Miss G and Me

27 April 2022

Miss G and Me
by Jennifer S. Wallace
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Michelle Shaw
$18.95 ISBN 9781927570753

Weaving together poems, journal entries, anecdotes and personal essays, Miss G and Me is a beautifully written memoir as well as an exploration of identity, culture, family and place.

Jennifer Wallace grew up knowing the basics of her mother’s life. Ruth Williamson was born and grew up in Jamaica. She came to Saskatchewan to work as a nurse and married. But slowly Jennifer began to suspect that there was a lot more to her mother than she’d thought, especially when her sister answered the phone one day to hear a voice asking for Miss G.

Jennifer has pieced together her mother’s story through countless interviews with family and friends and research into a myriad of topics. Vividly colored vignettes slip back and forwards through time and place as the book moves between Jamaica, London and Saskatchewan from 1948 to the present.

Ruth was just 17 when she left her family in Jamaica to study nursing in London, England in 1961. She qualified as a State Registered Nurse (SNR), and then went on to specialize in midwifery. After finishing her training, she headed to Canada. There were two posts advertised, one in Toronto and one in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Ruth decided on the latter “and her life took a turn in a whole new direction”. In 1971, she married Ian MacLeod in Saskatoon. A mixed-race marriage in those days was very unusual, especially in rural Saskatchewan, but they built a strong marriage and life together. Ruth also made a dynamic impact in other areas of her life. Her nursing career spanned over 40 years and she has mentored many women and children from different cultures and countries.

Jennifer carefully explores the generations surrounding her mother, from Ruth’s parents and grandparents to her children and grandchildren. One gets a real sense of family and the ties that bind generations to each other even though they may be separated by distance and culture.

I found Ruth’s determination and her curiosity and enthusiasm for life and people very inspiring. I loved looking at the photos that are included in the book because they really do bring a story to life. At the back of the book there is an appendix with detailed notes explaining more of the history and context of Ruth’s story as well as a definition of some of the Jamaican expressions used in the book.

In 2020, the non-published manuscript of Miss G and Me: A Daughter’s Memoir was awarded third place in the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild’s John V. Hicks Long Manuscript Award for Creative Non-fiction. Jennifer (in addition to being Ruth’s daughter) is a French Immersion teacher, judo sensei, writer, artist and author. She lives in Saskatoon with her family.


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