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…

Finding Father: Stories from Mennonite Daughters

“Finding Father: Stories From Mennonite Daughters”by Mary Ann LoewenPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$21.95 ISBN 9-780889-775909 What do you get when you take fifteen literary daughters writing essays about their Mennonite fathers and combine them in one anthology? You get Finding Father: Stories from Mennonite Daughters-a comprehensive, compassionate, and well-written portrayal of men who were loved for all they were, and forgiven for what they couldn’t be. You get frequent mentions of generosity; the immigrant experience (the journey and the politics that led to it, poverty, language challenges, large families, stoicism); great but often quiet faith; ample encouragement (particularly re: academic aspirations … Mennonites are “people of the book”); music; leadership; eventual illness which led to death; and, frequently, the wish for a more emotionally intimate and physically demonstrative relationship. You also get the personal memories-best delivered through imagistic snapshots-that make each father-daughter relationship unique. Vulnerability is at the heart of memoir, and the talented contributors candidly share both what pleased and pained them in their relationships with their fathers, but as authors and subjects are both Mennonite, “cultural artifacts”-particularly religion, whether the family adhered to the Mennonite Brethren denomination or another-play a key position in…

Forty-One Pages
University of Regina Press / 10 April 2019

“Forty-One Pages: On Poetry, Language and Wilderness”by John Steffler Published by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Toby A. Welch $21.95 ISBN 9780889775879 I have a confession to make: this Forty-One Pages intimidated me. After finishing the introduction, I shook my head. I could not have put into words the gist of what I’d read. I took a breath and dove back in. I was rewarded with a glimpse into a completely different way of looking at writing and language. I felt like an alien whose ship touched down on the Saskatchewan prairies – discombobulated yet awestruck. The entire book continued in this vein. It challenged ideals I’d never questioned before, opening my eyes to a multitude of previously unthought-of possibilities. Even though I am a writer, I’ve never given as much thought to writing and language as I did while devouring this book. Steffler delves deeply into those themes from all directions. The history of language and the history of words are covered in detail. He even compares the parallels between writing and photography, between the camera and language. Engaging with words on a page is a theme that runs throughout the book. It is an enormous thought, especially…

Transforming Child Welfare
University of Regina Press / 10 April 2019

“Transforming Child Welfare: Interdisciplinary Practices, Field Education and Research”edited by H. Monty Montgomery, Dorothy Badry, Don Fuchs and Daniel Kikulwe, editorsPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Madonna HamelISBN 9780889774513 $39.95 The authors of Transforming Child Welfare begin with a focus on The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), ratified by196 nations (except for the United States) in 1991. Nelson Mandela described the Convention as a “living luminous document that enshrines the rights of every child without exception to a life of dignity and self-fulfillment.” While the UNRC and dozens of organizations, institutions, parliamentarians, individuals and even the children themselves work for change, UNICEF’s recent report card measuring overall well-being among children in twenty-nine countries in the world reveals Canada in seventeenth place. (The top three being Netherlands, Norway and Iceland). In fact, Canada is among a group of five countries that has seen no improvement and actual regression when it comes to the welfare of the child. And those “left furthest behind are Indigenous.” The authors insist “this is an uncomfortable truth but not an inevitable situation.” The rate of children in foster care in Canada is among the highest in the world, with most…

Imagining Child Welfare in the Spirit of Reconciliation
University of Regina Press / 19 March 2019

“Imagining Child Welfare in the Spirit of Reconciliation: Voices from the Prairies”Edited by Dorothy Badry, H. Monty Montgomery, Daniel Kikulwe, Marlyn Bennett, and Don FuchsPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-575-6 There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Indigenous child welfare and the Sixties Scoop, where Indigenous children were scooped up and placed with non-Indigenous families. A symposium held in Winnipeg, MB by the Prairie Child Welfare Consortium in 2016 addressed these and other serious issues. Imagining Child Welfare in the Spirit of Reconciliation is an outgrowth of that symposium. This is volume 6 in the Voices from the Prairies series, focusing specifically on the well-being of Indigenous children in the three Prairie provinces – Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba. The authors and editors are passionate about promoting Indigenous rights, particularly for children. And by Indigenous or Aboriginal, they’re referring inclusively to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. This volume looks at four main areas – policy, practice, research, and education – in twelve chapters written by two dozen scholars well-versed in Indigenous culture and the child welfare system. Each chapter ends with a series of questions and list of references. These thought-provoking questions and their…

Trans Generation, The
University of Regina Press / 19 March 2019

“The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution”by Ann TraversPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Ben Charles$24.95 ISBN 9780889775787 The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution, written by Ann Travers and published by the University of Regina Press is an honest and enlightening review of the trials and struggles of growing up transgender in North America. The experiences contained in this book were gathered by a series of interviews with transgender kids and youth (individuals from a wide variety of ages, from 4 to 18) and the parents of trans kids in Canada and the United States between the years of 2012 to 2017. As someone who is not transgender and knows relatively little about experiences of transgender people, I found this book to be an incredibly informative experience. This was in no small part due to Travers’ incredibly close attention to detail and the obvious meticulousness that they poured into their research. Literature that is academic in nature has a tendency to be a little dry, somewhat hard to follow, and littered with jargon. However, I did not find this to be the case with…

No Surrender
University of Regina Press / 18 March 2019

“No Surrender: The Land Remains Indigenous”by Sheldon KrasowskiPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$27.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-596-1 In No Surrender: The Land Remains Indigenous, Sheldon Krasowski brings a controversial interpretation to Canada’s numbered treaties – an interpretation that could blow our current understanding wide open. This exposé with the defiant title explores the differences in perceptions of Canada’s treaties by Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Krasowski’s thesis is simple. He contends that much of today’s confusion arises not from a difference in cultures or a misunderstanding of languages, but as a deliberate attempt by Canadian treaty commissioners to cover up a controversial surrender clause. No Surrender provides the historical context of the numbered treaties – Treaties One through Seven signed between 1871 and 1877. Examining eyewitness accounts and private diaries, Krasowski makes a strong argument based on his in-depth analysis of the original treaty documents. He brings a fresh approach to the treaties by incorporating Indigenous oral histories. Accessing them adds a vital dimension to our understanding of treaties. In many cases, they corroborate what’s in the written records. Krasowski suggests looking at all the numbered treaties together rather than individually. Although the treaties were based on a similar template,…

Black Writers Matter
University of Regina Press / 18 March 2019

Black Writers MatterEdited by Whitney FrenchPublished by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Toby A. Welch $27.95 ISBN 9780889776166 This collection of 23 stories touched on every emotion I am capable of feeling. And that is a good thing! It’s a refreshing change when a book can take you far out of your comfort zone. As a Caucasian woman, it was eye-opening to read about experiences and issues that Black Canadians face. It’s hard to miss the Black Lives Matter movement or the ongoing worldwide racial struggles if you spend five minutes watching the news but this anthology takes us to a new awareness level. With this book in hand, you are able to experience the pain as well as the joys that Black Canadians go through. There is an underlying tone of rage in many of the stories, helping to convey the angst and frustration some of the writers live with. The level of creativity in this book is mind-blowing. I was presented with phrases and thoughts that will linger with me because of their sheer uniqueness. Even the titles are ingenious – “Glass Lasagna” and “A Picture of Words” immediately come to mind. Words like “bludgeon”, “diaspora”, and…

Voice: On Writing with Deafness
University of Regina Press / 11 March 2019

Voice: On Writing with Deafnessby Adam PottleReview by Michelle ShawPublished by University of Regina PressISBN 9780889775930 $18.95 Adam Pottle enjoys dynamiting stereotypes. He’s an award-winning, Saskatoon-based author whose work explores the dynamic and philosophical aspects of Deafness and disability. Born with sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, Adam’s hearing was further compromised in his late twenties when the hearing in his right ear (up to then his ‘good’ ear) began to diminish. His latest work Voice: On Writing with Deafness explores the relationship between his writing and his deafness. I found the book intriguing. I’d never considered writing specifically from the perspective of deafness and, I admit that if had occurred to me I’d probably have fallen into stereotypical thinking. But Pottle has a unique way of perceiving the world. His approach to silence, for instance. “Although deafness and silence are related,” he says, “deafness is not necessarily synonymous with silence. It is not simply a condition of non-hearing; it can be a condition of hearing things differently.” He says his deafness has made him into a writer, and “writing has become my way of fully inhabiting the world.” Pottle’s work has consistently challenged boundaries and one of his chief…

Learning to Die

“Learning to Die: Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis”Published by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.95 ISBN 9-780889-775633 Not many writers get their books blurbed by Margaret Atwood, but BC writers and scholars Robert Bringhurst and Jan Zwicky earned that honour with their small and powerful hat-trick of essays, Learning to Die: Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis. These “Truth-filled mediations about grace in the face of mortality” (Atwood) are well-researched, highly educational, and eminently thought-provoking warnings about the fate of our world and species. Bringhurst authored the first essay, “The Mind of the Wild”. He maintains that there’s much we should – but have not – learned from “the wild,” which “is in control of itself and has room within it for humans but does not need and cannot tolerate human domination”. What’s this wild he speaks of? “Everything that grows and breeds and functions without supervision or imposed control,” or, more succinctly, “earth living its life to the full”. Bringhurst argues that humans are essentially committing suicide with our attempts to ““tame” the already “sane” natural world. What makes this essay so remarkable is the combination of exceptional writing, science (ie: the role cyanobacteria…