After The War: Surviving PTSD and Changing Mental Health Culture

After the War: Surviving PTSD and Changing Mental Health Culture By Stéphane Grenier with Adam Montgomery Review by Michelle Shaw Published by University of Regina Press $27.95 CAD ISBN 9780889775336 When Canadian soldier Stéphane Grenier headed to Rwanda in 1994 as part of the UN peacekeeping force, he had no idea it was the beginning of a journey which would change his life forever. He returned to Canada ten and a half months later grateful to be alive. But as he adjusted to “normal” life back home with his wife and children, he began to notice that something fundamental had shifted. There were changes that, in retrospect, he says, acted as signs of things to come. He was persistently impatient–the smallest thing could set him off. He had constant nightmares and difficulty sleeping. He experienced suicidal thoughts. Grenier knew something was wrong and tried to seek help but soon realized that “like numerous soldiers during the 1990s, I’d come into contact with a dysfunctional military health-care system and stale psychiatric methods, not to mention many doctors who were unaware of what war and peacekeeping could do to a person’s mind.” He discovered that “the military was completely unprepared to deal…

When The Trees Crackle With Cold: A Cree Calendar

When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar By Bernice Johnson-Laxdal and Miriam Körner Review by Michelle Shaw Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing $12.95 9781927756935 Winner of the recent Saskatchewan Book Awards Children’s Literature Award, When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar is a beautifully written and illustrated narrative of the author’s Cree childhood in northern Saskatchewan. Bernice Johnson-Laxdal comes from a large family of 14 children and grew up in the predominantly Métis community of Ile-a-la-Crosse, which is situated along one of Western Canada’s major fur trade routes. From an early age Bernice was involved in her family’s traditional activities: gathering, growing and preparing food, hunting, trapping and making clothing. Most of these activities were (and still are) dependent on the seasons of the year. The book beautifully combines story and image with Körner’s playful watercolors skillfully enhancing the simple word pictures. The narrative is based around the Cree calendar which consists of six seasons divided into twelve moons, which reflect the traditional knowledge of the natural cycle. I found the concept so much more enriching for my soul than the traditional Western calendar! I loved the way each of the 12 moons reflects the…

Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead
University of Regina Press / 28 March 2018

Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead: Recipes and Recollections from a Syrian Pioneer by Habeeb Salloum Published by University of Regina Press Review by Michelle Shaw $34.95 ISBN 9780889775183 I had no idea that Arab immigrants settled in rural Saskatchewan in the early part of the twentieth century. And, from the dumbfounded looks on the faces of my born and bred Saskatchewan friends, it’s not a fact that’s widely known. The story of one such family can be found in Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead. Habeeb Salloum’s family immigrated to Canada in the 1920s. Most Syrian immigrants of that period settled in the Eastern Canadian provinces of Quebec or Ontario, but Salloum’s father ended up settling in rural Saskatchewan. The 1920s and 30s were a tough time to be a farmer in Saskatchewan. But Salloum’s parents survived, as he puts it, on the “ingenuity and the recipes they had inherited from their forebears.” They found that many of the crops they grew traditionally in the Middle East, such as lentils and chickpeas, were ideally suited to Saskatchewan conditions. I found it amusing that, as a child, one of the highlights of Salloum’s year was his annual supply of bologna….

Mapmaker
University of Regina Press / 27 March 2018

Mapmaker: Philip Turnor in Rupert’s Land in the Age of Enlightenment by Barbara Mitchell Published by University of Regina Press Review by Michelle Shaw $39.95 ISBN 9780889775939 Between 1778 and 1792, Philip Turnor and his guides travelled over 15,000 miles by canoe and foot to produce ten maps, which laid the foundation for all northern geographic knowledge at that time. But until now, not much has been known about him Barbara Mitchell’s carefully researched work has changed that. She first became interested in Philip Turnor when she realized she was related to him. Initially all she knew was that he was a “significant figure in the Hudson Bay Company”; their first inland surveyor, in fact. A few years later, she heard a wisp of a story passed down through the generations of “Grandfather Philip Turnor travelling rivers in Northern Canada with only the stars to guide him.” That set her imagination on fire. “I began to imagine Turnor with his sextant, compass, and watch, and with his Cree guides and my great, great, great, great [Cree] grandmother, surveying the rivers of Rupert’s Land…. Turnor introduced me to Canada’s northern geography and early history, to the men who mapped this land,…

Fun on the Farm Too
DriverWorks Ink / 8 March 2018

Fun on the Farm Too Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $15.95 ISBN 978192757037-1 If you loved Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life, then you’re in for a treat. The sequel Fun on the Farm Too is packed with 40 more hilarious and memorable stories and poems about life on a farm on the Canadian prairies. Once again there are stories about strange happenings in outhouses, stubborn sheep, terrifying turkeys, alarming stories of pigs and chickens and the inevitable antics that arise from growing up on a farm. Theodore Mikolayenko tells the story of how he decided to become a self-appointed goose flight coordinator, we find out what made mild-mannered Agnes finally blow her cool, and we discover the recipe for perfect mud pies (hint, it involves a fresh egg!). There will also be a trip down memory lane for many readers with June Hudy’s story about party lines (a forerunner of social media for those who are too young to remember this staple of rural life) which allowed the entire community to keep up to date on their neighbors’ personal lives. I particularly loved Carrie Ann Schemenauer’s…

Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather
DriverWorks Ink / 2 February 2018

Skye Bird and Eagle Feather by Mary Harelkin Bishop Published by Emmbee Ink and DriverWorks Ink Review by Michelle Shaw $13.95 ISBN 978-192757039-5 Every time I read one of Mary Harelkin Bishop’s books I learn something new. As a relative newcomer to Canada and Saskatchewan, I’ve heard the words, “We recognize that we are standing on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis…” many times without really knowing what that meant. Now, thanks to Bishop’s latest book, Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather, I have a vivid picture in my mind. Bishop’s new book introduces us to Skye Bird, a Grade 6 student starting the new school year in a “big, shiny, new school across town”. Her old school, a local school which has recently closed, was “warm and inviting”. Although it was small, it was a vibrant community where different cultures were celebrated and shared. But Skye’s new school seems nothing like that and she feels very lost and out of place. Her little sister Cheyenne can’t find her special books in the school library and when Skye asks the librarian where to find books about Cree people or the Métis, she’s told that they don’t have…

Being Kurdish in a Hostile World
University of Regina Press / 29 November 2017

Being Kurdish in a Hostile World by Ayub Nuri Published by University of Regina Press Review by Michelle Shaw $29.95 ISBN 9780889774940 When Ayub Nuri was a young boy, a piece of shrapnel hit his knee and cut it in half. At the time, he was sitting contentedly between his mother and grandmother threading the family’s tobacco crop. War was an ongoing part of life in Kurdistan. On this occasion, the war was between Iran and Iraq but Kurdistan had been a centre of conflict for many years. Nuri’s mother reacted first, screaming and causing the family to rush to the young boy. Nuri and his grandmother (whose face had been ripped open by the shrapnel) were taken in his uncle’s British-made Land Rover to the military hospital in the Kurdish capital of Halabja. Nuri mentions in an aside that during the war military hospitals were better equipped and had better doctors than civilian ones. It’s this juxtaposition between normal everyday life in a literal warzone that really struck me. Most of what I know about the Kurds and the Iraq conflict has been gleaned through western media. I clearly remember when the first Iraq war was going on (the…

Rescued
DriverWorks Ink / 24 August 2017

Rescued by Janice Howden Reviewed by Michelle Shaw $13.95 ISBN 978192757031-9 Rescued is a deceptively simple book that works on many levels. On the surface, it’s a story about Hawkeye and his brother Freddie, two abandoned Tibetan Terriers, and their search to find a “Forever Home”. Underlying the story is the true account of author Janice Howden’s adoption of her rescue dog Rahj from the Saskatoon SPCA. Janice has been a long-time supporter of the Saskatchewan SPCA. For many years her husband Lloyd worked as an animal protection officer for the organization and she’s heard lots of stories over the years, both good and bad. So when she decided to adopt a dog it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. She first drew up a checklist to make sure she chose a dog that would suit their family. For one thing, she knew she wanted a dog that didn’t require long runs at dawn. “Not my lifestyle,” she says firmly. “I wanted a smaller dog, one with whom I could enjoy cuddles on the sofa while I watched TV or read.” After months of checking the SPCA website, Janice found two Tibetan Terriers who were about six months old…

Fun on the Farm
DriverWorks Ink / 8 August 2017

Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life! Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver Reviewed by Michelle Shaw $17.95 ISBN 978-192757030-2 I knew Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life was a winner when the opening story, Harvest Bonding, written from the perspective of a newlywed city girl who has married a farmer, had me giggling from the start. As Jean Fahlman wryly points out, “When soulmates enter the harvest field, the marriage may be entering the twilight zone, but newly married farmers and wives don’t realize that at first”. Harvest Bonding is the first story in this collection of humorous, true accounts of farm life in Saskatchewan, compiled and edited by Regina-based Deana Driver. The book is filled with tales of mishaps, adventures and childhood memories from riding “Bessie, our two-hundred pound pig”, jam-can curling and playing street hockey with a potato as a puck, chasing wandering cows, hens that lay Easter eggs and even an amusing incident from the filming of the James Herriot movie All Creatures Great and Small. That one I have to admit was set in Yorkshire, not Saskatchewan, although there is of course a Saskatchewan connection! Many of the stories…

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.”…