Nenapohs Legends

Nēnapohš Legends Narrated by Saulteaux Elders Transcribed, Translated and Edited by Margaret Cote Syllabics by Lynn Cote, Glossary by Arok Wolvengrey Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-219-9 Nēnapohš Legends, Memoir 2 in the First Nations Language Readers features seven traditional Salteaux stories I’m happy to have been introduced to. As explained by Margaret Cote and Arok Wolvengrey, these language texts have been used to teach Saulteaux (Plains Ojibwe) in classrooms at First Nations University of Canada in Regina, and prior to this they existed exclusively as oral stories shared between generations. The central character is Nēnapohš (pronounced NAY nuh bohsh), the “‘trickster’ or culture-hero” in the Saulteaux tradition. Cote First Nation Elders Andrew Keewatin, John F. Cote, and Cote’s daughter, Margaret Cote, a retired Assistant Professor of Salteaux Language Studies, are to be congratulated for preserving these stories via sharing them both orally and in this text. Aside from the fun and imaginative bilingual tales, Nēnapohš Legends includes a Saulteaux syllabary, an extensive Salteaux-English glossary, and detailed ink drawings by Denny Morrison, a Salteaux artist from Ochapowace First Nation. The first story, “When the Earth was Flooded and How Nēnapohš Recreated It,”…

Cloud Physics

Cloud Physics by Karen Enns Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 9-780889-774612 She had me at “peonies of sound”. She is Karen Enns, and the opening piece -and title poem – of her new poetry collection Cloud Physics, is refined and thoughtful, and it makes me ravenous for more. A few poems in the first section have a dystopian edge, ie: in “Epilogue,” “Nothing was questioned/after the last polar flares broke through,/and silence finally took over.” Enns, however, never slips into melodrama, and often her pieces conclude quietly (yet profoundly). The aforementioned poem ends thus: “It was warm for a while/after the birds migrated east/in a single line.” Yes! I love the poet’s use of understatement throughout the book, and her use of what I’ll call “imaginings”. She (or her subjects) ponder interesting “What if?” questions, ie: What if time worked in the opposite direction, “so we could live our lives from death to birth”? What would it be like to “bi-selve”? What if “middle syllables/were lost,” and what if we are “made of what [we’ve] heard”? This last quote is from the list poem, “Ad Libitum,” which concerns the diverse sounds that…

Glass Beads
Thistledown Press / 6 June 2017

Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-126-6 The cover image on Dawn Dumont’s short story collection, Glass Beads, is an ideal visual metaphor for its content. The high-heeled Chuck Taylor sneakers embroidered with flowers that look like beadwork and a (notably faceless) woman in a First Nations’ jingle dress suggest a contemporary twist on traditional First Nations’ culture, and that’s exactly what Dumont delivers. The book’s twenty-three stories are real, relevant, and riveting, and Saskatoon’s Dumont – an actor, comedian, newspaper columnist, and three-book author – was a “shoe in” to write these often hilarious interconnected stories about urban-Indigenous friends in the ’90s and early 2000s. The tales are so credible-from the diction to the romantic disasters-one can easily believe the author, who hails from Okanese First Nation, is writing exactly what she knows. This book’s overwhelming success lies in its structure, realism, and its characterizations of four friends whose lives crackle with energy, humour, and heartache. All but a few stories are dated by month and year, from 1993 to 2008, and it’s interesting to watch these characters both grow but also stay true to who they always were….

nipê wânîn
Thistledown Press / 6 June 2017

nipê wânîn: my way back by Mika Lafond Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-129-7 In her first poetry collection, nipê wânîn: my way back, Saskatoon writer and U of S educator Mika Lafond pays homage to her Cree heritage, the landscape that nurtured her as a child, and various family members-with particular gratitude expressed for grandmothers and great grandmothers-in heartfelt and easy-to-read poems presented in both English and Cree. As the book’s title suggests, the poems tell a story of a woman’s “way back” to the lessons her ancestors taught to her in their quiet ways. Lafond writes: “Words are spoken in hushed voices/their sacredness not to be shouted.” Lafond’s a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, and, with a strong interest in education and the arts, Lafond and her cousin (Joi Arcand) initiated Kimiwan Zine as a venue for Indigenous visual artists and writers. A few of the poems in this book hint at some of the heart-breaking situations she’s faced as a teacher and the difficult business of “[getting] through the walls” adolescent male students sometimes put up. One student is “always tired on cheque day” and though “winter is definitely here…

Fabric of Day, The
Thistledown Press / 5 June 2017

The Fabric of Day: New and Selected Poems by Anne Campbell Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $20.00 ISBN 978-1-77187-130-3 I do love “New and Selected” poetry collections, and so it was with delight that I opened The Fabric of Day: New and Selected Poems by Regina’s Anne Campbell, who has been making poetry and sharing it with appreciative readers since her first book, No Memory of a Move, was released in 1983. In a retrospective such as this readers can track a poet’s evolution, and I was interested to read the new work: what’s in Campbell’s poetic gaze now? In the book’s introduction Campbell explains that the prairies and “time” have been her major concentrations across the decades. In the newest poems I see that the trials of aging – the poet was born in 1938 – are also receiving attention on the page, and always, there is the undertone of love that’s missed, or love that might have been. In the poem “Retiring, Gone Missing,” she writes “It’s a puzzle at this late stage, a nuisance,/really, feeling the self, one used to be/ gone” and later in this poem, “it’s odd/being with the stranger I…

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….

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…

Child of Dragons
Serimuse Books / 20 April 2017

Child of Dragons by Regine Haensel Published by Serimuse Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 9-780993-903212 Saskatoon writer Regine Haensel recently released Child of Dragons, Book Two in her fantasy series, The Leather Book Tales. This ambitious publication follows her 2014 novel Queen of Fire, which was nominated for a High Plains Book Award. In the new novel we journey with restless sixteen-year-old Rowan as she searches for two missing children, is romantically pursued by two young men, and benefits from the protection of a foreign soldier with a penchant for making cryptic statements, like “There is no end to a circle … and when you stand at the centre you can see it whole” and “The moon rises in the evening, until it does not.” There are numerous interesting characters in this hard-to-put-down tale, and the author does a splendid job of making each distinct and memorable with her keen gifts for dialogue and physical description. The book’s opening image depicts a small caravan of horse riders, oxen and wagons crossing a “dun-coloured land” near Aquila, City of Eagles, to Vatnborg, a city on a lake. Like all good writers, Haensel quickly moves from scenery to scene,…

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…

DriverWorks Ink / 12 April 2017

Leap! How To Overcome Doubt, Fear, And Grief and Choose the Path of Joy by Lisa Driver Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-192757033-3 When I review a self-help book, I’m interested in knowing the author’s story. Is he or she writing based on personal experience? If so, I’m immediately more invested. The combination of practical advice and personal revelation is precisely what writer Lisa Driver delivers in her second book, and the long subtitle of Leap! provides a summary of what readers are in for: advice on ways to “Overcome Doubt, Fear, And Grief [And] Choose The Path of Joy.” Driver wears multiple hats. The Regina-born writer is a “certified Angel Therapist, Advanced Angel Tarot and oracle card reader, Medium, and Reiki Practitioner,” and in 2016 she became a new mother. In this ninety-six page softcover she conversationally discusses her decision to leave the financial security of traditional employment and follow her dream to focus exclusively on her business, Above 540, which serves to inspire others “to the joy and wonder that exists around them, and [help] them step into their power” via readings and spiritually-based teaching and healing. Setting intentions, meditating, creating awareness,…