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…

Glad I Dropped In
Benchmark Press / 18 January 2017

Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore by June Mitchell Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $20.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-27-4 Anyone looking for the pure pleasure of getting lost in a good book need look no further than June Mitchell’s Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore, a memoir sure to evoke both laughter and tears. June, or Junie as she refers to herself in the early portion of the book, tells her life story as she recalls it. In those earlier sections where she has no recollection, she narrates as an outside observer, based on what she heard from others. June inherits her socialist leanings from her parents. Her mother, Marjorie Cooper, becomes the third female Member of the Saskatchewan Legislature, serving four terms for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. June’s father, Edward Cooper, is a high school teacher and fellow member of the CCF. June also develops her social activism from her Aunt Luella. When she witnesses a man dragging a woman down the street, Luella calls police, who ignore her. She then adds that her father has just left the house with a hammer; the police respond immediately. June…

Been In the Storm So Long
Coteau Books / 18 January 2017

Been in the Storm So Long by Terry Jordan Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $21.95 ISBN 9-781550-506877 I’ve long considered Terry Jordan to be a masterful writer, but if there’s any justice in the literary universe, his latest novel – the epic and historical Been in the Storm So Long – should earn him national award nominations. This captivating story centres on the sometimes discordant rhythms of family and community, the restless and hungry Atlantic, and the music that scores and changes lives. The mesmerizing tale moves with lyricism and grace, transporting readers from a small Nova Scotia fishing village to New Orleans. Protagonist John Healy is “just another sickly Irish infant begun in Sligo,” whose father moves the family to Canada for a brighter future. Jordan’s characters are imaginative storytellers and dreamers, some with peculiar gifts (ie: John has “the ability to listen to clouds”), and they’ve brought their superstitions across the pond. “There was sorcery everywhere on the water; be wary,” a young John is warned, “and it was left at that.” When a whale beaches on a shoal and the curious come to inspect (and slaughter) it, John’s mother claims that “Pure grief’d…

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