Svoboda
Thistledown Press / 17 July 2008

Svoboda by Bill Stenson Published by Thistledown Press Review by Chris Istace $ 18.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-30-0 Svoboda, by Victoria, B.C. author Bill Stenson, is a story of assimilation, providing a strong overview of how one Doukhobor family came to be as Canadian as their neighbours. Vasili Saprikin grew up in the midst of the tumultuous early history of the Doukhobor’s struggle to maintain the way of life they wanted to bring to Canada from Russia. A communal people, their settlements in both Saskatchewan and British Columbia were being assaulted by governmental attempts to assimilate the Doukhobor people into the Canadian culture of the 1950s. The Doukhobor’s response to this pressure developed into a pacifistic faction and a violent one. Learning from his grandfather, Alexay, Vasili stood outside these two factions while being taught to be proud of his heritage, regardless of how the circumstances of his culture changed. This was a challenge after the boy was whisked away from his single mother, Anuta, to residential school, where he was introduced to a conventional North American education and lifestyle. Vasili came to enjoy being educated and living the life of a standard teenager, however negative his experience at the residential school…

Interwoven Wild
Thistledown Press / 8 July 2008

Interwoven Wild: An Ecologist Loose in the Garden by Don Gayton Published by Thistledown Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $15.95 ISBN 978-1-897235-35-5 When one considers gardening books, “coffee table” books containing sumptuous photographs might spring to mind, but BC writer and nationally-known ecologist Don Gayton has written a gardening book of another nature, and for this gardener’s money, it’s far more satisfying than a full-colour, glossy album of gardens I could never aspire to. Gayton’s book of intelligent, easy-to-read literary essays, Interwoven Wild: An Ecologist Loose in the Garden delivers an ideal combination of history, witty personal anecdotes, and practical information. A vague through-line exists in the antics of Gayton’s dandelion-flinging dachshund, Spud, “who looks like an Irish setter might if it were left in the dryer too long.” Gayton is a first-rate writer and an “every person’s” philosopher. He makes the biology of a compost bin sound like both poetry and stand-up comedy (“Nobody likes a monotonous diet, not even bacteria”). Of the “Split Eden” – our penchant for pairing the cultivated and the wild – he contends that this duality “courses well beyond yard and garden into our very understanding of nature.” His subjects include soil quality…

A Stone in My Pocket
Thistledown Press / 4 January 2008

Imagine living in the year 1850 as a young girl moving towards woman hood. Imagine being a free spirit yet raised in a very conservative, strict Methodist household. Imagine finding a good Indian friend named Baketigweyaa from Mississauga who is part of the Algonkian tribe. Imagine your father dislikes Indians.
Review by Marion Harder