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….

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learning that his neighbor was the great-grandson of the famous man, and that Armstrong had written an accessible and unpublished memoir.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…

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…

Leap!
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,…

DAG Volumes: No. 1
Dunlop Art Gallery / 25 January 2017

DAG Volumes: No. 1 (2012) Editors Dr. Curtis Collins, Blair Fornwald, Wendy Peart Published by Dunlop Art Gallery Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $60.00 ISSN: 1929-9214 The Dunlop Art Gallery is a department of the Regina Public Library, thus it’s fitting that Library Director and CEO Jeff Barber provided the foreword to DAG Volumes: No. 1 (2012), a limited-edition hardcover celebrating seventeen insightful essays by eleven contributors, and 130 full-colour photographs that are the next best thing to visiting the DAG in person. The exhibition retrospective features work from DAG’s Central Gallery, its Sherwood Village location, and in situ art. As this comprehensive volume of the gallery’s 2012 exhibitions and events was released a handful of years ago, a little Googling enlightened me that then-director Dr. Curtis Collins now heads The Yukon School of Visual Arts (Dawson City), but I turn to his introduction for words on DAG’s 50th anniversary – the reason for this first in a prospective series of books. “Such a feat of longevity in Canada, by any cultural institution, should be duly noted.” Agreed! The opening essay, written by Linda Jansma, concerns the retrospective of art by Shelagh Keeley, an accomplished Canadian who works on paper…

Re-Orienting China: Travel Writing and Cross-Cultural Understanding
University of Regina Press / 25 January 2017

Re-Orienting China: Travel Writing and Cross-Cultural Understanding By Leilei Chen Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $80.00 ISBN 9-780889-774407 University of Alberta professor and writer Leilei Chen was born and raised in China, but admits she’d always held an idealized vision of Canada. When a doctoral scholarship brought her to Edmonton, that vision was shattered by Canada’s social problems and historical racism – even the weather didn’t measure up to her red-leafed dreams. Canadian realities made her consider her homeland and how the “seemingly antithetical” countries actually shared many similarities. She credits her travels for her “more nuanced and critical vision” of both countries. In Re-Orienting China, Chen examines books by six contemporary travel writers on post-1949 China, weighing in on their work and ways of understanding “otherness” with a critical eye, particularly when she senses an us vs. them divide. Chen states a lack of scholarship re: travel literature about China, and she addresses the issue of subjectivity in the genre, concluding that travel writing is “ideologically loaded.” In her exhaustive reading she found that “women writers who travelled in Communist China” were more inclined to “sensitivity, self-reflection, and comparative visions of home and…

Lifting Weights
Thistledown Press / 25 January 2017

Lifting Weights by Judy McCrosky Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $18.95 ISBN 978-1-77187-105-1 Saskatoon’s Judy McCrosky has a reputation for pushing the limits. As a multi-genre writer she’s authored an eclectic repertoire of material, including literary short stories, sci-fi and fantasy, non-fiction, and even (under a pseudonym) a Silhouette Romance novel. In her latest short fiction collection, Lifting Weights, McCrosky asks us to step slightly outside the borders of reality and spend a few hours in unusual worlds that may be closer than we think. This imaginative ten-story collection features a wide range of plots, from the moving “Shelter,” about a distraught mother navigating both her brain-injured son’s care and the return of her estranged husband, to a tale about a lonely pathologist, Andrea, who finds a “disgustingly cute” hamster in her home and soon has sixty-one furry new animal friends. This story makes parallel statements about the earth’s ecology (the shrinking ozone layer), and men’s inability to see beyond the surface of appearance when considering a partner. Andrea finds a warm community among her female, quilter friends, but when she goes to a party she has to “wear a dress of cute hamsters to be…

Road Allowance Kitten
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 25 January 2017

Road Allowance Kitten by Wilfred Burton, Illustrated by Christina Johns, Translated by Norman Fleury Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $15.00 ISBN 978-1-926795-72-0 This bilingual (English and Michif) children’s picture book – with the green-and-yellow-eyed, plot-important kitten on the cover – gently tells a true and unpleasant story in prairie history: the poverty, hardship and displacement of the Road Allowance Métis. Like it sounds – and as explained in the back-notes – a road allowance is “a strip of [government-owned] land adjoining a parcel of surveyed land … set aside in case roads will be built in the future.” One need not know the historical truth to appreciate this well-delivered story about family and friendship, sharing, and both the joys and hardships of living a basic lifestyle, but it bears a reminder. After the 1885 Resistance, numerous Métis displaced from their traditional homes and land used scrap materials to build new, often uninsulated and tar paper-roofed shacks on road allowances. They worked for local farmers (ie: clearing fields of rocks and trees), and picked Seneca root and berries, grew gardens, trapped and hunted (though a 1939 law made year-round and unlicensed trapping and hunting illegal, and…

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life!
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 20 January 2017

Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! by Allan Kehler Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $15.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-53-9 Stress: every person deals with some amount of it. Some turn to vices (drugs, alcoholism, over-eating); some become angry, fearful, or depressed; many become physically ill; and fortunate others view stress as a challenge to be dealt with in positive ways (ie: changing routines, practicing mindfulness, exercising). If stress is threatening to sink you, reading Saskatonian Allan Kehler’s latest book, Goodbye Stress, Hello Life!, could be a swell start to swimming out of it. Kehler is a public presenter with a wealth of experience, both professional (addictions counsellor, clinical case manager, and college instructor) and personal (mental health and addiction issues) that fuel his authority on stress and living a healthier life. The blurb on Goodbye Stress, Hello Life! is a strong motivator for any potential readers: [Kehler] empowers you to take an honest look at what lies beneath your stressors, and provides the tools to heal through a holistic approach. You will be inspired to stop existing and start living …” What I appreciate most about this book is the great and diverse analogies Kehler employs, ie: he…