BOOK NEWS REVIEWS EXCERPTS
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Colouring Atlantic Canada
A children’s book illustrator on adult colouring AFTER GHOMESHI
What Have We Learned? page 80
DEAR ATLANTIC CANADIANS A letter from Steve Patterson page 45
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR Lisa Moore interviews Donna Morrissey page 18
No. 82 Publications Mail Agreement 40038836
Contents Number 82 Winter 2016–2017
Kate Beaton’s Golden Pencil Cartoonist Michael de Adder’s ode to Cartoonist Kate Beaton and her new book, King Baby
What’s New Newfoundland & Labrador library cuts still looming; Nova Scotia doubles down on local publishers Divergent Library Funding New Brunswick boosts library funds while Newfoundland taxes books and looks to shutter libraries
Cover art: Emma Fitzgerald
Busting Reading Barriers Maximus Todd is part of a new breed of protagonist for kids with reading challenges like ADHD or dyslexia
The Strength of Rita MacNeil The unlikely trailblazer, whose father prayed for her death, opened the door for countless Atlantic musicians
Wonder, Magic and Mental Illness Bringing uncommon sources of wisdom to young readers
PEI Long View A 5,000-rear history of Prince Edward Island
Why We Need Women’s Stories And whose voices are missing
We Are All Treaty People How centuries-old tucked-away documents can lead Canada and the First Nations toward reconciliation
Colouring Books Are for Grownups A professional illustrator weighs in on the power of play and the adult colouring craze
The Evolution of the Graphic Novel How an art installation has tweaked the tropes of the comic book genre
Teenage reality TV stars, environmental crisis, Black loyalists and young lighthouse keepers
Demographics Partitioning Canada Is Atlantic Canada destined to be Canada’s poor cousin?
Why We Need Criticism Novelist, Playwright and Critic Jeff Bursey on the value of criticism
George Elliott Clarke’s Many Hues Canada’s poet laureate playfully warns of all that glitters
Dear Atlantic Canadians Comic, Debaters host and new author Steve Patterson’s open letter … to us
Real Heroes Get PTSD The rise of the complex character in genre fiction
Author to Author Lisa Moore’s discussion with Donna Morrissey on mysteries deeper than murder
Oland Murder Analysis New details on the killing of brewery millionaire Richard Oland and the trial of his son, Dennis
After Ghomeshi What have we learned about celebrity, sexual abuse, the media and the courts?
Atlantic Books Today
The Overlooked Art of Lucy Jarvis Her life and work exemplify a region of artists who succeed despite what we lack
Witchy Women Ami McKay’s New York “witches” want what we all want: autonomy
Revolutionary Rocky Jones A courageous warrior and inspiring teacher for anyone willing to pay attention, like author Jon Tattrie
Who Killed the Canadian Tories? Former cabinet minister Tom McMillan laments a fallen political party
Too Young to Die Romeo Dallaire says, then as now, underage soldiers are unable discern real danger
Historical Excitement The new history books we’ll read again and again
Creative Fooding 101 Simon Thibeault is your guide to some of the season’s hottest new cookbooks
Ian Colford’s Dark Journey Into Psychosis
Kevin Major’s Everyman History of Newfoundland
Russell Wangersky’s Tales of Passive Aggression
Kerry Lee Powell’s Lost Souls Seeking Home
Bob Cole is Hockey’s Lead Voice
Anne Emery Search for a Missing Girl
New Books 76
Literary Excitement The new books we plan to read at least twice
Duplicity A new poem by George Elliott Clarke
Local Suite Poetry from M. Travis Lane’s Witch of the Inner Wood
Nova Scotia’s Great Hymn Bob Marley’s calling for the world to emancipate itself from mental slavery was born in Nova Scotia, an excerpt from Jon Tattrie’s Redemption Songs
Who Can Kill? In this excerpt from her latest book on historical murders, forensic expert Debra Komar revisits the infamous suspect John Munroe, a man believed too wealthy and educated to do the deed
Pictures 46 pub Frye ABT
The Faces of Writers Our two-page spread of some of our favourite writers at literary events in 3.375x4.625 v3.pdf 1 10/19/16 1:18 Atlantic Canada
DON’T MISS A WORD Connect with great writers and discover wonderful books!
ABOUT THE COVER
Emma Fitzgerald is the author of Hand Drawn Halifax, a best-selling book based on her chosen home in Nova Scotia, and Hand Drawn Halifax The Colouring Book. The Globe and Mail describes it as “a love letter to Atlantic Canada’s largest city.”
Photo: Louis-Philippe Chiasson
Photo: Michelle Doucette
I was inspired by a phrase my Dad says on a stormy day; “It is a day for a book in the bed.” Taking it one step further and bringing it into the Bath was not too far of a stretch. Encapsulating so many of the fantastic books being made in Atlantic Canada, in an image that also speaks to our experience of hibernating during winter, was a fun challenge. Those winters may very well be why we have so many great writers, and great readers.
APRIL 22 TO 29, 2017
22 AU 29 AVRIL 2017
MONCTON NB CANADA 6
Editor’s Message “I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” Poetic words so well known they almost sound cliché, like a self-help mantra. But like much that comes from the self-help industry, it’s more easily chanted than implemented. Breaking long-accumulated momentum, defying inertia, actually changing course? Near impossible. That’s why I present this issue of Atlantic Books Today with an earnest mix of pride and anxiety. The whole team here at the magazine – our writers, photographers, cover artist, designer, production and admin people – have willed themselves onto a new road, and you hold the result in your hands. The vision was clear enough: we want a magazine for Atlantic Canadians who are serious about books. We want words that challenge, provoke. We want images that make you feel the same excitement you feel when you caress a new
book for the first time. And, like a good book, we want a magazine that is as much about ideas as story. We want to show you Atlantic Canadian books as you haven’t seen them before. Hence, we have one cartoonist (Michael de Adder) toasting another (Kate Beaton); bestselling novelist Lisa Moore hilariously and profoundly interviewing Donna Morrissey about her latest; Michelle Butler Hallett’s feminist analysis of Ami McKay’s feminist historical novel; Marie Battiste’s essay on why ancient Mi’kmaw treaties will shape the future of Canada; and art curator Ray Cronin’s analysis of the life and work of too-often-overlooked New Brunswick painter Lucy Jarvis. With more essays and features, and more in-depth reviews, we sought out some of the region’s best, most qualified writers to comment on the significance of this season’s new books. Our goal isn’t to tell you what books to read. Our goal is to get you thinking about how books change our lives, and shape who we are as a people. We’re sure you’ll be excited by the books anyway. So, if you will just imagine me waving a beckoning gesture, I beseech you, this way, dearest book lovers. Follow us down this new path. Chris Benjamin
CRIMES of the CENTURIES You be the judge.
Atlantic Books Today
A HARD OLD LOVE AMONGST SCAVENGERS by David Doucette winner of the Dartmouth Book Award for Strong at the Broken Places 9781771871204 / $19.95 Available October 1 w w w. t hist l e dow npress . com
atlantic books today Atlantic Books Today is published by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (www.atlanticpublishers.ca), which gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canada Book Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Opinions expressed in articles in Atlantic Books Today do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Board of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association.
Blood of Extraction canadian imperialism in latin america
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“Demonstrates in brutal detail the predatory and destructive role of a secondary imperialist power.” — Noam Chomsky
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ART DIRECTOR Joseph Muise firstname.lastname@example.org PRODUCTION MANAGER Vaughn Horne email@example.com Printed in Canada. This is issue number 82 Winter 2016–2017. Atlantic Books Today is published three times a year. All issues are numbered in sequence. Total Atlantic-wide circulation: 125,000. ISSN 1192-3652 One-year subscriptions to Atlantic Books Today are available for $16 ($18.40 including HST). Please make cheques payable to the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association and mail to address below or contact apma.admin@ atlanticpublishers.ca for subscription inquiries. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40038836 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Atlantic Books Today 1484 Carlton Street, Halifax, NS B3H 3B7
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What’s New Newfoundland & Labrador library cuts still looming; Nova Scotia doubles down on local publishers
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia publishers will have an additional $1.1 million to work with this year, thanks to new funding from the provincial Communities, Culture and Heritage Department. It is a whopping tenfold increase in funding, covering up to half the cost of producing or marketing a book, which will help make Nova Scotia publishers competitive with other publishers across Canada. Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Tony Ince made the announcement in the fall. The funding is intended to help publishers expand by exporting to new markets, which might include hiring publicists to market the work to other provinces and abroad. Ince said that the goal is to double growth in the industry over the next five years, translating more works into French and Spanish and expanding the sales of popular titles worldwide. According to the publishers, expanded author rosters are already happening due to the new funds, which will also allow higher royalties and more staff working to produce and promote books.
Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage Tony Ince announcing new funds for publishers.
New Brunswick New Brunswickers make good books. The proof is in the prizes, with poet M. Travis Lane receiving the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for High Achievement in the Arts, and publisher Louise Imbeault, coowner of Bouton d’or Acadie, winning the Order of Moncton. M. Travis Lane, a fine critic and poet who glories in the long poem, has published 18 books – many of them award winning - including her latest collection of poems, The Witch of the Inner Wood (excerpted in this issue). Imbeault is a retired Radio-Canada journalist with “legendary” passion for the arts, according to the Moncton press release. She is co-owner of Bouton d’or Acadie, a Moncton publisher specializing in books for young French-speaking readers.
Buchans Public Library is one of 54 that could be closed.
Newfoundland and Labrador In Newfoundland and Labrador, the library battle rages on (see Phil Moscovitch’s feature story comparing NL’s book policies v. those of New Brunswick). Most recently, the 2,700 people of Fogo Island, the largest of Newfoundland’s offshore islands, are none too pleased about the prospect of travelling for half a day to borrow a book. That’s where the nearest library will be if the Province’s plans to close the one on Fogo Island, along with another 53 across the province, go through as part of an austerity budget. Critics argue that attacking libraries in a province with the lowest literacy rate in the country, and one with a significant rural population that is often isolated by a lack of travel infrastructure, is nonsensical. At a recent public consultation, Fogo Island residents accused the government of attempting to create a class divide between urban and rural residents, making knowledge a privilege rather than a right. After its initial announcement of the closure of 54 libraries sparked enormous public backlash, the province backtracked, committing to a public consultation process on possible closures. So far, the consultations have been criticized (and walked out of ) for lacking any government presence, being run instead by a consulting firm.
Atlantic Books Today
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Divergent library funds New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador take vastly different approaches to funding libraries. by Philip Moscovitch
arah Payne was devastated when she heard her local library, in Cow Head, Newfoundland, was slated to close. In early 2016, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador cut $1 million of library funding and introduced a provincial sales tax on books. To deal with the loss of revenue, the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board decided to close 54 of the 95 libraries in the province – mostly in small communities. “They picked on all the smaller libraries and they said if they saved money and put it into bigger libraries, people would use them instead,” says Payne, who has volunteered at the local library for 33 years and is currently on the board. The next nearest library is half an hour away. And Payne says, “A lot of our patrons are seniors and small children who would not be able to get there.”
“Of course we were shocked,” says Krista Godfrey, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association – a library advocacy group. “We had expected cuts given the lead-up to the budget, but we certainly weren’t expecting that they would be cutting over half the libraries in the province. Usually if they talk about closing one library there’s an outcry. Talking about closing half is unimaginable.” The government’s decisions to tax books and cut libraries has left many in the province with the lowest literacy rate in Canada shaking their heads. Bookseller Matthew Howse runs Broken Books in St. John’s. “It’s just a double whammy between the closure of libraries and a book tax ... It would be one thing if they were apathetic, but they seem to be against reading and literacy.” Howse adds, “We know the average household in the province spends $118 a year on books. There’s a
recession, people are being laid off, so you can’t expect a household to spend more than $118 – so instead of six books a year, they’re going to get five.” Meanwhile, New Brunswick is taking a different approach. In April, the provincial government announced it was adding $900,000 to its $14.5 million in library funding, with the money going toward keeping five libraries open seven days a week. Fines on overdue books for children under 12 were also eliminated. Literacy minister Cathy Rogers says, “It’s looking very successful. People love the extended hours and it’s getting more [library] cards into the hands of children.” Between November 2015 and September 2016, the number of new cards issued to children and youths increased by 60 percent. In 2015, New Brunswick announced a new literacy secretariat, with a mandate to make recommendations on a literacy strategy. Rogers sees libraries as “one of the key pieces” in that strategy. Julia Stewart, director of the Fredericton Public Library, says the effect of eliminating fines for children has been striking. “Often when their cards are blocked they just won’t come to the library anymore. They’re embarrassed and apprehensive, especially if they don’t have the money to pay the fines.” Stewart’s colleague, Nancy Edgar, head of children’s services at the library, points to a family whose library books never got returned in the months that followed the children’s mother passing away. “The father had lots that was going on, and the children’s books had not been returned and had fines accrued. All of the children had been blocked and stopped using the library – and when this change came into effect they were thrilled.” Returning to Newfoundland and Labrador, the libraries have received a reprieve. In the face of a loud and continuous outcry, the province suspended the closures and put a review board in place to “undertake a complete organizational and service review of libraries.” The steering committee is made up of three provincial government representatives and three members of the Provincial Information and Library Resources Board, which, in consultation with the province, came up with the plan to shutter the 54 libraries in the first place. Like many in the province, Krista Godfrey of the library association was relieved that the cuts were suspended, but she has concerns about the review process – for instance, the public consultation schedule was announced September 30, with the first meeting to be held only five days later.
“If they try to take the library again we’ll just have to fight.” “I’m glad they are finally doing the consultations. I think it’s important that they’re going to get feedback from the people using the library,” Godfrey says. But she is disappointed with the short lead time. “It’s also disappointing to see none of the consultations are being held in the towns with the proposed library closures. We think it’s important that those communities have a chance to voice their concern and support for their libraries in person.” In Cow Head, Sarah Payne says the community is “not sitting comfortably yet. If they try to take the library again, we’ll just have to fight.” ■ Philip Moscovitch is a writer and radio documentary maker living near Halifax, Nova Scotia.
This season’s must-read novel from the author of The Town That Drowned
Atlantic Books Today
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canada’s poor cousin Atlantic Canada’s demographic imbalance is partitioning Canada b y P e t er Moreir a
ou’d have to have been dozing in your rocker for the past decade to have missed the warnings about the greying of Atlantic Canada, but now Richard Saillant has brought fresh analysis to what is literally an old discussion. Saillant, director of the Donald J. Savoie Institute at the Université de Moncton, has done a deep dive into the data and spelled out the path we’re heading down. In A Tale of Two Countries, he says Canada will soon have more retirees and fewer young people to do the actual work. This will tax healthcare systems beyond governments’ ability to pay. This pain will be so acute in provinces with older populations that, in about two decades, there will be two Canadas – one west of the Ottawa River that can cope and the eastern part that can’t. “Over the next two decades, the gaps will widen between rich and poor, young and old, east and west,” writes Saillant. “While population aging will depress growth across the country, its impact will range from moderate in the Prairies to devastating in Atlantic Canada.”
Saillant calls this the “Great Demographic Imbalance,” and he capitalizes the term to emphasize what a whopper it will be. Anyone who chooses to dispute his conclusions better have done his or her research, because Saillant has certainly done his. The professor brings two great strengths to this project. First, Saillant is ideologically neutral, and is extremely fair in his judgments. He presents a mild defense of Stephen Harper, the easiest of targets from the left, noting that the former prime minister maintained healthcare spending increases. But he also questions the right-wing gospel that high taxes tend to stunt growth. Saillant is a numbers guy. He examines the data and draws unbiased conclusions. His second strength is that he details his findings with admirable clarity, never obscuring his complex research with academic jargon. Using a range of data, he predicts that by 2038 the percentage of the population over the age of 65 will be 24 percent in Canada, but in the Atlantic Provinces it will range from 27.9 to 34.5 percent.
This will undoubtedly impact economic growth because of the correlation between work force growth and productivity gains. The most striking impact will be on healthcare spending. Using his baseline scenario, Saillant says Newfoundland and Labrador’s healthcare spending is on track to rise from 7.9 percent of GDP in 2013 to 17.4 percent in 2038. In the Maritimes, the numbers rise from 10.3 percent to 20.5 percent. Healthcare spending will challenge all provincial coffers, he concludes, but the pain will be most acute at the wrinkly end of the country. “As for Atlantic Canada, the outlook is more certain: health care as we know it is simply not sustainable without massive amounts of new funding from Ottawa (or, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, long-term oil prices returning to pre-2008 levels in real terms),” he writes. So can we make cuts or innovate our way to lower health costs? History has shown that cutting Health Department budgets is hard, especially as the population ages. Debating meaningful healthcare reform is nearly impossible in the Canadian political climate. Even in education, the provinces’ other big social program, savings have been difficult to find. Saillant notes that the number of Canadian educators in K-12 public schools rose 8 percent from 2001-02 to 201011, even though the student population declined 7 percent. The reason was the vogue for smaller class sizes. Saillant proves to be stronger in analyzing the problem than in finding solutions for it. (In fairness, there is no risk-free solution.) He believes that Ottawa must reform the equalization and transfer system to ensure that public healthcare – which Canadians hold as a cornerstone of citizenship – is maintained across the country without bankrupting the regions with the oldest people. But the provinces, especially the Atlantic Provinces, have to do their part. If nothing else, they must convince the rest of Canada they are working to correct their problems and deserve federal reforms. Saillant is vague on how the Atlantic Provinces can increase economic growth. He advocates allowing hydraulic fracturing of shale for oil and gas, but says other economic development policies are beyond the scope of his book. He is suspicious of the hype surrounding innovation and doubts it will be a cure-all for the region. In my view, innovation won’t be a cure-all, but the export of Atlantic Canadian innovation is already proving to be an important and growing component of economic development.
“While population aging will depress growth across the country, its impact will range from moderate in the Prairies to devastating in Atlantic Canada.”
A Tale of Two Countries: How the Great Demographic Imbalance is Pulling Canada Apart Richard Saillant Nimbus Publishing
As for fiscal matters, Saillant recommends the Atlantic Provinces raise taxes gradually, adding there is not enough data to prove this would dampen economic growth. But he fails to evaluate the risks of such a strategy. It’s altogether possible higher taxes would preclude economic growth, and make it more difficult to attract medical staff, especially doctors. The strength of this book is its analysis of demographic and spending patterns, which is an invaluable resource for policy makers and for people who care about the future of the Atlantic Region. Saillant’s research is comprehensive. His book is a must-read for decision makers.■ Peter Moreira is the founder of startup news site www. entrevestor.com. He is the author of Backwater: Nova Scotia’s Economic Decline; Hemingway on the China Front; and The Jew Who Defeated Hitler. His novel, The Haight, will be published early in 2017.
Atlantic Books Today
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The Many Hues of George Elliott Clarke Canada’s poet laureate’s Gold playfully warns about all that glitters by Karin Cope
Gold George Elliott Clarke Gaspereau Press
eorge Elliott Clarke’s Gold is the latest in his series of “colouring books;” previous volumes were entitled Blue, Black and Red. In a career dominated by long-form poetry, Clarke’s colouring books operate as exuberant and playful periodic collections of shorter poems. Multi-vocal, capacious and dissonant, the colouring books contain many worlds, visions and echoes; styles range from tightly rhymed verse, sonnets, sapphics and terza rima to complex interlinear readings and translations from prose, popular culture and other, multilingual or extra-textual sources. They also clearly announce colour as a crucial vocal, racial and cultural element, a key term of Canadian cosmopolitan lyric and elaboration. For this, we owe Clarke a deep debt of gratitude: henceforth, no one in Canada may pretend that white settler poetry is somehow “neutral” or unmarked, or that our colonial history may be simply resumed in a tale of two founding nations. If one tracks his occasions and peregrinations, Clarke seems everywhere; a busy and celebrated (inter)national public voice. Indeed, most of the poems in this collection are scrupulously dated and dedicated, and many are accompanied by notes about where they were composed:
Helsinki, Annapolis Royal, on the train from Montreal to Toronto, aboard Air Canada flight 1915 from Barcelona to Toronto on December 21, 2015, etc. But simply to read from such details the hectic outlines of a celebrated and prolific poet’s life is to miss half the game that Gold encases, for beginning with its title, the text also slyly weighs the losses of such a public life, and satirizes the role that binds laureate to patrons or commissioners, and citizens to the politics of empire. Thus Gold’s first poem, “Duplicity,” begins, “Two-face poet? That’s me. “Guilty”—as framed./My double visage suits my double tongue.” Already, from the outset, Clarke bends back the frame so that we may see his gilt as false glory, and all that apparent celebrity and romance as tarnish, profane solitude and guilt — the stuff of our own lives. Gold might be gorgeous skin tone; it might be laud and luck and riches, but it also is rarely pure. Gold requires admixture in order to be worked; thus, in a very beautiful figure for culture hinted at throughout the book, nearly all the gold that we wear or use is alloyed. Too gold, as a standard, is forever susceptible to dismissal or devaluation. To work with gold or to announce one’s productions as gold is thus a tricky undertaking, rife with expensive pitfalls – which is exactly Clarke’s canny
jest here, his earnest backtalk to every operation that turns him into the gilder of a public event. Expect no truth here that does not undercut itself, he warns — “each/ Ensemble dissembles—in resembling me.” In this way author’s portrait proves to be reader’s mirror and poet laureate’s urging: “whatever you do, do not take the matters of state at face value;” attend not simply what is being said, but to what has been silenced or hidden — it is there that you will find your truths. Fittingly, even in its lovely Gaspereau packaging, Gold asks us to look carefully and to think with (re) doubled consciousness: glittering gold paper wraps a black paperback cover gridded with a version of gold’s entry in the periodic table. Printed so that it is facing in each cardinal direction (“North South, East, West”), gold here appears as element 79, known as Au, for Aurum, “glittering,” or “yellow,” a word related to Aurora, or “the dawn.” Once one turns to the text, epigraphs claim that “Beauty…is…the business of poetry,” but within, the book is divided into chapters and sites or typologies of gold (Gold Bar; Gold Mine; Gold Foil; Gold Coin; Gold Star; Gold Heart; Gold Leaf; Gold Coast; Gold Medal; Gold Record; Gold Watch; Gold Rush) each of which is headed by text warning against or ironizing the taking gold as worthy specie. Each chapter is also accompanied by a photograph, some of which are shocking (an image, taken in Auschwitz, where the sun, filtering through the camp’s gates, casts a shadow imprinting that awful motto of prison systems everywhere, Arbeit macht frei, on the ground; an image, taken in Malta, of a hooded Good Friday celebrant, who looks just like that other executioner, a klansman); all are ironically and sometimes disturbingly titled. This is, perhaps, as it should be. Clarke draws in the notes an explicit filiation to firstcentury Roman poet Martial, claiming to find license in the “bravura eroticism of classical Roman letters.” And aspects of Martial’s life and attitudes appear to suffuse the text. A poet from the provinces who arrived in Rome to seek patronage during Caligula’s last days and survived Nero’s madness, a man known for critical speech who first became famous for writing epigrams on the coliseum, Martial clearly knew how to handle and speak to the powerful. Who better to channel when you, a mere citizen, are asked to gild in verse aspects of imperial art and architecture (a railroad bridge, a “commons,” royal gardens, an urban renewal conference, an anniversary of city hall towers), or, as recently, to serve as Parliamentary Poet Laureate?
[Clarke’s colouring books] clearly announce colour as a crucial vocal, racial and cultural element, a key term of Canadian cosmopolitan lyric and elaboration. Like Martial, Clarke offers reverent irreverence towards authority; his is free spirited, loquacious and ironic public speech, albeit tightly controlled, as when, as Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto, and without ever once using Rob Ford’s name, during some of Ford’s worst days as Mayor of Toronto, Clarke writes out dozens of “Principles of Good Governance” — which he then reads before the Toronto City Council. Erudite, prolix, and challenging, Clarke’s Gold offers no easy pillows. Indeed, the energy and erudition of Clarke’s text can be overwhelming; as Clarke’s fellow traveller, it is as if one is forever underway, forever emerging into a packed hall or a noisy train station. In the book’s final section, a sonnet, titled “Wisdom,” warns almost humorously, via rhyme, that we’ll all, soon enough die, a final act that, as we all know and all too soon forget, “renders our desires fraudulent”. But then “Wisdom” is followed by another short text titled, simply, “Draft.” That poem begins, “I pencil these lines/ as if lighting a mist” and proceeds quietly, slowly towards the expectation of death and the erasure of all of these words, these “constant drafts,” towards “Oblivion.” Neither we, nor our empires and their preoccupations will survive forever. In the face of this eventuality, the poet concludes, not with laughter, not with revolt or despair, but with the quiet resolve of a present life lived as well as possible: I will take another glass of wine, put away the ink, and sleep, more-or-less happy. What more could we ask for, than to arrive at such a nugget? ■ Karin Cope is a poet, sailor, photographer, videographer, writer, activist, blogger and Associate Professor at NSCAD University. Her publications include scholarly works, popular histories and poetry. Her What we’re doing to stay afloat (poems), was published in 2015.
Atlantic Books Today
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Real Heroes Get PTSD The rise of the complex character in genre fiction by Sarah Sawler
RCMP PTSD, by Daniel Sundahl
rom Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes to the protagonists of almost every Elmore Leonard novel from 1990 on, weâ€™ve been conditioned to expect our literary detectives to be tenacious, curious and relatively invincible. Often, these characters are exposed to serious trauma, and yet they usually come out unscathed, mentally prepared for whatever the next case will throw at them. This characterization is changing. Lately, our literary detective-types have been showing some realistic signs of wear and tear. It can show up as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a lasting psychological disorder resulting from exposure to a harrowing experience, with symptoms that range from nightmares and
flashbacks to memories that trigger muscle tension and increased heart rate. This change might be might a result of increased awareness of PTSD and its effect on first responders and members of the military (although the general population is susceptible, too). It could also signal an evolution in writing approach â€” maybe more writers are trying to develop more complex characters, with richer backstories. Whatever is causing the shift, at least two recent Atlantic Canadian novels are tackling the topic with enthusiasm: Disposable Souls by Phonse Jessome and Fire in the Stars by Barbara Fradkin. The protagonist of Disposable Souls, which is based in Halifax, has a complicated backstory. Not only is Cam
the son of the founder of a major outlaw motorcycle club (and a former member himself ), he also served in Afghanistan – where he was captured and tortured – lost his wife to a heart illness while he was abroad and became a police officer when he came home. Throughout the course of the novel, Jessome throws a lot at his main character, who is caught between all kinds of opposing forces — his brothers (one a priest, one a prominent member of the motorcycle club), his internal struggle between his dedication to his current career as a police officer and his family past, a romantic interest in his sergeant and his attempts to cope with the loss of his wife. And on top of all of this, he’s dealing with PTSD caused by the torture he experienced in Afghanistan. The experience of flashbacks is described vividly near the beginning of the novel, when Jessome writes: “Flashbacks are nothing like you see in the movies. Sometimes they’re about a smell, taste, or sound. Sometimes it’s a visual image, but nothing really clear. It’s not what you see, hear, taste, or smell, though. It’s where those things take you. It’s a full-on fight-orflight feeling with no one to fight and nowhere to run.” This experience, combined with the survivor’s guilt caused by the loss of his wife and a military partner, influences Cam’s reactions throughout the novel, as he’s plunged into a murder investigation that threatens the people Cam cares about most. Essentially, Cam’s traumatic experiences are his ultimate driving force, combined with a strong-but-unconventional moral compass. All of this makes for an excellent anti-hero. The plot of Fire in the Stars is heavily driven by PTSD as well, probably even more so than Disposable Souls. In Fradkin’s novel, the protagonist, Amanda, is an international aid worker who was traumatized while working with children in Nigeria. Her friend and colleague, Phil, was traumatized by the same incident, and the story begins when she arrives in Newfoundland so that the two of them can go camping, and hopefully find a way to heal. But Amanda and Phil take different approaches to managing their PTSD — Amanda seeks professional help while Phil rushes back to his family without learning how to cope. When his wife drops a bombshell on him, he takes his son and heads off towards the Newfoundland wilderness, leaving Amanda, her therapy dog and a new police officer friend to chase after them. Throughout Fire in the Stars, however, Amanda is less motivated by her own PTSD symptoms (although they do affect her), and more driven by her empathy and informed understanding of what Phil may be feeling. Her own intimate familiarity with the effects of trauma guide her as she tracks Phil’s path and discovers what he was up to all along. That same empathy
Lately, our literary detective-types have been showing some realistic signs of wear and tear.
Disposable Souls Phonse Jessome Vagrant Press Fire in the Stars Barbara Fradkin Dundurn Press
comes in handy during the novel’s main crisis, as she’s able to understand exactly what’s driving the threat she encounters at the end. The authors of both of these novels are well equipped to write these kinds of characters in an informed, believable way. In his acknowledgements, Jessome writes of his own experience with PTSD, while Fradkin is a retired psychologist. The result of this personal and professional experience, combined with Jessome and Fradkin’s formidable writing abilities? Believable, nuanced characters and unpredictable plots. ■ Sarah Sawler is a Halifax journalist, book reviewer and author of 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia.
Atlantic Books Today
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR In the first installment of our new Author to Author feature, Lisa Moore (Caught, February) interrogates the tragic terrain of Donna Morrissey’s latest novel, The Fortunate Brother. by Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore: The Fortunate Brother has been described as a murder mystery. It’s true there is a mystery and the mystery is occasioned by a murder. But this novel feels so deeply embedded in place, circumstance and character, as well as mood, that it seems to me all kinds of mysteries abound. The mystery of grief, the mystery of alcoholism and its hold, and the mystery of love, and its opposite: controlling cruelty. Can you talk about the mystery of the murder here? What did this murder let you explore that might be different from the things you explore in your previous novels? Donna Morrissey: The thing about murder/mystery is the incredible attention to the slightest detail, as with time – was it 5:30 or 5:35? Who opened the door; did you open the door? Did your father open the door? Were you wearing gloves; was your father; was Kate…? It was fun and yet terrifying, knowing that every single detail had to be accounted for or the entire thing would collapse. Most surprising is the incredulity of watching inanimate objects take on their own life, following a certain pathway as though they too are characters following an arc of development. Lisa Moore: Between the mother and father in this novel, Addie and Sylvanus Now, there is an abiding love, but it is a love that is vulnerable to the threat of Sylvanus’s drinking. These characters have a deep knowledge and understanding of each other. I found it very moving that you have captured the complexity of a love that is at once enduring and also threatens to burst asunder. How did you do that? Donna Morrissey: This novel is very closely related to my family. Our parents were deeply in love, we watched them kissing and hugging all during our growing up years. Then, with our brother’s death, my mother watched in dismay as she lost her husband too, to the bottle. She fought bitterly for him. And it broke him to hurt her so. But, his pain was too deep … or, he too weak … to break the addiction. But, despite
the fighting/ suffering, they still slept with their arms around each other. I always remember that, how they slept holding each other. Please God they’ve found peace now. Lisa Moore: The physical setting of the community in your novel is very concrete. If somebody blindfolded me and helicoptered me in, I could find my way around. This is a testament to your powers of description. But even more than the clarity of the physical space where the novel unfolds, there are the more intangible elements of the novel: fog and other kinds of inclement weather, darkness, rain, the navigation of moods and the ways in which people can hide in a small community, even while they are out in the open. How do you, as a writer, make all of these things so concrete and present for the reader? Donna Morrissey: Mm, tough question, Lisa Moore. I think growing up in small places creates an intimacy between us and it. We learn its every mood, every crevice. We can smell the air for the kind of day it’s going to be. Outdoors is where us kids reigned, searching out nooks, crawling under rocks, lying on our backs, facing whatever the wind, sea and sky was heaving at us. I can’t really get a scene right until I can feel it, and to do that I’ve got to get the weather right and the exact spot where the scene is happening. I never have to think hard; it’s all right there. Just – right there! Lisa Moore: The Fortunate Brother is taut with suspense. Were you conscious of creating that suspense while you were writing, or did the story simply unfold in front of your writer’s eye, with the suspense more or less built-in? Another way of asking the same question: Was the suspense tweaked in the editing, the way one tunes a guitar? By tightening each strand of the story, very carefully, so as not to break the string, until it rings out music?
Donna Morrissey: Nicely put, the guitar analogy. I think of tension as a string that has to be continuously taut. Actually, I can’t move forward if the string loses its tension. That’s how I always know I’m going wrong or the writing is not deep enough, when I lose the tension. So, yes, I am very conscious of it, it is the energy that drives the writing. Lisa Moore: Your writing is painterly. If I were to pick your painter-twin, I would say William Turner: stumbling colour, light breaking through veils of mist or fog or smoke, atmospheric conditions that can become suddenly luminous. The reader/viewer understands what she’s experiencing first with her senses, and then logic or reason. If you had to choose a painting or a piece of music that mirrors some of your stylistic concerns in this novel, what would it be? Donna Morrissey: Jaysus, Lisa, your questions read like poems … my who? Painter-twin?? Ahem, of course, oh yes, absolutely, William Turner! (Quickly googling here) … Ah! Yes, yes, The Painter of Light … light is everything, everywhere, even in our brightest hour we are grovelling for the light… Lisa Moore: You have mapped out a parcel of territory in your novels as surely as Faulkner’s “postage stamp.” He has famously said: “I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.” Do you feel that way about Newfoundland? Donna Morrissey: Yes. Yes, I do. And now I have this great quote to validate my feelings. All of our greats
The Fortunate Brother Donna Morrissey Viking
– George Eliot, Hardy, Steinbeck – they all wrote about their native soil! And our Newfoundland – what hearts do pound and bleed and boast within its rugged crust! No! I shall never leave here. Lisa Moore: What’s next for Donna Morrissey? Are you one of those writers who is already drawn arse over kettle into the next book when the previous one is just hitting the shelves? Or are you willing to sit back with a flute of champagne, your breath in your fist, enjoying your rich and textured accomplishment, this beautiful novel, The Fortunate Brother? Donna Morrissey: Aww, gawd, you’ve a way with words. And yup, arse over kettle into the next one. And it’s taking place in old old Newfoundland on the ice fields and my agent bemoans it can never be popular, too bleak, too bleak … and I say, I can’t help it, my maidy, it’s what’s coming. Thank you, Lisa. Thank you very very much! An interview where the questions are more intriguing than the answers (-: ■ Lisa Moore is the author of two short-story collections and four novels, most recently Flannery. She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Atlantic Books Today
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THE STRENGTH OF RITA MACNEIL The unlikely trailblazer, whose father prayed for her death, opened the door for countless Atlantic musicians
Photo: Noreen Basker
by Stephanie Domet
hen Rita MacNeil died in 2013, of complications following surgery, flags flew at half-mast, and tributes poured forth. Cape Breton’s First Lady of Song had had a long and storied career, one that started in the women’s movement in Toronto in the 1970s, made the requisite stops on CBC television, where MacNeil hosted a hugely successful variety show, at the Juno and Gemini Awards, on international Top 40 and Country charts, and on to the Orders of Nova Scotia and Canada. Every story about MacNeil noted that she was an “unlikely” star, because of her cleft palate, and her size. She was known also for being tremendously shy, and yet stepping out on stage — barefoot — and belting out her songs with her unparalleled voice. These are Rita MacNeil facts even the most casual fan could likely cite.
I’m Not What I Seem: The Many Stories of Rita MacNeil’s Life Charlie Rhindress Formac Publishing
I’m Not What I Seem: The Many Stories of Rita MacNeil’s Life by Charlie Rhindress takes these facts and many more about MacNeil’s life and fleshes out the stories beneath them. Rhindress is well versed in those stories, having written the play Flying on Her Own, which premiered at Live Bait Theatre in Parrsboro in 2000. In this new biography, Rhindress writes of his own awakening to MacNeil’s music, when he was a Maritimer far from home. He listened to MacNeil sing “I’m Not What I Seem,” and felt as though she sang directly to him, that there was much more to her than met the eye. That understanding led first to the play — the writing of which MacNeil chaperoned, encouraging Rhindress not to let her off the hook for her failings, nor show her in a better light than she felt she deserved — and from there to this posthumous biography. Rhindress takes a chronological approach, from MacNeil’s birth (she arrived with a badly cleft palate, and her father prayed for her death), through her struggle to find her place on the musical stage, to the ebb and flow of her career, to her death. Rhindress relies on his own interviews and conversations with MacNeil and those who knew her, along with archival material, and MacNeil’s autobiography, co-written with the poet Anne Simpson, and published in 1998. Any biographer worth his salt reflects on his subject’s legacy. Rhindress puts it: “Rita MacNeil was a trailblazer. For both her involvement in the women’s movement and for helping to create a music industry on Canada’s East Coast … At sixty-eight and in ill health, when she could easily have rested on her laurels, she was working with young musicians to create a new sound, to take her music in another direction.” Kim Dunn, who played keyboards in MacNeil’s band for 14 years, and who keeps her spirit alive hosting a concert series at Rita’s Tea Room in Big Pond, agrees that MacNeil paved a road for Cape Breton artists to take their music to the world — without having to go down the road to do it. “I think it’s certainly a big part of her legacy,” he says over the phone from his home in Halifax. “And she did it in a way that was so pure and true to form. All the while being very supportive.” If MacNeil knew her band members were trying to also have a solo career, she would make sure they sang a song or two of their own during her concerts, and she’d invite them to sell their merchandise alongside her own. “She was very generous with her time and her platform. You might think that somebody who broke the mold the way she did — she didn’t have the image in the industry others had — you might have thought she had more reason to be overprotective of what she had,” Dunn says. “Lots of people are very insecure, but she just let it all out, she wasn’t worried about being upstaged or anything like that. I always interpreted that as another sign of strength in her.” As for what MacNeil might think of a biography being written, Dunn imagines she’d say, “Oh my God, darlin’, people must have better things to do with their words.” And yet, fans of MacNeil’s music, or indeed of east coast music, will beg to differ. ■
At sixty-eight and in ill health, when she could easily have rested on her laurels, she was working with young musicians to create a new sound, to take her music in another direction.
Rita MacNeil performing at Celtic Colours in Cape Breton in 2008.
Stephanie Domet is the author of the novels Homing and Fallsy Downsies, and the former host of CBC’s Atlantic Airwaves.
Atlantic Books Today
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pei, the long view A Brief 5,000-year ecological history of Prince Edward Island by Ryan O’Connor
Potato Harvest, Albany PEI, circa 1930
he environment has played a central role in the history of Prince Edward Island. Separated from the continental mainland by melting glaciers roughly 5,000 years ago, its very islandness resulted in its emergence as an independent British colony in 1769. Its peopling, first by the Mi’kmaq and then Europeans, was inspired by its fertile soils, excellent fishing grounds, and an abundant supply of timber. Its unique identity – the so-called “Island way of life” – was forged by the isolation brought about by the Northumberland Strait. And every summer, tourists flood the province, drawn by the same beaches and landscapes that Lucy Maud Montgomery celebrated in her florid prose. Despite its significance, the environment has typically been relegated to the margins of the province’s historiography, in favour of the social and political activities of the human populations. Time and a Place, a co-publication of McGill-Queen’s University Press and Island Studies Press, is a collection of essays that aims to rectify this oversight by placing the environment in the spotlight. Environmental history first emerged as a distinct area of study in the 1970s, an unexpected but welcome side effect of a burgeoning ecological consciousness. Drawing upon such disciplines as historical geography, the earth sciences and anthropology, it has grown by leaps and bounds in the years since. While Acadiensis Press released Land and Sea: Environmental History in
Atlantic Canada in 2013, Time and a Place holds the distinction of being the first collection to zero in on a single Canadian province. The contents of this book cover a wide range of topics, including an archaeological exploration of Prince Edward Island’s first inhabitants, a study of its forests from 1720-1900, agricultural land use and its effect upon the environment, the fishery and tourism. Graeme Wynn of the University of British Columbia provides an eloquent look at earlier writing about Prince Edward Island, including Andrew H. Clark’s Three Centuries and the Island, a now-classic work of historical geography, and Sir Andrew Macphail’s The Master’s Wife, collating his observations and setting them within the broader context of environmental developments in Canada and beyond. In another essay of note, Rosemary Curley, a retired biologist with the province, writes about evolving public attitudes towards habitat and wildlife. In it she discusses how some species were hunted close to extinction, such as the cormorant, which competed for food with local fishermen; how certain animals, such as the white-tailed deer, partridges and pheasants, have been introduced by sportsmen looking for game; and how individuals (such as Harvey Moore), organizations (such as the Island Nature Trust) and government have worked to protect at-risk species. The otherwise high-quality collection occasionally fetishizes island life. For example, the epilogue, which does an excellent job of assessing what lessons can be
New from University of Toronto Press Dictionary of Cape Breton English by William J. Davey and Richard MacKinnon
Jones archeological site excavation, 1983, St. Peter’s Bay, PEI. Photo by D. Keenlyside CMC. Dictionary of Cape Breton English, the first regional dictionary devoted to the island’s linguistic and cultural history is a fascinating record of the island’s rich vocabulary.
Time and a Place: An Environmental History of Prince Edward Island Edited by Edward MacDonald, Joshua MacFadyen, and Irene Novaczek
Removal, Resistance, and Remembrance at a Canadian National Park
by Ronald Rudin
McGill-Queen’s University Press and Island Studies Press
drawn from the preceding essays, states that “Islands invoke a sensual echo of memory, an older perspective.” Perhaps this is true for some tourists, but as a Prince Edward Islander this sort of statement leads to rolled eyes and guffaws. Upon receiving this book I expected to find some discussion of the environmental debate and consequences of the Confederation Bridge, but aside from a few scattered references, the fixed link is noticeably absent. And while the prose is relatively free of academic jargon, the fact that this is the product of an academic press, with a quarter of the book devoted to endnotes and bibliography, may limit its potential audience. If this is the case, it is unfortunate, as Time and a Place is a thoroughly researched collection that has much to offer those interested in the history of Prince Edward Island and its environment. ■ Ryan O’Connor is a Canadian author and historical consultant. He is the author of The First Green Wave.
In Kouchibouguac, Ronald Rudin tells a compelling story of the national park’s creation, the mass eviction of its residents, their resistance, and the memory of that experience.
Atlantic Books Today
a poem from george elliott clarke Duplicity Two-faced poet? That’s me.* “Guilty”—as framed. My double visage suits my double tongue— Spieling out twice-told tales in spliced duets— Paper-and-ink, print-on-a-screen—unless I redouble lies by dubbing aloud. Let’s say my art’s “Romantic,” so I sport A rosy halo—like printers’ devils, And blaze all night, steeped in rosé or blush (Bed) sheets.… Or say I’m extra “noir,” extra “Polar,” my face pairing disappeared heart— AWOL, paroled, sentenced no more to Love.… Or say my background’s orange—a hint of sun: It gilds “Apollo”; suns appalling Guilt. This triptych of twin selves tells I’m split— North, South, East, West, Hyde-and-Jekyll; thus, each Ensemble dissembles—in resembling me.
Gold George Elliott Clarke Gaspereau Press
* Cf. portraits by Marco Cera, Guy D. Andrea, et al., unveiled in April 2014 at the Art Gallery of Ontario (courtesy of a class in portraiture taught by Aleks Bartosik).
2017 Books from Creative Book Publishing
For Folk’s Sake
Sandra Alfoldy, NSCAD University
M C G I L L - Q U E E N ’S U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S Follow us on Facebook.com/McGillQueens and Twitter @Scholarmqup
“… illuminates new histories around the establishment of Nova Scotia as the folk art capital of Canada.”
9780773548121 $44.95 paperback 424pp, 76 colour images
E R I N M O RTO N
Art and Economy in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia
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Colouring is for Grownups A professional illustrator weighs in on the power of play and the adult colouring craze by Tamara Thiébaux Heikalo
Many of this season’s Atlantic Canadian bestsellers will come from an entirely new category of books: colouring books for grownups. Consider the array of new titles in this genre: Hand Drawn Halifax: The Colouring Book by Emma FitzGerald, Colouring the Rock by Newfoundland painter Jackie Alcock, The East Coast Way of Life Colouring Book by Meghan Bangay, Colouring Prince Edward Island by Nadine Staaf, Anishinabe artist Jackie Traverse’s Sacred Feminine: An Indigenous Art Colouring Book, Colouring Newfoundland and Labrador by Dawn Baker and The Colours of Newfoundland and Labrador by Bobbie Pike. Atlantic Books Today asked popular Nova Scotia children’s illustrator Tamara Thiébaux Heikalo to weigh in on the adult colouring phenomenon:
n adult colouring book is an invitation to participate in a creative process; you are invited to bring to life a picture started by the artist who drew the lines. It is an opening into a world usually considered closed off from those less skilled in the art arena. I am a visual artist and I have, on occasion, referred to my artistic efforts as “colouring.” I am, after all, colouring in the lines I drew. I thoroughly enjoy the process of drawing. But then, the addition of colour seems to suggest play. Colouring is as much a meditative process as it is play; while you are being an adult with the honourable pursuit of meditation, you are also practicing childlike play, an activity many adults have lost touch with. What a delightful way to do it, too, with beautiful art. What a thrilling and sweet enticement. For any age, play has immense value. It is a terrific way to learn. For some of these books, the subject matter selected has a potential teaching aspect. I recognize in myself the strong need for visuals to facilitate any of
Hand Drawn Halifax: The Colouring Book Emma FitzGerald Formac Publishing
Atlantic Books Today
my own efforts to learn. It certainly makes the process more fun. It is a known phenomenon that we learn and retain more when the learning process is a pleasure. I recall a book, given to me as a teenager, about the human body. I learned the different muscles and bones during the process of colouring it. As a child, I loved colouring books. Some of these were not of recommendable quality but others, thanks to the generous adults in my life, were truly beautiful, as were some stunning colouring posters I received. I loved these, and I assume they had influence on my growing sensibilities as an artist. Aside from recapturing the childhool joy of colouring, the adult colouring book provides a wonderful way for artists to exhibit their skills. While line drawings seem simpler than colour media, it actually takes careful consideration to present an image within the confines of pen and ink lines, mere black and white, and still convey a recognizable picture. Colouring books for adults can be seen as an effort to present line drawings that stand by themselves as pieces of art. I can easily imagine people choosing to not fill in the picture with colour. The works range from the exquisite and deeply sensitive, such as Sacred Feminine, by Jackie Traverse, to the whimsical and charming, such as Hand Drawn Halifax, by Emma FitzGerald. We need art. We need visual stimulation. That need does not stop in childhood. The popularity of the adult graphic novel is a prime example of this hunger for art, creativity and play. When looked at that way, the interest in colouring books for adults is no great mystery. â–
They range from the exquisite and deeply sensitive, such as Sacred Feminine, by Jackie Traverse, to the whimsical and charming, such as Hand Drawn Halifax, by Emma FitzGerald.
Tamara Thibeaux Heikalo is the illustrator of six books for children, including Driftwood Dragons and The Cat from Kosovo. She has been an artist from a young age, creating whimsical and realistic imagery.
The East Coast Way of Life Colouring Book Meghan Bangay Formac Publishing
Sacred Feminine: An Indigenous Art Colouring Book Jackie Traverse Fernwood Publishing
Atlantic Books Today
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kate beaton’s golden pencil Cartoonist Michael de Adder’s ode to Cartoonist Kate Beaton and her new book, King Baby by Michael de Adder
have a BFA from Mount Allison University. While the fine arts department taught me to paint, The Argosy, Mt. A’s combative university newspaper, taught me to draw cartoons. I not only drew cartoons for The Argosy, I also edited other people’s cartoons. It was here I learned the difference between what works and what doesn’t work in the cartoon medium, mostly by learning what doesn’t work. This was my testing ground in the early 90s and it led to an awardwinning career in cartooning. More than a decade later, The Argosy would become the launchpad for another Atlantic Canadian cartoonist. While Kate Beaton worked on a BA in history, she had the identical job I had editing and drawing cartoons at The Argosy. And while I went on to be a political cartoonist, Beaton went on to become an online strip cartoonist and author of the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant. Beaton not only puts what she learned at The Argosy to good use, she also uses her BA in history. Hark! A Vagrant uses historical and literary figures and puts them in historical settings to make satirical comments about contemporary society. It is like no comic strip that has come before it, and it has been recognized internationally.
Since Beaton started Hark! A Vagrant, it has won her a Doug Wright Award, Ignatz Award and a few Harvey Awards. It also led to a couple of bestselling collections, Hark! A Vagrant and Step Aside, Pops. Although she has a large international following and in spite of constantly being ranked as one of the most important female comic artists working today, she works and lives in Mabou, Nova Scotia. Mabou is a small town, but its residents punch well about their weight. It is home to The Rankin Family, the renowned singer-songwriters, and it is the birthplace of Rodney MacDonald, former premier of Nova Scotia. When you add Beaton to this list, that’s a pretty good alma mater for a town with a population of about 1,200 people. And why not live in Mabou? These days in the cartoon world it doesn’t matter where you call home. With technology, Beaton has proven you can work from any place on earth and still be as prolific and as successful as somebody living on Manhattan Island. Besides Hark! A Vagrant, Beaton has done work for The New Yorker, Marvel Comics and the animated television show Adventure Time. She has been profiled by some of the most renowned publications in the world.
© Kate Beaton, 2016. From King Baby. King Baby Kate Beaton Scholastic The Princess and the Pony Kate Beaton Arthur A. Levine Books
Most recently, Beaton has turned her attention to drawing children’s books. Her first children’s book, Princess and the Pony, was about a girl who wanted a horse. But not just any horse. She wanted a warrior horse. It’s a simple story about how you can fail to get what you want and end up with something special nonetheless. Princess and the Pony won the CBC’s Choice Book Award in 2016 and was shortlisted in the Globe And Mail ’s Best Book of the Year for 2015. It seems like everything Beaton’s pencil touches turns to gold, which is apt, because her second children’s book is called King Baby. King Baby, like Princess and the Pony, is as entertaining for parents as it is for children. King Baby is about a newborn baby and illustrates how first-borns rule their parents with absolute power. And, like everything Beaton has done in her short and prolific career, it’s filled with absolute humour and charm. ■ Michael de Adder is a nationally recognized political cartoonist and author of You Might Be From Nova Scotiaa If... and You Might Be From Newfoundland and
ALL HAIL KING BABY! A laugh-out-loud new picture book from The Princess and the Pony author, Kate Beaton A Globe and Mail Most Anticipated Book of 2016 ★ “King Baby rules.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review ★ “Offers a sly, hilarious dig at the way young parents bow to their child’s every desire.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Available September 13! ScholasticCanada scholasticCda scholasticcda
Atlantic Books Today
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Busting Reading Barriers Maximus Todd is part of a new breed of protagonist for kids with reading challenges by Sarah Sawler
yslexia and other learning disabilities can be hard for anyone to navigate. But for people who are still developing their learning and social skills, the challenges can seem insurmountable. And learning disabilities are relatively common — according to the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, 4.9 percent of kids between the ages of six and fifteen have one. As awareness of these challenges increases, accommodations that level the playing field are being made. Nova Scotia-based publisher Formac Publishing is addressing the need with their new early reader series, called The Secret Games of Maximus Todd. The series, written by L.M. Nicodemo and illustrated by Graham Ross, incorporates a number of dyslexia-friendly features, like cream-coloured paper stock, which is easier for kids with dyslexia to read. They’ve also used a special font called OpenDyslexic, which features letters that are thicker at the bottom, making them easier to process without flipping or interchanging them. And there’s special attention paid to the layout as well — images and generous amounts of white space is used to break up the text, making the words easier to absorb. In each of the books (Hyper to the Max, Frantic Friend Countdown, Big Game Jitters, and Flu Shot Fidgets), Max experiences The Super Fidgets, which Max describes in Hyper to The Max as a “ruckus” in his head. He’s “fidgety, jittery. Bouncing off the walls.” Here’s how he explains it: “On weekends or during summer holidays, it was no big deal. But when it happened on a school day — that was a real disaster. After all, what kid could stay out of trouble if he was as jumpy as popcorn in a microwave?” Max fights The Super Fidgets by making up games that
keep him distracted from whatever worry or situation has him feeling fidgety. In Big Game Jitters, he has to do 10 jumping jacks every time something flies overhead. And in Flu Shot Fidgets, he has to make an animal noise each time he hears someone mention an animal in conversation. And the incentive to win is always high. If he doesn’t do the jumping jacks, for example, he’s committed (to himself ) that he will announce to all of the other players that the neighbourhood bully is the best soccer player in the group. Although Nicodemo simply set out to write a believable, engaging character, as a reader with an anxiety disorder, I notice characteristics of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Other readers may recognize their own “quirks” in Max as well. These kinds of books are important for all children. Studies show that books with diverse characters help children relate to and feel empathy for people who are different from them. And all children need to read characters they can relate to and reflect a variety of perspectives and experiences. Because when children see themselves in a positive fictional character, it not only helps them process the world they live in, but it also raises their self-esteem. And of course, we can’t ignore the impact on literacy. Create more engaging characters and remove barriers by accommodating different learning abilities, like this series does, and ultimately more kids will enjoy reading. We’ll have happier, more literate children. And who knows, they might even learn a thing or two about managing their own Super Fidgets. ■ Sarah Sawler is a Halifax journalist, book reviewer and author of 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia.
Chocolate River Publishing Telling our New Brunswick story to our children and the world
Rural life in the 1920s -1950s
Camelia Airheartâ€™s NB adventure
Now available in English
The Secret Games of Maximus Todd (series) L.M. Nicodemo, Illustrated by Graham Ross Formac Publishing
Tour behind the scenes
www.chocolateriver.ca Atlantic Books Today
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Wonder, Magic and Mental Illness Bringing uncommon sources of wisdom to young readers by Laura Burke
n Harmony Wagner’s first young adult novel, Queen of the Crows, we are guided through the struggles and triumphs of 11-year-old Elsa. The young protagonist is a resilient and thoughtful girl whose life is shaped around her mother Dana, who lives with bipolar disorder. Elsa and her aunt Claire – Elsa’s primary support through most of the story – show us the legacy of adaptability and sacrifice in families affected by mental illness. Wagner never sugar coats the realities of growing up with a parent impacted by mental disorder. The financial, social and academic instability that Elsa experiences is woven throughout the novel. Yet, we see in her aunt Claire a role model, friend and most importantly,
a steady and loving parental figure Elsa can rely on. How important a single, supportive person can be in the life of a young person impacted by an atmosphere of psychological instability. Elsa’s mother Dana, a woman who has struggled emotionally with chaotic highs and dangerous lows is absent and in hospital. But her letter to Elsa, expressing her remorse and making a commitment to heal and return to support her daughter, reveals a sense of hope and redemption. What makes Queen of the Crows unique is Wagner’s use of a compassionate and courageous protagonist in exploring issues that might otherwise be challenging for young readers. Elsa is understanding and accepting
of her circumstances, and courageous in her ability to move forward in spite of them. She never appears weak or pitiable, regardless of the difficulties she encounters. She is a well-constructed, sensitive, imaginative and strong young woman. The reader marks Elsa’s challenges, all the while intuiting that she has everything she needs to survive her circumstances. Wagner’s depiction of all her characters’ foibles and strengths highlights one of the book’s prominent themes – compassion. We see how Elsa’s struggles strengthen her capacity for empathy. This is also reflected in her one friend and ally at school, Eh Ta Taw, a young refugee boy from Burma. The author illustrates the power of allies bound together in their common experience of suffering. Wagner also uses the power of magic realism to illustrate Elsa’s deep compassion. Throughout most of the novel Elsa communicates with a murder of crows in her local park, taking on some of their capabilities in remarkable ways. She finds a much needed camaraderie, mutualism and friendship with one crow in particular, named Cracks – a smart, scrappy and trickster-like animal who, like Elsa, is often underestimated by his peers. One particular symbolic reference for crows is that of insight and a broad-minded wisdom. Wagner uses this element in her narrative – seamlessly weaving it through Elsa’s interactions with the crows and informing Elsa’s ability to cope with the gravity of her human life. Elsa truly becomes one of the crows when she begins “seeing things with a broader vision and taking everyone into account.” Through Elsa’s relationship with the crows, we see inside a world that parallels ours – one where judgments and quick assumptions can create divisions among us, but where we always have access to a bigger picture and a deeper understanding of community. There is a fascinating turn where we witness Elsa cope with an instance of bullying at school using crow-like tactics, which ultimately lands her in the office of a child psychiatrist who prescribes medicinal treatment. We are never entirely sure if there are any elements of mental illness in Elsa’s communication with and emulation of the crows. We also never see whether Elsa takes the medication prescribed to her. But we do see the wonder and magic in Elsa’s relationship with the crows, and how much support they have been on her journey of coping with her mother’s mental illness. Non-confrontationally, Wagner shows that not all aspects of mental illness must be negative, nor must all elements of magic and otherworldly experience actually point to mental illness.
Queen of the Crows reveals the experience of a young person’s world shaped by mental illness - a topic so rarely depicted with such empathy and vision.
Queen of the Crows Harmony Wagner Acorn Press
As we follow Elsa through her connection with Cracks and the other crows, we are invited to contemplate magic and the power of the imagination to help us to heal. Wagner’s characters are shaped by the impact of mental illness, but her story is an uplifting one told with compassion, sensitivity and hope. The author shows the courage needed to expand our view, to discover magic where we might least expect to find it. One of the strengths of fiction is its capacity to connect us to experiences beyond the scope of our own, and to live inside the minds of characters as they grapple with their lives in ways that might surprise us. Queen of the Crows reveals the experience of a young person’s world shaped by mental illness – a topic so rarely depicted with such empathy and vision. Although it is not a direct form of advocacy, this novel achieves what well-made fiction does best – it takes us inside a world often shrouded by stigma and shame, and shows us the humour, the joy and the light. With Elsa as our guide, we learn to move beyond fear and misunderstanding, and to embrace differences. We not only come to know the realities of mental illness; we see the humanity and beauty of Wagner’s characters within their suffering. ■ Laura Burke is a poet, playwright, actor, drama therapist, researcher, mental health advocate and public speaker. She lives in Halifax with a community of good friends and five urban chickens.
Atlantic Books Today
Teen Reality TV, Eco-Crisis, Black Loyalists and Light Keepers Two experts on the tastes of young readers review some of the season’s most anticipated books for youth by Lisa Doucet and Charis Cotter
A Picnic at the Lighthouse Rebecca North illustrated by Nancy Keating Tuckamore Books
Abigail’s Wish Gloria Ann Wesley illustrated by Richard Rudnicki Nimbus Publishing
On a day filled with sunshine and cool, salty breezes, a small boy and his father embark on a special excursion together. They make their way to a nearby lighthouse for a picnic. Walking down to the ocean, they lay out their picnic blanket and feast on sandwiches and cake as they watch the whales leaping and listen to the waves crashing. While Patrick finds numerous things to love the most about this magical day, his father has only one. This sweet and simple tale is a heartfelt celebration of the bond between a father and his young son. Patrick’s boundless enthusiasm and his seemingly endless litany of things that he loves about this day are an apt depiction of a typical little boy’s energy, but it is his father’s whispered words of love that make this book one that will touch the hearts of adults. The soft and gentle illustrations suit the subdued tone of the story despite being somewhat flat. It is a story that will be savoured for its portrait of fatherly love. ~Lisa Doucet
As Abigail savours the joys of springtime in her new home in Birchtown, Nova Scotia, she knows she has much to be thankful for. She is grateful that they have food to eat and a place to sleep, and most of all that they are safe at last, after all the horrors of the American Revolution. And there will be a new member of the family, for any day now Aunt Dinah will be having a baby. But although she is grateful for all of this, in her heart Abigail longs for one more thing: a new dress to wear to celebrate the baby’s arrival. While she knows that a new dress is just not possible right now, sometimes wishes have a way of coming true when you least expect it. As in her previous two novels for young readers, Gloria Ann Wesley creates a stirring portrait of life for the Birchtown colonists, highlighting their daily struggles to make ends meet and the strong sense of community that Abigail’s family and her neighbours share. The richly detailed illustrations are highly evocative and further create a strong sense of time and place. They are filled with light and beautifully capture a myriad of facial expressions. ~Lisa Doucet
Black Water Rising Robert Rayner Nimbus Publishing As the rains come down, Stanton and the residents of Black River know that it is only a matter of time before the river rises and the town is flooded. But TransNational Power, the company that owns the local dam, refuses to open the gates to help avoid the pending disaster. Many of the townspeople blame local manager Willis Frame, Stanton’s father, even though both Stanton and his father share their frustration with TransNational. But when Stanton’s girlfriend gets involved with an environmental activist group that believes in going to extreme lengths in their defense of the environment, he finds himself caught in the middle of a complex situation. Rayner’s topical contemporary drama is fast paced and compelling. Stanton feels guilty for not being as driven as Jessica to take action to protect the environment but questions some of the actions that the radical activists are willing to take. Is violence ever acceptable, even if all else has failed? The way the activists so easily whip the group into a frenzy, and the frightening speed with which a group of ordinary citizens becomes a violent mob, is realistically – and chillingly – depicted. The book highlights the fact that there are often no easy answers and no clearcut heroes or villains. ~Lisa Doucet
Keeper of the Light Janet Barkhouse Illustrated by Thérèse Cilia Formac Publishing Sara has been counting down the days until her twelfth birthday when she will finally be able to go home to visit her mother and brothers. Since her father’s death one year ago, Sara has been living with and working for the Moshers, the keepers of the Cook Island lighthouse. But Sara’s plans are thwarted when Mr. Mosher becomes ill and Mrs. Mosher must rush him to the mainland for help. Now Sara must stay on the island and look after the lighthouse all on her own. And when a storm hits, she must summon all her strength and courage to do what must done. This lively tale provides a realistic depiction of both the loneliness and isolation that the lighthouse keepers faced, and the hard physical labour that even children as young as Sara endured just to survive. But Barkhouse never lets readers forget that Sara is still just a child, and she misses her mother and siblings as well as her beloved father. Readers will feel the depth of her sorrow when she realizes she can’t go home for her birthday; they will be inspired by her spunk and spirit. Cilia’s watercolour and ink illustrations exquisitely depict the era and the remote and rugged setting. ~Lisa Doucet
Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.
Hannah Smart: In Over Her Head Melody Fitzpatrick Dundurn Press Hannah Smart: In Over Her Head by Melody Fitzpatrick is the third book in the very entertaining Hannah Smart series. This time, fourteen-year-old Hannah is heading for the high seas on a treasure hunt that is being filmed as a reality TV show, with Hannah as the star. But scheming Piper Steele, whose father is the autocratic captain of the ship, is doing everything she can to steal the spotlight, as well as the attention of Hannah’s favourite boy, A.J. Hannah must try to overcome her fear of water, her seasickness, a hungry shark and Piper’s mean-spirited sabotage, all while smiling for the camera. To make matters worse, A. J., who is infatuated with Piper, is convinced she can do no wrong. With the help of Henry, a cute Australian boy, Hannah struggles to navigate the treacherous waters of reality TV, and gradually realizes what lies behind Piper’s hostility. She gains a measure of understanding and tolerance that will no doubt serve her well in her next madcap adventure. Rumour has it she’s going to Paris to film a reality cooking show. Hannah is a funny, slightly goofball heroine with good intentions who has a talent for doing and saying the wrong thing. Her endearing clumsiness will keep readers laughing and cheering her on. ~Charis Cotter
Charis Cotter is a freelance writer who lives in Newfoundland and has published several books for children and grownups. Her latest book is The Ferryland Visitor: A Mysterious Tale, with artwork by Newfoundland artist Gerald L. Squires.
Atlantic Books Today
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Why We Need Women’s Stories And whose voices are missing by Dee Dooley
Elizabeth Penashue, Innu Elder and activist (left), and Yamuna Kutty, Advisory Council on the Status of Women
istorically, women’s knowledge, accomplishments, struggles and joys have been passed down generations through storytelling. Commemoration and value were attached to women’s stories, and storytelling was upheld as an art form that carried lessons, customs and traditions. Now, because of the patriarchy of modern Western media, less value is attributed women’s storytelling as a form of knowledge production. Publications like A Woman’s Almanac, that celebrate the stories of diverse local women, become vitally important. Men primarily control modern Western media. In her 2011 film MissRepresentation, Jennifer Siebel Newsom notes that women hold 3 percent of decision-making positions in media management, and only 20 percent of news articles are about women and their experiences. Media Smarts, a Canadian organization dedicated to media literacy education for children and youth, asserts,
“Women in the news are more likely to be featured in stories about accidents, disasters, or domestic violence than stories about their professional abilities or expertise.” It is similarly true that women’s accomplishments in politics and sports are underreported, underrepresented and stereotypically portrayed. The representations of the women we see in popular media are often sexualized, eroticized and/or objectified. Representations of women are presented as dichotomies rooted in tropes ingrained with sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and colonial violence, in contrast to a significantly limited definition of the ideal: white, slim, conventionally attractive and “innocent.” Contradictory messages from the media have a direct impact on women and girls. In 1988, Carol Gilligan first pointed out the marked drop in girls’ confidence and self-esteem as a direct consequence of the conflict between their own self-images and messages from the
media about what they should be (and look) like. Because of the impact of media representation (and lack thereof ) on girls and young women, sharing the life achievements, contributions and experiences of local women – women they may know, look up to and can see themselves reflected in – is crucial. Celebrating the richness of women’s experiences in all of their diversity is essential – and doing this through storytelling and collaborations like A Woman’s Almanac pay homage to women’s knowledge-sharing in a significant way. As Youth Programs Coordinator at YWCA Halifax and Co-Chair of the National Young Women’s Leadership and Engagement Committee, I uphold and celebrate the importance of young women’s voices, and work hard to ensure that young women recognize their value and potential. Young women’s leadership – on a regional, national and global scale – is a core strategic priority of the YWCA, a 160-year-old movement of women’s organizations in 120 countries. The introduction of A Woman’s Almanac highlights the importance of engaging young women, and ensuring that young women have access to the (her)stories of their foremothers. While it is commendable that a key goal of this publication is to engage young women, only one story is by a young woman, and only one story is about a young woman. Representation matters. According to the latest statistical report on women in Canada – as of 2012 – 42.5 percent of women in Canada are young women under 34 years. However, young women represent a presence of only 8.3 percent in A Woman’s Almanac. Young women – both locally and across the country – are working to make incredible changes in their own lives and in their communities. Young women are challenging sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence in their schools; they are fighting for access to sports, science and technology programs; they are overcoming addictions and bravely parenting their children. Young women are standing up to systemic racism and police brutality and they are using spoken word to heal from sexualized violence. Young women are protesting to preserve the environment and Indigenous traditions; they are coming out to their families; they are fighting for gender justice in every sector of society. They are brave and resilient and their stories deserve to be shared and celebrated because, as Marian Frances White writes in the introduction, “by celebrating ourselves, we empower each other,” and empowered young women build stronger, healthier, and happier communities. ■ Dee Dooley is a queer social justice advocate and feminist killjoy. She likes books, dogs, arts and crafts, and Netflix.
A Woman’s Almanac: Voices from Newfoundland and Labrador Breakwater Books
Celebrating the richness of women’s experiences in all of their diversity is essential – and doing this through storytelling and collaborations like A Woman’s Almanac pay homage to women’s knowledge-sharing in a significant way.
Signage from Newfoundland women’s organizations and the late Rose Gregoire, community worker and advocate of Innu self-governance.
Atlantic Books Today
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The Evolution of the Graphic Novel How an art installation has tweaked the tropes of the comic book genre by Corey Redekop
Garbage Mathew Reichertz Conundrum Press
he concept of a “graphic novel” has come a long way from its modern-era origins as bound collections of previously published comic books. Many people unfamiliar with the form automatically dismiss it altogether as being cartoons and nothing further (as if cartoons weren’t an art form all their own). Yet, it’s perfectly understandable that in the age of superheroes – which we do appear to be in, pop culturewise – the near-ubiquitous compilations of unitarded crimefighters lining bookstore shelves might signal to the uninitiated that the genre is the sole realm of caped crusaders and cartoonish supervillains. While there still exist plenty of examples of such, more and more authors and artists have come to view the form as a new and exciting method of presenting long-form narratives in unique, often startling ways. Recent examples such as Jeff Lemire’s Essex County, Chester Brown’s Louis Riel, and Mariko Tamaki’s Skim, among many others, have taken the form to brave new heights, combining intimate narratives with stellar artwork to proffer stories and ideas that are far from the stereotypical “comic book.” Mathew Reichertz’s Garbage may serve as an evolution of the genre, a bridge between what we conventionally accept as a “graphic novel” and what we customarily understand as an “art exhibit.” As Robin Metcalfe, Director/Curator, Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, writes in her accompanying essay, “An art gallery can hardly compete [with a graphic novel] … Our ideal of the white cube, where the viewer’s encounter with the artwork is isolated
This couch (or lack thereof) will figuratively dismantle your worldview.
from all distractions, remains illusory, its emptiness contaminated by electrical outlets and baseboards and exit signs … It is precisely the intimate scale of the book that allows the reader to detach its imaginative universe … from the world that goes about its business beyond the edges of the page.” Garbage began life as an art installation, and Reichertz — a teacher of narrative painting at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design — designed his artwork to be, first and foremost, an exhibit piece for a physical space. Through the paintings that make up Garbage, Reichertz tweaks the artistic tropes of the comic book to ultimately present a fractured narrative. Rectangular panel outlines, speech balloons, a linear progression of images through a left-to-right deployment: all are used to set Garbage up as a comic book writ large, its panels stretching across walls instead of pages. Garbage the book, then, is the next logical step for such an exhibit; an exhibition catalogue of a series of paintings that toy with the motifs of the graphic novel,
Reichertz both embraces and subverts the forms of comic books and art installations in his presentation, ultimately resulting in, as Metcalfe puts it, “a fresh conversation between various ways of telling a story.” now presented in graphic novel form. Ostensibly the tale of a man attempting to rid himself of a discarded couch that has turned up in front of his house, Reichertz both embraces and subverts the forms of comic books and art installations in his presentation, ultimately resulting in, as Metcalfe puts it, “a fresh conversation between various ways of telling a story.” Reichertz’s works, at once realistic and fantastical, combine elements of realism, myth and comic books to result in a weird and often unsettling examination of one man’s conception of the world around him. Only the man himself, his partner and his dog are presented as recognizable beings: the neighbour with whom he discusses the mysterious couch is a pixelated blur; another neighbour has the head of a hyena; and an unknown woman appears with a head of living flame. As the panels progress, they begin to lose their twodimensional cohesiveness, the images bursting through the panel walls before foregoing them altogether. The introduction of the couch — this unexpected obstruction within one man’s ordered universe — results in the figurative dismantling of his worldview and the literal dismantling of the format that contains him. As a narrative, it’s deceptively simple, but Reichertz’s intent is not so much to tell as story as it is to examine and then up-end and subvert what it is we expect of the form. So is Garbage a graphic novel, an exhibition catalogue, or something else altogether? Benjamin Woo — comics academic, and Assistant Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University — posits in his introduction that, while once “comics and fine art were mutually exclusive categories … Garbage is different. Equally at home in the art world and the comics world, it uses and refuses the conventions of graphic novels. Garbage is both art and “Art,” just as it is and isn’t comics.” ■ Corey Redekop is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, NB. His novels include the award-wining Shelf Monkey and the award-nominated Husk.
New for Children
Saving Thunder the Great: The True Story of a Gerbil's Rescue from the Fort McMurray Wildfire
The Fort McMurray wildfire was a tragedy, but it also united the community like never before. This is a story of a gerbil's rescue, a mother's love and of the people who helped her.
The Best Christmas Ever When Princes Amari becomes ill, the people of Hopewell decide to cheer her up by making this Christmas extra special for her. Their love for the princess is the ultimate cure and it saves her life.
Atlantic Books Today
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We Are All Treaty People How centuries-old tucked-away documents can lead Canada and the First Nations toward reconciliation by Marie Battiste
Living Treaties: Narrating Mi’kmaw Treaty Relations Edited by Marie Battiste Cape Breton University Press
“Empowerment” (detail) by David Brooks.
alking about treaties in Atlantic Canada has been a political dead end for centuries. Governments of the day have controlled the discourses and knowledge through education, or lack thereof, on Mi’kmaw treaties. Many Canadians today have commented, “Didn’t those end with colonization, modernization or federal government neglect? Do they still exist?” The other discourse is, “Treaties are about giving welfare to Indians, free education and tax-free lifestyles.”
Yet, treaties are not legally dead and they are not about handouts or keeping Mi’kmaq and other First Nations as second-class peoples. The Canadian court has declared Georgian treaties to be constitutionally alive, and established a new and distinct constitutional relationship with Atlantic Canada and with Atlantic Canadians. First Nations view the treaties as a constitutional tool to resolve the previous intractable issues of ending poverty and injustice. And many others have said that too.
Yet, despite the wealth of writing, volumes of government legal and legislative interventions, rules, laws, court cases, research reports, audits and governmental studies, commissions and inquires, treaty recommendations have largely been politically ignored and the public has been left ignorant to them, and the issues behind them. Confronting political indifference, the Mi’kmaq and some of their allies have turned to the courts to affirm Mi’kmaw treaties as a path to a better future based on their understandings of them and of the oral traditions that provide valid evidence in court proceedings. However, little is known about First Nations peoples’ lives under treaties, or about the changing perceptions of the courts and of Canadians, whether Indigenous or not, to the treaties. The authors in a new collection of essays, Living Treaties: Narrating Mi’kmaw Treaty Relations, for which I served as editor, supply their own narratives of growing up in the context of government denial of treaties. They explore the impact of the treaties on their own lives, and those of their elders, who were told that the treaties were aimed at building lasting friendships and alliances. The First Nations were supposed to be the beneficiaries of those ancient, yet contemporary, treaties. But as the narratives in this book show, the treaty relationship was largely administered by government-employed Indian agents, who activated Indigenous people’s poverty and oppression, controlling their access to their natural resources – including the promised hunting or fishing rights in their territories. The writers describe how they arrived at their new comprehensions and interpretations of these old treaties through their own research and activism, and discussions with their elders. These personal perspectives have been missing in most governmental commissions and reports. This book is thus designed to offer Canadians a Mi’kmaw view of how we have had to live with and under treaties while their benefits and profits flow to Canadians who are, willfully or unwillfully, unaware. These authors build their stories from many diverse experiences – from a former Indian agent, a chief, several lawyers, a historian, teachers, scholars, activists and more as they relay how Mi’kmaq have rallied against oppression and injustice, and how courts have evolved in their understandings of treaties and Aboriginal rights. They draw from their childhoods, teachings from elders and key role models who they have worked to change the way treaties have been understood, misunderstood, manipulated and used
…treaty recommendations have largely been politically ignored and the public has been left ignorant to them…
to usurp Mi’kmaq land and self-determination. Their anecdotes are poignant, tragic, angry, funny and scholarly. They start fresh from their own families, from stories and teachings gleaned by the fire or kitchen table, which have a necessary place in history. Growing up under the threats of provincial authorities or police, residential school nuns and priests, Indian agents and colonial laws, these authors have come to learn the promise of treaties as their elders shared with them, and how the various eras of political force and change began to give them hope, and something to fight for. Sometimes they were fighting for the right to hunt or fish for food, or for their rights to their own education, for their livelihood and sustenance, or for political recognition of their traditional governments and Indigenous knowledges. One might think that much has changed since colonialism etched its difficult lifelines in Mi’kmaw peoples’ memories. Yet, these contemporary perspectives, enriched by the writers’ memories, will show that Canadians need to be reeducated to the complex issue of correcting historic injustice. For their part, Atlantic Canadians need to understand what has brought Mi’kmaq success in litigation of our Mi’kmaw rights, and the difficult road travelled by Mi’kmaq in the last century, as Canada built its empire. This time of reconciliation is as Justice Murray Sinclair has affirmed a time for Canadians to take control of their own learning and unlearning, to build a better relationship with Indigenous peoples. ■ Marie Battiste is an author and educator at the University of Saskatchewan, with expertise in Indigenous/Aboriginal learning, social justice and balancing knowledges.
Atlantic Books Today
Local Suite Poetry from M. Travis Lane’s The Witch of the Inner Wood 1. Riverside Drive The wind’s too rough for the sailboats. A cormorant, starting to hang out its wings, has had second thoughts. Pale mustard flowers shake in the rocks and styrofoam of the riverbank. A runner in red mittens pounds on past. At the Armoury boys play at soldiers. My small dog noses the thawing ground. 2. Fredericton Junction Last summer’s cattails, shaggy in the rain, and blackbirds; a shiny, plywood station — a purring bus clogs the parking lot, the driver’s gone across the street to the new café. In the waiting room a girl in a yellow slicker and a child, too hot in a pink fur snowsuit. The café signs says “Chili.” “Well, I’ve got beans,” says the counter girl. “What else does it take?” The bus driver tells her. She’s set for the day. The rain lets up. My husband walks beside the tracks like a signal man, and the train looks round its corner, small, yellow, perfectly genuine, and right on time. 3. Roberta’s Wood Path Spruce seedlings, still too small for lights at Christmas time, line the narrow path the children take. (The grownups bow.) Ground cedar overhangs a doll’s ravine. (The patch of bluing scilla is a lake.) The gardener marks her stations with tin tags: bloodroot, trillium, shooting-star. Above us squirrels in their choir stalls cry and drop the stale, wild apples on our heads.
The Witch of the Inner Wood M. Travis Lane Goose Lane Editions
4. Picnic by the River Light Nearsighted, the moose swam toward us. Halfway across it saw us, blinked, and turned around. We watched it wading the island. Later we saw it stumbling in a patch of carefully ranked young lettuces, a kind of Peter, harder to evict. 5. Officers’ Square With red salvia, purple petunias, orange marigolds, a turquoise beaver pondering its flat trough, and the plumbing-roofed memorial like a bandstand. The benches are red and yellow but the grass has been left green. The girls in their bare feet like it. Stretched out flat, with their dress shoes under their heads, they are getting their lunch-break sunburns. Each as pink as a rose.
6. Needham Street
10. The Myth of a Small City
Narrow, its dusk closed in with wires as if to catch some late hawk-watching pigeon. A tiny, tidy house is dwarfed by the massive, white datura bush. The ancient, crippled apple tree is propped on crutches, a loyalist. Hopvine, nightshade, half-wild cats, the houses crowd the sidewalk, but there is Boldon’s light, a stained glass window: a beckoning cup, blue amber grail. Against it the white budworm moths flutter like cinders and beat the screen.
The myth of a small city where, on a snowy night, it doesn’t do to walk carelessly: the walker behind you with lengthening tread has raised his wooden hammer. He is the clock of midnight, the bad turn someone will do you, sometime. By the wall, a shadow fidgets, starts to run. ■
7. Loyalist Graveyard Dust on the willows and raspberry briars, and grey seed heads: angelica, milkweed, virgin’s bower — a sort of fog. The plot might once have been bare meadow. Elms, drawing their darkness like a hood, have closed it in till it seems hardly large enough, only by accident not forgot. The past gets smaller the less we remember it. This is almost too small. 8. Odell Park The rags of this year’s tartan come apart, unroof the old farm’s gravel road. The sun, slanting between the tree trunks, looks like the last of the tourists. It touches us, lightly, its hands already cold. There will be frost. 9. Burning the Greens From the post-Christmas pyre of trees speckled with tinsel, a steam of snow dampens the smell of starter fuel. A missed gold ball wags sadly. Flame reddens the wet face of a child slumped on his father’s shoulders. Soon the blaze will send the old year toward the sun we’ve not seen much of, lately. Dusk happened at three. The bonfire’s through by bedtime. Like one small, red eye, Mars dogs pathetic Jupiter.
Atlantic Books Today
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Why We Need Criticism Novelist, Playwright and Critic Jeff Bursey on the crucial role of literary criticism by Jeff Bursey
Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews Jeff Bursey Zero Books
or many years I’ve not read a book without paper and pen at hand. Notes are taken down in a pseudo-doctor’s script on hotel stationery, monogrammed remnants of defunct enterprises, plain and coloured paper, and when I start writing a review, those leaves and the book are set near the computer. Writing criticism began in London, England, in the late 1980s but lasted only a year, for I realized I didn’t always treat the books with enough respect, so why continue? Since the early 1980s, while researching for my master’s thesis on Henry Miller, works of criticism led me to other writers worth knowing about. I appreciated well-written and enthusiastic commentary; apart from its merits, however, such writing showed the inadequacy of my own attempts. Best to stop. In 2001 an invitation came from someone connected to an American publication to return to the critical side of the writing life. Interested in improving that side of myself, I accepted. Since then I’ve written on new and familiar figures such as Alexandra Chasin, William Gaddis, Joseph McElroy and Gilbert Sorrentino. They were called difficult or obscure, when not neglected due to time (meaning fashion) allegedly passing them by (Blaise Cendrars, John Cowper Powys). Many lie at the core of my own writing interests. In his book of essays, Freedom from Culture, John Metcalf states: “A literature is a relationship between books and readers … A literature is those books which readers hold in their hearts and minds.” Critical writing contributes to nurturing that relationship. My new book, Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews, is a selection of critical writing from 20032014. I’ve been made aware that the book comes out in a kind of vacuum. Carmine Starnino, Zach Wells, Eric Ormsby and Mary Dalton explore the art of fellow practitioners, but there are, seemingly, few Canadian fiction writers regularly analyzing novels and short stories. Are they writing for the increasingly fragmented worlds of journals and small publications? Or do they
regard criticism as inferior and a waste of time? Perhaps some avoid making public statements, especially negative ones, about their colleagues because they figure that funding from a local or national arts council may be dependent on that writer’s positive vote. (In Canada’s relatively small literary community the chances are fair someone you’ve brushed up against, in real life or in print, will be judging your work.) Still others might feel that the best comment on a book is the book itself. Our poets are shameless, braver or more positive about the virtue of literary criticism. In his book of essays and reviews, Career Limiting Moves, Wells says: “I prefer to write reviews as if they might actually matter to people other than poets.” We can forget that people everywhere can read about a book that might play a significant part in their lives. For my part, I take some effort in trying to get across the salient features of a novel or short story collection to an audience who might not hear of it while paying respect to the creator of that work. To be an advocate for the underappreciated or the misunderstood requires a certain kind of passionate engagement and a desire to seize the chance to talk with others about writing that, to me, has importance. Good critics can’t be blind advocates. They must explain not the intention of an author (impossible to determine), but discuss the finished work’s positive and negative aspects so that the readers are given enough context and material to determine if the book might interest them. Hopefully Centring the Margins will be a useful spur to further conversations. Surely fiction writers owe more to our hardworking fellow writers than silence, a Facebook like or ephemeral blog posts and blurbs. In our heart of hearts we writers want to have our ideas and our language taken seriously. Review writing can be one way of showing that a book has had an impact. ■ Jeff Bursey is a Canadian author and literary critic. His collection of reviews and essays is called Centring the Margins.
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Dear Atlantic Canadians Comic, Debaters host and new author Steve Patterson’s open letter … to us by Steve Patterson
The Book of Letters I Didn’t Know Where to Send Steve Patterson Goose Lane Dear Atlantic Canadians, Whenever I’m asked where the best place to perform comedy is, I always respond, “Atlantic Canada.” I would say “the Maritimes” but I’ve learned that some of you Maritimers don’t like being called “Maritimers” and hey, I wouldn’t want to upset you. Because then you might only invite me over for supper and drinks instead of breakfast, lunch, supper and drinks. From my first Halifax Comedyfest in ‘01 (I know I don’t write like I’m that old) to my most recent performance in Halifax last Thursday (true story) I’m always amazed at how much people out here love a good, honest to God, belly laugh. This might have been exhibited nowhere better than in St. John’s when I was lucky enough to be part of the first ever St. John’s comedy festival (thanks Pete Soucy!) along with the cast of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the great Erica Sigurdson and the late great Irwin Barker. Everyone knows Newfoundlanders are great storytellers and love a good laugh, but I didn’t know how much until then. Shaun Majumder opened the show and captained that comedy ship masterfully, setting the stage for the rest of us to enjoy a comedy tidal wave like I’d never experienced before. Also, walking the streets of St. John’s with Shaun Majumder, Mark Critch and Cathy Jones is a bit like walking into a Catholic church with Jesus, Mary and Joseph: They’ve got a lot of love out there for their own. Which I think is the magic of the Maritimes (sorry, “Atlantic Canada.” But I like alliteration.) Everyone helps each other. From businesses that should be bitter rivals working together for a common cause to neighbours acting like neighbours in the biblical sense. (I mean helping each other out. Not coveting each other’s wives. Though I’m sure that happens as well. And frankly, who cares? To me “coveting” is the greatest compliment). To a general spirit of decency you feel when you go to walk across a street and every driver stops and patiently waits for you.
I’m not saying all Atlantic Canadians are better than all other Canadians. But there seem to be a lot fewer arseholes per capita here than in other places. And since there aren’t all that many people out here, mathematically, there are very few arseholes! Of course, not all Atlantic Canadians stay here forever. Many of you relocate. But when you do, you bring your spirit of decency and laughter with you. Simply put, any party in Toronto that’s got Atlantic Canadians at it is bound to be a better party than ones that don’t. Sure, this is partly because you guys know to bring enough booze to share, but also because you provide the best live soundtracks! If you go to a party with Atlantic Canadians and the guitars come out, you know the night is just getting started. With many other groups, that means it’s time to call it a night. Here, every corporate event I’ve ever performed at has been more fun than 98 percent of the events I’ve performed at or attended elsewhere. This is because Atlantic Canadians know how to mix business with pleasure in a genuine, rather than a “let’s do lunch … IF you sign this contract,” way. So if you can find a way to make it work out here, you’ll have great support and great company when you have time to play. But hey, you guys know this. You’re from here. Or you “come from away” but live here now. Or you did live here, now live somewhere else, but have every intention of making your way back. So thanks to all you Atlantic Canadians for being great supporters of each other, of comedy in general and of me personally over the years. I know it’s not always easy. Like when you have to tunnel out of your house through twelve-foot high snow banks, or put up with incompetent governments (they’re everywhere by the way) or walk through angry nor’easters that would literally blow most mainlanders away. But at your worst, you’re not all that bad. And at your best, you’re a good bit better than most. Yours truly, Steve Patterson ■ Steve Patterson is a veteran Canadian standup, the host of The Debaters on CBC and the author of the recently released The Book of Letters I Didn’t Know Where To Send. Atlantic Books Today
P H O T O F E AT U R E
The Faces of Writers Some of our favourite writers at literary events in Atlantic Canada
Ami McKay at Foglit Festival in Saint John, New Brunswick. Photo by Madeleine Kendall.
Poet Ross Leckie at Poetry Weekend with a student in Fredericton. Photo by Nicole Maggio.
George Elliott Clarke signing at Foglit Festival.
Short story master Andre Narbonne reads at the Attic Owl Reading Series in Moncton, New Brunswick. Photo by Lee Thompson.
Diane Reid (left) and poet Jan Conn at Poetry Weekend in Fredericton. Photo by Nicole Maggio.
Daniel Renton speaking at Fredericton Poetry Weekend. Photo by Nicole Maggio.
Atlantic Books Today
World Food for Student Cooks Krista MacLellan Formac Publishing
Creative Fooding 101
No More Junk Food Wendy McCallum Formac Publishing
Simon Thibeault is your guide to some of the season’s hottest new cookbooks by Simon Thibeault
cookbook’s general purpose is to inspire the reader into cooking. It does this by convincing them to try new techniques or guide them into new flavour territories they’ve never encountered before. Although that may sound easy, for the author it’s actually incredibly difficult. Every reader has their own circumstances that may or may not lead them to pick up your book, let alone cook from it. The author’s job is to be a populist, yet focus on a very specific topic, and audience. In the case of Krista McLellan’s World Food For Student Cooks, Wendy McCallum’s No More Junk Food, and Michael Smith’s Real Food, Good Food, the goal is for readers to understand how easy it is to get food on the table from one’s own hands, rather than through those of multinational food companies. In the case of McLellan’s book, her audience encompasses students with food-truck tastes and beer-bottle pockets. Unlike Smith and McCallum’s audience -a devoted fan base and working parents, respectively - McLellan knows that her readers may be intimidated by their own kitchens. She graciously introduces tips and techniques that may escape the novice cook, such as “toast more than your bread” - toasting whole spices, a trick many a home cook only reads in more serious tomes. McLellan’s work as a registered dietitian shows, but not in a manner that would turn off her readers.
She wants you to enjoy cooking with tofu, legumes and whole grains - not only because they’re healthy, but also because they will be tasty, filling and cheap, she promises. These are things that are important to a student on a tight budget. Although I think readers and eaters may eventually find restaurant - and region/ culture-specific - versions of the recipes to be better, McLellan is looking to open the door to amateur chefs to the wide world of flavours and cooking techniques. And she does this in an easy-to-follow manner. On the other side of the spectrum, McCallum’s book aims for parents who are probably exhausted by fussy eaters as well as their own sense of right and wrong when it comes to what goes into their children’s bodies. With a subtitle of “80+ delicious recipes to replace popular processed foods,” she doesn’t hold back on her mission statement. It’s an admirable position, but not necessarily a popular one. McCallum works hard to keep readers attentions and appetites, even when she is essentially recreating (with an overabundance of exclamation points on every recipe!) reasonably tasty facsimiles of foods kids crave and demand. I have to admit my own eye rolling at her use of the word “natural” when describing home cooking. But, if I were a parent with no time to spare I’d also have a hard time resisting pre-made meals and snacks. McCallum sticks to her guns to reteach parents that cooking can be done
Real Food, Good Food Michael Smith Penguin
in less time than one may think. She gives actionable tips on how to teach kids about food in a playful manner. I sympathize with her desire to keep kids away from sugar-laden foodstuffs, and although I think substitutions are often painful reminders of what someone isn’t having - I’m looking at you sunflowerseed butter – McCallum shines when her recipes offer substantial meals, as well as practical cooking information for both parents and kids. In food television, there is a term known as “dump and stir” - where one dumps ingredients into a bowl, stirs it up, and then serves the delicious food to the camera and their audience. It’s easy, it’s relatable and you can do it too. Michael Smith is Canada’s king of the dump and stir - and that’s not a criticism. His ideology toward cooking is an act of subversion and a gentle reminder to the masses who watch food television that they too can cook what he is making. If I can do it in front of you, you can do it too. Even without Smith’s voice coming through television speakers, it can still be heard in the words on the page: familiar and familial, with a touch of the tutor. The allure of Smith’s cookbooks - and the cookbooks of most celebrity chefs - is that we place an instinctive trust in what they put out. Thankfully, with Smith that trust is not misplaced, at least insofar as the information that
The goal is for readers to understand how easy it is to get food on the table from one’s own hands...
is presented to the reader. He is smart in listing off what you can buy and why you should buy these foodstuffs at the beginning of the book. Again, I will admit some bias against the word “real,” in the context of food, but I think this is more a question of marketability and digestibility. The term “real food” is an easier sell than the old granola-esque “whole foods.” And I get it - Smith wants you to understand the value of making your own food, and not only from a nutritional perspective. Things taste better when we make them ourselves. In the end, all three of these books want their readers to understand the intrinsic values in cooking for oneself, whether they be health-based, financial or educational. Not everyone feels comfortable or like they are being spoken to with such classics as The Joy Of Cooking. But as I said at the beginning, a cookbook’s general purpose is to inspire the reader to cook. Today’s reader is as varied as the options available to them. With books like these narrowing the path, there may well be more cooks in the kitchen. ■ Simon Thibault is a Halifax based journalist, food writer and radio producer. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Coast and East Coast Living. He has produced content for CBC Radio and the award winning podcast, Gravy. His book, Pantry and Palate, will be released in spring 2017.
Krista McLellan’s Baja Fish Tacos and Red Lentil Dhal; Michael Smith’s Tomato Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Ryan Szluzic)
Atlantic Books Today
Rock Recipes Christmas Barry C. Parsons Breakwater Books Nothing brings holiday nostalgia like the flavours of holidays past: a mother’s baked good, a relative’s version of a holiday favourite. In December there are very particular tastes that please us. This flavourful sentimentality is personal and, occasionally, regional. In the case of Barry C. Parsons’ Rock Recipes Christmas, the blogger from the Rock doles out a menu that tends to live quite comfortably in the past. That’s the thing about nostalgia – it doesn’t give a damn about updates or contemporary versions and visions. It wants things done the way they were always done, from recipe to ingredients. This is especially true in the copious baking section of the book, littered with recipes that feature enough glacé and dried fruits to give you diabetes by the 12th day of Christmas. It makes sense to have such an abundance of sugared staples in your pantry – historically much of the food sent to Newfoundland was preserved in one way or another, and the need to be inventive was strong. If I have one criticism for this book, it is that I wish there was a greater depth and breadth of knowledge surrounding the origins of many of these recipes. Familial notes bring a solid introduction, but recipes like these deserve a greater history lesson. Then again, this is easily forgiven, since the book includes recipes for Newfoundland dressing (stuffing), as well as a steamed patridgeberry (lingonberry) duff. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be stuffing my face with Tweed Squares. ~Simon Thibault
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HISTORY TODAY Black Lives Matter; child soldiers dying in faraway wars; rich men accused of inconceivable crimes; women’s genius overlooked and rightwing political parties in disarray. Sounds like today’s headlines, but it’s the content of our history section. Is it a case of “the more things change...” or have we failed to learn from our history? Regardless, this year’s special history section is rich in insight about our world and region, past and present.
Atlantic Books Today
E S S AY
The Overlooked Art of Lucy Jarvis Her life and work exemplify a region of creators who succeed despite what we lack by Ray Cronin
tlantic Canada is a very tough place to be an artist. Its market is small, its many galleries and museums are woefully underfunded and the centres of art-world energy and activity are far away from our shores. Despite those realties, this region continues to produce artists of national and international calibre. In the arts, as in so many other areas of activity, Atlantic Canadians prove to be stubborn and resilient. We keep at it despite lack of attention, lack of respect, lack of funding – in fact, a lack of just about everything that is taken for granted in places with more established and valued art scenes. Artists keep going, keep making and keep persevering in the face of all the “despites.” Where we may be getting better is in acknowledging the careers of some of these artists, in looking at how they fit into the regional cultural ecosystem, not as art stars manqué, but as vital and vibrant parts of local
cultures, as builders of communities as much as makers of objects. Every community in our region has such people, who with varying degrees of public recognition have made careers and furthered the arts in places that may have had little or no exposure to creative endeavours without their labour. One such builder was Lucy Jarvis, whose life and career is celebrated in Fredericton author and curator Roslyn Rosenfeld’s fine new book, Lucy Jarvis: Even Stones Have Life. It’s been 30 years since Lucy Jarvis died in Yarmouth at the age of 85, and a look at her life and career is long overdue. It’s not that Lucy Jarvis was an artist who was head and shoulders above everyone else, a Maritime Emily Carr who was ignored by the art establishment until the intrinsic merits of her work were recognized (though, interestingly, Jarvis and Carr do share much of the same history, of being ignored by the establishment, of being considered eccentric, of seeking,
not always successfully, artistic peers – it is, sadly, a history endemic to many women in the arts in Canada between the war years). No, as Rosenfeld’s meticulously detailed book makes clear, Jarvis was a good artist, and an important one, but she made decisions throughout her life that sent her career in certain directions, and usually away from any chance of traditional success. Perhaps her most important such decision, and certainly the most influential on both her own life as a painter and the artistic community of Atlantic Canada, was to start, with Pegi Nicol McLeod, an art centre at the University of New Brunswick in 1941. Rosenfeld relates the history of what is now the UNB Art Centre with thoroughness and objectivity, bringing to light many aspects of the way that this centre, which was the first art gallery in Fredericton (predating the Beaverbrook Art Gallery by almost two decades), became a central hub for artists across New Brunswick and the region. Jarvis’s boundless energy, generosity of spirit and persistence in the face of adversity (then, as now, the arts are never first in line for institutional funding or support), comes off the pages in Rosenfeld’s book, augmented by many interviews with former students and colleagues, as well as Jarvis’s own letters. The letters – to other artists, to her nephews, to friends, and most of all to her life-long friend and companion, fellow artist Helen Weld – positively sing with enthusiasm and grace, and their judicious use by Rosenfeld is one of the highpoints of the book. Lucy Jarvis ran the Observatory Art Centre, soon to be renamed the UNB Art Centre, for 20 years, retiring at 64 to return to a full-time pursuit of painting. It is these last 20 years of her life that come across strongest in the book, no doubt a result of the vast amount of research Rosenfeld did on the exhibitions that accompanied this publication, in particular a show of Jarvis’s late paintings and drawings, also called Even Stones Have Life. Jarvis spent the majority of her summers from the 1930s on in Yarmouth County, eventually settling full-time in a small studio in Pembroke Bar, south of the town of Yarmouth. Her friend Helen Weld eventually joined her there and the two artists became well-regarded pillars of the small Yarmouth-area arts community. Rosenfeld ably details the community life of “the Bar,” and the vibrant arts scene that grew up with and around Jarvis. One area that remains somewhat opaque is the relationship between Jarvis and Weld, who lived together at the studio in Pembroke Dyke from 1970, after decades of spending summers and trips together. There has often been speculation about the nature of the
Getting to know Lucy Jarvis is getting to know Atlantic Canada, and is well worth the journey.
Lucy Jarvis: Even Stones Have Life Roslyn Rosenfeld Goose Lane Editions / Beaverbrook Art Gallery
relationship between the two artists, who are still often referred to in Yarmouth as “the girls,” but as Rosenfeld is careful to point out, no evidence suggests anything other than a friendship, though one of deep mutual love and respect. In the end, whatever their relationship, it remains their own. In Lucy Jarvis: Even Stones Have Life, Rosenfeld’s analysis of Jarvis’s paintings is neatly balanced with the biographical details of the artist’s life. The particular context of the art world in the Maritimes, such as it was in each decade from the 1940s and 1950s, is fascinating and provides a useful picture of the challenges, drawbacks and rewards of pursuing an art career in a remote region. Rosenfeld’s portrayal of Jarvis’s life in “retirement” is rich and layered, ably depicting the struggles of any artist to remain true to their vision, to grow and push their skills, their ideas and their comfort-level with their art. Jarvis’s willingness to push her art, to seek out new experiences and challenges even well into her 80s, is inspirational. Her full-hearted embrace of life, and of its often stony paths, is perhaps the thing one takes away most clearly from Rosenfeld’s book. Getting to know Lucy Jarvis is getting to know Atlantic Canada, and is well worth the journey. ■ Ray Cronin is a senior arts professional with over 25 years’ experience in multiple aspects of museums and creative industries. Most recently the CEO of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Cronin led that institution for seven years.
Atlantic Books Today
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Witchy Women Ami McKay’s New York “witches” want what we all want: autonomy by Michelle Butler Hallett
The Witches of New York Ami McKay Knopf Canada
he Witches of New York is a novel that gives characters room to ask, “Who am I?” For McKay’s male characters, this question feels normal, almost a birthright. The one most certain about who and what he is does the most damage. For the female characters, daring to think they have the right to even ask the question, let alone act on it, is dangerous. The women’s very existence, let alone their independent behaviour — using contraception, for example, controlling their own bodies — incites violent hatred. When female characters behave this way, all too often our storytellers can only imagine them as simple monsters — to be pitied, perhaps, but contained like the Minotaur, and sedated if necessary, until bored into submission. (As perhaps one Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, originator of the rest cure for hysterical women, viewed his patients.) The rhetoric here: the female character who deviates does so not because there is something terrible to deviate from, but because she is a monster. (And perhaps on her period.) Psikhushka in the Iron Curtain countries, where a dissident could be confined in a mental hospital because only the insane would question the state. Does this comparison sound extreme on my part? Consider Caroline Siede’s recent essay on the expectation of female likability: “Whether you realize it or not, you’ve spent your entire life being trained to empathize with white men. From Odysseus to Walter White, Hamlet to Bruce Wayne, James Bond to the vast majority of biopic protagonists, our art consistently makes the argument that imperfect, even outright villainous, men have an innate core of humanity. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Good art should teach us to empathize with complex people. The problem comes not from the existence of these stories about white men, but from the lack of stories about everyone else.”
Odysseus gets to state who he is, even and especially when imprisoned. Does Penelope get to say or do much beyond her status as possession? Hamlet never shuts up about who he is, yet Ophelia is never anything more than a prize, a tool, a madwoman, a casualty. And the so-called Bond “girls?” Perhaps the two most capable are called, sigh, Holly Goodhead and Pussy Galore — names to numb the threat. You can’t possibly take someone called Pussy Galore seriously as any sort of equal. While we’re on the subject, take Varla in the B-movie Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! She’s awful. Evil. At the same time, she’s loads of fun because she’s a very rare thing in cinema: a woman who is not a prize to be handed about but a woman controls her own life and, horrors, talks back. Her independence makes her compelling but she could only, in the end, be a villain. Yeah, I know, were talking a B-movie here, and a fetish-tastic one at that, but that script didn’t come out of a vacuum. The film’s message: independent women are, by definition, dangerous. Weird and wayward. Otherworldly. Even Varla’s laugh is strange, unsettling, a blend of a bell’s tinkle and a witch’s cackle. Witch. As McKay asks in her latest novel’s afterword, what does the term even mean? Is our cultural anxiety about a woman refusing to submit to prescribed behaviour so severe, so destructive, that we cannot accept her as a complex, nuanced person but must instead simplify her as something evil and dangerous, something to be feared, owned, confined, eradicated? The short answer is yes. A particular delight of McKay’s novel, again given the setting — this is the time of French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot parading female mental patients in the name of medicine, speaking of fetishtastic B-movie values — is how the female characters determine, for themselves, an answer to that question, “Who am I?”
Some of the tensions inherent in this question are signalled by names. Married women in the novel’s setting would always change their surnames, perhaps even be subsumed by the husband’s entire name: Mrs. John Doe. (This practice was alive and well when I was a child.) Adelaide has given herself a new name and with it a new life. Names, their meanings and histories, become part of a larger conversation. Names carry power. Think I’m being silly? Try boarding a plane with ID that does not perfectly match your reservation. Try interviewing for a job with a name that’s not considered “white” and therefore “normal.” While McKay’s story is told in a linear fashion, with plenty of suspense, it also comes together in pieces: a bit revealed here, something else hinted at there. In that sense, this novel works very much like a grimoire, a magical textbook. Needed knowledge is tucked everywhere, though not willy-nilly. The more deliberate aspects of this deep structure are clear in the newspaper articles, advertisements and excerpts from a character’s own grimoire. The effect is very much like sitting down to tea with women who are willing to share knowledge, to talk — and, this is crucial, to listen. Ever look at photos of ladies’ auxiliaries, church societies or clubs from the 1940s and 1950s? Ever notice how often tea figures in the photos? Ever consider how much got accomplished over a pot of tea? Tea — pots, spoons, cups, blends, steeping times — is another signal of the grimoire-conversation structure of McKay’s novel. The person in charge of tea may appear to be a leader, an authority. If character Reverend Townsend made tea, a task he’d likely consider beneath him, the tea talk would become a sermon, an exercise of a single voice. As contemporary tea master Li Xiangxi observes, “The person brewing is not leading. We are just one part. We are serving the tea and those around us. We are not the master; the master is tea.” Consultative conversations versus singular diktats is perhaps part of what Malala Yousafzhai means when she says the best weapon against terrorism is education. The labels “women’s history” and “women’s fiction” often make me cringe. Too often I hear them as belittlements and slurs. As Charles Schulz’s Lucy pointed out in 1976, women’s history is history. Period. (Yes, I think I’m funny.) Yet I cannot just insist we do away with the terms women’s history, women’s fiction, or throw out women’s prizing. Why not? Because the question is not binary, not simple. Like cunning Odysseus, it’s nuanced and complex. If I thought for a moment we had achieved true equality in North America then yes, I would question the need for women’s studies, women’s history, women’s writing prizes. If I thought that, I’d
Is our cultural anxiety about a woman refusing to submit to prescribed behaviour so severe, so destructive, that we cannot accept her as a complex, nuanced person? be writing about McKay’s novel as a curiosity, one no longer relevant, like so much of the 1800s. Cultural rules don’t change that fast. Though they do change. The struggle for women’s suffrage seems at once distant and confusing: why all this hideous and violent resistance to the idea of women voting? Yet women have had the right to vote in Newfoundland (which did not join Canada until 1949) for less than a hundred years. So when McKay’s novel shows the frightening risks her female characters take just to live their lives as they wish, is she bashing men? No. (Neither is much of what gets called feminism, though it does happen; hunger for power being a human failing.) She is criticizing what men have done in the name of keeping power, yes, but not bashing men because they’re men. One of McKay’s male characters, Quinn Brody, signals this criticism with his doubts of the definition of manhood, especially medical manhood. Brody dislikes and distrusts the methods of fellow doctors, Silas Mitchell among them. Mitchell, who in real life coined the term “phantom limb,” which afflicts Brody, gives his patient a useless platitude warning of emasculation: “Don’t let this make you any less of a man.” Brody’s own skepticism — his truly scientific mind — and Mitchell’s callous treatment, make him compassionate, willing to listen. Judith Dashley hopes Quinn Brody is “a man who believes women.” That diction is no accident. So McKay’s witches want to be believed? More than that. McKay’s witches are all too relevant. They want what so many women want: not power over others, but power over themselves. Their own bodies. Their own lives. How cunning is that? ■ Michelle Butler Hallett is the author of the novels This Marlowe, Deluded Your Sailors, Double-blind and Sky Waves, as well as the short-story collection The Shadow Side of Grace.
Atlantic Books Today
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Revolutionary Rocky Jones He was a courageous warrior and inspiring teacher for anyone willing to pay attention, like author Jon Tattrie has by Jon Tattrie
Burnley “Rocky” Jones: Revolutionary Rocky Jones & James Walker Fernwood Publishing
got to interview Rocky Jones two times. Once it was so he could tell me about the time he brought Stokely Carmichael to Nova Scotia in the 1960s. The second time was after the then-new Africville church museum hired a white woman as its first director. When he talked to me about Carmichael (later called Kwame Ture), he welcomed me into his home. He told the most gripping story of revolutionaries, police surveillance, guns and the origins of his great vision for our province. The funny thing is, I sat on the edge of my seat, eyes wide – and he kept dozing off. He had taken time on a rare “off ” day to talk to me, had just flown in from somewhere and was about to fly somewhere else. He was nearing 70 and he was bone tired. He knew I wanted to include the visit in The Hermit of Africville, the biography I was writing about his friend Eddie Carvery, and so he made time. As a white guy who sometimes writes about Black history, I’m self-conscious about my ignorance, worried someone will challenge my right to write. I asked
Rocky what white people did well in the 1960s, and could do well today, to oppose anti-Black racism. “If you want to help me, don’t come into my community to do things for me or give me advice. Go to the person who’s got his foot on my neck, talk to him, fight with him, because that’s where you’ve got to be,” he told me, recounting the advice he had once given a white woman. “Don’t bother me and my Black community. If you’re white, you’ve got to go into your own community and organize. If I’m on the ground and someone’s kicking the shit out of me, don’t talk to me! I’m on the ground. Go to the person who’s kicking the shit out of me and grab him.” It was superb advice that fit right into my brain – no doubt as Rocky intended. I wrote Hermit in that spirit, and took the same advice with subsequent books dealing with colonialism and racism. It’s a permanent part of my brain now, and when I work with (and against) the city to take down its awful statue of the white
man who issued a scalping proclamation against the Mi’kmaq, Edward Cornwallis, that’s my effort to grab the guy who’s kicking. In 2011, the Africville Heritage Trust hired and soon fired a white woman from Ontario as its first director. She was fired because she lied on her resume, but the racial angle made national news. I did a radio documentary about the church museum for CBC and asked Rocky about the white director. “You would never get a man hired as the executive director of a women’s organization,” he told me. “Yet to have a white person as the executive director of a Black organization seems appropriate to some people. I disagree.” He replaced heat with light in a patient, confident voice. And now his voice is back in a warm, funny, intelligent and enlightening autobiography called Burnley “Rocky” Jones: Revolutionary. The book comes from taped conversations Jones had with his friend James Walker. They planned to turn it into an autobiography, but Jones died with the work unfinished. Walker finished it. We learn that he grew up as the son of Elmer and Willena Jones – and that meant something. Life in the Marsh near Truro was poor and happy, filled with family and friends. But the anti-Black racism keeps drifting in. One day his grandfather dies mysteriously on a trip to Halifax. Was he mugged and killed? Was he targeted because he was Black? No one ever knew for sure. Rocky’s father was a great hockey player. “People said if it hadn’t been for racism, he’d likely have been an NHL player,” Jones writes. “Nobody would pick him, that’s for sure.” People in the Marsh always gave a room to Black strangers – because no place in Truro would rent to a black person. There were no “whites only” signs around, but everyone knew which barber would cut Black hair, where Black people were supposed to sit in the movie theatres, and which companies might hire a Black person. Rocky delivers natural parables. He writes about a time he needed to see a dentist and was stunned when a Black man started examining his mouth. “I think to myself, ‘Hold it, I’ve never seen a Black dentist before,’” Jones writes. “I knew right away I was not letting this man do anything to me … Because this is the first time I’ve ever seen a black dentist. I’d never seen it. I’d never heard of it. “I couldn’t get out of that chair fast enough and get down the street. This is what my life in Nova Scotia has done to me.”
It took an education to make me wonder why white Halifax destroyed Africville, and why that wasn’t presented as “a part of our heritage.” Rocky casts himself as the racist, showing how internalized such ideas can be. He’s also describing the way a lot of white people might have felt about a Black dentist, and helping us explore our own biases. He does the same when writing about his first political action. He stumbles upon a group of white people in Toronto protesting the way Black people in the U.S. are treated. He decides Black people should be there too, so he returns with his wife Joan and their baby Tracey. The press turns up and suddenly he’s “Canada’s Stokely Carmichael.” Once again, he’s gently showing white people how they can help fight anti-Black racism. He lays out the problems caused by anti-Black racism with the story of when, as a boy, he went to the Truro pool hall with his white friends, but the white hall owner told him he couldn’t play. He could watch his white friends play, though. “Here was someone who has power over me, he’s got physical power, he’s got the power of the state because he owns the place. He’s got all this power and he’s exercising this power over me. I was helpless,” Rocky writes. It’s not so much racism that causes problems – it’s when the racist has power to harm your personal life, your ability to get a job, or how you’re treated when you go shopping at Sobeys. “This is the strange nature of Canadian racism. There are these little pockets of openings that are making people feel better who are exercising power, exercising discrimination,” he writes. In my 39 years, it has never once crossed my mind to wonder if a Nova Scotia business would serve me because I’m white. I just assume I can go where I like. And when I watched the Heritage Minute on the Underground Railroad, I felt good about being Canadian. It took an education from Rocky Jones, and others, to make me wonder why in that Canadian Heritage Minute, “Pa” had to stay hidden in the church pew, even once he was in Canada. It took an education to make me wonder why white Halifax destroyed Africville, and why that wasn’t presented as “a part of our heritage.”
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Rocky Jones made it clear to me that we must tackle racism as it lives in white brains like mine. The destruction of Africville is usually told as a part of Black history. It’s not – it’s white history. White people bulldozed it. In Nova Scotia, 95 percent of us are white. In New Brunswick, about 98 percent of us are white. In PEI, it’s 97 percent. Newfoundland and Labrador is 98.6 percent white. Statistically, therefore, in our region, more than 95 percent of racist minds must live in white bodies. So white people should be doing 95 percent of the work to combat racism. We haven’t achieved that yet. When I researched an entry on Rocky Jones for the Canadian Encyclopedia, I was struck by his solutions-focused approach to fighting anti-Black and anti-Mi’kmaq racism in Nova Scotia. When he realized Halifax didn’t have a place for young Black and white people to meet in the 1960s, he helped create Kwacha House. The National Film Board of Canada made a short film about the lively discussions between white and Black youths at the interracial social club. While studying at university in 1970, he saw too few other Black and Mi’kmaq students, so he helped create
Dalhousie University’s Transition Year Program. After the Donald Marshall commission exposed rampant racism in the justice system, he decided Canada needed more non-white lawyers. So he helped create the Black and Mi’kmaq Initiative at Dalhousie Law School. And then he enrolled in it, became a lawyer, and won famous victories against racism. (Including at the Supreme Court level.) Every single time I saw him speak publicly, someone would tell him he’d touched their lives. White people. Black people. Mi’kmaq people. Young, old. He touched me, too. He told me a story about someone kicking the shit out of him and it became my writing compass. So if someone asks me why I, as a white guy, am writing about African Nova Scotian history, I’ll tell them because Rocky Jones was a cool guy. He was smart, funny, brave and kind. And he was a great Nova Scotian. ■ Jon Tattrie is the author of The Hermit of Africville; Cornwallis: The Violent Birth of Halifax; Redemption Songs: How Bob Marley’s Nova Scotia Song Lights the Way Past Racism and several other titles.
nova scotia’s great hymn Bob Marley’s calling for the world to emancipate itself from mental slavery was born in Nova Scotia, an excerpt from Jon Tattrie’s Redemption Songs
Redemption Songs: How Bob Marley’s Nova Scotia Song Lights the Way Past Racism Jon Tattrie Pottersfield Press
Listen: Fifteen thousand Germans roar at the dark stage. Bob Marley and the Wailers had just ripped up the night with a sixty-minute set before ending with a drum-heavy take on “Exodus.” Marley left with a wave. The dancers rhythmed off stage. The drummer departed with the bass and guitar players. The stage sat in black silence for three minutes. The crowd wants more, hollering skyward, pleading with the reggae star to light the darkness again. In the summer of 1980, a generation removed from the Second World War, a half-generation before German reunification, the Dortmund, West Germany, crowd sounds like a jet engine begging for one more supernova from the dying star. They erupt when a bass line burbles out of the darkness: “Marley! Marley! Marley!” Marley’s Rasta “Yeah!” emerges from the black, bringing back the light. “This song is called, ‘The pirates yes they rob I, sold I to the merchant ships,’” Marley says. The singer stands alone under two spotlights, strumming his guitar and singing quietly. The simple acoustic song stands in sharp contrast to the heaving reggae set that preceded it. Lighters spark up over the darkened crowd. “Won’t you help to sing another song of freedom?” Marley asks.
They do, singing like children at his feet. A strap breaks and the guitar falls. Marley stops singing. He speaks the next line, tapping on his sweat-covered forehead, flipping back his dreadlocks like a lion’s mane. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” he says. “None but ourselves can free our minds.” He closes his eyes as a thick dread overlays his face. He throws his hair back like he’s generating energy. He asks again, “Won’t you help to sing another song of freedom?” The band returns as Marley dances. He’s the oldest thirty-six-year-old who ever lived. “Redemption Song” is the last song on the last album Marley ever recorded. A year later, weeks before the cancer took him, it would become one of the last songs he ever sang. Johnny Cash covered “Redemption Song.” So did Bob Geldof, Jackson Browne, Stevie Wonder and Rihanna. Alicia Keys sang it when Nelson Mandela died. U2’s Bono carried its words in his pocket every time he met with a president or prime minister. Bono called it a prophetic utterance or, in the words of Marley, a small axe that could fell the big tree. “Redemption Song” is one of the greatest hymns composed by humanity. And it was born in Nova Scotia. ■
marie battiste www.nimbus.ca cape breton university p r e s s
2017 Books for Kids! Moose’s Roof
e Elliot and th is F h Impossible Come
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Who Killed the Tories? Former Cabinet Minister Tom McMillan laments a fallen party by Paul Bennett
Not My Party: The Rise and Fall of Canadian Tories, from Robert Stanfield to Stephen Harper Tom McMillan Nimbus Publishing
anadian political memoirs rarely pack much of a punch and all too many are essentially the final act of self-aggrandizement in a politician’s career. The odd political autobiography – like Erik Neilsen’s The House is not a home (1989) and Brian Mulroney’s Memoirs (2007) – tries to settle old scores. Rarely do such projects produce calls for the resurrection of a dead or dying political tradition. Former Mulroney Cabinet Minister Tom McMillan, hailing from Charlottetown, PEI, attempts to do just that in his rambling personal memoir, which is bound to disrupt the relative peace now prevailing in today’s Conservative Party of Canada. It’s likely to not only re-open old political wounds, but to incite a renewed struggle to restore the heart and soul of Progressive Conservatism. After retiring from partisan party politics in the late 1990s, McMillan resurfaces with a stinging indictment of Stephen Harper for “destroying” the progressive side of Canadian Toryism in his 2003 quest to merge the Canadian Alliance/Reform movement with the traditional Progressive Conservative party. He holds Harper personally responsible for the abandonment of the Progressive (or Red) Tory tradition, the imposition of highly partisan “cult of personality” politics and the
debasing of an “enlightened national party institution” bequeathed by our founding Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald some 150 years ago. Tom McMillan is, in many ways, an unlikely party rebel. Born into a dyed-in-the-wool Prince Edward Island Conservative family, he’s the twin brother of a consummate insider, Charley McMillan, Mulroney’s trusted political advisor. After winning election as a Charlottetown MP and becoming a federal Cabinet Minister, McMillan later served as consul general in Boston and then was twice defeated in the 1990s as a federal PC candidate in Charlottetown and Peterborough, Ontario. McMillan is so steeped in party politics that his whole life story is interwoven with what he terms “the rise and fall of Canadian Tories” from the defeat of Liberal Louis St. Laurent in 1957 to the present. After “Uncle Louis” passed from the scene, Tom never waivered in his partisanship, seeing the world as divided almost naturally into “white sheep” (Tories/Conservatives) and “black sheep” (Grits/Liberals). When Tory Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s regime began to crumble from “termites” in 1965, McMillan fell under the potent political influence of two quintessential “Progressive Conservatives,” Robert
Stanfield of Nova Scotia and his chief advisor and confidant, Dr. Thomas H.B. Symons, the founding President of Trent University. Young Tom McMillan was absolutely captivated by Dr. Symons, the gentlemanly, thoughtful, pipe-smoking intellectual who personified, in his mind, the core values of Progressive Conservatism: civility, individual rights and social justice. While working for Symons on a pioneering Canadian Studies project, he fell under his spell and, like many others, counted upon him for sage advice at critical points in his life and career. McMillan’s reconstruction of Robert Stanfield’s tenure as Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader from 1967 to 1976 will only enhance the Nova Scotian’s public image as “the best Prime Minister Canada never had.” Unlike many of his contemporaries, young Tom was apparently immune to the magnetic appeal of Trudeaumania and Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s progressive vision of a “Just Society.” McMillan was totally immersed in the PC party’s policy renewal process, guided by Dr. Symons, and became thoroughly “Symonized” as a true believer in building a “progressive, reformist and modern” Conservative party in tune with the late 20th century. The McMillan boys, Tom and Charley, both played an instrumental role in reviving Tory political fortunes in PEI and earning themselves a seat at the table. After winning election in 1979, Tom held the Charlottetown seat for the Tories, served in opposition from 1980 to 1984, and then in cabinet as the federal Minister of Environment. Reading this memoir is a virtual feast for political junkies and particularly for those of a Tory stripe. His political masters from Robert Stanfield to Joe Clark to Brian Mulroney are all treated favourably as respected, if misunderstood, spear carriers in the Canadian Tory pantheon. Short-lived PC leader Peter MacKay of Central Nova is barely mentioned, even though he signed a May 2003 deal with Saskatchewan farmer David Orchard to defend the “Progressive” faction, and then delivered the PC’s into the arms of Harper’s rebranded Conservative Party. Reducing MacKay’s critical role in the demise of the PC tradition to little more than a few sentences in a 600-page book stands out as a glaring and peculiar omission. For a recovering politician preaching civility and magnanimity in politics, McMillan sure dishes in considerable detail on the cast of characters who inhabited the party from 1967 until his final campaign in 1997. Few will be surprised by his unflattering portrayal of the ebullient, autocratic Yukon Cabinet Minister Erik
… a stinging indictment of Stephen Harper for “destroying” the progressive side of Canadian Toryism …
Neilsen, but his sharply critical depictions of his former environmental advisor Elizabeth May, and Halifax Cabinet colleague the late Stewart McInnes, will raise eyebrows and temperatures in some quarters. McMillan’s memoir appears at a critical juncture for the Conservative Party of Canada and its provincial cousins. With Stephen Harper’s influence on the wane, this well-timed book may well find a ready audience among “progressives” who fled the Conservative party during the Harper years. Many Progressive Conservatives harbour the view that the CPC is not their party anymore, including former PC leader Joe Clark and Ontario Tory stalwart Justice Roy McMurtry. Where Nova Scotia’s Peter MacKay fits into the evolving narrative is left unclear in this weighty opus. ■ Paul W. Bennett, Ed.D., is Director of Schoolhouse Consulting in Halifax, the author of eight books, and a regular reviewer of new titles in Atlantic Canadian history and current affairs.
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Too Young to Die Romeo Dallaire says, then as now, underage soldiers are unable discern real danger by Chris Lambie
Too Young to Die: Canada’s Boy Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in the Second World War John Boileau and Dan Black Lorimer Publishing
here is a familiar, sad pattern to the stories of underage Canadian boys who signed up to fight in the Second World War. Too Young to Die, by John Boileau and Dan Black, provides an exhaustive account of the lads, some as young as 14, who bluffed their way into the Canadian armed forces during the Second World War. They lied about their age or borrowed an older brother’s identity, puffed-up their often-scrawny chests and signed on the dotted line. The 490-page book provides multiple windows into the way youngsters, many of them excited about the prospect of overseas adventure and flush with the indestructible nature of youth, made it on to the battlefields of Europe and Asia, as well as the danger-plagued North Atlantic Ocean and equally fraught aerial missions of Bomber Command, long before celebrating their 18th birthdays. Using firsthand accounts, interviews with veterans and their family members, personal correspondence, diary entries and official documentation, the book
weaves together a narrative about recruiters often willing to look the other way to fill quotas. It lists heights and weights for new recruits that make it seem almost impossible that someone believed they were adults when they were still, obviously, young boys. “Throughout the war, volunteers had to be between the ages of eighteen and thirty-two, but … birth certificates were rarely produced or asked for.” One strapping 14-year-old, who wasn’t asked for a birth certificate, lied when asked to state his age. “Nobody questioned it. They were taking everybody and I looked a little older than my years. I didn’t have to prove anything because they did not ask. They weren’t interested. They just wanted bodies.” Another underage reservist remembers being handed a registration card to make it overseas. “You had to be eighteen years old to get one of those, but they handed them out carte blanche.” Several underage soldiers profiled in the book detail how they were turned away multiple times before successfully joining up. One didn’t get in until the seventh
try. “People were getting into the military all around us — all except us fifteen-year-olds,” said another. “We thought, well everybody is getting in, why not us?” The book paints portraits of families wracked by the poverty of the Great Depression willing to give up their sons to the military and the merchant marine. Many fathers, themselves veterans of the First World War, were willing participants in the recruitment of their underage boys. Other parents successfully prevented their youngsters from joining up, only to be foiled by the unstoppable nature of boys bent on donning uniforms and joining the fight. There are many examples throughout the book of young teens being refused by one branch and simply turning to the next, and the next, until they successfully managed to find recruiting sergeants willing to turn a blind eye to fulfill the nation’s need for willing muscle and bone. The work provides in-depth accounts of how underage Canadians made their way to war, fought and, in many cases, died for their country, despite not being old enough to vote. For Roméo Dallaire, the former senator and retired lieutenant-general who is working to end the use of child soldiers around the world, the difference between the boys who signed up willingly three quarters of a century ago and those being coerced into fighting today is abundantly clear. “They are recruited under duress by the country that is, in these cases, often an imploding nation or failing state,” Dallaire says of today’s child soldiers. “They are, in the majority, recruited against their will at often horrific cost of life and limb to them and to their families. There are others who find themselves without any other option because families have been destroyed and there’s no other body out there that might give them any ability to survive.” Today’s child soldiers – found in seven state-armed forces and 51 non-state armed groups around the world – are not volunteering in a stable nation, as they did in Canada during the Second World War, he says. That said, underage Canuck volunteers “really didn’t have a clue what they were getting into,” Dallaire says. “There was adventure, getting away from the farm – which was the majority – getting away from the little village, getting away from the tedium of an isolated rural environment. And this projected an excitement and an opportunity, in a number of cases, to be free of the yolk of the continuum of life in that environment.” Many of Canada’s underage soldiers weren’t made aware that they could be shot, “that they could actually
Many of Canada’s underage soldiers weren’t made aware that they could be shot, “that they could actually suffer horrifically and become victims,” Daillaire says.
suffer horrifically and become victims,” he says. “That dimension was not even in the training construct at the time. You were always working at destroying the enemy and you never looked at the fact that you yourself could become a victim.” Fast forward to today and it’s impossible to make the argument that children as young as eight are voluntarily engaging in a conflict right on their doorstep. “They’re doing it … based on survival or having survived already an abduction-type situation.” The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative tries to educate children before they’re recruited. The idea is to make it clear that what they might be promised, what they may see as an adventure, is false. “They are, in fact, entering a high-risk, low payoff scenario and, as such, to avoid getting sucked in.” The global partnership, based at Dalhousie University in Halifax, trains militaries and police around the world in how to face child soldiers in a way that de-escalates the possible use of force, Dallaire said. “We have people deployed as child protection officers training and assisting African Union missions, as an example, right now in Somalia.” Dallaire’s people also work with non-governmental organizations in countries including Colombia and Sierra Leone to help child soldiers escape the fray. He does see a parallel between child soldiers of today and the Canadians who volunteered to fight in the Second World War: neither had the mental capacity to make the decision to pick up a gun. “That ability to discern risk and what is reasonable just isn’t there,” Dallaire says. “They’re still kids.” ■ Chris Lambie is a journalist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has worked at newspapers from Newfoundland to the Northwest Territories.
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Historical Excitement The new history books we’ll read again and again
Aloha Wanderwell: The BorderSmashing, Record-Setting Life of the World’s Youngest Explorer Christian Fink-Jensen & Randolph Eustace-Walden Goose Lane Editions
The Times of African Nova Scotians Volume Two: A Celebration of Our History, Heritage and Culture Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute
Literary powerhouses Charles Saunders, George Elliott Clarke and Sylvia Step right up and see the “world’s most Hamilton are senior contributors to this widely travelled girl,” Aloha Wancollection, a testament to its significance derwell aka Idris Hall of Winnipeg, not only to the African Nova Scotian Manitoba. Hers is a riveting life that community, but to all Nova Scotians took off for the great open road – where wanting a truer, more complete sense of she could find one – in 1922, when she the history and heritage of the province was still a teenager. and its diverse peoples. Despite not having a driver’s license, The collection details histories of she answered an ad for a travelling more than 50 Black communities secretary on an expedition – a race and throughout Nova Scotia, with upfront a giant advert for the Ford Model-T prominence given to Africville. The really – to traverse the nations of the work also casts a spotlight on activists world by automobile, as many counand community leaders who have given tries as possible. It sure beat life in the of themselves to make life better for convent school. African Nova Scotians in any commuFink-Jensen and Eustace-Walden nity, at any time. expertly parse Aloha’s journals, films The slim volume contributes much to and photos as well as press coverage a too-often overlooked (by the mainand some previously classified govern- stream anyway) part of Nova Scotian ment documents to bring readers history and society. along on the adventures of an audacious and fierce young woman of the early 20th century.
New Brunswick Was His County: The Life of William Francis Ganong Ronald Rees Nimbus Publishing This is history through the scientific eyes of a prominent New Brunswick botanist and cartographer with a penchant for detail and a gift for narrative. Ronald Rees, who has made his name as a gifted researcher and author of books examining histories of settlement as well as science and industry, has wisely chosen to make his writing as accessible as his subject’s was. That subject, William Francis Ganong, wrote prolifically of botany, zoology, physiography, cartography and Indigenous languages, creating a fascinating and immense body of work. Rees writes with reverence for the vast quantity and high quality of Ganong’s work in 19th and 20th-century New Brunswick, and appreciation of the humanity of the man behind it. The work is brought to greater life with historical photographs and some of Ganong’s own maps and drawings. New Brunswick Was His Country is an essential addition to Atlantic Canada’s historical canon, and a must-read for nature lovers as well.
The Vigilant Eye: Policing in Canada From 1867 to 9/11 Greg Marquis Fernwood Publishing Social and crime historian Greg Marquis is on a roll, with two new books that are bound to capture the public imagination. While Truth and Honour, his critical examination of the trial of Dennis Oland for the murder of his beer-baron father, will grab the most headlines (inlcuding in this publication), The Vigilant Eye offers a longer history of law and order (to reluctantly reference the great Dick Wolf ), and one that both enlightens and provokes. The famous blue wall is infamously insurmountable, but as a social historian Marquis offers a critical account of varied models of law enforcement and how they’ve been applied at different times in Canadian history. His keen eye and thorough research give readers a sense that law enforcement ain’t quite what it was meant to be, that we’ve lost something in the (d)evolution from community policing to simplistic crime fighting, opening the door to militarization and deadly force. Marquis’ intensive research may just serve as a clarion call to citizens for vigilant attention to the work of those who serve and protect.
Letters from Beauly: Pat Hennessy and the Canadian Forestry Corps in Scotland, 1940-1945 Melynda Jarratt Goose Lane Editions Pat Hennessy of Bathurst New Brunswick wrote hundreds of letters back home during the Second World War. He was one of thousands of Canadian woodsmen who logged the Scottish Highlands as part of the war effort, but none could have been more prolific, and we the modern readers must be grateful for documentarians like Hennessy. His remarkable correspondence, along with hundreds of archival documents and photographs gathered by Melynda Jarratt, provide a unique and honest look into the lives of the men who fought fascism with their muscle and sweat. Along with her previous books on war brides and war children, this work is part of a significant contribution by Jarratt to our understanding of not only the lives lost, but the lives lived, during the Second World War.
Prince Edward Island Then and Now Photographs by D. Scott MacDonald and from the collection of Vic Runtz Acorn Press Vic Runtz first saw his treasured Island during the Second World War, when he was with the navy. He fell in love there, with an Islander and with the Island itself, and spent a career there as an editorial cartoonist for The Guardian newspaper. During those years, he took countless photographs, including many detailed aerials from the newspaper delivery plane (piloted by the “Flying Farmer” himself, Elton Woodside). Retired accountant D. Scott MacDonald was so taken by Runtz’s collection, he decided to recreate the photographs today and compare them to Runtz’s Prince Edward Island of 1947. Not having access to a newspaper delivery plane, he hired a pilot. In the process of finding the locations, he filled in a lot of important blanks regarding Runtz’s pictures with his own thorough research. The result is a fascinating comparison of a changing yet timeless landscape.
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Heroes of the Sea: Stories from the Atlantic Blue Robert C. Parsons Flanker Press Ann Harvey, “a delicate girl” of about 16, her father, a fisherman, her 12-yearold brother and their dog save 130 passengers immigrating to Canada from Ireland, when their ship, the brig Dispatch, hits a rock off the foggy south coast of Newfoundland. Let us dive slightly deeper into this tale, one of more than 50 from bestselling author Robert C. Parsons. For each is as astounding as the last. Harvey and her family lived at the eastern entrance to Isle aux Morts, where wreckage had drifted ashore. They used their 12-foot boat, rowing back and forth from their shore to a rock at the wreck site where survivors clung for dear life. They took everyone they could to their home, back and forth for six days until the arrival of the official rescue ship. These true tales of oceanic heroism are short, just a few pages each, yet packed with more action than a Tom Clancy novel. At every turn of the page, just when the fair reader thinks peace is restored, another twist. For example, that “delicate” Ann Harvey, 10 years after the wreck of the Dispatch, saved 25 more lives when another ship ran aground. Back and forth on the rowboat with her now-aged fisherman father.
All Hands Lost: The Sinking of the Nova Scotian Gypsum Freighter Novadoc Blain Henshaw Pottersfield Press
New London: The Lost Dream: The Quaker Settlement on P.E.I.’s North Shore 1773-1795 John Cousins Island Studies Press
As coastal people, we are enthralled by shipwrecks. Living in this part of the country, we all know people who have been called by the sea, for commerce, for war, for the hunt or, at best, merely for travel. But as a region that has always depended on the sea, we are alltoo-aware of its dangers, and more than sympathetic to those women and men who perish at its mercilessness. And so, we have a wealth of books on shipwrecks. Some are fictional cautionary tales, others deal with the aftermath. What sets Blain Henshaw’s first book apart is that it, while being both of the above, also dares to question the inevitability of one tragedy that was officially deemed an “act of God.” Meticulous in its use of primary research (through the eyes and memories of relatives of the 24 crew members who went down with the SS Novadoc), All Hands Lost makes us feel the loss, the intense sorrow for the relatives, but also challenges received wisdom, critically examining the seaworthiness of an aging vessel sailing into a raging nor’east storm in the Bay of Fundy.
This is a beguiling account of the little known attempt, for two decades in the late 18th century, by a wealthy English Quaker named Robert Clark and his followers, to create a commercial outport, a gateway into the new world, on the north shore of what is now PEI. The story is researched and engagingly told by historian, folklorist and descendent of two of those hundred settlers, John Cousins, an expert on the Island’s history. Cousins’ story is not only astute and informative, it also sheds light on the fact that the road to the modern world is littered with failed attempts at urbanization, and folks of great ambition and capabilities who were either unlucky or made the wrong choices.
Adrift on an Ice Pan Sir Wilfred Grenfell, with a Foreword by Edward Roberts Flanker Press
Sweat Equity: Cooperative HouseBuilding in Newfoundland, 1920-1974 C.A. Sharpe and A.J. Shawyer ISER Books
In the early 20th century, Sir Wilfred Grenfell became a household name when Adrift on an Ice Pan, his account of a harrowing two-day near-death experience, sold 60,000 copies in North America. Grenfeld was an English medical missionary in Newfoundland and Labrador who opened small hospitals along the southern coast of Labrador. The event that made him famous happened when a patient had blood poisoning and faced possible death. Grenfeld travelled by komatik sled with eight dogs, fell into the water and lost his sled, dry clothes, food and firewood. And he was on an ice pan blowing toward the open ocean wearing shorts, socks, shirt and vest. To survive, he killed three dogs and used their furs to fight frigidity until he was rescued two days later, barely alive. His account is riveting, a slice of history and incredible adventure following folly.
As Sweat Equity: Cooperative HouseBuilding in Newfoundland shows, affordable housing is no new issue. Sharpe and Shawyer take a comprehensive look at a government program that helped build 500 new houses for those who otherwise couldn’t have afforded one. They took loans to buy materials and invested 2,000 hours of their own labour in lieu of a down payment. The program began in 1952 and was active for two decades, but traces its roots back to the 20s. As the authors point out, Newfoundland is rarely (if ever) mentioned in accounts of the cooperative housing movement. Nova Scotia usually gets credit for kickstarting the movement in the late 1930s. This account benefits from interviews with surviving members of the cooperatives, showing the emotional power of the bureaucratic program.
The Church Lads’ Brigade in Newfoundland: A People’s Story 1892-2017 125th Anniversary Book Geoff Peddle Flanker Press The year 2017 marks 125 years of service in Newfoundland for the Church Lads’ Brigade. There have been a staggering 20,000 members in Newfoundland alone, 12,000 of whom are still living. That’s 20,000 stories to tell of camaraderie, sport and games, camping, parades and the development of self-esteem, teamwork, good health and good character. To celebrate the organization’s tremendous impact over more than a century, the Right Reverend Geoff Peddle – the organization’s regimental chaplain – recounts the history and ongoing story of the oldest and largest Anglican youth organization in Canada.
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who can kill? In this excerpt from her latest book on historical murders, forensic expert Debra Komar revisits the infamous suspect John Munroe, a man believed too educated and wealthy to do the deed
Black River Road Debra Komar Goose Lane Editions
Low-Hanging Fruit Philly held her tongue for the five hours that passed like a glacier through her parlour, her torment ending only when the couple bid her farewell. Munroe and Maggie left together as darkness fell. Phileanor tried to reach her sister throughout the coming week, but Maggie was deeply infatuated and would not entertain her protestations. The sisters finally agreed to meet at the Crear house the following Sunday. Philly was visibly relieved to see Maggie arrive alone, but her joy evaporated when John Munroe appeared at her door minutes later. [Philly’s husband] Robert Crear was enjoying a rare day’s leisure, and the parlour clock’s tick filled the void as the men exchanged a few forced pleasantries about the city and their shared business acquaintances. Only Maggie seemed to be having a pleasant afternoon, hanging on Munroe’s every utterance.
As six bells sounded the dinner hour, Philly could no longer endure the stagnant tableau. She confronted Munroe, telling everyone he was a married man. Munroe, who had recently celebrated his third wedding anniversary, calmly dismissed the claim. When she repeated her allegation, Munroe insisted he was unmarried. He then asked if she might be mistaking him for his brother George. Phileanor turned to her husband for support, only to find his gaze fixated on the sitting-room rug. Philly insisted Munroe was married to Mr. Potts’s daughter Annie, and they had at least one child. The accusation hung in the air as Maggie begged Munroe to say it was not true. Unfazed, he patted Maggie on the hand then turned to Phileanor and laughed. Philly defiantly stood her ground while Munroe refused to yield. Robert Crear finally intervened, calling his wife into the kitchen, leaving Maggie and Munroe to sort things out. “They were alone together themselves for a long time, and I did not hear what conversation passed between them,” Philly later recalled. Sometime after seven o’clock, the Crears returned to the parlour, where it seemed the matter was resolved. A few minutes later, Maggie and Munroe took their leave. Munroe’s secret was finally out — he came equipped with a wife and progeny — but it did not quell Maggie’s ardour for her lone gentleman caller. She found herself in a love triangle with some very sharp edges, yet her obsession obliterated any concerns she may have felt. Her life began to revolve around Munroe. “Sometimes he came three or four times a week,”
Phileanor said, “and if she was not there he used to send for her.” She watched as Munroe “used to come backwards and forwards to the house and he and my sister used to meet each other out walking.” The couple flaunted their budding romance throughout Carleton and beyond. Despite their public assignations, Munroe’s romantic designs on Maggie were modest. He never displayed any overt signs of affection, and Philly noticed “he did not seem to care much” what Maggie did “as long as it answered his purpose.” Munroe offered little of substance, but to Maggie’s love-starved heart a trace of something was better than a lifetime of nothing. In fairness to Maggie, some of Munroe’s actions were difficult to decipher. For instance, he was fond of giving gifts. Jewellery was a frequent offering, including a ring he gave Maggie in the spring of 1867. The ring’s design bore no resemblance to the promise bands normally exchanged between intimates, yet Maggie wore it as if it were a wedding ring. For his part, Munroe said only that the ring had cost him four dollars, a sum large enough to avoid accusations of thrift but falling well short of a serious commitment. He also gave Maggie a small locket that she wore every day for the rest of her life. John Munroe bestowed two other remembrances on Maggie Vail during the initial weeks of their courtship, gifts that offer some insight into the nature of their relationship. The first was a tiny silver-plated pistol and a supply of ammunition, a curious memento to cement a romance. The second was a tintype of Munroe, handsomely bound in an ornate frame. He never requested
a photo of Maggie in return, but she had a dozen taken and gave him four. Munroe did ask for a photo of the far more lissom Phileanor, a request Philly happily granted. Maggie was stung. In a fit of jealous pique, she commissioned an ambrotype of herself. She mounted the image in an elegant silver locket that she attached to Munroe’s watch fob. She had effectively marked her territory, but her gift did not dangle from his timepiece for long. Phileanor had mixed feelings regarding the adulterous union. She welcomed Munroe into her home and gave him her photo, suggesting some measure of acceptance, yet she continued to berate him for his promiscuous ways. When pressed, he claimed he was powerless to change the situation, saying “he did not know what to do as [Maggie] liked him,” and was always “sticking up” for him. The sentiment confused Philly even further.
Jacob Vail, the girls’ uncle, offered Maggie some “good advice, telling her [Munroe] was a married man and that she was very foolish in thinking about him at all.” His avuncular counsel fell on deaf ears, as he later recalled: “She gave me a good deal of abuse, and I gave her up, and that was the last conversation I had with her.” Maggie also fell out with her sister Rebecca Ann Olive “on account of her behaviour with Mr. John Munroe.” Maggie remained steadfast, telling her family she loved John Munroe, she was certain he loved her, and the rest did not matter. In hindsight, Philly Crear could not pinpoint which of the architect’s countless visits became “the occasion on which he accomplished [Maggie’s] ruin.” All Philly knew for certain was that in June 1867, Maggie found herself “in the family way.” ■
In hindsight, Philly Crear could not pinpoint which of [Munroe’s] countless visits became “the occasion on which he accomplished [Maggie’s] ruin.”
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of a talker and nobody in his family ever seems to have anything useful to say to him, so it is the author’s voice we hear, describing the teeter-totter of Tom’s mental state as he struggles to control his rage, to ignore the whispering voices that intrude upon his reality. Walking alone on a beach or a back road seems to be the only way Tom is able to bring balance or equilibrium back into his life, but even nature turns her back on him at a critical moment, so that the evergreens in his yard look like “bent-backed refugees from some borderland wracked by armed conflict.” The conflict is, of course, all in Tom’s head, a head that he can’t see into or understand. Human communication, or lack of it, seems to be the major impediment to Tom’s mental well being. He not only can’t talk to people, he can’t look them in the eye, can’t see behind the misery of their lives. His institutionalized mother serves as a mirror for him, her slow deterioration and death acting as Perfect World a prefiguring of his own probable end. Ian Colford When on a rare occasion he does look Broadview Press into her eyes, it is “like looking through a doorway into an empty room.” Ian Colford’s short novel Perfect World The closest Tom comes to finding will be too short for some readers and consolation, and to being heard by the too long for others. It’s beautifully written but the subject matter is so hor- reader, is when he speaks at his mothrific that it is a hard book to finish. Tom er’s funeral. One old neighbour and three staff from the mental institution Brackett, abandoned by his schizoshe lived in show up and he addresses phrenic mother and alcoholic father them briefly, expressing the wish that at age thirteen, is left in the care of a he had known her better. For a fleeting demented grandmother, yet somehow moment, he catches a glimpse of “a life manages to survive, apparently intact. He has a generous and positive nature, that could have been,” the perfect world that is beyond his grasp. gets a good job as a mechanic, and This is not a book for the faint of eventually acquires a loving wife, two heart. Colford’s is a bleak and dark kids, a house and a dog. vision of a life doomed by heredity, Tom’s world is ideal, until he slowly geography, bad luck and poor access to succumbs to paranoia, depression and medical and social services. Tom’s jouranger that finally explodes into a fullney through the world of severe mental blown episode of psychotic collapse. illness is entirely devoid of humour or In the grip of his demons, he commits consolation. However it is a reflection of an act of unspeakable violence against some people’s reality. Everyone knows a member of his family, a crime that someone who has gone down that road. causes him to lose everything he loves. Michelle Butler Hallett has quite acThere is little in the way of dialogue in this rather dire tale. Tom is not much curately called Perfect World “a haunting REVIEW
A Dark Journey Into Psychosis
It is Colford’s compassion and his ability to identify with his mentally ill protagonist that carries the reader into a similar comprehension. study in empathy,” which is probably as good an explanation for why the novel deserves an audience as any. Haunting it certainly is, to the point where it made this reader actually lose sleep. But the empathy is there also. The pivotal moment when you realize that Tom is coming unstuck is jarring: he wakes up with a headache that he attributes to his young son’s “deceitful manner ... whiny tone and ... sneaky furtiveness.” Somehow, Colford takes that warped observation about a perfectly normal little boy and forces you to see that it is simply not Tom’s fault. He achieves this partly through his characterization of Tom’s wife, who cannot tolerate the sin but still loves the sinner. Again, though, it is the author’s voice that is the dominant one here, and it is Colford’s compassion and his ability to identify with his mentally ill protagonist that carries the reader into a similar comprehension of the man’s dilemma. It is this empathy that provides a minute glimmer of hope at the end. Despite his horrible crime, you close the book wishing Tom some measure of love in the future. Robin McGrath is the author or editor of 15 books and has published more than 200 articles in magazines such as Beaver, Inuit Art Quarterly, Fiddlehead and Room of One’s Own. She lives in Labrador and reviews regularly for The Telegram in St. John’s.
Everyman’s Newfoundland History
Found Far and Wide Kevin Major Breakwater Books Kevin Major’s Found Far and Wide, the story of Sam Kennedy of Harbour Main, Newfoundland, is a kind of bildungsroman and adventure novel, mixing history and fiction in an effective narrative bolstered by Major’s handling of drama and raw, poetic prose. We fist meet Sam in turn-of-the-century Harbour Main where, of course, fishing provides for all. It’s a small, close-knit community where fishermen are paid in credit, not cash, in return for staples at the local merchant store. Sam, awakening to the reality of a changing world, finds his borders too close. He moves to St. John’s looking for work, where he has his first sexual encounters and soon, despite no experience, is taken aboard the sealer SS Stephano. Sam finds he’s not quite cut out for the slaughter, but has keen eyesight and is used as a spotter. History comes into play as Sam’s ship is helmed by Abram Kean, whose son Westbury captains the
ill-fated SS Newfoundland, which has become stuck in ice. Major’s portrayal of the 1914 sealing disaster (77 dead) is believable and chilling and could have made a powerful novel in its own right. Throughout the novel, Major does an excellent job of avoiding sentimentality and presenting scenes with spareness and power, and these traits are set to good use when Sam enlists at the beginning of the First World War, and is sent to Egypt and then to the Dardanelles (Gallipoli, present day Turkey). In his regiment is Johnny, a sniper from St. Anthony. Johnny and Sam form a deadly team – one the sniper, the other the spotter. Here, through stories and a photograph, we meet Emma, Johnny’s fiancée, who will soon haunt Sam. It’s during these fights with the Turks that Major provides a powerful night battle, in which a small team of Newfoundland soldiers captures an important piece of territory (followed by a staggering scene of wild weather). Major superbly captures the chaos and ugliness of war and Sam is forever scarred when, while assisting the evacuation from Gallipoli, Johnny is killed. Sam keeps with him a letter from Johnny to Emma. The novel continues its episodic nature, bringing Sam to New York City to work in the construction of the Empire State Building. After a falling out he finds himself involved in smuggling rum, which he takes to quite easily, but is soon moving into the unfamiliar territory of new social circles, of floozies and poets. Eventually he returns to work in high steel, knowing he needs to make an honest living. It’s around this time that we begin to see the effect of PTSD on Sam, and we see a yearning for something greater in him, to find home, love, to quieten that part of him that wanders. All the while he continues to dream of Emma. Newfoundland comes full circle when Sam hears Wilfred Grenfell in New York. After the show, Sam waits to talk to Grenfell and his connection to
Major does an excellent job of avoiding sentimentality and presenting scenes with a spareness and power. Johnny, who had worked for Grenfell, lands him work in St. Anthony for Grenfell’s mission. Here Sam finally meets Emma, delivers the letter Johnny entrusted him with. He’s read the letter, which asks Emma to consider Sam should Johnny die in the war. Emma, however, is cautious, and a slow, ultimately unsuccessful courtship begins. Sam leaves St. Anthony and heads north to Cartwright to assist the Grenfell mission with the arrival of the touring Italian Air Force, led by General Balboa. While this serves to introduce the rapidly changing world and the looming presence of another war it, along with a following section featuring Sam’s fleeting friendship with Charles Lindbergh, carry less weight and have more the feel of fantasy than the profundity of the earlier sections (regardless of how historically accurate they may be). We do, however, see the now deepening effects of PTSD on Sam, especially in a scene where he shouts at Lindberg about the coming war, and mocks Lindberg’s faith in mankind’s common sense. Found Far and Wide is a quick read, and it’s easy to imagine an expanded novel. But as it is, we get to see important, formative Newfoundland history from the point of view of a kind of Everyman, get to see the world in a time of great upheaval and its effect on a very human Sam Kennedy. Lee D. Thompson is a f iction writer, editor and musician from Moncton, New Brunswick.
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peak, these stories have the strengths of the author’s finest work – the deeply unsettling spareness of Walt, the visceral insight of Burning Down the House. Wangersky has a keen sense for human aggression, and a fine eye for the line people feel they can’t cross – and what happens when they are pushed over it. His most pointed stories are about men being used by women who are more at ease with power than they are; others feature men abusing each other over women in what shouldn’t be daily ways, perhaps, but are. He also knows all about human absurdity, and has a delicate, bittersweet way of presenting it: two retirees compete over who will clear a neighbour’s lawn of snow; a man gets obsessed with a spot of bathroom mould shaped like Armenia, that somehow comes to represent his relationship with his girlfriend; we follow a radio announcer, doomed to the graveyard shift, wandering around his empty newsroom until he can’t take it any more. The collection’s effects come from The Path of Most Resistance slow buildup and intense observation Russell Wangersky rather than stylistic fireworks. The prose House of Anansi is unadorned, the kind that makes its The best stories in Russell Wangersky’s way closer and closer towards the reader at walking pace, without ever drawing collection The Path of Most Resistance attention to itself. The stories are full of bring a world or a community to life. precise observations, small gifts of real“Darden Place” quietly dramatizes ity: the way damp in the air warns you of what happens when a group of young an approaching storm, a husband “sunk new homeowners takes over a changinto his chair like a grounded ship.” It’s ing neighbourood. The story quietly fine, detached, and subtle writing. sets out what their indifferent cruelty But there’s something more too, in towards the older holdouts looks and the way Wangersky eases languidly befeels like, and ends with the final, tween action and imagination. Certain surprising, revenge it leads to. In “Bide Awhile” a vicious marital argument has brief moments of memory and fantasy, a little like Richard Ford’s thoughtful, sudden, unexpected ramifications, and dreaming, disconnected men, suggest the holiday resort where it takes place a different register of interest from the gradually gains a quality of tangible, mostly unspectacular events the stories absolute, disquieting menace. are about. Structurally, there’s great Here, place is character and character is place; each is embedded in and colours artistry in the way Wangersky is able to tell, somehow, two stories at the same the other. Wangersky’s characters reveal time, the under-plot gradually easing themselves through their impatience the main plot out of sight. with or surrender to the world around Still, the collection as a whole feels them, their rebellions and their failures to act, rather than introspection. At their like a drawing down rather than a REVIEW
Stories of Passive Aggression
The collection’s effects come from slow buildup and intense observation rather than stylistic fireworks.
spreading out. In part this may relate to its taciturn quality: rage and despair is related in the characters’ actions, but it doesn’t seep into the language. That’s fine as a stylistic principle – the first few stories feel effectively, ironically, dramatically detached. But as the collection goes on, a tension grows between the force of what’s being described and the lack of modulation with which it’s being presented. There’s a similar problem with the endings of many of the stories: often they build up to a non-moment, a missed moment or a moment about to happen. Life’s like this, of course, more characterized by meandering open-endedness than dramatic final revelation. But in a short story, the nonendings feel like an unsatisfying tailing off. Someone once said that a short story is really nothing but an ending, and if there’s no ending, there’s no story — and these endings are too often whimpers rather than bangs. At its best, The Path of Most Resistance is haunting, careful, almost imperceptibly full of power. Wangersky’s finest stories will linger with you a long time. Too many slide thinly past, however, in a book that ultimately sounds one note and stays in one place too long. Damian Tarnopolsky teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is the Managing Editor of the Toronto Review of Books. His most recent book is the novel Goya’s Dog.
Lost Souls Seeking Home
Willem De Kooning’s Paintbrush Kerry-Lee Powell Harper Collins Sometimes, it doesn’t take long for a reader to realize what’s on the page before him is not your usual literary fare, that the words set down have more than just the purpose of telling the story, that these words have pace, rhythm, are surprisingly chosen, that something deeper is going on. That feeling hits you with the first line from “In a Kingdom Beneath the Sea”: “Today’s the day Mitchell Burnhope gets the royal shit kicked out of him.” This story, winner of the Malahat Review’s Far Horizon Award, opens Kerry-Lee Powell’s debut collection, Willem De Kooning’s Paintbrush. And if you think that this exceptional story – a story of a stripper and a foolhardy man in love with her, a story full of humour, beauty, and violence – is the collection’s highlight, you only have to read on. In story after story, Powell surprises, playing increasingly on a theme of lost souls
in search of home, often fleeing from past traumas. But back to the language. What’s going on? An innocuous beginning and then a sharp turn. And just look at the name, Mitchell Burnhope – itch, hell, burn, hope – and you know things aren’t going to end well. It’s this poet’s talent for richness, for filling her narratives with layers both symbolic and emotional, that puts Powell’s stories above so many other collections. A little further on another gem, the titular “Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush,” shows what can happen when a poet’s voice meets exceptional storytelling skills. In the story, which has the feel of a dream gone mad, we meet a couple in a theme park, riding the rides, more bored than dramatic, but then they are victim of an act of sudden, horrific violence. The way it unfolds lulls us the way life often does and when violence comes, it’s unreal. Or in “Talking of Michelangelo,” which begins with the fabulous line, “I took my kung-fu instructor off speed dial today. I was leaning on him too much for advice.” Seemingly light hearted at first, but as always in Powell’s fiction more is going on. Characters are haunted by past events. And as much as they may need to skip along the surface, avoiding those shadows, they can’t. Powell shows tremendous perception in handling the complex psyches of her characters, and uncommon skill in sketching scenes that resonate long after you’ve finished the story. From the ending of “The Prince of Chang,” one of several stories to feature characters met in bars: “When I looked down it was a though the rest of the city was necropolis that had built itself around him, the lit staircases of the fire escapes zigging and zagging up to the sky, the polished stone facades of the skyscrapers mirroring the moon and clouds, and all of it sprawling out into suburbs and ragged clumps of darkness.”
This is an evocative collection, and though there’s trauma and violence, there is also tremendous beauty and, throughout, real humour.
Do such writers come out of nowhere? Powell’s name began to surface in the Atlantic Canada (she has been based in Moncton for the past six years) when she began to pick up award after award, including the aforementioned Malahat Review’s Far Horizon’s Award, the Boston Review’s Aura Estrada Short Story Contest (for “There Are Two Pools You May Drink From,” a meditative, powerful piece) and the Alfred G. Bailey Prize for her poetry collection Inheritance (published in 2014, nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award). Maybe, like Powell’s characters – always travelling, always wandering, searching – all a writer needs is a chance to sit a spell, gather wits, find calm and create. New Brunswick is a fine place to do that. This is an evocative collection, and though there’s trauma and violence, there is also tremendous beauty and, throughout, real humour. Nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Rogers Trust Fiction Prize, and longlisted for the Giller Prize, this mature, insightful collection is worthy of all the attention. Lee D. Thompson is a fiction writer, editor and musician from Moncton, New Brunswick.
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Hockey’s Lead Voice
Now I’m Catching On: My Life On and Off The Air Bob Cole Viking Many years ago a young Bob Cole was invited into Foster Hewitt’s office in Maple Leaf Gardens where, from behind a big oak desk, the hockey broadcast legend offered several observations on the craft both men loved. One piece of advice proved especially valuable. A key to great play-by-play, said Hewitt, is to capture a game’s feel and flow. Those qualities – feel and flow – would be hallmarks of Cole’s career. And a hockey nation that has known him as the leading voice of Hockey Night in Canada for almost 30 years is grateful for it. Now I’m Catching On: My Life On and Off The Air has plenty of feel and flow. It is not a great autobiography. It simply lacks the analytical rigour to reach that high bar. Nevertheless, it is certainly an enjoyable, breezy read.
Catching On is an anecdote-driven journey, starting from Cole’s Newfoundland childhood (almost drowning in a barrel of tar) to a restless adolescence (a job as a bell boy on a cruise ship) to early adulthood (his love for flying, being a curler who twice represented Newfoundland at the Brier). The early life absorbs the first third of Catching On – a tad excessive for readers awaiting the “good stuff ” about high-profile players and classic games. But the reader is eventually rewarded with Cole’s perspective on a tide of hockey history. The expected events are all there: the 1972 Canada-Soviet series during which he did the radio play-by-play; the 1976 Soviet-NHL “super series”; several Olympic moments; and Stanley Cup games with Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux and other hockey legends. However, it is the intimate passages featuring the sport’s famous that comprise the book’s strength. One example sees Cole and the wonderful Montreal broadcaster Danny Gallivan sitting on the floor of a packed Canadiens hospitality suite after a play-off game, sharing a drink and thoughts on their respective futures. Another example is Cole’s evolving friendship with Vsevolod Bobrov, the forgotten and complex Soviet coach during the classic ‘72 series, the lasting image being their impromptu toast across a crowded restaurant. Other superb anecdotes revolve around the compassion of cantankerous Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard, the arrogance of American sports journalist Howard Cosell, and the seemingly limitless generosity of Wayne Gretzky. Catching On is overwhelmingly upbeat and offers almost no negative comments about anything or anyone (Cole is even complimentary to disgraced player agent Alan Eagleson). Nevertheless, there are a few poignant, deeply personal moments. One comes as he discusses the myriad of health issues he has quietly faced – and conquered. Another is his veiled disappointment upon learning that the
coveted Stanley Cup finals assignment for the first time in decades will be given to someone else. Naturally, in the book we learn about the famous calls carved into the databank of Canadian hockey fans. “They’re going home!” (in 1974, as the bruised Soviet Red Army team suddenly leaves the ice at the Philadelphia Spectrum). Gee-ooooh Sakic! That makes it 5-2 Canada! Surely, that has got to be it!” (at the 2002 Olympics, winning gold, beating the United States). “Oh my heavens, what a goal, what a move! Lemieux! Oh baby!” (in 1991, Mario Lemieux’s incredible deek during the Stanley Cup finals). Cole’s thoughts on his broadcasting technique are squeezed into the narrative in scattered pieces. Interesting snippets mention his meticulousness concerning the correct pronunciation of player surnames and his preferred contours of a broadcast booth. Yet Cole has been called a broadcasting genius. So it is a shortcoming of Catching On that more discussion on his craft is not offered. What does he think of the current play-by-play trends? Or of today’s top play-by-play professionals? He has certainly earned the right to offer his opinion. In recent years, social media and sports talk radio have not been kind to Cole, the claim being that he has lost his edge, that he can no longer keep up with the play, that players are being misidentified. These criticisms are not broached in the book. This is unfortunate. It would have been fascinating to learn Cole’s thoughts on such sneering commentary, much of it unfair. For on a good night Cole is still among the best, a skilled purveyor of emotion, unmatched in feel and flow. Robert Ashe is a Halifax native. His most recent book, They Called Me Chocolate Rocket: The Life and Times of John Paris, Jr., Hockey’s First Black Professional Coach, was shortlisted for an Atlantic book award in 2015.
The Fate of a Missing Girl
Lament for Bonnie Anne Emery ECW Press You know you are in the thick of a good mystery novel when you start becoming suspicious of characters you consider shady in the parking lot of your very own town. Anne Emery’s latest, Lament for Bonnie, will leave readers spooked and wary of their surroundings. The novel is the story of 11-yearold Normie Collins, who is set for a summer holiday with her family in Cape Breton, visiting with extended relatives, learning to play the fiddle, immersed in the local culture. Then the beloved step-dancing, fiddling, 12-year-old Bonnie MacDonald, the youngest member of Cape Breton’s famed Clan Donnie band, and second cousin to Normie, vanishes after a family party. Normie Ruadh, as her Cape Breton relatives affectionately call her – for her red hair – is quickly immersed in the action, desperately wishing to find Bonnie. She learns about her
extended family, including things she wishes she’d never come to know. Her spooky grandmother, Morag, whom Normie is so very fond of, has second sight, premonitions, intuitions and visions — and Normie has them too. Morag senses the presence of evil in the fictional village of Kinlochiel. Lament for Bonnie is the ninth book in Anne Emery’s award-winning Collins-Burke mystery series. Here, young Normie is the daughter of the oneand-only lawyer and bluesman Monty Collins. Collins lends his legal services to the family (his wife Maura MacNeil is cousin to the siblings who make up Clan Donnie). Honorary family member Father Brennan Burke is along for the ride, lending a hand in the search, as he is spending his summer in Cape Breton along with the Collins family. The story’s RCMP officers are forced to face the darkness beneath the beauty and vibrant culture of Cape Breton as they search for Bonnie. They also learn that this isn’t the only dark chapter for Clan Donnie. The novel bounces back and forth in narration from young Normie to Monty Collins, to Sergeant Pierre Maguire – who left Montreal to escape this very kind of evil – as they all do what they can to find Bonnie and bring her back home. The sections narrated by young Normie are realistic; the style and thought-process read very much like one would imagine an 11-year-old’s would. Sergeant Maguire’s narration brings to mind questions of who might be capable of doing what kinds of things, and these are not comfortable thoughts. “It’s in all of us,” the sergeant says. “Most people will never commit a crime like this, or any crime at all. But under the right – or the wrong – circumstances, under pressure, under who knows what, any of us can snap.” A large cast of characters are introduced throughout the story: relatives, spouses, ex-spouses, townspeople, band groupies, even a crew of wedding guests, which makes for a
real “whodunit” as suspicions are cast, redirected and cast again. Lament takes Cape Breton’s Celtic heritage very seriously. A lot of Gaelic is spoken, and there are many references to strife amongst various clans. There’s a lot of Scottish history explained throughout, one example being a description of the Battle of Culloden. These passages may be of interest to some, but they do take away from the pace of the crime solving, mystery and suspense that Emery has cleverly created. While an 11-year-old narrates a substantial part of the book, there are deep and dark issues at play, one being that of domestic abuse in various forms. There’s the deadbeat McCurdy family, the rocky relationship between Nancy Campbell and her boyfriend Lee, the whisperings of trouble in Clan Donnie’s past. There’s a lot of family feuding, and the notion of what goes on behind closed doors. To Normie’s dismay, she learns that often times those who are abused in turn abuse others; filled with rage they take out on victims. The book stands alone, but familiarity with key characters and backstories from previous books in the series are helpful. Ultimately, Lament will leave readers wanting more of the series. To get to know Monty Collins and Father Burke, to know what happened between Monty and his wife Maura – why they were separated, what happened while they were together. And perhaps there will be more to come from certain characters. Normie Collins’ second sight is only briefly touched on; she’s only beginning to understand the concept herself. It would also be interesting to read more about the particular clan of characters introduced in the book – set amongst the communities of Cape Breton. Heather Fegan is a freelance writer in Halifax, NS with a passion for books, magazines and blogs. She is the former editor of Atlantic Books Today and now manages two tiny tyrants at home.
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Literary Excitement The books we plan to read at least twice Little Dogs: New and Selected Poems Michael Crummey House of Anansi Twenty years after the publication of his debut poetry collection, Michael Crummey’s Little Dogs: New and Selected Poems brings new work together with selections from his first four books of poetry. The poems range from delirious adolescence to mature love, and carry intergenerational reflections on masculine relationships – father to son to grandson. The imagery is consistently and beautifully Newfoundland: the sensory intensity of fishing for cod, for example. Crummey’s writing has long been treasured and these collected works are reason to celebrate. Mary, Mary Lesley Crewe Nimbus Publishing
All the Things We Leave Behind Riel Nason Goose Lane Publishing In the late 1970s, 17-year-old Violet’s brother disappears. Her parents go looking for clues and she stays home to sell antiques to tourists at their roadside stand. She is left to reflect on her brother’s absence, to reminisce about his seemingly random bouts of sadnesses – what readers recognize as depression. All the Things looks deeply into depression, loss and mourning, and how we remember complicated relationships after we lose someone. Four-Letter Words Chad Pelley Breakwater Books
Chad Pelley has described himself as being dedicated Mary, Mary is a funny to writing “literary page and charming story of turners.” Interesting then a dysfunctional Cape that some of his best work comes in the Breton family, and the irony of the more character-focused art of the short “white sheep” who stands out like a story, accumulating a bevy of prizes in sore thumb. this form. His first collection of stories Mary is gentle, polite, good at her job. focuses on the most intense expression All around her is volatility, stubbornof human emotions, such that desire beness and too much pride. But Mary’s comes obsession, love becomes longing innate “goodness” drives her into a and many of the characters misstep their regretful pattern of working for money, way to regret. It is this unversal feeling, taking care of her unstable family and which Pelley evokes so expertly, that wondering if something better could makes Four-Letter Words sing. ever be possible. What makes this novel a real joy is Two-Man Tent the authenticity of the characters. Their Robert Chafe flaws and strengths are as real as Cape Breakwater Books Breton itself. We’ve waited a long time for celebrated playwright
Robert Chafe’s debut collection of short stories, which are linked by a long-distance relationship and its related emails, texts and online chat sessions. It’s 21st-century dialogue the way only a brilliant – GG-winning – playwright could deliver it. These stories, reminiscent in their willingness to challenge convention of Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, fully engage and absorb, so as to quickly allay any fears about form. The Most Heartless Town in Canada Elaine McCluskey Anvil Press Atlantic Canadians already appreciate the theme of this novel: judging a place with little comprehension of it and its people. McCluskey is the perfect witness to this theme, as she has long written sympathatically about society’s forgotten castaways, brought them to life on the page and shown them in their darkest and brightest glory. Extending this type of characterization to an entire town, one all-toocasually written off by chic big-city drive-by tourist types, comes naturally to a writer with her abilities. The Last Half of the Year Paul Rowe Killick Press What will strike readers is the craft with which Rowe weaves the themes of the story – the idyllic rural childhood, the dark humour of a father and son’s shadowed impacts on one another, the harshness of leaving home, the
reckless folly of youth – with the topical turbulence of the 1970s and varied sentiments on the war. The Angel’s Jig Daniel Poliquin, translation by Wayne Grady Goose Lane What a delight when a work of fiction pulls back the wool from our eyes about the chastity of our past. The Angel’s Jig is a tale of the adventures of one particularly engaging elderly man who has been auctioned several times, and may be again before his time is through. Despite his situation, he finds colour in the tales he tells and comfort in the people who surround him at each stop. Written by one of the best French writers in Canada (Poliquin has won or been shortlisted for many of the major literary prizes here), this translation is a joy to read and opens eyes about this dubious practice of the past.
And it is also very funny. It is the first novel of Saint John, New Brunswick’s Michelle Winters, who has previously been nominated for a Journey Prize for her short fiction. In Truck, Agathe Lapointe’s husband disappears, along with his beloved pickup truck, on their 20th wedding anniversary. What follows is as much about the mystery of his disappearance as it is about the protagonist’s response – becoming more involved with new friends, rock and roll and people who know more than they let on – and the love story between two distinctly Acadian characters. Bet On Me: Leading and Succeeding in Business and in Life Annette Verschuren Harper Collins
Annette Verschuren is an astute business mind, having led Home Depot Canada’s expansion from 19 to The Porridge Is Up!: 179 stories. Here, we get both memoir Stories from my Childhood and insights into how professionals can Dale McIsaac with more fully embrace and leverage the illustrations by strengths they already have to achieve Jessica Sheppard breakthrough results. Acorn Press The book is full of practical insights from someone with a track record of The title of this collection of stories from business success. The most fascinating McIsaac’s childhood comes from a fachapter is the one in which Verschuren vourite expression of his father, a Prince talks about all the sexism women face Edward Island farmer. “The porridge is in the workplace, but also suggests that up!” he’d holler from the bottom of his being a woman in a senior role can be stairs up to the four girls and six boys – made into a competitive advantage, and in three double bunk beds – meaning get she explains how she did just that. up, eat and get to work. The 15 stories in this collection were, Nebooktook: like Robert Munsch’s many children’s In the Woods books, pre-tested aloud on a young Mike Parker audience, McIsaac’s junior high school Pottersfield Press students. They are slices of life but that the teller’s skill make extraordinary. Nova Scotia’s beloved outdoor enthusiast, Mike I Am a Truck Parker, is back to pay homage to the Michelle Winters province’s wealth of natural resources Invisible Publishing – but not the kind you merely cut or haul or harvest. In Nebooktook, I Am a Truck is a mystery a Mi’kmaw word meaning “in the of considerable depth. woods,” Parker focuses on a much
more intrinsic, even spiritual value, associated with the wilderness. Parker takes many tacks in making this point, looking at ecology, history, philosophy, art and ideology. As in his other works, Parker accompanies his words with hundreds of archival images that provide insightful glimpses into the way we were. Waiting for Still Water Susan White Acorn Press After a crisis at work, BC Child Protection caseworker Rachel Garnham is forced to take a “break,” as her supervisor calls it. She returns to her childhood foster home. The farm at Walton Lake in New Brunswick is run by tenderhearted Amelia. It quickly becomes clear to Rachel that, over the course of her four-year absence, the woman’s memory has begun to fail. As everyone struggles around her, Rachel begins to worry that Amelia’s condition will have consequences for the new foster girls at the farm. Her patchwork family comes together in the face of adversity, coping with loss and grief. Where the Rivers Meet Danny Gillis McIntyre Purcell Publishing Where the Rivers Meet ratchets the tension to its most taut in its mythical northern Cape Breton setting. At the heart of it is a boy who finds a Mi’kmaq relic. Its discovery – and that of gold on Mi’kmaq land – brings longstanding religious, racial and land-based conflicts to a boil. The tension is bolstered by the rapid-fire language play by Gillis, who channels beat poets and Mark Twain to present a frank portrayal of childhood wonder and boyhood competition within a pack mentality. Each character withing these linguistic onslaughts is fully realized and realistic. ■ Atlantic Books Today
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Analyzing the Oland Murder New insights on the killing of brewery millionaire Richard Oland and the trial of his son, Dennis by Ryan Van Hor ne
Truth and Honour: The Death of Richard Oland and the Trial of Dennis Oland Greg Marquis Nimbus Publishing Shadow of Doubt: The Trial of Dennis Oland Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon Goose Lane Editions
have a confession to make about the Oland murder trial: I didn’t pay attention to it. I heard about it, of course. You’d need to have been in a media blackout – and not use social media – to not know about it. But unlike most, I did not follow the story, even though it garnered national attention. Richard Oland’s wealth never made the crime more interesting for me, as it did for some. This is why the media, particularly national outlets like the Globe and Mail and National Post, gave it so much ink. Dennis Oland was accused of murdering his father and it was portrayed as being motivated by money. I filed it away as “Rich kid kills his dad to get the money” and didn’t give it any more thought. But when I was asked to write about two new books on the crime and trial, my interest in criminal law and journalism made me eager to take the case, as it were. The two books are Truth and Honour: The Death of Richard Oland and the Trial of Dennis Oland by Greg Marquis, a criminal historian, and Shadow of Doubt: The Trial of Dennis Oland by Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon, a CBC reporter who covered the case. Despite the difference in the titles, both look at the case in its entirety from the moment Richard Oland’s secretary, Maureen Adamson, arrived at the uptown Saint John office and discovered the body of her boss on the morning of July 7, 2011. Richard Oland, 69, was bludgeoned to death. A coroner testified that Oland suffered 45 blows to his head,
Courtroom jury sketch by Carol Taylor
neck and hands. As Marquis points out in his book, a criminal profiler would call it “overkill” or “an excessively violent assault motivated by rage or revenge.” During the trial, the public followed the case with an almost morbid fascination, which ramped up as salacious details of an affair bubbled from the reservoir of secrets held by one of Atlantic Canada’s wealthiest families. When facts about a cool father-son relationship, further strained by the son’s debt, were laid out for public scrutiny, many thought Dennis had a strong motive. He was also the last person known to have seen his father the day he died. For almost two years, Dennis Oland was the elephant in the room. Everybody knew he was a suspect, mostly because the police did a thorough search of his home just a week after the murder, during which they seized several items. The Saint John Police finally charged Dennis Oland in November 2013, 28 months after the crime. After a preliminary inquiry in 2014, Dennis Oland stood trial for second-degree murder in the fall of 2015. After 65 days of testimony, the longest trial in New Brunswick history, a jury found Dennis Oland guilty of killing his dad. The verdict was handed down last December and, in February, a judge gave him the mandatory sentence of life in prison, but set parole eligibility as low as it could go at 10 years. Both books paint a vivid picture of Richard Oland. Dick, as he was often called, had a high-profile split from his family’s business when his brother Derek was given control of Moosehead Breweries. Dick ventured out on his own and became a wealthy man. He was regarded by some as ruthless in business and by his family as aloof and uncaring at best, a “pig” at worst.
The latter was a moniker uttered by his daughter, Lisa, when she found his Viagra, which had fuelled an eightyear-long affair with Diana Sedlacek, a real estate agent who was also married. Despite being worth about $37 million when he died, and a noted philanthropist, Dick Oland was a penny pincher on the home front. That he was being unfaithful to his wife was galling enough, but he put her on a budget and required her to submit receipts to his secretary, who would prepare a monthly report of the household expenses before Oland would reimburse his wife. This was in stark contrast to his extravagant sailing habit. He had an ocean-racing yacht named Vela Veloce that was worth an estimated $850,000 and was having a larger sailboat custom-built in Spain when he died. That is a sketch of the wealthy murder victim and his familial relations, but it is the trial of his son Dennis, and the police work around his murder, which have drawn national attention, largely because of Dennis’ appeal of his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada. No one convicted of murder in New Brunswick has ever been allowed out on bail while they were appealing their conviction. This is what Dennis Oland sought to do, and it attracted the interest of three other provinces and the Canadian Criminal Defence Lawyers Association. Under scrutiny was the seizure of one piece of Crown evidence, a blood-stained brown jacket taken from Dennis Oland’s house, which was initially deemed lawful. But a question was raised as to whether city police had the proper authority to have the blood tested by the RCMP in Halifax. Ultimately, the directions the judge gave to the jury were deemed prejudicial on appeal, and Dennis Oland’s conviction was overturned in October. He was also granted bail, making him a free man pending a second trial, if one occurs. Regardless of the final outcome, each author approaches the case itself from a different background. Marquis teaches Canadian and criminal justice history at the University of New Brunswick; MacKinnon is a reporter for CBC Saint John. She live-blogged the trial and provided updates on Twitter. All that material, and more that she has gathered through additional interviews, are in her book. As a reporter writing on deadline and with space restrictions, there is much of what MacKinnon gathered in court that she was not able to use in her stories for CBC. “Some of it, I didn’t even have a chance to touch,” she says. “It was a chance to look back. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the
For almost two years, Dennis Oland was the elephant in the room.
Dennis Oland approaches the courthouse. Photo by Kâté Braydon.
trees. It gave me a chance to take a closer look at it all, and how it all unfolded and to tell it in different way, a more comprehensive way.” MacKinnon devotes an entire chapter to evidence the jury didn’t hear and the media couldn’t report. She brings an exquisite level of detail, painting a vivid picture of the state of the Saint John Police Force and the detectives and forensic team. MacKinnon explains the manpower and logistical challenges the police faced and how it affected their investigation. As a historian, Marquis is used to studying and writing about events in the distant past. The Oland case has given him the chance to observe history unfolding with far-reaching implications in Canadian criminal law. Neither author provides a personal verdict. MacKinnon says her continued coverage of the appeal process of the case this fall precludes that. Marquis prefers to provide material for devil’s advocates on both sides. “Many people have very set views,” he says. “I’m hoping people will challenge themselves and maybe it’s a book that people will revisit as the various appeals happen.” ■ Ryan Van Horne is a Halifax journalist and playwright. He used to cover the crime beat and courts for The Daily News in Halifax and knows very well how a reporter can have enough notes to write a book after covering a lengthy trial.
Atlantic Books Today
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After Ghomeshi What have we learned about celebrity, sexual abuse, the media and the courts? by Kim Hart Macneill
n fall 2014, Jian Ghomeshi transformed from one of Canada’s biggest stars to one of its most reviled citizens. A new book by Toronto Star journalist Kevin Donovan looks at how we got here. Secret Life: The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation spotlights Donovan and Canadaland podcast host Jesse Brown’s months-long investigation of Ghomeshi’s treatment of women. While the book focuses behind the scenes of the newspaper investigation, it also tells us what we’ve learned from it as a country. “Jian is my friend. I have appeared twice on Q. But there is no grey area here. Three women have been beaten by Jian Ghomeshi.” –Owen Pallett, Facebook post, Oct. 28, 2014 Polaris Prize winner Owen Pallet posted an open letter two days after the CBC fired Ghomeshi as host of Q, its cultural affairs radio program. He spoke in support of the women speaking against Ghomeshi in the media. “I too have heard endless rumours that he’s been a bad date, and have heard stories of shadiness and strange behavior,” Pallet wrote. He wasn’t alone. In 2009, I moved to Toronto for a magazine internship. Within weeks of arriving in my new city, a friend pointed out Ghomeshi at a concert. “Keep your distance from Jian Ghomeshi.” She said he had “a thing” for young, female journalists and musicians. “It doesn’t end well.” In the aftermath of the Star’s early articles about Ghomeshi, many female journalists wrote about hearing similar warnings, and more. Stories of nonconsensual choking, of unexpected slapping or punching during sex. It was Toronto’s dirty, but known, secret. If so many knew for so long, how did it stay a secret? “…There was a belief that as a host, Mr. Ghomeshi was somehow exempt from the Behavioural Standard. As a
host, and as a star, his behaviour would simply need to be tolerated.” –CBC Workplace Investigation Regarding Jian Ghomeshi, Rubin Thomlinson LLP, April 13, 2015. In 2014, former Q producer, Kathryn Borel told the police that Ghomeshi made sexually violent comments and gestures toward her at work. She reported his behaviour to the CBC and her union, the Canadian Media Guild, in 2010. Neither took action. Borel saw quitting her job as her only escape. Shortly after Ghomeshi’s firing, CBC hired employment law firm Rubin Thomlinson LLP to investigate how his workplace behavior went unchecked for so long. The report reveals little that wasn’t already known by the time of its release. As Donovan notes in his book, it does describe a “host culture” within the CBC, which helped conceal Ghomeshi’s behaviour. “As a star, his behaviour would simply need to be tolerated,” the report says. This theme is repeated throughout the book. Ghomeshi’s star power kept journalists, musicians and women outside the entertainment industry quiet for fear of reprisal. As Donovan’s first informer, a young woman known to readers only as Carly, told him, “He’s a very powerful man. I’m a nobody from a small city.” Ultimately, Donovan interviewed 17 women and 2 men who alleged abuse by Ghomeshi. According to Statistics Canada figures, in 2014 the violent victimization rate, which includes sexual assault, robbery and physical assault, was 76 incidents per 1,000 people. Sexual assault was the only crime that showed no decline. “Although it was the most serious crime measured by the survey, only 5 per cent of sexual assaults were reported to the police, a proportion relatively similar to that posted in 2004,” the report says.
Other research show that more than half of sexual assault complaints made to police don’t result in charges. Of those that do only 25 percent yield a guilty verdict. “We don’t say that the bank teller either consented or didn’t consent to the robbery. The robbery is the crime. This is a unique aspect of the crime of sexual assault. And the cases tend to be very heavily dependent on the credibility of witnesses. That’s a real, legitimate system challenge.” -Denise Smith, QC, deputy director of the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, to the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law (ISRCL) conference, July 26, 2016 Within our justice system, all aspects of a victim’s personal life are on the table: sexual history, correspondence, drinking and drug use. The accused is not put through the same paces; he has the right not to testify. While few in the legal community wish to see this protection removed, it creates a power imbalance in sexual assault cases. Ultimately, Justice William Horkins acquitted Ghomeshi of four counts of sexual assault, and one of choking to overcome resistance “At the end of this trial it is impossible to determine with any acceptable degree of certainty or comfort, what is true and is false,” Horkins said in his verdict. He added that he was not saying “these events never happened,” but rather that “inconsistencies, questionable behaviour” on the part of the complainants tainted their evidence. Donovan writes, “In the first Ghomeshi trial the women were faulted for not disclosing their post incident-contact, but the judge also criticized them for behaviour that, in his opinion, was ‘out of harmony’ with what he would suspect of a victim of sexual assault.” University of Windsor law professor Julie Macfarlane told Donovan “many judges do not seem to understand the dynamics of these situations. She said a person’s charm, or perhaps a desire to offer someone a second chance, can draw a woman back.” Months after the first trial, the crown withdrew a fifth charge of sexual assault against Ghomeshi. It was part of a deal that saw Ghomeshi avoid a second trial by apologizing to Kathryn Borel, the former CBC employee, and signing a peace bond, which is not an admission of guilt. “Jian Ghomeshi has apologized, but only to me. There are 20 other women who have come forward to the
Within our justice system, all aspects of a victim’s personal life are on the table: sexual history, correspondence, drinking and drug use.
Secret Life: The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation Kevin Donovan Goose Lane Editions
media and made serious allegations about his violent behavior… All he has said about his other accusers is that they’re all lying and that he’s not guilty. And remember, that’s what he said about me.” –Kathryn Borel, public statement, May 11, 2016 Donovan notes in the book that the publicity surrounding the case encouraged women to share their stories. On Oct. 30, 2015, reporters Antonia Zerbisias and Sue Montgomery started the Twitter hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported. Their tweets about abuse they’d kept silent snowballed into tens of millions of tweets, retweets and replies, starting an international conversation about sexual abuse reporting. Two year later, the hashtag is still in use, and the release of Donovan’s book presents an opportunity to reignite the conversation. ■ Kim Hart Macneill is a journalist and magazine editor whose work has appeared in This Magazine, Canadian Business, and East Coast Living. She divides her time between Halifax and Moncton.
Atlantic Books Today
It’s Not About Us Todd Leader
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