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…