Florence of America
University of Regina Press / 8 October 2019

Florence of America: A Feminist in the Age of McCarthyismby Florence Bean James, with Jean FreemanPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$24.95 ISBN 9780889776470 Florence of America: A Feminist in the Age of McCarthyism is the autobiography of Florence Bean James and her passionate struggle against oppression to establish quality theatre in North America. Part of The Regina Collection published by the University of Regina Press, Florence of America is a slightly condensed reprint of her earlier memoir, Fists Upon A Star. The new version has a more compact format – easy to carry in one’s pocket and handy to pull out while sitting in waiting rooms. In her memoir, Florence recalls her exciting life. Starting out at the end of the First World War was difficult for her and her husband, Burton. The bedroom of their New York apartment was so small that once they moved the bed in, they couldn’t close the door. Their rent was three dollars a week, plus quarters for the gas meter, and included cockroaches, which stayed rent-free. Working temporarily as a switchboard operator, Florence hid twelve dollars, her weekly salary, under some shelf paper in the kitchen cupboard. Next week, in…

Back to Blakeney
University of Regina Press / 8 October 2019

Back to Blakeney: Revitalizing the Democratic Stateedited by David McGrane, John D. Whyte, Roy Romanow, and Russell IsingerPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$34.95 ISBN 9780889776418 Back to Blakeney: Revitalizing the Democratic State is the political biography of Allan Blakeney, a political giant who served as Saskatchewan’s tenth premier from 1971 to 1982. This 342-page volume stems directly from a 2015 conference held at the University of Saskatchewan in which fifteen academic essayists discussed and evaluated Blakeney’s legacy to the democratic state in Canada. It’s wholly appropriate that academics discuss Blakeney as he himself was an academic, achieving early distinction as a Rhodes scholar. As the subtitle suggests, this study harks back to Saskatchewan in the 1970s, a difficult but in some ways a better time. It was better because Blakeney stuck to his principles in trying times. The editors applaud Blakeney’s “openness to other views” and “his ability to extend courtesy in debate” – rare phenomena in today’s politics. In paying tribute to Blakeney’s many achievements, this scholarly study reveals a certain slant in perception; the editors acknowledge that Blakeney was a personal friend of theirs. One of the essayists and editors is Roy Romanow, a former…

Hell & Damnation
University of Regina Press / 6 September 2019

Hell and Damnation: A Sinner’s Guide to Eternal Tormentby Marq de VilliersPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Madonna Hamel$24.95 ISBN 9780889775848 “Did you know,” I phoned my friend with urgent information, “there is a special hell reserved just for people who borrow books and never give them back?” “What are you getting at?” “I’m reviewing Marq de Villier’s book Hell and Damnation: A Sinner’s Guide to Eternal Torment,and in it he describes the thousands of hells depicted by everyone from Dante to Christopher Hitchens and in everything from the Bible to Chinese Buddhism, where it turns out the afterlife is divided into ten courts and one of those ten courts in called The Mirror of Sin-” “ Sin? Isn’t that a Christian concept?” “Oh no, Christians have no monopoly on ‘sin’. Nor, it turns out on ‘hell’. But let me get to the point: The Mirror of Hell allows you to look back at your wasted life, at all the things you could have done but didn’t. It also affords you a view of several courts where the unfortunate dead are pierced and flailed by their own failings, including everything from ‘lying about one’s age when getting married, complaining…

Live Ones
University of Regina Press / 6 September 2019

Live Onesby Sadie McCarneyPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-780889-776500 I’ve reviewed hundreds of books over the decades, and have developed a kind of ritual before I read a single word of the text proper. Today Charlottetown poet Sadie McCarney’s first book, Live Ones, is under inspection. A book is a reverent thing. Firstly, I turn it in my hands, and study the front and back covers. McCarney’s slim cream-coloured volume is adorned with a small purple graphic, Winged Skull / Memento Mori, by artist Susan Crawford. What does this image suggest about the poems? There will be sorrow – quite possibly death – addressed within these pages. I flip to the back, read the publisher’s blurb, any other blurbs (usually provided by accomplished writers), and biographical notes about the author. Here I learn that McCarney’s book “grapples with mourning, coming of age, and queer identity against the backdrop of rural and small-town Atlantic Canada.” First books often cast a wide net. Next I check the author’s birth year (just curious), if available; her Acknowledgments (where these poems previously appeared – impressive); and finally, I scan the individual titles in the Contents. Titles interest me….

Homesteaders
University of Regina Press / 6 September 2019

The Homesteadersby Sandra Rollings-MagnussonPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Madonna Hamel$39.95 ISBN 9780889775152 One day, while doing research for her master’s thesis on women and farming, author and professor Sandra Rollings-Magnusson was presented with a stack of questionnaires. Called ‘The Pioneer Questionnaires’, they were compiled and distributed in the 1950s and were still being returned in the 1970s by respondents born mostly between 1873 and 1924. She soon shifted her focus to culling, organizing and transcribing them into a book, determined to “give these people a voice” so they “would not be forgotten.” The result is not nostalgic hearsay but a collection of witness impact statements, verbatim responses to a series of questions divided into relevant categories, covering everything from what Canada’s first wave of immigrants ate and did for fun, to how they survived ill health, storms and isolation. These stories and anecdotes hold the kind of intimacy and immediacy that only direct experience can convey. The Homesteaders is replete with archival photos as well. Memories of immigrants escaping hardships in countries that included Russia, Germany, Poland, England, Norway and Switzerland are made more acute by imagery. As are recipes for pies and pot roasts made more mouthwatering…

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience
University of Regina Press / 5 September 2019

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilienceby Helen KnottPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9-780889-776449 When a novice author earns the praise of writers like Maria Campbell and Richard Van Camp, it’s like a promise: readers are in for a powerful experience. But Helen Knott’s In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience, also comes with a warning: the content is “related to addiction and sexual violence. It is sometimes graphic and can be triggering for readers.” The author suggests that any readers who are triggered “be gentle with [themselves].” She opens her story by acknowledging other women’s painful memories, and stating that she “gives this in hopes that [they] remember that [they] are worth a thousand horses.” I am already wowed. As suggested, I’m not alone. Eden Robinson’s written the memoir’s foreword, and says Knott – a Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, and mixed Euro-descent writer in Northeastern BC – is “one of the most powerful voices of her generation.” Knott’s introduction to the compact hardcover reveals her raison d’être for the book: “I summoned these words and the healing that comes with them to lighten the loads of shame, addiction, and struggle” for Indigenous…

Clearing the Plains, New Edition
University of Regina Press / 20 August 2019

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Lifeby James DaschukPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Ben Charles$27.95 ISBN 978088776227 Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life, written by James Daschuk and published by University of Regina Press, can be best described as a heart wrenching but enlightening review of the systematic destruction of Indigenous peoples and culture in the prairies via the purposeful introduction of disease, starvation, and health disparities by both the Canadian government and private companies. This 2019 New Edition and winner of the Aboriginal History Prize, Cleo Prize, Governor General’s History and ironically the Sir John A. McDonald Prize, was originally published in 2013 and since then has obviously been praised by critics and readers alike. In fact, this reviewer truly believes that every Saskatchewanian should have a copy of this book on their shelves. James Daschuk, a PhD in history and a current associate professor with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, showcases his unprecedented capacity for research and provides the reader with fascinating (albeit sickening) review of the history of Indigenous health both pre and post-contact. During initial contact, while the…

Women Who Dig
University of Regina Press / 14 August 2019

Women Who Dig: Farming, Feminism, and the Fight to Feed the Worldby Trina MoylesPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Kris Brandhagen$34.95 ISBN 9780889775275 Trina Moyles traveled for three years to eight countries to conduct research for her book Women Who Dig: Farming, Feminism, and the Fight to Feed the World, upon learning that her great grandmother farmed singlehandedly in Saskatchewan while her husband and sons fought in WWI. Moyles thought that the stories of other female farmers might also be hidden, and felt passionate about bringing them to light. Moyles limited her research to specific areas and conditions, such as the Maya-Mam in the Comitancillo province in Guatemala, whose farms are threatened by the presence of a Canadian gold mine, and undocumented Mexican women in Sonoma County California who pick grapes all night long, facing possibilities of abuse, violence, rape, illness and injury. A goat farmer in Salt Spring Island BC uses loopholes to provide raw milk to her community; a woman in Peace County Alberta has started a community supported farm, where members pay for the product in advance; and an Edmonton urban farmer plants on vacant lots in exchange for produce. Farmers in the Rio San Juan…

Organized Violence

Organized Violence: Capitalist Warfare in Latin AmericaEdited by Dawn Paley and Simon Granovsky-LarsenPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780889776104 What an eye-opening book! The amount of research required to end up with Organized Violence is staggering. Besides Paley and Granovsky-Larsen, 15 additional experts contributed to this meaty tome. The result is a well-rounded, masterful exposé on the violence in Latin America. But it is so much more than that; it’s an in-depth catalogue of human rights, social justice, and global capitalism mixed with violence.  Organized Violence is so packed that it isn’t easy to give a true glimpse into the book in a brief review. The subject matter is multi-faceted, with more layers than are apparent at the outset. Add the emergence and growth of capitalism into the equation and you have a subject that is extremely complex. The war on drugs, an abundance of poverty, and people living in constant terror complicate it even further. I was simultaneously horrified and humbled at how little I know of what is going on in other parts of the world. Take Honduras for example. One of the predominant cultures in that area – the Garifuna people –…

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…