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…

Cowboy In Me, The
LM Publications / 11 January 2018

The Cowboy in Me by Robin Langford Published by LM Publication Services Ltd. Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $28.00 ISBN 9-780995-819009 “These stories are one hundred percent factual, no yarns or embellishments.” This is an enticing entry into septuagenarian cowboy Robin Langford’s memoir, The Cowboy in Me. The Maple Creek-born author candidly shares his life’s journey between 1947 and 2016, and readers are advised to hang on for a ride that delivers more ups and downs than a bucking bronco. “Cowboy up” is a term that defines what Langford and his hard-working second wife, Penny, often had to do while they tended both cattle and kids on ranches between Williams Lake, BC and the Prince Albert region of SK. The work was physically arduous and eminently dangerous, and the culmination of poor weather, aggressive bears, pack rats, raging bulls, moody cows, temperamental horses, frequent job changes, province-hopping, bad deals, disharmonious neighbours, disagreeable bank managers, and health issues would be enough to make anyone raise the white flag, but the Langfords stuck it out, even when it was often difficult to “put groceries on the table”. In one entertaining anecdote Langford explains that when he and Penny “finally” got married in…

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…

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…

Holy War: Cowboys, Indians, and 9/11s
University of Regina Press / 8 November 2017

Holy War: Cowboys, Indians, and 9/11s by Mark Cronlund Anderson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $27.95 ISBN 9780889774148 In his academic book, Holy War: Cowboys, Indians, and 9/11s, Mark Cronlund Anderson states that “the 9/11 event and the response to it, collectively the ‘9/11 story,’ are as old as the nation that was born fighting Native Americans.” He is uniquely positioned to take on this bold claim because of the vast extent of research used to back up his claims, and because he is an insider/outsider, being American born, but living in Canada. He asserts that “the media’s 9/11 story also derives from a deep mythical precedent: America’s frontier narrative. Its creation story. It serves up a contemporary retelling of America’s creation myth and serves the invaluable and necessary function of ritual symbolic rebirth.” It follows that school textbooks, the press, and popular culture have solidified the myth by repetition since the frontier wars. Anderson writes, “Americans have claimed divine succor and sanction for 400 years. Accordingly, the nation assumes the right to strike at its enemies with extreme force because the right of self-defense is embraced as timeless and universal.” He further states that…

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…

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…

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…