Radiant Life, A
University of Regina Press / 8 October 2020

A Radiant Life: The Honourable Sylvia Fedoruk, Scientist, Sports Icon, and Stateswomanby Merle MassiePublished University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$34.95 ISBN 978-0889777330 As twelve-year-old Sylvia Fedoruk watched their majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their 1939 cross-Canada tour, she thought this would be the closest she’d ever get to royalty. How mistaken she was. Nearly fifty years later she was sworn in as the Queen’s representative, becoming Saskatchewan’s first female lieutenant-governor. Merle Massie’s lively biography, A Radiant Life, offers an intimate look at the life and career of Sylvia Fedoruk. In her preface, Massie describes Sylvia as someone who “sang lustily, laughed uproariously and often, and believed that life was for living.” Instead of using her subject’s surname, Massie uses her first name throughout. Sylvia, after all, sounds much more personal. Right away, readers get to know her on a personal level and instantly feel closer to her. Sylvia attended one-room schools east of Yorkton, SK., where her father taught. To avoid being called “teacher’s pet,” Sylvia endeavoured not only to perform well, but to outperform. She did. She averaged at least two scholarships every year throughout high school and university. A sports enthusiast, Sylvia excelled at…

Reclaiming Tom Longboat
University of Regina Press / 8 October 2020

Reclaiming Tom Longboat: Indigenous Self-Determination in Canadian Sportby Janice ForsythPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Elena Bentley$27.95 ISBN 9780889777286 Although the famed Onondaga athlete features in the title, Tom Longboat (Cogwagee) is not the focus of Janice Forsyth’s new book, Reclaiming Tom Longboat: Indigenous Self-Determination in Canadian Sport; rather, it is the Tom Longboat Awards that serve as the focal point for which Forsyth’s expert examination of Indigenous sport in Canada revolves. For over five decades, the Tom Longboat Awards have been subject to the various political agendas of the organizations between which it has passed hands. Conceived of by Jan Eisenhardt and Indian Affairs in 1951, Forsyth explains that the Awards were “no mere accident of history. Nor were they the consequence of serendipity, [or] of the right people coming together at the right time without political intent.” The Awards were a purposeful attempt made by the Federal Government to quantify and regulate Indigenous bodies through encouraging participation in mainstream sport. Throughout the 70s and 80s as Indigenous leaders became more politically active, they, too, realized the “symbolic value of sport” and used the Awards as “an opportunity to broadcast messages about the significance of self-determination” and “cultural…

None of the Above
University of Regina Press / 7 October 2020

None of the Above: Nonreligious Identity in the US and Canadaby Joel Thiessen and Sarah Wilkins-LaflammePublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780889777460 Once a decade a book comes along that you didn’t realize that you needed to read. This is that book! None of the Above is about “religious nones” – people who claim that they do not belong to any religion. This is the fastest growing religious tradition in Canada and the US. Statistically speaking, religious nones tend to be younger than their religious counterparts and more males than females make up the group. Religious nones also tend to be born in Canada versus foreign born.  This book is meaty, not something you take to the cottage for some light reading. It covers both Canada and the US in its quest to comprehend religious identity. It is rarely a single trigger that leads to someone becoming a religious none. Even things like political positioning and charitable practices play a role in religious views.  An interesting detail came up in this book. While religious nones don’t belong to an organized religion, a fair number of them believe in spirituality. Only 13% of religious nones in…

Burden
University of Regina Press / 22 September 2020

Burdenby Douglas Burnet SmithPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 (softcover) ISBN 9-780889-777729 In award-winning Canadian poet Douglas Burnet Smith’s seventeenth collection, Burden – a sparely-written account of a distant cousin’s World War I experience – I often found myself wincing. This visceral reaction’s a testament to the efficacy of the Governor General-nominated poet’s precisely-chosen words; to the bone and spirit-shattering power of war; and to this harrowing, personal story that wields the force of a novel in just fifty-nine taut pages. The title, Burden, alludes to the seventeen-year-old British soldier, Private Herbert Burden, whom the poet’s relative, Lance Corporal Reginald Smith, befriended and fought alongside; to the permanent weight of war on one’s psyche; and to Reg Smith’s personal burden of being one of the ten soldiers who killed Burden – a deserter suffering from PTSD – upon firing squad order. The first four poems, written in couplets and each several pages long, are delivered from Reg Smith’s point of view from the war field or from a hospital in England or Scotland, while the final poem, “Herbert Burden,” is a one-pager told from the deserter’s perspective – almost one hundred years after his death – at…

In My Own Moccasins (Softcover)
University of Regina Press / 18 August 2020

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilienceby Helen KnottPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Elena Bentley$21.95 ISBN 9780889777316 (Softcover) Is there any other act more revolutionary than healing? No, not for Helen Knott, debut author of In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience. “Healing yourself is the ultimate act of resistance… of remembering who we are as Indigenous peoples.” This book is a coming home story. A return to family, culture, tradition, and language. A reclamation of an Indigenous identity that had, for too long, been suppressed by shame, sexual violence, and intergenerational trauma. Within the covers of this newly released paperback edition published by the University of Regina Press, Knott seamlessly weaves together memories from her past with the events, both personal and familial, that led to her addiction and eventual sobriety. But sobriety did not come easy for Knott. She writes that she had “always been aware of a darkness that lurks within addiction… [a] dark thing” that wanted to consume her. Despite her own struggles, however, she has dedicated herself to helping those in need. Knott, who holds a bachelor’s degree in social work, feels that “life is about living for others.” In 2009,…

Nature’s Broken Clocks
University of Regina Press / 13 August 2020

Nature’s Broken Clocksby Paul HuebenerPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Michelle Shaw$24.95 ISBN 9780889777125 For someone who has always regarded time as primarily linear or cyclical, Paul Huebener’s book Nature’s Broken Clocks is rather mind-bending. Weaving together science, history, narrative and the natural world, Huebener—described as one of the leading figures in the field of ecocritical time studies—challenges the reader’s perceptions of time, particularly within in the context of the environmental crisis. He discusses varying concepts of time, from the sun (humanity’s “original clock”) to the politics of time—and points out that even so-called natural time is a lot more complex than we might think. I was especially fascinated by the various examples of the natural world he used. From the grolar (global warming has caused grizzly bears to wake from hibernation earlier in the season and come into more frequent “friendly” contact with polar bears) to what ecologists call “mistiming”. This is “the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.” Canadian boreal ducks have been facing this exact dilemma. Yet Huebener notes that…

Organist, The

The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mindby Mark AbleyPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$21.95 (softcover) ISBN 9-780889-777613 Does anyone ever really know anyone else? In multi-genre writer Mark Abley’s absorbing memoir, The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mind, the Pointe Claire, QC writer contemplates the life of his perplexing father, Harry Abley – virtuoso organist, composer, and music teacher with a complex “range of identities” – and in doing so the author attempts to reconcile why this accomplished and restless man, more than twenty years gone, never seemed enough to his only child. Abley has a dozen critically-acclaimed books behind him and I heartily recommend this title because the writing’s exceptional: I was hooked by the end of the short prologue. The work is also honest. Abley admits that “any picture I draw of [his father] becomes an exercise in self-portraiture.” I commend that clear-eyed confession: it helps me to trust the writer, and know there’ll be no subterfuge. I also applaud the book’s interesting structure, conversational tone, and the gentle pacing of its ending … despite their often tempestuous relationship, Abley seems in no hurry to kill his father off quickly on the…

Aesthetics of Senescence, The

The Aesthetics of Senescence: Aging, Population and the Nineteenth-Century British Novelby Andrea CharisePublished by University of Regina PressReview by Michelle Shaw$34.95 9780889777064 Early on in the writing of this book, the author Andrea Charise, suggested developing a particular seminar for her advanced undergraduates. “Called ‘Reading Older Age’, its goal was to introduce students to representations of age and aging in a variety of literary genres,” in order to “better understand how such portrayals contribute to our perceptions of fleshly temporality.” At the start of the seminar, her students, all in their early twenties, described aging, not surprisingly, in terms of decline, “the naturalized assumption that old age is inextricably bound to illness, incapacity, lack and diminishment.” But as the semester progressed, with the students reading a variety of books ranging from Shakespeare’s King Lear to David Markson’s The Last Novel, she was intrigued to discover that her students began to perceive aging through a far more complex lens. In The Aesthetics of Senescence, which was shaped by her doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, Charise “explores how the invention of population in the early 19th century impacted broader cultural conceptualizations of older age.” She examines the works of a…

Out of My Mind

“Out of My Mind: A Psychologist’s Descent into Madness and Back”by Shalom CamenietzkiPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$24.95 ISBN 9780889776890 Don’t let the compactness of this pocket-sized book fool you – it packs a punch.  Out of My Mind is a chronological journey with Camenietzki from the time his bipolar disorder symptoms first appeared at the age of 32 to his life now in his early 80s. As the decades go by, Camenietzki also suffers with serious bouts of depression, manic episodes, and suicidal contemplation. It is fascinating to step into his shoes and experience his struggles alongside him.  Camenietzki tries a wide range of treatments in his quest to get mentally healthy. He runs the gamut from a constant string of medications to shock treatments to hospitalizations to a variety of counselling methods. Ultimately what helped him was the drug Seroquel, which was approved by Health Canada in 2010 as a possible treatment for bipolar disorder.  To anyone who hasn’t suffered from mental illness, this book will be extremely eye-opening. Ever since Catherine Zeta-Jones announced in 2011 that she suffers from bipolar disorder, I’ve wondered what it would be like to live with the lifelong…

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…