Wide Open
Coteau Books / 28 May 2019

Wide Openby D. M. DitsonPublished by Coteau BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9-781550-509663 Sure it’s a cliché, but I had a hard time putting this book down. Welcome to the literary world, D.M. Ditson, with your intimate, hard-hitting, and honest portrayal of matters that are not easy to share. First book? Could have fooled me. Sexual abuse, Fundamentalist Christianity, mental health issues, black-out drinking, and a dysfunctional family are the collaborative demons in Ditson’s memoir, Wide Open, and though the subjects are difficult, Ditson’s fresh style, pacing, and ­example – of how to live through the pain – are the reasons I’m recommending this book both publicly and privately. The former Regina journalist and government communications consultant is “obsessed with telling the truth”. She relays her story in the way you want someone to tell a story when it’s really interesting: the book moves. Like a pinball game. And I applaud the structure, with shifts in time (“Now,” “Youth,” “Childhood,” etc.) clearly indicated. After a riveting prologue, the book swerves to Ditson’s return from Belize where she’d gone to let the jungle heal her. Back in Regina she meets Ian, whom she’s loathe to introduce to her parents: “It’s…

Digital Bundle, A

A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Onlineby Jennifer WemigwansPublished by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Ben Charles$29.95 ISBN 9780889775510 A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online, written by Jennifer Wemigwans and published by the U of R Press is an outstanding example of how the knowledge dissemination of revolutionary Indigenous research is done correctly. In the field of Indigenous research technology is hardly discussed, especially in the context of Indigenous sovereignty to language and information. Wemigwans, an Anishinaabekwe woman from the Wikwemikong First Nation, the president of Invert Media, and an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, challenges the reader to change this discourse and begin to evaluate how modern technology can be an invaluable asset to the retention of Traditional Knowledge. The namesake of the book, the “Digital Bundle”, refers to Wemigwans online project www.FourDirectionsTeachings.com. This website was designed as an online tool to promote the Traditional Knowledge and worldviews of five distinct Indigenous Nations through the teachings of Elders and Traditional Teachers. These five nations include Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and M’ikmaq. If you were to go to the website, and I highly recommend…

Happy Horse, The

The Happy HorseWritten by Carolyn Williams, Illustrated by L.E. Stevens Published by Ghostmountain PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$20.00 ISBN 978-1-9994737-0-9 There’s so much adoration and delight – both in and between the lines – of Carolyn Williams’ slim, illustrated softcover, The Happy Horse, I’m reminded of a movie opening where it’s all blue skies and butterflies … which portends a forthcoming turn into darkness. Williams, a “transplanted Englishwoman living life (and loving it) out in the wilds of the great Canadian prairies” has teamed with Ohio illustrator L.E. Stevens to produce a book about the sweet life of a never-officially-named-in-the-story horse (I glean it’s “Snoop” from the dedication) that the writer actually owned – his photo appears above the book’s dedication – and clearly admired, as the book’s an homage to that extraordinarily ambitious animal. You could say that this is a book about a horse with a life well-lived. A happy horse with a life well-lived! Williams employs repetition of the phrase “He was a Happy Horse” as the last line in the first thirteen pages of this thirty-two page text – each facing page features a line-drawn illustration of the horse and its activities – and alters that…

American Refugees

American Refugees: Turning to Canada for FreedomBy Rita Shelton DeverellReviewed by Michelle ShawPublished by University of Regina Press$21.95 ISBN 9780889776258 When I first picked up American Refugees the subject matter seemed obvious. The quote on the back cover highlights the fact that the website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada crashed on election night in the US in 2016 when it became clear that Donald Trump would become the new US president. It was clearly a book about the latest wave of American refugees who, in the words of the title, “turned to Canada for freedom.” But that story is only a tiny aspect of this meticulously researched little book. Journalist and broadcaster Rita Shelton Deverell shares the stories of countless Americans who have made their way north over the years for a variety of reasons, and who have contributed immensely to Canadian society without turning a blind eye to injustices in this country. She focuses on particular periods of history when significant numbers of Americans fled to Canada such as during and after the Revolutionary War, during the period when the Underground Railway was active, and as a result of McCarthyism and the Vietnam War. While Deverell’s words informed and…