dragging a woman down the street, Luella calls police, who ignore her. She then adds that her father has just left the house with a hammer; the police respond immediately. June…

Otto & Daria
University of Regina Press / 14 December 2016

Otto & Daria: A Wartime Journey Through No Man’s Land by Eric Koch Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $25.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-443-8 When Otto Koch, a German Jew, suffers an appendicitis attack, he’s rushed to a hospital in the Third Reich reserved for non-Jews. As the anaesthesia starts to take effect, the last words he hears are his surgeon greeting his staff with “Heil Hitler.” In his memoir, entitled Otto & Daria: A Wartime Journey Through No Man’s Land, Koch vividly re-creates his life in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s. He brilliantly captures the tension in the air as the Nazis insidiously gain control. His parents protect him from the encroaching danger and at first he leads an idyllic life, isolated from the terror that is to come. Otto continues his life chronicle, studying at the University of Cambridge in England, when he meets the mysterious Daria Hambourg, a woman at first shy but more than adept at expressing herself through her writing. She’s from a distinguished English family, but with a distinctively bohemian bent. She’s also a Socialist with no qualms about expressing her views. Otto and Daria begin corresponding by…

More Prairie Doctor
High Hill House Publishers / 31 March 2016

More Prairie Doctor by Lewis Draper Published by High Hill House Publishers Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $23.75 ISBN 978-0-9809669-3-0 Lewis Draper, a medical doctor and one-time NDP MLA for Assiniboia-Gravelbourg, enjoys telling stories about his colourful life, and he does not mince words when he picks up the pen. One patient he refers to in his self-published book, More Prairie Doctor, puts it succinctly: “‘You have a reputation for speaking your mind, Doc, and telling folks how many beans make five.’” It’s true: the man is not meek. In this new title, which follows Draper’s three previously-published books, he anecdotally shares thoughts and experiences on a wide range of subjects, including his blatant disillusion with the NDP government that closed fifty-one rural Saskatchewan hospitals; pilot training; pet tales (including raccoons); his globetrotting eldest daughter’s adventures; the purchase of a Rolls Royce, carpets, a hotel in Moose Jaw; his involvement in civic and provincial politics; abortion; and, perhaps most importantly, he introduces us to several of the prairie people he came to know and help both medically and otherwise during his twenty years as a dedicated GP living and practicing in Gravelbourg. One learns much about the author in his…

Indian Ernie
Purich Publishing / 23 March 2016

Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Policing and Leadership by Ernie Louttit Published by Purich Publishing Ltd. Review by Keith Foster $25.00 ISBN 978-1-895830-78-1 The best leaders and the best teachers are the ones who’ve learned by experience. Ernie Louttit is one of those leaders who teaches valuable life lessons in his book, Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Policing and Leadership. This is an up-close, personal look at some of the seamier streets of Saskatoon where his police beat took him. Ernie was educated in the school of hard knocks. Kicked out of school several times before grade eight, he dropped out of grade eleven. He worked as a labourer in northern Ontario, joined the Canadian Armed Forces, and served for a time as a peacekeeper with the United Nations in Cyprus. He was with inexperienced troops whose job was to patrol the front lines between hostile Greek and Turkish forces. “Somehow we made it through without getting ourselves killed or starting a war,” Ernie notes. After a stint as a military policeman, Ernie joined the Saskatoon Police Service, becoming only the third native member of the force. As an Aboriginal man, he faced racism and discrimination throughout his life. But he turned…

The Education of Augie Merasty
University of Regina Press / 22 January 2016

The Education of Augie Merasty by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $21.95 978-0-88977-368-4 The creation of The Education of Augie Merasty, by Joseph Auguste Merasty with David Carpenter, which describes Merasty’s experience at St. Therese Residential School in Sturgeon Landing Saskatchewan between 1935 and 1944, from the age of five to fourteen, was a labour of tenderness and patience. From the point of Carpenter receiving a forwarded letter in spring of 2001 asking for professional assistance to the completion of the book, the endeavour took over thirteen years. Carpenter took no less than five trips from Saskatoon to Prince Albert to “run down” the elusive memoirist to finally sign the publication contract. Carpenter writes: “by telling the stories of others and connecting them to his own experience, Merasty broadened his range of inquiry, and […] the implications of his sometimes horrific story, a story in which our entire nation is darkly and obscurely complicit.” Whether readers like it or not, untold numbers of people were treated in a dehumanising way at the residential schools. Merasty does not get mired in recounting every small injustice (as if such things can…

Northern Trader
University of Regina Press / 10 December 2015

Northern Trader: The Last Days of the Fur Trade by H. S. M. Kemp Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $27.95 9780889773165 Originally published in the 1950s, Northern Trader: The Last Days of the Fur Trade by H.S.M. Kemp is a memoir that begins in 1908 with Harold Kemp in his teens making the trip to Lac La Ronge to ask for a job with the Hudson Bay Company. With romantic thoughts in his mind about what it might be like to be a “company man,” he encountered frozen lakes that made canoe travel out of the question, necessitating a hard suffering walking trip. Unaccustomed to moccasins and snowshoes, under advisement of his native guide, he rubbed bacon grease on his feet every night, and finally reverted back to his patent leather shoes in favor of their hard soles. To travel the northern elements, with cracked feet, in search of a job seems surprising, but that’s how Kemp did it. Northern Trader is written in a very accessible style by a white Prince Albert man originally from England. Through his stories the reader learns that he is no ordinary “company man” in that he prefers to…

Downstream: Bestemor and Me
Hagios Press / 29 May 2015

Downstream: Bestemor & Me by Vangie Bergum Published by Hagios Press Review by Keith Foster $18.95 ISBN 978-1-926710-26-6 In Downstream: Bestemor & Me, Vangie Bergum takes readers on her spiritual journey of self-awakening, self-discovery, and self-empowerment. Through creative non-fiction, she interweaves her own life story with that of her grandparents, peppering her narrative with Norwegian words and phrases, reflecting her ancestral background. While visiting Norway, she ponders why her grandparents left “this verdant land to spend their lives in the dry, treeless, windy spaces of the Saskatchewan prairies.” Her name, Bergum, “means encircled or surrounded by mountains,” and she wonders if this is where she was meant to be. In a twist of fate, the next generation, her mother’s generation, fears “the hovering mountains,” she says. “They claim they can only breathe on the non-stop prairie.” As she explores her Norwegian roots, Bergum uncovers a family tragedy – the deaths of her grandparents and their two daughters. She says the manner of their deaths – murder and suicide – brought shame to her family, “a shame encoded in my life from the time of my conception.” Adding to that shame is the fact that her grandmother spent time in two…

A Family of Our Own

A Family of Our Own by Donna Miller Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Kris Brandhagen $21.95 978-1927756-08-9 A Family of Our Own, by Donna Miller, book two of her Help Me, I’m Naked series of books, proves an excellent read on its own, honest and earnest, independently of the first and third books. Miller opens the story with a prologue, in a way that abruptly smacks of childlike innocence. “My daddy would never do something like that for real. The arguing and fighting were plays they put on for my benefit, though my young mind couldn’t understand why they would want to perform such horrible plays. Sometimes I found the scenes so scary, so crimson, I would go hide in my closet.” This sense of disbelief sets the stage for the body of the book, which is a memoir (with changed names) of the tragedies that she and the women and children in her family have endured, spanning the years 1966 through 1974, when the main character, Korel, is in grade seven to the age of twenty-three. The severity of Korel’s own situation is hinted at through her sense of awe at finding herself in the midst…