Until We Are Free
University of Regina Press / 23 April 2020

Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in CanadaEdited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus WarePublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$27.95 ISBN 9-780889-776944 This multi-voiced tour-de-force details the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement from compelling Canadian perspectives. It’s comprehensive, diverse, and explains the “origin story” and trajectory of BLM – praise-worthy, all – but I also commend the anthology’s structure. Editors Sandy Hudson (founder of the BLM’s Canadian presence and BLM—Toronto) and Rodney Diverlus (a Haitian-born artist, activist, educator and member of BLM—Toronto) have written a creative introduction set in “An Imagined Future” (2055 C.E.), after the world’s been decimated by “droughts, fires … class wars” and “race wars”. The narrator melts beneath the blistering sun under one of the few remaining trees on a “weekly water-sourcing trek,” and reflects upon this very book. “We wrote about our future,” he/she says, “and it was beautiful”. It’s a literary entry into a text that’s alternately academic, political, and also written for those just learning about the movement, which was spawned after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman re: the shooting murder of the unarmed Black teen Trayvon Martin. “This case captured the public’s…

Sauntering, Thoreau-Style

Sauntering, Thoreau-styleby Victor Carl FriesenPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$25.00 ISBN 9-781988-783468 I embraced daily outdoor explorations decades ago, so was delighted when Rosthern, SK writer-photographer Victor Carl Friesen’s book, Sauntering, Thoreau-style, arrived in my mailbox. Friesen, a multi-genre writer, has several books behind him – including nonfiction, short stories, poetry and children’s literature – and in this latest title he revisits a favourite subject: the writer, naturalist, and legendary Massachusetts walker, Henry David Thoreau. Many will be familiar with Thoreau’s Walden – his literary response to a two-year sojourn at Walden Pond. Friesen’s book – a compilation of essays; mostly Saskatchewan photographs; poetry; and Thoreau’s own quoted, poetic observations – is an homage to Thoreau, and the images “were chosen to reflect Thoreau’s world”. Friesen explains that Thoreau was a highly sensorial writer who practiced activities like looking at objects with “the under part of his eye,” and “[smelling] plants before and after a rain in various stages of growth,” to get different perspectives. Thoreau’s writing itself emulated “the course of a saunter,” and Friesen writes that his subject considered the act of consciously walking in nature as an art. I understand! The colour photographs…

Field Notes for the Self
University of Regina Press / 17 April 2020

Field Notes for the SelfPublished by University of Regina Pressby Randy LundyReview by gillian harding-russell $19.95 ISBN 978089776913 In Field Notes for the Self, Randy Lundy – a Barren Lands Cree originally from northern Manitoba but currently residing in Saskatchewan – writes meditations that embrace the landscape, memory and the ever-changing self. Most often in prose-poem style, the long, sinuous verses carry though along a difficult passage where bright and often homely or humorous images catch the light of truth and recognition in the reader’s mind. As the speaker lives with his dogs on an acreage in Pense SK, a rhythm to the seasons and a feeling of expectation (or its counterpart, disillusion) carry the poems towards discovery in the presence of nature. These meditations reflect not only what it is to be First Nation with a heightened burden of memory but also emphasize how difficult it is simply to be human.       Characteristically, an ease and conversational flow lightens these verses, with recurring bursts of clarity and insight, such as come through with simplicity and force in the poem, “In Autumn, Blackbirds”: Yes, the blackbirds are doing it again. Somewhere beyond the horizon’s what they have dreamed for an entire season….

Wheel The World

Wheel the World: Travelling with Walkers and Wheelchairsby Jeanette DeanPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95  ISBN 9-781988-783505 I’ve just spent a pleasant afternoon with Jeanette Dean’s book Wheel the World: Travelling with Walkers and Wheelchairs. As the entire world’s currently anchored with the Coronavirus pandemic, we need travel books like Dean’s: over a few hours and 202 pages, she took me on well-described journeys around the globe, across Canada, and through my home province of Saskatchewan while I practiced social isolation on my comfortable couch. The title infers that this might be a “How To” book, but I’m suggesting it’s a wonderful armchair- adventure title for people with mobility issues or fully able bodies.   Dean and her husband, Christopher Dean, are British-born educators – now retired – who share passions for travel and photography. Saskatoon’s been home since 1966, and there Jeanette spent twenty-two years teaching at the R.J.D. Williams School for the Deaf. In her latter years, Dean’s arthritis has seen her transition from walker to wheelchair, but these challenges have not metaphorically slowed her one iota. She states: “Above all, this book is intended as an expression of the joy of travelling itself, regardless…

Vivian Poems
Radiant Press / 17 April 2020

The Vivian Poems: Street Photographer Vivian Maierby Bruce RicePublished by Radiant PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$20.00  ISBN 9-781989-274293 Choosing a subject most readers will be unfamiliar with is a risky undertaking for a poet. Will readers care about a subject they don’t know? Has enough research been done? Will the poet sufficiently engage his or her audience with this new literary territory? Regarding Bruce Rice’s The Vivian Poems: Street Photographer Vivian Maier, I say Yes, Yes, and Yes. Rice is Saskatchewan’s Poet Laureate, and this poetic portrait of Chicago photographer Vivian Maier (d. 2009) – whom Rice first learned of via CBC Radio – is the Regina writer’s sixth poetry collection. Maier, his “obsessively private” subject, was employed as a nanny, shot diverse subjects, and died poor, leaving a “legacy of 140,000 black and white negatives, prints, undeveloped rolls of colour film, Super 8 films, and audio recordings” that would later inspire several books, documentaries and “over 60 international exhibits”. Clearly, Rice – who’s frequently inspired by art – found an intriguing subject. He credits many – including the Saskatchewan Arts Board, re: funding his research trip to Chicago – for assistance in bringing this title to fruition.  I was…

Companion of Eagles
Serimuse Books / 17 April 2020

Companion of Eaglesby Regine HaenselPublished by Serimuse BooksReview by Michelle Shaw$14.95       ISBN 9780993903229 Companion of Eagles is the third book in The Leather Book Tales, a fantasy set in western North America.  The book opens in Aquila, City of Eagles, where 14-year-old Samel lives with his father. One day, his mother’s cousin Thea arrives. She is headed to the mountains, to her childhood home in the city of Schönspitze. Samel is desperate to accompany Thea on her journey and experience a world outside his everyday life.  Thea is headed home because her grandfather, who had disappeared years before, has suddenly reappeared. When they meet him, he tells them a peculiar story. He was sucked down by the currents of a nearby lake into a deep enchanted cave where he lay for a long time. There he had mysterious visions and dreams until one day he suddenly found himself outside the cave. He tells them to call him Grandfather Frog. Grandfather Frog is consumed by the idea of finding his way back to the mysterious cave to try to understand what has happened. Samel and Grandfather Frog set off on their journey but are nearly killed in a…

Loss of Indigenous Eden and the Fall of Spirituality

Loss of Indigenous Eden and the Fall of Spiritualityby Blair StonechildPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$32.95  ISBN 9-780889-776999 Blair Stonechild’s made a name for himself as the skilled writer of numerous nonfiction books, and as a professor of Indigenous Studies at Regina’s First Nations University of Canada. Stonechild’s led an interesting life. He attended Residential School, obtained his doctorate and became an academic and historian, and he’s worked closely with First Nations Elders for more than forty years. He’s supremely well qualified to write on Indigenous spirituality, and that’s precisely what he’s mastered in his latest book.  In this ten-chaptered new title, Stonechild discusses how “the Indigenous world preceded that of modern civilization, that it contained values vital to human survival, and that the significance of ancient beliefs needs to be re-explained for today’s world”. The author’s travelled globally to visit other Indigenous communities, and writes that “we all share incredibly strong beliefs about the transcendent”.    He begins by discussing the fundamentally-held belief among Indigenous Peoples of the world that they possess a “sacred obligation” re: protecting the land and environment, and hold a common belief that “spirits lurk in every corner – in trees, in…

Arrows in a Quiver

Arrows in a Quiver: From Contact to the Courts in Indigenous-Canadian Relations by James Frideres Review by Ben Charles $39.95 ISBN 9870889776784 Indigenous-settler relations, sovereignty, and legalities have a long and tumultuous history in Canada. Unfortunately, this means that the average Canadian does not have the context nor perspective to understand this history, resulting in widespread acceptance of half-truths, racial bias, and a lack of empathy towards different cultures. On the positive side, a wealth of peer-reviewed literature exists in the academic ethos that can assist in closing the gap that exists in Indigenous-settler relations. One of the best examples of this literature can be found in James Frideres’ newest book, Arrows in a Quiver: From Contact to the Courts in Indigenous-Canadian Relations. This literature is also complemented very well by the striking painting found on the cover of this book, provided by artist Lawerence Paul Yuxweliptun. This 2019 release by the University of Regina Press discusses the implications of a colonial government structure in Canada and how a restructuring of many policies and the structure that systematically represses Indigenous people must take place in order for reconciliation to occur. However, the book is not all on the deficits that…

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