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…

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.”…

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…

Decolonizing Poetics of Indigenous Literature, The

The Decolonizing Poetics of Indigenous Literatures by Mareike Neuhaus Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $29.95 ISBN 9780889773905 The highly readable academic text The Decolonizing Poetics of Indigenous Literatures by Mareike Neuhaus is meant as a “handbook or manual designed to teach holophrastic reading so that readers may apply this method in their own approaches to Indigenous writing.” Neuhaus thinks of Indigenous poetics “primarily as a way of making sense of Indigenous expressions, as a set of tools that readers may use when they read Indigenous texts.” According to Neuhaus, “Indigenous storytellers working in their ancestral languages may express and event and its participants using a single word.” This is called a holophrase. “Holophrastic reading, on the other hand, is concerned with reading for holophrastic influences in English-language texts by Indigenous storytellers and writers.” Her aim is to guide readers in understanding how “Indigenous literatures grow out of different realities than do Anglo-American literatures.” Oftentimes Indigenous authors record stories with their community as their intended audience, as such, their adherence to standard English is not always the intention. In terms of structure, this book is very well laid out, and surprisingly transparent in its uses. The…

Virgin Envy

Virgin Envy: The Cultural (In)Significance of the Hymen Edited by Jonathan A. Allan, Cristina Santos and Adriana Spahr Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $27.95 ISBN 9-780889-774230 Until I read Virgin Envy: The Cultural (In)Significance of the Hymen, I never knew that viragos are Latinas who assume “‘male’ traits and [transgress] popularly accepted gender roles.’” I didn’t know that sexual abstinence in Stephanie Meyer’s popular Twilight series is a subject of academic study, nor was I aware of the sketchy business of virginity testing as a literary motif in both medieval romance novels and contemporary English Orientalist romance literature. The trio of editors for this illuminating eight-essay collection by University of Regina Press invite readers to consider the myriad political, social, cultural, and literary complexities concerning the “utter messiness” of virginity. Firstly, the editors tackle the difficulty of a singular definition of “virginity,” and point to subjective and objective meanings, and the notion that the hymen is not always “the signifier of virginity,” (boys and queer people lose their virginity, too). The editors and writers of this text “go beyond the hymen” in their considerations of virginity, and this makes for an especially provocative treatise….

Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality

The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality by Blair Stonechild Published by University of Regina Press Review by Kris Brandhagen $32.95 ISBN 9780889774179 Blair Stonechild’s background, experience, the extent of his research, and the careful attention with which he presents the ideas make his latest book, The Knowledge Seeker: Embracing Indigenous Spirituality, an important contribution to knowledge. He has been highly involved in talking with elders to compile their oral knowledge; Stonechild summarizes the ideas of the elders, then comments on the ideas presented using his own spare conversational tone. While I am not from an Indigenous culture, community, or spirituality, reading this book allowed me a greater understanding of life, its stages, and its challenges. On an intellectual level, this is the most believable book about spirituality that I have ever read. This is an academic book, not a spiritual text in itself, but it does outline some very basic concepts that I find highly believable, and simple enough to inform understanding and even day to day living. It is not my place to summarize the ideas contained in this book, but I can present some of the basic concepts that I find particularly stimulating: that each person is a…

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…

Mudeater
University of Regina Press / 26 April 2017

Mudeater: An American Buffalo Hunter and the Surrender of Louis Riel by John D. Pihach Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $27.95 ISBN 9-780889-774582 It’s significant when an illustrious individual appropriates an ancestry, ie: Archie Belaney reinventing himself as Grey Owl. Frontiersman Irvin Mudeater had Grey Owl beat: Mudeater switched back and forth between Indian and European ancestry each time he crossed the 49th Parallel. Born to a Wyandot Chief in Kansas, Mudeater’s story encompasses buffalo hunting, stage coach driving, the Civil War, and criminal activity that saw him flee to Canada in 1882 and become “Robert Armstrong,” the white man who settled in Prince Albert and was credited (with two others) for bringing Louis Riel into custody in 1885. Yorkton writer John D. Pihach became fascinated with Mudeater/Armstrong’s Wild West and Canadian stories after learning that his neighbor was the great-grandson of the famous man, and that Armstrong had written an accessible and unpublished memoir. Considering Armstrong’s storytelling penchant, “some of his claims relating to certain historical events appear unconvincing,” but Pihach believes the “savage nature” of his “Indian” encounters are reliable. The result is the book Mudeater: An American Buffalo Hunter and the…

Speaking In Cod Tongues
University of Regina Press / 20 April 2017

Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey By Lenore Newman Published by University of Regina Press Review by Michelle Shaw $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-88977-459-9 I first heard Lenore Newman interviewed on the radio. I was driving so, granted, I was a captive audience but her words, and her topic, immediately intrigued me. She was discussing the idea of whether we had a national Canadian cuisine. Sure, maple syrup is as Canadian as you can get, but that’s an ingredient. Poutine is a perennial Canadian favourite, but it’s just one dish although it has been adapted in countless ways from the east coast to the west. And that’s one of the things Newman discovered as she researched (and ate) her way across Canada. We’re developing what she describes as a Canadian creole, adapting recipes and/or ingredients to create something new, something so unique that, in a sense, it loses it’s uniqueness and becomes an accepted part of a region’s culture. The Japadog in Vancouver, for instance, mixes Japanese flavours with a traditional street hotdog. You can get a terimayo dog for example, that includes teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise and seaweed. When Newman conducted a survey of Japadog customers she discovered something rather…