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…

Antigone Undone
University of Regina Press / 24 April 2018

Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo van Hove and the Art of Resistance by Will Aitken Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-780889-775213 Great art can pick you up by the heels and shake the daylights out of you, and that’s what happened to novelist, travel journalist and film critic Will Aitken after he was invited to Luxembourg by Canadian literary phenom Anne Carson to sit in on rehearsals for (and the premier of) Sophokles’s tragic Greek play, Antigone, which Carson’d translated. The experience undid Montreal’s Aitken, and in his book Antigone Undone, he unpacks this “ambush” and explores why the 2500-year-old play’s been profoundly affecting audiences since first produced. Antigone Undone packs quite a punch itself. The hardcover’s organized into three distinct parts, and Aitken’s sassy style, subject knowledge and humanity illuminate each page. Antigone concerns an unhappy family (naturally). The title character’s a teen princess who insists that her battle-killed brother be buried, but her uncle, the king, insists he was a traitor and “his body must rot in the sun for all to see”. When Antigone – played by my favourite, Juliette Binoche – throws dirt on the body,…

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…

Born Resilient

Born Resilient: True Stories of Life’s Greatest Challenges by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $17.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-02-4 Born Resilient: True Stories of Life’s Greatest Challenges is the third book I’ve reviewed by Saskatoon writer, counsellor, and motivational speaker Allan Kehler, and it’s my favourite. In this non-fiction book about suffering, hope, and resilience, Kehler introduces each chapter then allows some of the people he’s met on his own journey to take the stage. We hear from men and women who’ve each hit rock bottom in some way, and learn how, in their own words, they climbed out of their individual valleys. Perhaps nothing’s more powerful than candid personal testimonies. In sharing theirs, the writers lend others hope that they, too, can turn their lives around. The book opens with a foreward from an ex-NHL goalie who, like the author, confesses that he’s “seen the dark side” (addiction, mental illness) and has “risen above”. In his usual clear writing style, Kehler explains that his motivation for writing this book came from a young woman who’d suffered an abusive childhood. She silently revealed the scars on her forearms, and Kehler’s response was “Scars are…

Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens
Uncategorized / 19 April 2018

Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens by Sara Williams and Bob Bors Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $39.95 ISBN 9-781550-509137 For those who desire to grow fruit in their own northern gardens, the comprehensive and visually-inviting new reference book by horticultural experts Sara Williams and Bob Bors would be the logical place to begin. This is a learned duo – Williams has penned numerous books on prairie gardening and leads workshops on diverse gardening topics; Bors is the Head of the Fruit Breeding Program and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan (he’s also globally-known for his work with haskaps, dwarf sour cherries, and Under-the Sea® coleus). These Saskatchewanians possess a plethora of knowledge and experience, and they share it, along with up-to-date research, in Growing Fruit in Northern Gardens: a veritable encyclopedia (but far more fun) that instructs gardeners on everything from the basics – like soil preparation and pruning – to specifics on how to grow and maintain healthy tree, shrub cane, groundcover, and vine fruits, and make the most of your hazelnuts. Aside from the wealth of information on more than 20 species and over 170 fruit…

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…

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,…

My Health in Hand Healthcare Organizer

My Health in Hand (Healthcare Organizer) by Debbie Cancade-Schmidt, Shauna Baumann, and Sheila Warner-Johanson Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-781927-756812 Do you envy those who seem ultra-organized? They can find whatever they need immediately, because they’ve taken the time to establish a system. We all know how easy it is to lose track of important information – you know, appointments scribbled on scraps of paper, or receipts from the drugstore. Wouldn’t it be great to have one handy place to store all this critical healthcare material? I believe it would, and thus I’m pleased to hold in my hands my brand new system: My Health in Hand, a practical and user-friendly healthcare organizer. The trio of women who thought up the idea for My Health In Hand, a sturdy, coil-bound record-keeping book that would fit in a purse or glove compartment, must have had quite the brainstorming sessions, for they seem to have considered everything one needs to manage healthcare details. Users begin by completing the “My Profile” pages, with spaces for critical details like hospitalization number, next of kin, and your doctor’s phone number. Beyond the usual information, the authors provide…

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…