My Dearest Dido
Wood Dragon Books / 7 February 2020

My Dearest Dido: The Holodomor Storyby Marion MutalaPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Keith Foster$19.99              ISBN 978-1-989078-20-4 Marion Mutala’s My Dearest Dido: The Holodomor Story is a passionate account of the Great Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, known as the Holodomor. Based on actual events and documented eyewitness accounts, this story consists of correspondence between two fictional characters – Hanusia Hrabowa in Saskatoon and her grandfather, Dido Bohdan, in Hafford, SK, supplemented by Hanusia’s personal diary. As a class assignment to write about the Holodomor, Hanusia does her research using a primary source – her grandfather, or Dido, who survived the famine. Sixteen-year-old Hanusia starts writing to Dido, requesting his assistance, beginning each letter with “My Dearest Dido.”  Readers may find it odd that Hanusia chose to write letters when any sixteen-year-old would almost instinctively reach for her cell phone. But discussing such a sensitive subject over the phone would have been too difficult. Corresponding by letter would enable Dido to reread the contents, dwell upon Hanusia’s request, and gather his thoughts. Dido is reluctant at first – the memories are just too painful. As he starts to  open up, he becomes severely ill from…

Flight, Volume 1
DriverWorks Ink / 22 November 2019

Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation, Volume 1by Deana J. Driver and ContributorsPublished by DriverWorks InkReview by Keith Foster$19.95 ISBN 978-1-927570-49-4 Fasten your seat belts. Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation is about to take off. It’s going to be a wild ride. This collection of thirty-five true stories has mishaps and crashes galore. It brings out the thrill, and the danger, of flying. Author and publisher Deana Driver contributed nearly two-thirds of these stories, based on interviews she conducted. Readers will hear from, among many others, an air traffic controller, a helicopter pilot, a mechanic for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, and a pilot who had to make an abrupt landing as her cockpit was filling with smoke. Flight unveils an assortment of flying machines, from gliders to helicopters to an air ambulance. Royal Canadian Air Force Sergeant John Enright compares the smooth handling capability of the Tudor to “flying in a 737 that could instantly turn into a Ferrari.” The authors display their love of flight and love of the aircraft. “The smell of burning jet fuel is as sweet a perfume as ever there was and the roar of engines a pure symphony,” Terry Lynn Lewis writes. Lewis describes how,…

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…

Literary History of Saskatchewan, Volume 3
Coteau Books / 7 August 2019

The Literary History of Saskatchewan: Volume 3 – Advancesedited by David Carpenter and Kelly-Anne RiessPublished by Coteau BooksReview by Keith Foster$29.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-954-0 The Literary History of Saskatchewan: Volume 3 – Advances is Coteau Books’ third and final volume analyzing Saskatchewan’s proud literary tradition. Compiling and assessing a literary history of the province isn’t easy, especially when that history is ongoing. But editor David Carpenter, ably assisted by Kelly-Anne Riess, has done a commendable job in this Herculean task. Carpenter divides Saskatchewan’s literary history into three segments. Volume 1 traced the accomplishments of writers from the oral traditions of First Nations storytellers and early European explorers to the burgeoning Saskatchewan literary world of the 1970s. Volume 2 carried on with Saskatchewan writers and their writing styles from the 1980s to the end of the twentieth century. Volume 3 brings Saskatchewan’s literary history up to date. This three-volume scholarly study presents twelve essays by prominent Saskatchewan authors, with a heavy slant on Regina, where more than half of the essayists reside. All bring insights into Saskatchewan’s literary psyche. Carpenter’s introduction is also a farewell as this collection is the last in the series under his superb stewardship. He notes that the…

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…

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,…

Ältester, The
University of Regina Press / 7 February 2019

“The Ältester: Herman D.W. Friesen, A Mennonite Leader in Changing Times” by Bruce L. GuentherPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-572-5 When change inevitably intersects with strongly held traditional beliefs, there’s bound to be a clash. How one man and his community cope with the challenge of changing times is the theme of Bruce Guenther’s biography, The Ältester: Herman D.W. Friesen, A Mennonite Leader in Changing Times. The Ältester is an intimate portrait of a family man, a community leader, and a religious role model in the Hague-Osler area north of Saskatoon, where Herman Friesen was born in 1908. As one of Herman’s grandsons, Guenther writes from a unique vantage point, showing how the family served as a “microcosm of the transitions taking place within the larger Old Colony Mennonite community in the region.” Conflict arose over the Saskatchewan government’s insistence on English-language public schools for children, rather than private schools where Mennonites could teach their own language and religion. Unable to resolve this issue, many Old Colony Mennonites migrated to Mexico in the 1920s, but Herman’s parents stayed in Saskatchewan. Herman’s story would not be complete without his wife. He didn’t have to go far…

Thunderbird, The Quesnel, and the Sea,
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 10 January 2019

The Thunderbird, the Quesnel, & the Sea by Bev Lundahl Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-1-988783-35-2 In The Thunderbird, the Quesnel, & the Sea, Bev Lundahl takes readers on an investigative journey to track down a stolen grave marker carved in the shape of a mythical Indigenous thunderbird. She invites readers to follow her leads, hoping to find the missing artifact but not knowing if it even still exists During the dark years of World War II, while docked at Alert Bay on the coast of British Columbia, sailors from the Canadian corvette HMCS Quesnel removed the carving from the ‘Namgis First Nation burial ground. The area was notable for its totem poles, and the crew wanted to distinguish their West Coast ship from East Coast ships. A thunderbird mascot would do just that. The thunderbird was in such poor shape that the crew wasn’t sure whether to fix it or simply discard it. They opted to repair and paint it and bolted it to the crow’s nest on the mast. The Quesnel‘s captain, Murdo Smith, wanted the thunderbird off his ship, not because it was stolen, but because he believed it was…

Man of the Trees
University of Regina Press / 7 December 2018

Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist by Paul Hanley Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-566-4 Americans have Johnny Appleseed as one of their folk heroes; Saskatchewan has Richard St. Barbe Baker, a real-life action hero. Although Baker is not as well known, he is the original tree hugger, so well documented in Paul Hanley’s biography, Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist. Born in 1889, Baker was an eccentric Englishman obsessed with trees. As a youngster, he wandered through a forest, lost but thoroughly enjoying the trees’ embrace. It was as if they’d adopted him. He felt born again. Enthralled with stories he’d heard of Canada, Baker migrated and in 1909 took the train to Saskatoon. He was one of the first 100 students to enrol in the new University of Saskatchewan, taking out a homestead at Beaver Creek, fifteen miles from the campus. He then worked as a lumberjack north of Prince Albert. The nearby sawmill at Big River was the largest in the world at that time. Appalled at the wastage in the cutting process, Baker determined to save trees….