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…

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience
University of Regina Press / 5 September 2019

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilienceby Helen KnottPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9-780889-776449 When a novice author earns the praise of writers like Maria Campbell and Richard Van Camp, it’s like a promise: readers are in for a powerful experience. But Helen Knott’s In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience, also comes with a warning: the content is “related to addiction and sexual violence. It is sometimes graphic and can be triggering for readers.” The author suggests that any readers who are triggered “be gentle with [themselves].” She opens her story by acknowledging other women’s painful memories, and stating that she “gives this in hopes that [they] remember that [they] are worth a thousand horses.” I am already wowed. As suggested, I’m not alone. Eden Robinson’s written the memoir’s foreword, and says Knott – a Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw, and mixed Euro-descent writer in Northeastern BC – is “one of the most powerful voices of her generation.” Knott’s introduction to the compact hardcover reveals her raison d’être for the book: “I summoned these words and the healing that comes with them to lighten the loads of shame, addiction, and struggle” for Indigenous…

Clearing the Plains, New Edition
University of Regina Press / 20 August 2019

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Lifeby James DaschukPublished by University of Regina PressReviewed by Ben Charles$27.95 ISBN 978088776227 Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life, written by James Daschuk and published by University of Regina Press, can be best described as a heart wrenching but enlightening review of the systematic destruction of Indigenous peoples and culture in the prairies via the purposeful introduction of disease, starvation, and health disparities by both the Canadian government and private companies. This 2019 New Edition and winner of the Aboriginal History Prize, Cleo Prize, Governor General’s History and ironically the Sir John A. McDonald Prize, was originally published in 2013 and since then has obviously been praised by critics and readers alike. In fact, this reviewer truly believes that every Saskatchewanian should have a copy of this book on their shelves. James Daschuk, a PhD in history and a current associate professor with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina, showcases his unprecedented capacity for research and provides the reader with fascinating (albeit sickening) review of the history of Indigenous health both pre and post-contact. During initial contact, while the…

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…

Organized Violence

Organized Violence: Capitalist Warfare in Latin AmericaEdited by Dawn Paley and Simon Granovsky-LarsenPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Toby A. Welch$34.95 ISBN 9780889776104 What an eye-opening book! The amount of research required to end up with Organized Violence is staggering. Besides Paley and Granovsky-Larsen, 15 additional experts contributed to this meaty tome. The result is a well-rounded, masterful exposé on the violence in Latin America. But it is so much more than that; it’s an in-depth catalogue of human rights, social justice, and global capitalism mixed with violence.  Organized Violence is so packed that it isn’t easy to give a true glimpse into the book in a brief review. The subject matter is multi-faceted, with more layers than are apparent at the outset. Add the emergence and growth of capitalism into the equation and you have a subject that is extremely complex. The war on drugs, an abundance of poverty, and people living in constant terror complicate it even further. I was simultaneously horrified and humbled at how little I know of what is going on in other parts of the world. Take Honduras for example. One of the predominant cultures in that area – the Garifuna people –…

Life Lessons from a Red Serge

Life Lessons from a Red Sergeby Barb Porter and Linda GarveyPublished by McKenzie Carver & Associates Reviewed by Ben Charles$15.95 ISBN 9781775353607 Life Lessons from a Red Serge, written by sisters Barb Porter and Linda Garvey is an uplifting slice of Canadiana that warms the heart and strengthens the spirit. This collection of life lessons, take-aways, and advice compiled by the sororal duo is dedicated to the authors’ brother, Staff Sergeant Peter Garvey, who unfortunately passed away in 2017 at the age of 54 years old. This book acts a touching tribute both to the Saskatchewan born-and-raised officer and to the service of others in need that he strived for. In addition to serving his communities as an RCMP officer, Peter was also actively involved in the Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers (SARSAV) as a Search and Rescue member. In fact, profits from the sale of this book will be donated to SARSAV in his honour. The contents of this book contain a series of life-lessons inspired by Peter. The authors had written them into a checklist format with the intention of providing daily reminders to the Sergeant’s grandchildren of how to live as the best people that…

Wide Open
Coteau Books / 28 May 2019

Wide Openby D. M. DitsonPublished by Coteau BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$24.95 ISBN 9-781550-509663 Sure it’s a cliché, but I had a hard time putting this book down. Welcome to the literary world, D.M. Ditson, with your intimate, hard-hitting, and honest portrayal of matters that are not easy to share. First book? Could have fooled me. Sexual abuse, Fundamentalist Christianity, mental health issues, black-out drinking, and a dysfunctional family are the collaborative demons in Ditson’s memoir, Wide Open, and though the subjects are difficult, Ditson’s fresh style, pacing, and ­example – of how to live through the pain – are the reasons I’m recommending this book both publicly and privately. The former Regina journalist and government communications consultant is “obsessed with telling the truth”. She relays her story in the way you want someone to tell a story when it’s really interesting: the book moves. Like a pinball game. And I applaud the structure, with shifts in time (“Now,” “Youth,” “Childhood,” etc.) clearly indicated. After a riveting prologue, the book swerves to Ditson’s return from Belize where she’d gone to let the jungle heal her. Back in Regina she meets Ian, whom she’s loathe to introduce to her parents: “It’s…

Digital Bundle, A

A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Onlineby Jennifer WemigwansPublished by University of Regina Press Reviewed by Ben Charles$29.95 ISBN 9780889775510 A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online, written by Jennifer Wemigwans and published by the U of R Press is an outstanding example of how the knowledge dissemination of revolutionary Indigenous research is done correctly. In the field of Indigenous research technology is hardly discussed, especially in the context of Indigenous sovereignty to language and information. Wemigwans, an Anishinaabekwe woman from the Wikwemikong First Nation, the president of Invert Media, and an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, challenges the reader to change this discourse and begin to evaluate how modern technology can be an invaluable asset to the retention of Traditional Knowledge. The namesake of the book, the “Digital Bundle”, refers to Wemigwans online project www.FourDirectionsTeachings.com. This website was designed as an online tool to promote the Traditional Knowledge and worldviews of five distinct Indigenous Nations through the teachings of Elders and Traditional Teachers. These five nations include Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and M’ikmaq. If you were to go to the website, and I highly recommend…

American Refugees

American Refugees: Turning to Canada for FreedomBy Rita Shelton DeverellReviewed by Michelle ShawPublished by University of Regina Press$21.95 ISBN 9780889776258 When I first picked up American Refugees the subject matter seemed obvious. The quote on the back cover highlights the fact that the website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada crashed on election night in the US in 2016 when it became clear that Donald Trump would become the new US president. It was clearly a book about the latest wave of American refugees who, in the words of the title, “turned to Canada for freedom.” But that story is only a tiny aspect of this meticulously researched little book. Journalist and broadcaster Rita Shelton Deverell shares the stories of countless Americans who have made their way north over the years for a variety of reasons, and who have contributed immensely to Canadian society without turning a blind eye to injustices in this country. She focuses on particular periods of history when significant numbers of Americans fled to Canada such as during and after the Revolutionary War, during the period when the Underground Railway was active, and as a result of McCarthyism and the Vietnam War. While Deverell’s words informed and…