Cream Money
DriverWorks Ink / 4 September 2015

Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People Compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver Published by DriverWorks Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $19.95 ISBN 978-192757019-7 I didn’t expect this. While reading Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People, I stopped several times and thought: we have no idea. “We” being anyone who did not live in rural SK in the early to mid-1900s, when even children worked hard to ensure that life ran smoothly on the farm. It was the era of large families and tight budgets, of rolling up one’s sleeves before the school bus even arrived, and of smothering foods of all kind in rich, delicious, straight-from-the-cow cream. Editor Deana J. Driver has collected 29 short and interesting anecdotes (plus several black and white photographs) from residents of the prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan who well recall how hard they worked and how different life was in earlier times, when cream was regularly sold to creameries. It was not uncommon for farmers of that time to own at least one dairy cow, and the much-needed funds earned selling cream kept many families financially afloat during lean times. Within these pages we learn about specific animals, milking techniques, the…

Identities of Marie Rose Delorme Smith: Portrait of a Métis Woman, 1861 – 1960
University of Regina Press / 4 September 2015

The Identities of Marie Rose Delorme Smith: Portrait of a Métis Woman, 1861-1960 by Doris Jeanne MacKinnon Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-236-6 Doris Jeanne MacKinnon’s The Identities of Métis Rose Delorme Smith: Portrait of a Métis Woman is an incredible story of a seemingly ordinary woman who lived a remarkable life spanning nearly a century, from 1861 to 1960. In an era when ordinary women often remained unknown, what sets her apart? She lived at a time and place when significant western Canadian history was being made and personally knew many of the historical personalities of the time. She was also well-educated and literate, rare for a Métis woman of that period, and recorded her experiences in a diary. It’s incredible that she overcame all the hardships she did – surviving whooping cough as a youth, being “traded” in 1877, at age sixteen, to a white man more than twice her age for $50, giving birth to seventeen children, and losing two sons in the First World War. According to Marie Rose, her arranged marriage was the result of a misunderstanding. When Charlie Smith, a wealthy whisky trader, grabbed hold of her…

Street Symphony
Coteau Books / 4 September 2015

Street Symphony by Rachel Wyatt Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $18.95 ISBN 9-781550-506181 Rachel Wyatt’s short story collection, Street Symphony, opens with an epigraph from Emily Dickinson: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –That perches in the soul-”. The epigraph is wisely chosen; in several of the 17 stories the protagonists are unhappy, and for good reason – job losses, accidents, partners’ deaths – and thus hope for a brighter tomorrow is what they cling to. These are characters for whom “The universe had tilted.” There’s Jason, in the story “Salvage,” who lost his wife in a car accident after they’d had a fight about her desire to get a pet fish. In the aftermath of her death Jason empties much of his furniture into a dumpster, and accidentally “bakes” some of his wife’s photographs in the oven with the lasagna. “But he sat on the floor and ate it as a penance, charred paper and all. He knew now that he had to suffer in order for the world to tilt back to its proper axis.” The story is a powerful examination of grief, which can certainly defy logic, and it’s also representative of how…

University of Regina Press / 4 September 2015

#IdleNoMore: And the Remaking of Canada by Ken Coates Published by University of Regina Press Review by: Justin Dittrick $27.95 ISBN: 9780889773424 In #IdleNoMore: And the Remaking of Canada, Ken Coates examines the Idle No More movement from its understated beginnings in November 2012 to its climax in the late winter of 2013. While Idle No More can be compared to other social movements, such as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, it differs from them in several important ways. It is these differences that make the movement truly remarkable, including its lack of an official spokesperson, its lack of affiliation with political leaders, mainstream ideologies, and party elites, and its lack of an organizational structure beyond organizers’ commitment to its grassroots origins and inspiration. Indeed a convincing argument can be made that Idle No More contributes a set of best practices for peaceful, exuberant, and community-driven protest. With its energy, direction, and focus coming almost entirely from the public, it is greater than the sum of its actions and events, having galvanized discussion and instilled pride in a new generation of Indigenous Canadians on a wide assortment of issues and challenges to be faced in the coming years….

The Two Trees
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 4 September 2015

The Two Trees Written by Sally Meadows, Illustrated by Trudi Olfert Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $14.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-43-0 I love receiving new books to review, but sometimes I can’t get to them immediately. Before I had a chance to dive into The Two Trees, a children’s book by Saskatoon writer\illustrator team Sally Meadows and Trudi Olfert, my visiting friend, Flo, picked the book off my kitchen counter and read it. “What did you think?” I asked. “Loved it,” Flo said. “It brought tears to my eyes.” Any children’s story that can move an adult to tears is one I don’t want to wait another moment to read. I took the softcover book to my deck and in the few minutes it took to engage with the sensitively-written and pastel-illustrated story – about the relationship between two brothers, and the younger’s difficulty with the elder’s inability to socially interact “normally” both at home and school – I too, experienced the proverbial lump-in-throat that signifies an emotional connection’s been made. “Wow,” I said, “what a strong metaphor for ‘otherness’”. “I know,” Flo said. “And that word at the end, ‘almost’ … that’s what got me.”…