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…

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…

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…

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…

Reinvesting in Families

Reinvesting in Families by Dorothy Badry, Don Fuchs, H. Monty Montgomery, and Sharon McKay, eds. Published by University of Regina Press Review by Leslie Vermeer $39.95 ISBN 978-0-888977-352-3 Healthy families make healthy communities. The inverse is also true: when families struggle, the community suffers. Reinvesting in Families: Strengthening Child Welfare Practice for a Brighter Future, a collection of research edited by Dorothy Badry and colleagues, argues that on the prairies we need new, evidence-based social work practices to help families and communities be strong and healthy. The book takes a big step toward identifying practices that work and asking questions about future improvements. Reinvesting in Families is part of a series developed by the Prairie Child Welfare Consortium (PCWC). The University of Regina was a founding member of PCWC, whose goal is “to share information, conduct research, and consult, collaborate, and partner … to enhance and strengthen child welfare service delivery, education, and training.” Several of the contributors to this book point out that Aboriginal children and families are particularly affected by social services and social policies. They call for new, “innovative programs based on Indigenous knowledge and methods.” Changing the way social work is done — not only by…

Measures of Astonishment

Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry with contributions by Margaret Atwood, Anne Carson, George Elliot Clarke, and others ISBN 9780889773714 $27.95 Published by U of R Press Review by Tanya Foster For the creative writer or the poetry reader or the literary specialist, a collection of essays by poets on poetry is an enticement. Many such collections have been written—some consider the poetic process; others uphold various theoretical positions; and others are structured around literary or historical periods. This collection, entitled Measures of Astonishment: Poets on Poetry, is, above all a tribute to poetry. The writers showcase the transfigurative power of poetry—the life-giving, community-building, reality-defining, other-centering possibilities of poetry. As a creative reader, reading this collection will help to unlock a poetic impulse. One of the dominant ideas from the collection is that poetry’s capacity for making connections has transformative power. How often do we try to grab onto a hazy idea that eludes our intellect or try to express what an experience meant but can’t find the language? Metaphor, argue many of the authors, is what poets most rely on to bring connections between what is known and what is unknown. Metaphor offers us access into ideas and experiences…

Journeys in Community-Based Research (Softcover)

Journeys in Community-Based Research by Bonnie Jeffery, Isobel M. Findlay, Diane Martz, and Louise Clarke, eds. Published by University of Regina Press Review by Leslie Vermeer $34.95 978-0-88977-339-4 To many people, pure academic research seems obscure, even irrelevant. Some organizations pointedly ridicule curiosity-based research, implying that only applied research – research undertaken to be put to use – is valuable. And then there is community-based research, a third form directed at positive action, social change, and advocacy, and also the subject of a recent book published by University of Regina Press. It might just change your mind about the significance of academic research. Journeys in Community-Based Research examines ten years of community-based research in Saskatchewan. This research has been underwritten by two bodies – the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) and the Community–University Institute for Social Research (CUISR) – that work with various partners to address community issues and create positive change. Readers may be familiar with some of the projects and their outcomes. Community-based research (CBR) connects academic rigour with real community needs, producing valuable relationships among universities, policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, and social agencies. The goal is always to discover and deliver benefits for communities at…

*Reading from Behind

*Reading from Behind: A Cultural Analysis of the Anus by Jonathan A. Allan Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $34.95 ISBN 9-780889-773844 I’m going to take a leap here and suggest that the asterisk that appears on the cover and in the title of writer and academic Jonathan A. Allan’s provocative new book – the first in a series of books about the body by University of Regina Press – is not by chance. *Reading from Behind pokes fun and slings puns at that most base of body parts, the anus, while also situating it – in all seriousness – within a cultural and literary context. In his ballsy, er, assiduous text, Allan laments how society’s historically been phallic-centric, and he attempts to get to the bottom (it’s impossible to help myself) of why the anus gets short shrift. True to his scholarly quest, Allan addresses the anus “head on”: there are sixty pages of comprehensive notes and references here – plus an index – following the eight chapters (with delightful names, ie: “Topping from the Bottom: Anne Tenino’s Frat Boy and Toppy” and “Spanking Colonialism”). Clearly, this book was not written without significant research….

Sons and Mothers

Sons and Mothers: Stories from Mennonite Men Edited by Mary Ann Loewen Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $21.95 ISBN 9-780889-774032 I’m a fourth generation Canadian, and unfortunately haven’t been privy to conversations about ancestors’ “old country” lives, which, in my case, would have included several European counties. I’ve always felt a kind of longing for such tales, for knowing where we come from helps make sense of who we are today. After reading Sons and Mothers, Stories from Mennonite Men – a collection of a dozen essays commissioned by Winnipeg writer and educator Mary Ann Loewen – I recognize that the disparate contributors’ common heritage bonds them in an almost familial way. Yes, these Mennonite men have shared so many similar experiences they’re like one large family: a family that sings, reads, tells stories, and worships together; values hard work; practices altruism; and celebrates one another – even when individual beliefs don’t align. Two of the most obvious threads in this affecting anthology are the prominent role that music’s played – for the mothers and for their sons – and how several offspring strayed from the church’s traditional doctrines. What distinguishes the essays are…

Free Knowledge
University of Regina Press / 11 December 2015

Free Knowledge: Confronting the Commodification of Human Discovery Edited By Patricia W. Elliott & Daryl H. Hepting Published by University of Regina Press Review by Allison Kydd $27.95 ISBN 9780889773653 Free Knowledge is a collection of articles that offers some surprises to readers who might assume corporations are always the bad guys. After all, most readers have heard of corporations hoarding and overpricing pharmaceuticals, making them unavailable to the countries that need them most. Many readers might also be aware of dangerously close relationships between private corporations and universities and other public research facilities. Some articles address these issues, but the overall discussion of a “knowledge commons” is much broader. Articles also consider seeds, especially those that are genetically engineered and patents that attempt to “own” that knowledge, the implications of copyright, the appropriation of culture and questions around free access as opposed to subscriptions, among other things. In fact, the book covers so many aspects of knowledge and its possession that it’s difficult to evaluate the collection as a whole. Though the editors are professors, not all the authors represented here are academics. Some are graduate students, farmers, activists, ethicists or publishers. Perhaps that explains the breadth of the…