Carrying the Burden of Peace

Carrying the Burden of Peaceby Sam McKegneyPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Madonna Hamel$34.95 ISBN 9780889777934 From the first sentence of his book, Carrying the Burden of Peace, author Sam McKegney poses questions big enough for all of us to embrace, questions asking for new ways to scrutinize our world: “Can a critical examination of Indigenous masculinities be an honour song?” he asks. Can it “celebrate rather pathologize”? How do we hold institutions accountable and yet still “validate and affirm” the people who need validating and affirming? How do we entertain change without “fixing new terms of engagement”? His most pressing question: “Can an examination of Indigenous masculinities be an embodied enterprise?” Makes me think: If it can’t we are all doomed, because nowhere in the wider culture have I found a people more effective at embodiment – through humour, creativity, eros, and spirit – than Indigenous communities. The title of McKegney’s book comes from the Kanien’keha:ka word for “warrior”, which when translated, reads: “those who carry the burden of peace.” (This gives me pause, once again, to consider what we lose and have lost, intentionally and unintentionally, in translation.) McKegney quotes activist and artist Ellen Gabriel, who says:…

German Settlements in Saskatchewan

German Settlements In Saskatchewanby Alan B. AndersonPublished by Saskatchewan German Council Inc.Review by Madonna Hamel$20.00 ISBN 9780969401674 Growing up I heard stories about my grandmother’s job as the postmistress of Krupp and of the acres of sunflowers planted by German farmers surrounding my grandparent’s land just North of Fox Valley. When my sister and I went looking for Krupp we found no evidence of it, although someone speculated that a large feed bin was once the old post office. I could have used this meticulously researched history of the province’s settlements in my searches. It would have explained to me that many of the Russian-German settlements spanning an expansive territory bordered by Medicine Hat, Leader and Maple Creek, including my French-Canadian-Metis-Scottish-American grandparents farm, had changed their names after both world wars. When Leader became the “de facto centre of the settlements” in 1913 it was actually named Prussia. But during World War I the town name was changed along with street names like Berlin, Kaiser and Hamburg. No doubt Krupp suffered the same fate. Prelate was also a name I’d heard as a child. I knew there was a church there, just ten kilometres down the road from Leader, and…

Organist, The (Softcover)
University of Regina Press / 25 November 2021

The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mindby Mark AbleyPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Madonna Hamel$24.95 ISBN 9780889775817 There is nothing Mark Abley can’t write about. Whether its about smalltown Saskatchewan, threatened languages, imagined conversations with dead historical figures or ruminations on the English idiom, Abley is indeed able. As poet and editor and columnist he inspires confidence in writers and readers alike, so that every new release is billed as “long-awaited.” Books take as long as they take, you cannot rush a writer. And in the case of this newest book, a nonfiction reminiscence on his life with his father, Abley could not have written it a moment too soon. There is never a moment in The Organist when the reader does not feel the immense pressure and tension in the writer to be fair, honest and fearless in his depiction of his father. His mother reminds Abley that his father had “an artistic temperament,” as if that somehow justified his occasional tantrums and extreme behaviours, such as locking himself in the bathroom before an international flight. Or wishing aloud to a dinner party of relative strangers that someone assassinate Margaret Thatcher. “Harry Abley”, writes Abley about…

Cry Wolf
University of Regina Press / 17 November 2021

Cry Wolf: Inquest into the True Nature of a Predatorby Harold JohnsonReviewed by Madonna HamelPublished by University of Regina Press$16.95 ISBN 9780889777385 As with every topic Harold Johnson tackles, Cry Wolf is a book aimed at getting to the truth of the matter, because “the truth matters.” Johnson was the lawyer asked by the Carnegies, parents of Kenton Carnegie, a young geologist killed in a wolf attack in Northern Saskatchewan, to re-examine the coroner’s report. Johnson’s own disquieting encounters with wolves as a Saskatchewan trapline owner made him their perfect choice. Johnson is nothing if not thorough in his investigation. The book opens with a warning that “the writing depicts a violent death by wolf attack and discretion is advised”. At the same time, he makes it clear that “after twenty years of practice reviewing too many autopsy and crime scene photographs” his tolerance for the gruesome has not increased, but in fact diminished. “A sensitivity seems to have built up over the years.” Today he tells young lawyers “Don’t look at the pictures if you don’t have to.” If our species is going to survive, we will need accurate information about the environment, writes Johnson. We can’t be swayed…

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…

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…

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…

Raising Grandkids
University of Regina Press / 9 February 2019

Raising Grandkidsby Gary GarrisonPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Madonna Hamel $19.95 ISBN 9780889775541 Last week buying groceries, I asked the cashier how her day was going. “Well, I’ve got to rush back to be with the little ones, my son’s back in rehab and my daughter, who knows where she is.” I told her she sounded like one of the superhero grandparents in book I’m reading called Raising Grandkids. “I had no idea how many of you there were!” “Yes, there seems to be more of us. We are picking up after a lost generation”. Gary Garrison, author of Raising Grandkids, is part of a cultural phenomenon new to most North Americans– grandparents raising babies, toddlers and teenagers. He is raising a grand-daughter when one normally retires or enters a retirement home. Not the natural course of events. But the number of young people who “can’t or won’t raise their own children due to addiction, poverty, poor health” and even death is rising and more and more grandparents are stepping in to raise traumatized grandchildren with problems of their own, including fetal infant alcohol syndrome. Garrison takes us through the tangled web of bureaucracy that several grandparents, who…

Claiming Anishinaabe
University of Regina Press / 24 August 2018

Claiming Anishinaabe: decolonizing the human spirit by Lynn Gehl University of Regina Press Review by Madonna Hamel $24.95 ISBN 9780889774919 Claiming Anishinaabe is a treatise on one indigenous woman’s “theory of the human spirit.” I came away from it with a deeper conviction that colonization is a practice that corrals minds, bodies and spirits. And every one of us suffers at its constricting hands. My own internalized shame at this country’s treatment of indigenous people has made it hard for me to face many truths. After reading this book I wrote a Cree friend: “Shame is a regime tool. Whether it’s The Old Regime calling us heathens or The New Regime calling us fat, ugly, old, unsuccessful, off-key etc. When shame enters the picture no one gets to tell their truth. We hunker down and defend our little patch of reality. We cannot afford to open to Other Ways of Knowing. We can’t bear one more finger wave or barb of contempt.” Gehl refers consistently to her own journey and perspectives. She intricately describes an Indigenous world that reflects her life as academic, scientist, Anishinaabe and a partially blind woman. While resisting blaming individuals, she does“blame Canada”. Often. She blames…

Children of the Broken Treaty (New Edition)
University of Regina Press / 24 August 2018

Children of the Broken Treaty (New Edition): Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream by Charlie Angus Published by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Madonna Hamel $27.95 ISBN 9780889774971 Children of the Broken Treaty opens with a quote by fourteen-year-old Chelsea Edwards of Attawapiskat First Nation: “Perhaps you have heard of how Rosa Parks helped start the civil rights movement. Well, we are the children who have been sitting at the back of the school bus our whole lives. And we don’t want to stay there anymore.” When Rosa Parks was ordered off the bus she simply responded with: “I’m tired.” When Chelsea and her friend Shannen Koostichin “began the largest youth-driven human rights movement in the country’s history” they simply said: “ I want a school.” And then they told their story to the world. Youth across the country got it, right away. They responded, cutting through the political posturing of the Goliaths of government, demanding the children of Attawapiskat get proper schools. Author Charlie Angus follows a movement that began in 2008 in Attawapiskat by a group of school-less students led by fourteen year-old Shannen Koostachin who was encouraged by her “Grand Chief to speak the truth…