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atlantic books today FREE

WINTER 2017–2018

HALIFAX

WRECKED

100 Years and Many Stories to Come GRAB YOUR HAMMER It’s the Speech Police page 14

PRISONERS OF WAR

Lives Risked for Posterity page 37

WORDS OF ONE’S OWN Historic Women’s Writings page 33

No. 85 Publications Mail Agreement 40038836


THE GIFT THAT GETS OPENED AGAIN AND AGAIN POP CULTURE

CURRENT AFFAIRS

25 YEARS OF 22 MINUTES

THE EFFECTIVE CITIZEN

A BIRD ON EVERY TREE

LAST LULLABY

$29.95 | 978-177108-540-3

$29.95 | 978-1-77108-531-1

$19.95 | 978-177108-502-1

$21.95 | 978-177108-508-3

ANGELA MOMBOURQUETTE

GRAHAM STEELE

PHOTOGRAPHY

FICTION AND MYSTERY

CAROL BRUNEAU

FOOD AND DRINK

NOVA SCOTIA AT NIGHT

EAST COAST CRAFTED

LEN WAGG

CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS & WHITNEY MORAN

$29.95 | 978-177108-522-9

$39.95 | 978-177108-542-7

HISTORY

PORT OF CALL: TALL SHIPS VISIT THE MARITIMES

NOBLE GOALS, DEDICATED DOCTORS

$19.95 | 978-177108-505-2

$39.95 | 978-177108-529-8

ALLAN BILLARD

ALICE WALSH

DR. T. JOCK MURRAY

NOVA SCOTIA COOKERY,

THEN & NOW PRESENTED BY THE NOVA SCOTIA ARCHIVES & SELECT NOVA SCOTIA $27.95 | 978-177108-546-5

SHORT STORIES

WINTER: ATLANTIC CANADIAN STORIES

EDITED BY DAN SOUCOUP

$22.95 | 978-177108-558-8


HERITAGE

FROM SEED TO CENTREPIECE AMANDA MUIS BROWN

$34.95 | 978-177108-525-0

HALIFAX EXPLOSION

THE ACCIDENTAL FARMER: THE STORY OF ROSS FARM JOAN WATSON WITH MURRAY CREED $15.95 | 978-177108-527-4

EXPLOSION IN HALIFAX HARBOUR, 1917 DAN SOUCOUP

$15.95 | 978-177108-554-0

BROKEN PIECES ALLISON LAWLOR

$17.95 | 978-177108-515-1

PICTURE BOOKS

THE FLYING SQUIRREL STOWAWAYS MARIJKE SIMONS

$22.95 | 978-177108-550-2

FICTION

THE DISAPPEARING BOY SONIA TILSON

$12.95 | 978-177108-548-9

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THE WALKING BATHROOM

SHAUNTAY GRANT ARTWORK BY ERIN BENNETT BANKS

$22.95 | 978-177108-556-4

THE FOX AND THE FISHERMAN MARIANNE DUMAS

$12.95 | 978-1-77108-552-6

BOARD BOOKS

LET’S POINT!

CAROL MCDOUGALL & SHANDA LARAMEE-JONES

$12.95 | 978-177108-519-9

MAUD LEWIS 123

TEXT BY CAROL MCDOUGALL & SHANDA LARAMEE-JONES ART BY MAUD LEWIS

$12.95 | 978-177108-521-2

@nimbuspub or nimbus.ca


Perfect books to give and receive! NEW! Sketch by Sketch Take an informal road trip with artist Emma FitzGerald along Nova Scotia’s beautiful South shore! By Emma FitzGerald, $24.95

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Firsts in Flight The story of Alexander Graham Bell’s ground-breaking experimental aircrafts — all built and flown in Nova Scotia! By Terrance MacDonald, $24.95


New illustrated edtions — amazing events and people from Canada’s past!

Mysteries Legends and Myths of the First World War

Valour at Vimy Ridge

Tom Thomson

Billy Bishop

By Tom Douglad, $16.95

By Jim Poling Sr., $16.95

By Dan McCaffery, $16.95

By Cynthia J. Faryon, $16.95

Classic Halifax Explosion books for all ages!

Explosion in the Halifax Harbour A definitive account of the explosion and its aftermath, and an extensive collection of images – many in colour. By David B. Flemming, $24.95

Explosion Newsie

Burden of Desire

Read the story of Macky, a 10-year-old boy who has to deliver the news to a confused and wrecked city where the only way to know what has happened to missing loved ones was to read the local newspaper

Robert MacNeil’s classic bestseller back in print — the story of a love triangle between a south-end belle, a Dalhousie professor and a young Anglican minister. A compelling fictional account of The Halifax Explosion and the impact on the city

By Jacqueline Halsey Illustrated by Loretta Migani, $16.95

By Robert MacNeil, $19.95

Formac Publishing Company limited l www.formac.ca


Contents Number 85 Winter 2017–2018

12

14 Foreword

10

Letters From Readers

11

From No Access to Staggering Options The long road to creating an East Coast craft brew scene

12

14

16

18

The Hurt of Heroism Janice Landry shines a light on the dark side of the ones who risk all Grab Your Hammer, It’s the Speech Police An adapted introduction to Edward Riche’s new essay collection, Bag of Hammers Love, Sex and Media What’s it got to do with poetry? The Curious Abroad Treading respectfully in foreign lands is good for your health

18 Q&A

21

Author to Author Trudy J Morgan-Cole regales Michelle Butler Hallett with tales of women who didn’t make the “headlines of history”

History 23

The Significance of Disaster The Explosion too often overshadows the global root cause and the subsequent rebuilding of Halifax

29

An Explosion of Fiction Bringing the events of December 6, 1917 to life and to heart

33

Words of One’s Own Women’s studies, diaries and letters offer fresh perspectives on herstory

37

Prisoners of War Lives risked for posterity

Books with this symbol can also be found in Book Lovers’ Holiday Gift Ideas—available now at AtlanticBooksToday.ca!

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Features 39

Knowledge as Verb Working toward an encyclopedia of Newfoundland knowledge, Pam Hall recognizes the collaborative nature of understanding

43

When Your Real Life Is Fake News Pauline Dakin’s memoir of a fugitive childhood

Food 45

Green Plate Special Sustainable food with mass appeal

Young Readers 48

Finding Compassion in Disaster How picture books help children understand horrific events like the Halifax Explosion


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45 52

48

Tongue-Dancing Poems, Disoriented Birds, Sleepover Milestones, Family Secrets, Reality TV Gigs, Forbidden Dragon Quests and Icelandic Adventures Lisa Doucet reviews the season’s most anticipated books for young readers

Excerpt 56

Can’t Get Any Crazier?

60

Lauren McKeon’s Fight for Feminism

61

Jane Doucet’s Moment of Indecision

62

Sharon Bala’s Migrant Odyssey

63

Tony Tremblay’s Collected Creative Releases

64

Manjusha Pawagi’s Harrowing Recovery

Reviews 58

PEI’s Fear Factor

59

Jocelyn Parr’s Personal and Cultural Transformation

ABOUT THE COVER

New Books 65

This issue’s cover is from Belle DeMont, a Halifax artist who illustrated The Little Tree by the Sea, a children’s picture book written by her father, John DeMont, about the mobilized relief effort in the wake of the Halifax Explosion. Belle describes her efforts as follows: “This was sort of a difficult scene for me. I wanted to show destruction without it being too graphic, so I decided to show the aftermath of the explosion, using historical photographs as the basis.”

Editor’s Picks Books so good you’ll read them twice

GET IN THE KNOW MORE BOOK NEWS, ANALYSIS, REVIEWS Sign up for our newsletter today! atlanticbookstoday.ca Atlantic Books Today

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Editor’s Message I’ve never been that taken with the Halifax Explosion, which is regrettably my hometown’s claim to fame. My grandfather was the only person I knew who’d been alive at the time of the event and he was toddling in Brookfield, blissfully unaware I assume. As an adult our fascination with the Explosion has struck me as retrospective disaster porn, morbid at best and sensationalist at worst. It seems, given the stack of new books released for its centennial, I have long been an anomaly. The volume of new verbiage from local, national and international publishers has piqued my interest. I was particularly taken by two books—Michael Dupuis’ Bearing Witness and Katie Ingram’s Breaking Disaster—examining how the media represented the events of December 6, 1917. I can only imagine myself in that position, my world flattened and having to make sense of it by deadline with nothing resembling the connecting technology in our pockets today. These are two of six non-fiction books considered by Barry Cahill in his cover story (page 16), which considers our Explosion obsession and makes important distinctions between the violent topicality of the event, its aftermath of loss, resilience and recovery, and the rarely noted underlying cause: war. Violence and war are what stay with me years after reading Hugh

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MacLennan’s classic Explosion novel, Barometer Rising, and Jon Tattrie’s more recent Black Snow. It fascinates me that in fictional representations of the disaster, its link with a rather futile war is a constant backdrop. Carol Bruneau (page 22) explores the act of imagining late 1917 Halifax, including in new novels by Steven Laffoley, Alison Watt and Julie Lawson, and the insights fiction provides that even the most meticulous non-fiction account cannot. Somehow though, above the high-culture initiatives of novelists and historians, children’s literature—including new work from John De Mont, Marijke Simons and Laurie Swim—seeks to learn not merely the facts of a disaster but also the lessons we require to heal and move forward from humanity’s great blunders. Chris Benjamin ERRATA Speaking of blunders, in “Fall is for Festivals” (page 14, September), we misattributed a quotation about Word on the Street to Lesley Choyce, which was in fact said by Glenn Deir. Also, due to an editorial error, in “Whitney Moran and Christopher Reynolds’ Beer Passion” (page 60, September), we neglected to indicate that the book, East Coast Crafted, was reviewed from a draft copy. We regret any inaccurate perceptions this may have caused.


atlantic books today

POLICING BLACK LIVES State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard

9781552669792 $25.00

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.

“This book should be read not only by those who have a specific interest in Canadian histories and social justice movements but by anyone interested in the abolitionist and revolutionary potential of the Black Lives Matters movement more broadly.” — ANGELA Y. DAVIS F E R N WO O D P U B L I S H I N G

critical books for critical thinkers fernwoodpublishing.ca

BUSTED

An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and ADVERTISING SALES Carolyn Guy cguy@atlanticpublishers.ca EDITOR Chris Benjamin editorial@atlanticpublishers.ca ART DIRECTOR Gwen North design@atlanticpublishers.ca PRODUCTION MANAGER Katie Ingram production@atlanticpublishers.ca Printed in Canada. This is issue number 85 Winter 2017–2018. Atlantic Books Today is published three times a year. All issues are numbered in sequence. Total Atlantic-wide circulation: 110,000. ISSN 1192-3652

by Susan Boyd “Boyd’s lively and engaging graphic history on Canada’s drug laws and societal attitudes reveal much about how we got to the crisis we face today. A thoroughly good read!” — Libby Davies MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT 1997–2015 F E R N WO O D P U B L I S H I N G

critical books for critical thinkers fernwoodpublishing.ca

9781552669761 $25.00

PUBLISHER Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association

Complementary social histories from the ColonialperiodtoConfederation. www.newworldpublishing.com Toll free: 1-877-211-3334

Interested in how many of the social, theatrical and sporting traditions of the Maritimes began with the British Garrison at the Halifax Citadel or how the original Nova Scotia territory became the Maritime provinces, (ca. 1785) then joined with other provinces to become Canada in 1867? Two fascinating books on the colonial period (1710-1867) by A.D Boutilier, author of The CITADEL on Stage, © 2015 and From the 14th Colony to Confederation, ©2017. Watch for Boutilier’s 3rd book on the evolution of the middle class (2019).

From the 14th Colony to Confederation: Governors, Placemen & the Merchant Elite

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 Phone: 902-420-0711 Fax: 902-423-4302 atlanticbookstoday.ca @abtmagazine facebook.com/AtlanticBooksToday

ISBN 9781895814545: 374 pp. (66 historical photos, indexed, noted) ©2015 - $27.50. Well researched & authoritative title: humorous, insightful - see the origin of repetoire theatre in Nova Scotia and beyond; also sport & recreation, horse racing/ breeding in Maritimes & the East Coast traditon of regattas.

ISBN 9781895814668 (288 pp. 103 photos, noted, indexed, appendices.:$21.95 e-Pub 3 : $9.95 (ISBN 9781895814774) Canada150 storyof the Maritime region and how it slowly transitioned from a raw, neophyte colony toself-governance; then became Canada. Contains contributions ofallgovernorstogrowth ofprovince;listsallNS governorstopresent day. Atlantic Books Today

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LETTERS FROM READERS

Y’all when did @abtmagazine get so woke? Super thoughtful articles about the sex trade and cultural appropriation in the new issue. #CanLit Evan Beazley, London, ON (via Twitter) Dear Editor: As a reader and writer in Atlantic Canada, I am thoroughly enjoying Atlantic Books Today’s new and expanded format. The addition of more feature stories and author interviews offers readers a broader perspective on the rich and eclectic writing scene in Atlantic Canada. These enhanced features, combined with the reviews and book summaries that have always been a staple, make for a powerful package. A tip of the hat to you and your team of freelance writers. Bretton Loney Halifax, NS To the Editor: “Story is Power”(Fall 2017, page 27) by Shannon Webb-Campbell is a welcome contribution to a necessary discussion and makes valid points. However, I believe her finger-pointing has resulted in her poking herself in the eye. In the context of discussing remarks by Hal Niedzviecki in Write on cultural appropriation, Webb-Cambell states: “TWUC shamed us.” TWUC is composed of every writer who belongs to the Union, but not every writer in the Union has a hand in the contents of Write. To adopt part of her argument from the same article, it appears WebbCampbell has imposed a story on me, and all TWUC members. It might be that she meant to indicate Write’s editorial board or something other than the entire membership, and that she simply made a clumsy choice of words. A clarification would be welcomed. Jeff Bursey Charlottetown PEI

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To the Editor: Often when I hear talk about sex work or forced sexual exploitation, there’s a line crossed from what feels like genuine social inclusion to titillating voyeurism into the lives of women, men and trans people. Hats off to Wanda Taylor for avoiding this line crossing with such adept skill and humanity. In her piece “Not in Our Town” (Fall 2017, page 32), Taylor manages to dodge the typical tropes and whispered tsks that too often accompany discussions about people engaged in the sex industry (whether by choice or force). People in sex work, as much as anyone, are part of our community but lead lives that many find difficult to comprehend. The stigma and marginalization, never mind the profound risks, are important for all of us to unpack if we want to reduce harms and provide options. And there is no better way than to centre the stories of people with lived experience, to acknowledge multiple and complex needs and service gaps and to face our biases and assumptions head on. That Taylor is able to engage in this discussion while avoiding paternalistic prescriptions that all sex work is bad, everyone is looking to exit or that sex work is a sign of moral failure, is a service to readers who are unfamiliar with the topic and members of the same social fabric. Miia Suokonautio, MSW Executive Director YWCA Halifax

We love hearing from you!

Dear Editor: I am writing to say how encouraged I am by the latest incarnation of Atlantic Books Today, which, to be honest, was a magazine that had largely fallen off my radar. As a publication of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association, its main function has always been the marketing of local books, but from time to time it’s also been a forum for literary discussions that have meaning beyond an increase in book sales. Each iteration of the magazine has fallen somewhere on the spectrum between literary periodical and marketing aid, but some of the more recent versions have been so close to the marketing pole that they are little more than glorified seasonal catalogues. I therefore welcome the current direction of the magazine which not only addresses more strictly literary concerns but also takes on the pressing political issues that shape our literary consciousness today. And while I’ve rhetorically set up a dichotomy between literature and marketing, let me also say that this current direction is also, well, good marketing. Readers as a whole have a broad range of interests, and an approach that recognizes the philosophical questions that underlie literature without neglecting the sheer joy of reading can also serve to draw more of us to the richness that Atlantic literature can provide. Martin Wallace

Send your comments, criticisms, plaudits to editorial@atlanticpublishers.ca


FOREWORD

From No Access to Staggering Options The long road to creating an East Coast craft brew scene by Simon Thibault

Photo: Jessica Emin

T

wenty years ago, if you were offered a beer in Atlantic Canada, it was probably a Keith’s, an Oland’s, an Alpine or maybe a Ten Penny (RIP). But when someone offers up a beer today, the choices are staggering. That’s where East Coast Crafted: The Essential Guide to the Beers, Breweries, and Brewpubs of Atlantic Canada  comes in. This hefty tome clocks in at just over 400 pages and is the progeny of Christopher Reynolds and Whitney Moran.  The most important thing for these two was that  East Coast Crafted  be anything but just another beer book. They saw an opportunity for readers, be they beer novices or seasoned brew devotees, to get as much information as possible. “There are a lot of beer books out there that are basically a listicle with two covers,” says Reynolds over a couple pints at Henry House in downtown Halifax. “I personally love reading beer books, especially Canadian beer books that relate to what we can touch and experience in our daily lives. We wanted to give people as much information as possible, to give them choices. Beer changes over time and taste is subjective so any recommendation has to be taken with a grain of salt, or barley.”  Moran points out that the range of possible beer experiences in Atlantic Canada changes at a rapid pace. “Since we started writing two years ago, over a dozen breweries have opened up. The book just kept getting bigger.” A bigger book meant more room devoted to the stories behind the beers, brewers and breweries. It was important for Moran and Reynolds that readers get a strong sense of who is making their beer, not just what ingredients go into making it. “It arguably gives people a better drinking experience,” she says.

is a generational shift. She says new brewers are popping up all over the place and doing things in their own way. But the spirit of generosity among brewers has stayed intact. “Beers are everywhere, and hopefully this book will help you separate the wheat from the chaff,” says Reynolds. He pauses to try and make a joke about separating the malt from the wort, but Moran stops him. “Just drink your beer,” she says. ■

“East Coast Crafted is a high-definition snapshot, or a painting. When you have more background, your appreciation for the art of it grows exponentially.” One of the things that gave the authors a greater appreciation for brewers was the amount of work that went into simply making beer, let alone developing an active brewing culture in Atlantic Canada. “I couldn’t believe hearing about Picaroons, and the Granites, and how they had no access to knowledge or equipment in the way that brewers have today,” says Reynolds. “It’s amazing how wide the gap is from what their challenges were to today when you only need money and internet access. Kevin Keefe from Granite had to get on an airplane to get equipment and convince people as to what he was doing.”  But the chutzpah and gumption required for such endeavours led to a craft brewing scene in this region where people knew they could rely on each other for information, favours and more. “People talked about the old days when there were only a few and they felt like a family,” says Moran. She points out that like most families, there

Full disclosure: I know both Chris and Whitney. Whitney is the managing editor of Nimbus Publishing and was the editor on my book, Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food. Chris is a co-owner of Stillwell Bar and I have interviewed him on many occasions about beer. It’s because of this relationship and the fact that I’ve been watching these two work on this book for some time that Atlantic Books Today asked me to write this profile. Simon Thibault is a Halifax-based journalist and food writer. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Vice, East Coast Living and Saltscapes. He is a regular contributor to CBC Radio in the Rick Mercer Maritimes. 

East Coast Crafted Whitney Moran and Christopher Reynolds Nimbus Publishing

Atlantic Books Today

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FOREWORD

The Hurt of Heroism Janice Landry shines a light on the dark side of the ones who risk all by Denise Flint

W

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Janice Landry

of light and finally it filled with light and I knew he was okay.” When she opened the box she found a personal treasure trove that included the Canadian Medal of Bravery he was awarded for risking his own life in a house fire to save that of a baby boy trapped inside. It was something very few people knew about. “One day I decided to Google his name and nothing came up,” Landry says. “I thought, ‘I can’t have this.’ I needed people to know how important my father was. Halifax has the oldest fire service in Canada and he was the first person (in the Halifax fire department) to get this award in 250 years.” The result was Landry’s first book, The Sixty Second Story, which recounts the rescue of the little boy as well as other feats of bravery on the part of first responders.

Landry thought that would be the end of it. However, she was contacted by one of the people directly involved with her father’s rescue and another book, The Price We Pay, was born. Rather than being simple paeans to valour, both books discuss frankly the effects dealing with traumatic situations can have on the people who are on the front line, including PTSD (PostTraumatic Stress Disorder). She has immersed herself in the subject and by now has become something of an expert. This year she received the Tema Conter Memorial Trust Media Award, which recognises significant contribution to the understanding of the psychological stressors affecting Canada’s public safety and military personnel. Now Landry has written a follow up book, The Legacy Letters, which revisits

Photo: Paul Darrow

hen she was a child Janice Landry used to curl up in the window of her home in Purcell’s Cove, Nova Scotia and write stories. An only child, she’d happily entertain herself, never for a moment worrying about her father, Basil (Baz) Landry, a Halifax firefighter. When he spoke about his work, he did so lightly and she took it for granted that he would be okay. “I naively never thought he couldn’t come back,” she says. “It wasn’t until later that I realized how risky his job was.” After leaving high school Landry did a journalism degree at The University of King’s College in Halifax. After graduation, at the age of 22, she became a television reporter and anchor with CTV-Atlantic. Almost immediately she was confronted with the darker side of life; working the police beat where she reported on fires, missing-person cases, murders and other traumatic events. She spent 12 years at CTV before leaving to start her own company. She was a new mother and wanted a fresh start in her professional life as well. Her father had retired in 1988, the year after she started reporting. For better or worse, their working lives never had a chance to intersect. When Baz died in 2006, he left behind his wife, Theresa and a devastated daughter. But before he died, he bequeathed to her his box of papers and mementos and said, “Janice, you’ll know what to do with this.” It took several years before she was able to look through the contents. “I was in deep, black grief for three years and it took that long to see there was some light. I envisioned it as a black tunnel. Eventually there were pinpricks


some of the crimes she covered as a reporter and features letters from the people impacted by tragedy, including one she wrote herself. One of the first things journalists are taught is that it isn’t about them. So for Landry to get personal about her own struggles, dealing with the trauma she was a daily witness to was extremely difficult. “I really debated about how to open this piece. There’s no way I can say that being among all that trauma hasn’t affected me because it has and it would be a disservice to all the people I worked with, firefighters and other first responders, to not say I took this to heart and it was really difficult. Just because you’re a journalist doesn’t mean you’re not human.” Growing up, Janice Landry never realized the danger her father voluntarily placed himself in, physically and emotionally, day in and day out. Now she wants to ensure that we all recognize the debt we owe to those like him and the toll trauma can take on anyone’s life. ■

Rather than being simple paeans to valour, both books discuss frankly the effects that dealing with traumatic situations can have on the people who are on the front line, including PTSD The Legacy Letters Janice Landry Pottersfield Press

Denise Flint is a freelance journalist who lives just outside of St. John’s. She is Past President of WANL, the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Atlantic Books Today

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FOREWORD

Grab Your Hammer, It’s the Speech Police An adapted introduction to Edward Riche’s new essay collection, Bag of Hammers

T

he first comedy or satire I wrote was for The Muse, the student newspaper of Memorial University of Newfoundland. In the fall of 1980 The Muse was part of a largely unorganized student crusade to do something about The Parkway, a fourlane highway that, owing to a kind of haphazard urban planning endemic to St. John’s, bisected the campus. Crossing the road was perilous and the student body wanted a remedy. The Muse didn’t want to let the issue die so running a story about it as often as possible was a priority. But there was only so much one could say; the road was in the wrong place and presented a real danger to students; a safe crossing needed to be provided and soon. That was it. I took the baton for the week of the Oct 17 edition, reporting on an imagined “Parkway Safari” motorsport event wherein drivers tore around campus trying to strike and kill students with their cars, scoring points as they did so. I enlisted a couple of pals to pose as victims for grisly photos of the contest. The piece did

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what I still suppose good satire does, issue a warning about where a stupid behaviour will land us if we don’t smarten up. The paper was distributed throughout the campus in the morning. That afternoon a Memorial University student, a young woman full of promise, Judy Lynn Ford, was struck and killed by a car on The Parkway. I thought that horror rather proved the point of my piece. Not so most people on campus who read it after the tragedy. Many were unaware that it was written and printed before the accident and judged it, I can’t say unfairly if they believed it was in response, in horrendously bad taste. Bad taste sometimes lends satire vitality. As it can be a knife or skewer, satire can also be a blunt instrument. It can be a cudgel, a hammer. We say in Newfoundland, “Foolish as a bag of hammers,” to mean something or someone ridiculous. In other places there is “ugly as a bag of hammers” to mean that which is lumpen, misshapen, unwieldy. All that can be said of comic and satiric prose.

Photos: Joel Upshall used with permission of The Overcast

by Edward Riche


The outrage over The Parkway piece didn’t much bother me; my heart was colder then. Energies soon found focus in a spontaneous act of civil disobedience, students marching across a crosswalk on The Parkway in an uninterrupted, endlessly looping line so as to permanently arrest the flow of traffic. The cops arrived and handled things poorly, the protest escalated to the point where the police considered it best to beat a retreat. Barricades were erected and the students occupied the highway for a glorious weekend, until commitments were given to build an elevated pedway over the road. In the years since, I’ve written four novels and a couple of feature-film screenplays, notably the adaptation of my comic novel Rare Birds. I wrote a bunch of episodes of the television industry satire Made In Canada. I’ve kept up writing for print media and have written for the stage. I spent the most creatively rewarding five years of my life writing for the CBC Radio show The Great Eastern, a program I have no hesitation declaring among the very best examples of scripted radio in the history of that medium. (Why the show isn’t podcast by the CBC is an unfathomable mystery.) The Great Eastern was a more sophisticated comedy than the CBC brass was comfortable with in a show coming out of Newfoundland. A CBC Vice President cautioned us, “No more jokes about French philosophers.” We paid him no heed and CBC canned us one season before the project was completed. How have things changed since I started out almost 40 years ago? In four decades, what is funny and how comedy works hasn’t changed much. The audience has; it’s grown timid. The pieties of Political Correctness have scared people off that which is transgressional. People are afraid to laugh lest it be heard as laughter “at” something. So it was that two people, on separate occasions, told me they put down my novel Today I Learned It Was You because they were “afraid of where it was going.” At the centre of that novel is a report that a one-time thespian sleeping rough

Satire is a distant early-warning system. Without it the most unlikely and absurd consequences befall those who haven’t imagined the world at its most preposterous.

Bag of Hammers Edward Riche Breakwater Books

in a public park in St. John’s is “transitioning” from man to deer. Spoiler alert: he isn’t doing any such thing. The ridiculous proposition that he is, a bit of dark mischief by another character in the novel, is embraced by a gullible public to such a degree that confessing the deed becomes unthinkable. Those readers “afraid of where it was going” never read far enough to grasp that the central joke was their very fear. That’s where we are. Satire is a distant early-warning system. Without it the most unlikely and absurd consequences befall those who haven’t imagined the world at its most preposterous. The speech police, these days as likely to come from the smoldering ruins of the political left or the Academy as from the Church or the Mosque or the Presidential Palace, are making it more difficult and more dangerous to sound the alarm. If there was ever a time to reach into the bag for a hammer it’s now. ■ Edward Riche is a novelist, playwright and radio and screenplay writer in St. John’s. His latest novel is Today I Learned It Was You.

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FOREWORD

Love, Sex and Media What’s it got to do with poetry? by Karin Cope

P

erhaps a poem begins with longing, with the possibility of loss, with the elaboration of a separation hollowed out by the passage of time. Love poems surely partake of such a structure, built as they are from an address to a beloved who is almost always somewhere else. We might say then that absence lies at the foundation of this particular form of poiesis or production, the love poem. Missing calls, conjures or convokes the lover—as well as the reader, who is summoned as another beloved, albeit a voyeur, one who reads over the shoulder of the initial addressee. Thus from one time to another and one place to another, love poetry repeatedly populates its world and builds its readership from what is sometimes a daily effort to confront and live with longing. So too does epic poetry. If we take as our example the Illiad and the Odyssey, we may see that they track a journey away from home, hearth and heart to an experience of war, and then chronicle, by way of multiple setbacks and episodes, the struggle to return again. Poetry, in such a frame, is hard work; one approaches the extinction of separation and the prospect of love and the beloved by way of elaborate productions of delay. More acutely, we see that in order for a poem to come to be at all, the hope of arrival must be matched by insistent deferral. Such labour is perhaps an exercise or art of the erotic. But is it, or could it be, pornographic? I would not have thought to ask such a question—poetry and pornography don’t typically occupy the overlapping slots in my head or history or bed—but Darryl Whetter’s latest poetry collection, Search Box Bed, argues that “there is no history of poetry without love poetry, and

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there is no history of media without pornography.” How, Whetter asks, as he labours over his search box, sexting, noting, licking, does the changing media landscape alter the pathways of our discussions of desire? Exciting new sexualities are clearly emerging in and from this new media landscape; what then might our new poetries become? While it is perhaps too soon to tell— Whetter’s poems, for example, come to me in a book and look very much like other poems that I’ve read over the last 20 or 30 years—Search Box Bed contains some signs that poetry and pornography may lie together, albeit uncomfortably. This is not because poetry isn’t an apt medium for seduction, sexuality or erotic experimentation and expression. On the contrary! Poetry’s labour-intensive, handmade aesthetics and attention to detail, its tilt towards immediacy and community and its tendency to linguistic and phenomenological thickness are at odds, philosophically and materially, with a world in which desire is increasingly reconfigured as forever repeatable acts of consumption, as if sex can simply be ordered up and had, one more infinitely obsolescing commodity, no contact and no messy consequences of labour required. But, as in all other forms of rapidly expanding global commodity production and circulation, somewhere in the elaboration of erotic content for the “search box bed” of the internet, labour happens. Whose labour, where and how, are key questions. Whetter notes that according to Extreme Tech, porn accounts for “30% of the total data transferred across the internet”—that’s a lot of largely hidden and often illegal, appalling, dangerous, underpaid, racialized, feminized and infantilized labour. In one poem, Whetter imagines the off-camera life of a “cam girl;” she turns off her computer, settles into warm loose pants and comforting layers of clothing. Other poems are about intimate erotic communities and exchanges. Hovering, as cover illustration and in the background, is the fantasy of the big-box porn store of the internet, the motherboard or mother-lode, to which endless clicking mice stream.

How are such visions and modalities changing our lives? The collection’s closing poem, “A Home of One’s Own,” an unorthodox riff on Virginia Woolf ’s famous phrase describing the terms of a modernist woman’s self-determination and capacity to write, suggests that the wired pursuit of each privileged individual’s least desire, all of that online searching and clicking, emerges from and leads to endless loneliness. To want may be generative but to think one can always get creates not poetry so much as a republic of isolates, endlessly clicking and stroking, but never approaching or dwelling with each other. ■ 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 poetry collection, What we’re doing to stay afloat, was published in 2015.

Exciting new sexualities are clearly emerging in and from this new media landscape; what then might our new poetries become?

Search Box Bed Darryl Whetter Palimpsest Press

Award-winning Halifax Explosion books : New World Publishing www.newworldpublishing.com Toll free: 1-877-211-3334

Two fascinating books on the Explosion by triple-Award winning author, Joel Zemel: Scapegoat, 100thAnniversary Edition (newest edition) and Betrayal of Trust, the story of Commander F. Evan Wyatt, the only person criminally charged and subsequently acquitted in connection with this tragic event. Scapegoat is a highly cited and referenced new title on the Explosion and recent winner of the prestigious International John Lyman Award (Naval & Maritime History) in June, 2017; the latter a personal story ofWyatt-and betrayal.Joel’s100th Anniv. ‘Explosion’talk isatMMAon Dec.5, 7PM

Betrayal of Trust: Commander Wyatt & Halifax Explosion ISBN 9781895814767 (192 pp. photos, indexed: $19.95 e-Pub 3 : $9.95 (ISBN 9781895814774) Fascinating personal story of Wyatt’s early life in UK, schooling, RCN examining officer in Halifax Harbour (1917), divorce, charges, trial, Scapegoat: 100th Anniversary Edition acquittal-and subsequent ISBN 9781895814620 : 504 pp. (7x10, indexed, noted, 220 life in the USA. 100th photos), ©2016 (3 awards: two international; two firsts) -$34.95 Official Launch: MMA Authoritative, highly respected book on the 1917 Explosion. Oct.26, 7PM

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FOREWORD

The Curious Abroad Treading respectfully in foreign lands is good for your health by Joan Baxter

ABOVE: Sunset sail off Boracay, Philippines. LEFT: Buddha’s grace at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. OPPOSITE PAGE: Local transport in Koh Tao, Thailand.

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Photos: Mo Duffy Cobb

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n the last page of her lovely travel memoir, Unpacked: From PEI to Palawan, Prince Edward Island’s Mo Duffy Cobb quotes the master travel writer Pico Iyer: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” Even if this wasn’t her mantra when she set out on her travels, it certainly seems to have shaped her experiences over the nine months that she, her husband Mitch and toddler-daughter Leila spent living a nomadic existence that took them to a dozen countries, most in Southeast Asia. Duffy Cobb left home to try to escape the grief that engulfed her after her second daughter died just hours before her birth. The travelling helped her slowly come to grips with her own sorrow and loss but it did so only because Duffy Cobb was able to embrace the sights, sounds, lives, landscapes and people she and her family encountered on their journey. In doing so, she learned a great deal about herself and our shared humanity on this planet. Some travellers never succeed at this because they are too wrapped up in themselves (and I’ve met a fair number of these over nearly four decades of expatriate living in Africa and Latin America). Their travels are All About Them, the places they visit merely a backdrop for selfies, or worse, scratching pads where they inflate their own egos, blinkered by their own cultural biases, ignorance and lack of curiosity. Duffy Cobb is the antithesis of this and her travel memoir offers a trove of poignant lessons on how to tread lightly and kindly in foreign lands. Confronted with new and


sometimes difficult situations and realities, she owns up to her own confusion and asks herself tough questions, confronting and coping with her grief and loss, while rethinking what had once been certainties. “I had become so critical of everything I ever knew or had learned about parenting,” she writes. The themes of this book—respect for the people and places one visits, the immense learning opportunities that travel affords, the perspective into which it casts one’s own life, culture and worries that suddenly seem small in the grand scheme of things—are all essential in the making of a good traveller and meaningful experiences. Duffy Cobb began the trip wracked with guilt and grief over the loss of her daughter, but as she travelled and learned and saw, she started to do what a Malian philosopher, author and mentor of mine, Aminata Dramane Traore, calls “seeing with the heart.” This allowed Cobb to put her own loss and good fortune (a healthy, beau-

tiful three-year-old daughter who is befriended everywhere she goes, a thoughtful and caring husband and all the other blessings we often take for granted) in perspective. Take this scene from the island of Boracay in the Philippines of two small children begging on the street late at night, which haunts her: “The older one, about four, held a sign. The other, the baby, tucked her head far down into her knees to block out the hideous scene, the piteous looks of the strangers they depended on. The older girl scolded her for doing this, took her chin and forced it up. The baby started to cry.” “I swear to God, it almost broke me,” she writes. Although Duffy Cobb was still mourning her lost daughter, she had Leila who was healthy and happy, the prospect of more children and the promise of a good future in a wealthy country ahead of her—unlike so many of the people she met on her travels. “And here I was resort-hopping with my parents from Canada,”

Unpacked Mo Duffy Cobb Pottersfield Press

Atlantic Books Today

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FOREWORD

Some travellers… are All About Them, and the places they visit merely a backdrop for selfies, or worse, scratching pads where they inflate their own egos, blinkered by their own cultural biases, ignorance and lack of curiosity.

Chinese New Year, Bangkok, Thailand.

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she writes, describing the Christmas visit with her family in Vietnam, looking for bigger presents for her daughter. “What a dream that is, that the children of the world would be protected from the misery of the streets.” Such a compassionate but dispassionate perspective is not always easy for travellers to achieve. It means observing and feeling without paternalism or pity, which sometimes colour the writings of Westerners who venture for the first time into monetarily poorer parts of the world. Duffy Cobb avoids these pitfalls, and instead concludes: “To travel, thereby making the world new again, is to bring clarity and focus to our purpose, our position and our perspective.” Unpacked could serve as a valuable handbook for travellers seeking not to engage in shallow tourism, but to take meaningful journeys that broaden and deepen their lives and themselves. ■ Joan Baxter is a freelance journalist, development researcher and writer and an award-winning author. Her sixth book, Seven Grains of Paradise: A Culinary Journey in Africa, was published earlier this year and her latest work, The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest, was published in October.


Q&A

AUTHOR TO AUTHOR Trudy J Morgan-Cole regales Michelle Butler Hallett with tales of women who didn’t make the “headlines of history”

Trudy J Morgan-Cole photo: Emma Cole

by Michelle Butler Hallett

Michelle Butler Hallett

Trudy J Morgan-Cole

Michelle Butler Hallett: Your characters are vivid and nuanced and early in your new novel, Most Anything You Please, I was waiting for the various male characters to, well, take over, as tends to happen in what we privilege as Serious Novels Which Tell Important Stories. The male characters don’t take over, of course. Would you say you’ve written women’s fiction—or just fiction?

thousands of Newfoundland women who married American servicemen—that was a perspective I wanted to explore. My stories are very character-driven and most often the characters who end up wanting to tell the story are the women.

Trudy J Morgan-Cole: I would say I just write fiction—unless we are going to start calling fiction with predominantly male characters “men’s fiction.” I don’t know that I deliberately privilege female voices. I love some of the male characters I’ve created in this and other books and I have occasionally written from a man’s point of view, but women’s stories interest me. I had originally intended to have four main point-of-view characters in this novel, one from each generation of Holloways: Ellen, Audrey, Henry and Rachel. As the story unfolded it felt more natural to keep Henry’s point of view just in the musical interludes, the scenes where he is performing, and leave the narration in the main chapters to the women’s perspectives. So there are long stretches where Henry disappears from the narrative, just as he disappears from his mother’s and his daughter’s lives. The reader, like Audrey and Rachel, doesn’t know what’s happening with Henry during those stretches. Ellen and Audrey, as women running a small business (which women often did in the family-owned corner shops), were interesting to me. Audrey’s experience as a war bride, one of the

MBH: Songs run through this novel like a nervous system. Can you comment on why songs root your characters? TJMC: Music is really important to me, so it’s often important to my characters. But beyond that, this is in many ways a novel about aspects of Newfoundland culture, and maybe especially St. John’s culture, cultures that changed as I grew up. The loss of the family-owned corner shop is one casualty of those changes. It seems to me that at the very time much of our traditional way of life was changing, Newfoundlanders were also finding their voices and using art to lament a lost way of life. Our music, literature, theatre, all really blossomed in the 1970s, 80s, into the moratorium years of the 90s. It’s as if we began performing this idea of Newfoundland culture just at the time we were no longer living it firsthand. That same cultural change is reflected in the Holloway family in Most Anything You Please. Ellen’s husband, Wes Holloway, sings and plays the accordion but he would never think of himself as a musician. He’s a carpenter and he and his wife own a corner shop. Ellen and Wes are focused on making a living. So is Audrey, even though music is one of the key ways she defines Atlantic Books Today

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It’s as if we began performing this idea of Newfoundland culture just at the time we were no longer living it firsthand. herself—but as audience, not as performer, because Audrey shares my misfortune of loving music but being unable to carry a tune. When her son Henry wants to become a musician, even though Audrey loves country singers and reveres the memory of Hank Williams (Senior), she doesn’t see music as a serious career option for her son. Henry does become a musician but he sings country and rock ’ n roll. It’s his daughter, Rachel, who explores Newfoundland folk music because she comes of age in an era when young Newfoundlanders are finally starting to sing and write and perform about their own culture—which by that time is largely the culture of their grandparents’ era. MBH: The female main characters all do work that is undervalued yet important and you honour that. Did this come from observing the women around you? TJMC: I’m not really sure where it comes from but I am very interested in women’s work and in the lives of women in earlier eras, the choices they had that were so much more limited than the choices I grew up with in the 1970s. This is the second novel I’ve written—By the Rivers of Brooklyn was the other—that follows multiple generations of the same family up to nearly the present day. And in both novels I was interested  in how each successive generation of women has choices—career choices, personal life choices—that their mothers lacked. I hope that will continue to be true in our daughters’ and granddaughters’ generation. I don’t think we can take that for granted. MBH: How does this novel connect to your other work? TJMC: I have always been interested in the untold stories of women. I had a previous career writing fiction about women of the Bible, these women whose stories are often condensed to a few verses because they aren’t the main characters like the men are. And I wrote a novel called The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson, about a real woman in early 18th-century England whose existence we only know about because she was friends with a famous man—the writer Jonathan Swift. So about 10 years ago, when I turned to writing novels digging into our Newfoundland history, it was again women’s stories that fascinated me.  For By the Rivers of Brooklyn, I knew about the men who went to work on the high steel and in other industries but what about women like my grandmother, who went to New York to

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Most Anything You Please Trudy J Morgan-Cole Breakwater Books

clean other people’s houses? Where were their stories? With That Forgetful Shore, I was intrigued by the domestic work of women like my character Triffie, fishermen’s wives who were the backbone of outport communities and women like her friend Kit—the teachers in one-room schoolhouses. With A Sudden Sun, I was drawn by the work of the women who fought not only for the right to vote but for so much social change, who spearheaded the temperance movement and the social-work movement and who wanted the vote because they believed that with it they could make a better world. So when I thought about writing a book that was rooted in the streets I grew up in—this Rabbittown neighbourhood in the centre of St. John’s where I still live, these very working-class streets that sprang up after the First World War—and imagined a corner store as the lens through which I’d explore all this, it was inevitable to me that I’d think about the women behind the counter. Women often ran these small businesses and had their fingers on the pulse of the neighbourhood. In a lot of my writing, I feel like I’m trying to hear and to recreate for the reader, the voices of characters—largely, though not exclusively, women characters—who didn’t make it into the headlines of history. Theirs are the kinds of stories that fascinate me. ■ 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.


H I S T O RY

The Significance of

Disaster

The Explosion too often overshadows the global root cause and the subsequent rebuilding of Halifax by Barry Cahill

Illustration by Hila Peleg hilapeleg.com

Atlantic Books Today

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H TO F EI SAT UR RY E

O

n August 16 of this year, the Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary Advisory Committee hosted the opening of the 1985 time capsule removed from the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower in Fort Needham Memorial Park. Creating time capsules is one means of commemorating significant anniversaries of a major historic event. Another is writing books about it. The 1917 explosion in Halifax Harbour, both iconic event and urban legend, is a case in point. Many books have already appeared; more are anticipated. Why does the Halifax Disaster (as it was known at the time) exert such power over the collective memory? We remember it in part because its consequences are still visibly with us. That part of North End Halifax that was formerly the Devastated Area looks the way it does today because of post-disaster reconstruction. We also have Fort Needham Memorial Park, established after the Second World War by the Halifax Relief Commission to honour the memory of the dead and injured. Every organization that was active in 1917 wants credit for having assisted with relief and some deserve it; yet the federal government organization directly and exclusively responsible for recovery­—the Halifax Relief Commission—has so far been written out of the history of the disaster. This is in part because academic scholarship has generally steered clear of the event the late Canadian disaster scholar T Joseph Scanlon described as North America’s worst catastrophe before 9/11. Sadly, Scanlon’s magnum opus on the Halifax Disaster was left unpublished at his death in 2015. There has been no successor to Alan Ruffman and Colin Howell’s 1994 publication Ground Zero: A Reassessment of the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbour, a volume of essays based on papers delivered at the 1992 academic conference held on the 75th anniversary. Nor are there any serious monographs apart from John Griffith Armstrong’s The Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy (2002); Joel Zemel’s Scapegoat (2012), a masterful study of “the extraordinary legal proceedings following the 1917 Halifax Explosion” (you can read my review of Zemel’s followup biography of Evan Wyatt, chief examining officer for the port of Halifax at the time of the diaster, at atlanticbookstoday.ca) and Jacob Remes’ Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity and Power in the Progressive Era (2016), an original and highly sophisticated work comparing the Halifax Disaster with the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Otherwise, those interested in academic treatments of the subject can only await the publication of historian David Sutherland’s text and study of the Halifax Relief Commission pension files, forthcoming from The Champlain Society. The significance of the event a century later derives from its scale and impact. Every Canadian knows that nothing important ever happens in the Maritimes. But on that awful day, an event of national historic significance did occur, one uniquely significant in the history of Halifax, our province, region and indeed our nation. We have cause to be grateful that in May 2016 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated the Halifax Explosion a national historic event. Now, 100 years after the event, in our rush to glorify Canada’s participation in the First World War, we too easily forget that had it not been for the war the Halifax Disaster would not have occurred. The catastrophe brought the war home to Canada in an extreme manner. For geopolitical reasons bearing directly on the war effort, the disaster was never the subject of a

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H I S T O RY

federal public inquiry. The collision was investigated, harbour pilotage was investigated, but the disaster itself never was. As a result, there has been far more interest in assigning blame, or exculpating individuals, than in exploring the full scale of the truth. The disaster is studied from the narrow perspective of what caused the collision (that caused the fire that caused the explosion that caused the Disaster). Much attention is paid to persons and personalities and retrospective reputation management, offering no great insight into the full, complex story. Microscopic details of the roles of individuals, especially the personal experiences of victims and survivors, are investigated with obsessive enthusiasm, while the Big Picture—the overall impact, loss of life and limb or sight, loss of property and livelihood, response, recovery, reconstruction and legacy, is neglected. In our efforts to commemorate and understand what happened, it is important to note that Explosion and Disaster are two different things. Too often in our analyses, Explosion has overshadowed Disaster, including the relief efforts, recovery and reconstruction, each of which deserve books. The Explosion is sexier than the Disaster, despite being historically less significant. That the Halifax Disaster is so evocative, so resonant, so eternally present, seems to deter professional historians who might cut it down to size, rob it of its mythic status, situate it critically in historical perspective and context and search for neither heroes nor villains, nor even victims, but merely players in the drama who had their entrances and their exits. Intellectual interest has largely been displaced by human interest. Popular history of the disaster has flourished for decades and continues to do so. On the occasion of its centenary, several new popular history books are being released. And, despite my desire to see more scholarly interest in the topic, I find each a worthwhile contribution to the continually expanding historiography of the Halifax Disaster, and worth discussing here. In their different ways these books diversify and enrich it. They complement one other in their diversity. Veteran journalist Ken Cuthbertson’s nearly 400-page Halifax Explosion is the most mature and certainly the best general history of the disaster to have appeared so far. Cuthbertson writes with great discipline and flair, offering well-balanced context and content and sufficient but not overwhelming detail to create a comprehensive, wellwritten narrative. Personal accounts are not intrusive but rather well integrated variations illuminating the themes. Halifax Explosion also includes a number of unfamiliar photographs and a useful scholarly apparatus: a “select biography,” endnotes and an index. A regrettable omission from the bibliography is Janet Maybee’s 2015 study of Pilot Mackey: Aftershock: The Halifax Explosion and the Persecution of Pilot Francis Mackey. New York Times bestselling author John Bacon’s Great Halifax Explosion is also a general history, but there its resemblance to Cuthbertson’s book ends. Much of the story is told from the perspective of a wounded returned veteran, Joseph Ernest Barss (1892– 1971), “the accidental doctor” who happened to be in Halifax on the day and found himself assisting with emergency relief. At times context overwhelms content—we do not even reach the Harbour collision until Chapter 14—but Bacon’s book is unusual and imaginative, written in the style of a “nonfiction novel” including invented dialogue. It is complemented by an excellent bibliography, endnotes and index.

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H I S T O RY

The Halifax Explosion Ken Cuthbertson HarperCollins Canada

The Great Halifax Explosion John U Bacon HarperCollins Canada

Bearing Witness Michael Dupuis Fernwood Publishing

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Those interested in true history must keep in mind that the book is written more or less exclusively from an American perspective and for an American audience and assumes no prior knowledge. It celebrates Americanism generally and especially the American contribution to the relief effort. The Americans did not save the situation; they simply helped. It was local, provincial and regional assistance that mattered earliest and most. Bacon’s book is as much about the history of Halifax up to 1917 as it is about the disaster. I was left wondering exactly what is meant by “treachery” in the book’s subtitle, as no attempt is made to elucidate the use of the word. Historical author Dan Soucoup’s Explosion in Halifax Harbour, 1917 has a broader focus, ranging from a description of Halifax Harbour, the site of the collision, to monuments and commemorations erected or held since the events themselves. The work is absolutely up to date and includes a section called “One Hundred Years Later” about this year’s centenary commemoration. Uniquely to his credit, Soucoup dedicates a chapter to the “bitter election,” the conscription-issue federal election of December 1917, which found Prime Minister Robert Borden campaigning in the Maritimes when the Halifax Disaster occurred. Soucoup well understands that the “khaki election” was an important aspect of the disaster’s Big Picture, its true roots and results. (It is unfortunate, however, to refer to Sir Robert as leader of the “Unionist” Party when in fact the author means the Union government, a coalition headed by Borden.) The photographs and detailed captions in Explosion provide a superb visual guided tour but I would have welcomed a chapter on “Canadian Responses” in addition to Soucoup’s “Massachusetts Responses.” The Canadian contribution to emergency relief was extensive and yet has again been almost completely overlooked. I was pleased to see a page on the Halifax Relief Commission, but without source notes was unable to check for evidence of Soucoup’s claim that “…many thought the Halifax Relief Commission should have been called the Massachusetts-Halifax Relief Commission, given all the state contributed to relief efforts.” A relatively new area of concern among popular history books on the Halifax Explosion is the role media played in sharing the news and documenting events as they unfolded. Author Michael Dupuis, who holds an MA in history, wrote Bearing Witness (disclaimer: I wrote a blurb for Dupuis’s book and my opinion remains equally favourable), a particularly important documentary sourcebook comprising skillfully introduced and annotated original text. Organized thematically, Witness offers chapters on the role of Canada’s chief press censor, journalists and others who experienced the disaster firsthand, visiting journalists from elsewhere in Canada and visiting American journalists, as well as a helpful appendix comprising a timeline of journalists and other observers. Dupuis’s book also features an exemplary bibliography of both primary and secondary sources, endnotes and an admirable index. Dupuis breaks new ground. Instead of ignoring or underutilizing printed primary sources, like many popular writers on the subject, he brings us face to face with them and in a thoroughly well-contextualized manner that not only serves to heighten their inherent interest but also adds materially to their value as historical resources. This work should find a place in the library of all serious students of the Halifax Disaster. The subtitle of journalist Katie Ingram’s Breaking Disaster suggests it is a companion to Dupuis’s Bearing Witness but it is a conventional general history based on contemporaneous newspaper coverage. Ingram has supplied a list of 18 of the more than 30 newspapers, from seven countries, including Halifax’s five dailies and the Bemidji Daily


H I S T O RY

In the rush to analyse the Halifax Explosion, the Halifax Disaster gets lost. Relief, recovery and reconstruction each deserve books but there are none. The Explosion is sexier than the Disaster, despite being historically less significant. Explosion in Halifax Harbour, 1917 Dan Soucoup Nimbus Publishing Pioneer (Bemidji is a small city in northwest Minnesota). She has put her research to excellent use. As with other general histories, personal experience—human interest— looms large. Telegrapher Vincent Coleman, hero and victim, merits an entire chapter. Despite its richness and readability, I wanted for source notes or a comprehensive bibliography of printed primary sources. Yet the inherent interest of such accounts is undeniable; evidence derived from printed primary sources such as newspapers is always a valuable resource for any historical conversation. Retired Army colonel and author John Boileau’s 6.12.17 is a coffee-table book of superior quality, the first of its kind on the Halifax Disaster. Superbly designed and illustrated, it might well be subtitled “an illustrated history of the great disaster.” Despite its brevity (106 pages), the work is comprehensive and deals with topics large and small, some more relevant than others, and includes many illuminating sidebars on key figures such as Vincent Coleman and the two ill-fated ships’ pilots and captains. The eight chapters and epilogue are subdivided into special topics including American aid (but not Canadian) and the Mi’kmaq community of Turtle Grove (but not the town of Dartmouth, the north end of which suffered extensively). These are significant omissions from otherwise well-balanced coverage. Generally speaking, Boileau’s work is a cornucopia, encyclopedic in scope and depth of detail. After reading 6.12.17, I cannot help wondering whether it is not now time for a scholarly encyclopedia of the Halifax Disaster. Each of these books is well worth reading for those with interest in the events of December 1917. Yet there is still something missing: a current and thorough academic analysis. In its totality, the public history of the disaster is repetitive: accounts tend to be based on and imitate each other. Can one honestly say that serious study of the Halifax Disaster has advanced beyond Janet Kitz’s trailblazing Shattered City, first published in 1989? The interface between public history (commemoration) and popular history explains why the telling of the Halifax Disaster remains dominated by popular history. They feed on each other. The disaster’s impact remains tangible. The urban morphology of a large area within the North End of Halifax has been determined by it. Significant artifacts of the explosion exist, as do records and oral histories of victims who survived. With extensive primary sources easily available, it seems strange that professional historians have for the most part not paid sufficient attention to the defining event in the city’s history. It is in many respects an ideal subject and not only for disaster scholars.

Breaking Disaster Katie Ingram Pottersfield Press

6.12.17 John Boileau MacIntyre Purcell

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H I S T O RY

Halifax railway station, in which 60 persons were killed by falling roof. Copyright Underwood & Underwood.

GREAT NEW BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

At the very least, those interested in the subject should have access to a comprehensive critical study of the historiography of the disaster. The centenary should have been the occasion for the flowering of academic research and writing on the disaster. Instead, the opposite has happened; popular history has clearly taken a new lease on life. Symptomatic of the lost opportunity is the failure to organize another academic conference along the lines of the Gorsebrook Research Institute’s 1992 event—the most important feature of the disaster’s 75th anniversary—or to reprint, or issue a new edition of, Ground Zero. The value of this now-rare and expensive book has only increased in the 23 years since its publication in part because it has had no successor. A century on, it is time for the historiography of the Halifax Disaster to come of age. Halifax Regional Municipality has apparently not given any thought to commissioning an official history of the disaster. There is still time. That would be, far and away, the best legacy project by which to commemorate the centenary. ■ Barry Cahill’s first introduction to the Halifax Disaster was walking near the Hydrostone neighbourhood in the early 1970s and coming upon the building at the northeast corner of Young and Isleville Streets, which then housed the offices of the Halifax Relief Commission. He has since completed a scholarly history of the commission. He holds graduate degrees from Dalhousie and Oxford and is author of the official history of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, which has been accepted for publication by McGill-Queen’s University Press. He is currently working on a biography of the late former chief justice of Nova Scotia, the Honourable Lorne O Clarke QC.

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Image: Detail from original cover of Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising (1941)

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AN EXPLOSION OF FICTION Bringing the events of December 6, 1917 to life and to heart by Carol Bruneau

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ven after a century, with most of its survivors deceased, the 1917 Halifax Explosion continues to grip writers’ imaginations. Books on the disaster proliferate. While non-fiction resurrects and re-examines its facts from various angles, it can’t go where fiction does: re-envisioning the event and exploring its impact on the human heart and mind. “Fiction is the poor man’s non-fiction,” someone recently said to me (someone who should’ve known better)—a joke that did not sit well. Fiction is a passport to empathy. Fiction allows us to investigate the unknowable, the questions behind

Bringing the events of December 6th, 1917 to life and to heart

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unacceptable realities that nag long after the facts get put to bed. Realities like human error and stupidity and the fact that tragedies befall innocents. Fiction lets us explore the mysteries behind suffering. So it’s no surprise that since Hugh MacLennan’s great-grandad of Explosion novels, Barometer Rising, appeared in 1941, the disaster’s shock waves keep on inspiring novelists. At least eight novels for adults have followed MacLennan’s, including one by American bestselling author Anita Shreve, while still others— Ami MacKay’s The Birth House, for instance—feature the event in stories set in its era. Children’s authors have tackled it in shorter works, such as Joan Payzant’s Who’s a Scaredy Cat and Sharon Gibson Palermo’s I Am Hilda Burrows. All draw documented facts into their narratives while seeking not some impossible resolution but rather a truthful “lesson” about people’s resilience and kindness—qualities that ensured Halifax’s survival. It’s no accident that many fictions—excluding those for younger readers like Julie Lawson’s new YA novel A Blinding Light (for which I wrote a testimonial) and Steven Laffoley’s A Halifax Christmas Carol—take MacLennan’s cue and frame the disaster narrative with a love story, tenderness burdened by Great War grief and compounded by the Explosion’s. Dazzle Patterns, a compelling new novel by Nanaimo writer and visual artist Alison Watt, follows MacLennan’s romantic lead. So do Genevieve Graham’s Tides of Honour (2015) and Jon Tattrie’s Black Snow (2009). The mix of love and death makes for capital-D drama, no question. Others offer their share of love (and lust)—Robert MacNeil’s Burden of Desire (1998), Laffoley’s The Blue Tattoo (2014) and my novel, Glass Voices (2007)—while focusing more on the disaster’s longer-term social and psychological repercussions. These books consider the Explosion’s shattering of colonial attitudes about class and the fledgling emancipation of women, and, in the case of Glass Voices, the struggle to rebuild lives stricken with survivor’s guilt. This angle reflects the fact—recognized by Janet Kitz,

A Halifax Christmas Carol Steven Laffoley Pottersfield Press

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who preserves survivors’ stories in her nonfiction work Shattered City—that, for many, enduring their losses meant repressing memories of the event. Shifting social attitudes, especially about women’s roles as the First World War robbed the world of men, are front and centre in this Fall’s many Explosion-based offerings. Laffoley’s Christmas Carol features an intrepid girl reporter, while Watt’s Dazzle Patterns and Lawson’s A Blinding Light are deeply informed by their female protagonists’—Clare Holmes’s and Livy Schneider’s, respectively—growing awareness of and resistance to oppressive norms about women that are rooted in class. In Lawson’s expertly woven story, the vividly drawn distance between Halifax’s snooty South End ladies and working-class North End women forms a pivotal point in the plot when Mont Blanc explodes. Lawson, based in Victoria, BC, is no stranger to her subject matter, having explored it previously in No Safe Harbour: The Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, part of a YA history series. Laffoley, who lives in Halifax, proves equally adept here (as he did in his earlier novel), at recreating the setting and milieu so familiar to all of us who know the city’s peninsula and history. His story brings its hospitals, waterfront and old downtown Herald building to life as events unfold during the weeks after the disaster. The settings in Dazzle Patterns—which follows several perspectives including that of Clare’s fiancé, Leo, fighting in the trenches overseas and of German émigré Fred Baker aka Friedrich Bacher—shift repeatedly from various Halifax locations to Clare’s parents’ farm in the Annapolis Valley to locations on France’s Western Front and eventually to an internment camp for German prisoners in Amherst, Nova Scotia. It’s an ambitious narrative which, for me anyway, comes to life most vividly in its rendering of Leo’s war experiences and Clare’s studies at Halifax’s Victoria School of Art (NSCAD’s predecessor). Taking a refreshing new angle in tackling the Explosion’s after-effects,

A Blinding Light Julie Lawson Nimbus Publishing

Dazzle Patterns Alison Watt Freehand Books


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Watt dramatizes art-making as her protagonist’s means of overcoming post-Explosion stress disorder. The Great War, that mother of disasters and, literally, of Halifax’s, is as important as the characters in Laffoley’s and Watt’s books. Its wreckage makes the Explosion’s feel secondary, though in both the Explosion is the incendiary device that sets everything off. The most affecting parts of A Halifax Christmas Carol detail, through the perspective of hard-boiled journalist Michael Bell, the physical injuries sustained by men lucky enough to return from the front as the 1918 influenza pandemic waits in the wings. Laffoley’s tale pitches the suffering that took place locally against suffering on a global scale, encapsulating its effects in the person of an elusive boy—a homeless orphan who, despite losing a leg in the Explosion, strives to help other injured, parentless children. Watt’s main character in Dazzle Patterns, Clare, loses an eye in the disaster. Her injury impels her to take relief in laudanum and, fighting addiction, in the regenerative process of drawing and painting. All the while lamenting Leo, who goes missing in the trenches, she befriends Fred, a craftsman at the glassworks factory where she’s working as a flaw-checker when the Explosion hits. As Clare loses, or finds, herself in art—instructed by the school’s real-life principal, Arthur Lismer—Fred turns his hand to making glass eyes, a coveted commodity in 1918. Dazzle Patterns relies on metaphor in ways the other books avoid, its title riffing on Lismer’s paintings of camouflaged warships. Of all the writers, Watt takes the greatest liberties with the facts as we identify them. The Nova Scotia Glass Company existed, for instance, but was located in New Glasgow; imagine the injuries if it had been on Halifax’s waterfront. But, one hundred years later, who’s to quibble? It’s the novelist’s license to shape her material. Interestingly enough, though, despite its import the blast itself is given short shrift, its fateful moments given as a flat iteration of details we know all too well, having heard them many times before. No doubt aware of this, Watt sacrifices their drama in order to heighten the quieter, if wrenching, moments later on when her characters’ lives threaten to implode. Dazzle Patterns exposes three main challenges any Explosion novelist faces: knowing if and when factual details are familiar enough, or too familiar, to readers; understanding how many liberties can be taken with what’s actual; and figuring out where in the story to position an event so forceful it sucks the air out of most everything else. A local writer married to the facts, I had no trouble with the first two; it was the third that gave me a hard time, the incendiary moment itself eventually becoming my story’s climax. Throughout her book, Watt provides factual information, which most local readers will already know but readers less familiar with the Explosion will find to be crucial. The bigger problem is how she often uses dialogue to present it, resulting

Fiction allows us to investigate the unknowable, the questions behind unacceptable realities that nag long after the facts get put to bed. Realities like human error and stupidity and the fact that tragedies befall innocents. in a wooden effect that limits the appeal of certain characters to our sympathies. Others come off as preachy, especially Lismer’s character, based on the famous Group of Seven member. It’s unfortunate because for Watt’s fiction to be fully convincing, we need to believe his espousals of art’s power not just to heal the wounded psyche but also to replace brutality with beauty. Clare’s words, luckily, are more plain-spoken: “I had hallucinations after the explosion, a side effect of losing my eye. The only way I could endure them was by drawing them.” It’s in Watt’s descriptions of Clare’s art classes, particularly in life drawing—written clearly and truthfully from Watt’s artist’s perspective—that Dazzle Patterns shines. Art takes a critical place in Laffoley’s A Halifax Christmas Carol too. With typical directness, while searching clippings for help in locating the mysterious orphan, his characters Michael and Tess Archer, Bell’s female counterpart at the newspaper, debate the merits of art over reportage. “I just think art, not facts, is the way to understand truth,” says Tess. Michael argues, “This truth is undiluted. The facts line up in only one way, like puzzle pieces snapping into place. When they click together, you have the full picture. You have truth…the truth is born of these collected facts. No other truth can apply.” Tess, the more sympathetic of the two, gets the last word: “I don’t see it that way. You choose the facts that suit the narrative you are chasing.” Exactly—and you have to like how Laffoley lays it out. Still, I think the Explosion throws up certain boundaries. Its magnitude remains fixed: I’m not sure knowingly glossing or embroidering its horrific details serves anyone. Perhaps MacLennan had it easiest, writing when the Explosion was a novelist’s virgin terrain. Sticking to the available facts as a chronicle of events leading up to, during and following the blast, Barometer Rising retains its immediacy. Lawson has chosen wisely in taking a similar approach in A Blinding Light. Her nuanced telling keeps us on edge, hoping moment by moment that her characters will survive against the odds, wondering whether or not they’ll recover from their gruesome yet understated injuries. Mirroring MacLennan, Lawson provides the perfect build-up to the event, quickly drawing us

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into the lives of her characters—12-year-old Livy, her teenaged brother Will and their widowed mother—enlisting our sympathy as they adjust to losing their father the previous May. Not a detail is wasted; nothing feels untrue or fabricated, everything placed to further reveal these youthful characters and their hopes, strengths and weaknesses, as well as their engagement in a milieu that underpins what takes place. We fear for everyone’s safety, root for their capacity to endure and recognize Livy’s dawning social conscience when she wonders, “How did I survive?” and is told by the family’s maid, Kathleen, “I don’t know. But you did. Now you have to make it matter.” Lawson’s economy in creating a layered and utterly convincing story makes it appealing to readers of all ages. The War and its climate of anti-German hysteria form a subtle backdrop, raised by the mystery that surrounds Ernst Schneider’s—Livy and Will’s German-born father’s—death at sea. Suspicions around his activities dramatize the paranoia that arose about German nationals being spies amid rumours that Germans caused the Explosion. At the inquiry that soon followed the disaster, the urge to lay blame and find scapegoats adds further tension to Livy and Will’s story in this thoughtful interweaving of fiction and fact. Balancing what we know and respect in a quantitative way to be true with what we imagine and hope to convey as deeper truth is always a tricky task. The task may get trickier as the Explosion continues to gain notoriety beyond Atlantic Canada and among readers only vaguely acquainted with it. It’s still astonishing how many people know little or nothing about it and are shocked to discover its details, despite the fact that these are documented extensively online. A decade ago, when Glass Voices came out, I was floored to meet readers from the rest of Canada and the United States who had never heard of it. Most were anxious to know more—perhaps in the wake of that other North American catastrophe, 9/11, whose cost in human lives was similar, though its cause was different. Human evil versus human error, stupidity or frailty, call it what you like, the consequences for victims and their families were and remain grotesquely comparable. Its impact aside, the Explosion remains a source of fascination, even an obsession, because it has all the ingredients of legend, a saga with undying appeal—perhaps especially so the further we get from its grisly realities and the horrible suffering it inflicted. Part of its appeal must lie in the city’s recovery—the “happy” ending we cling to and the lessons in charity and selfless bravery and kindness it taught. Lessons we hope all of history teaches to anyone paying attention. But as the Explosion’s ever-broadening stream of nonfiction and fictional narratives demonstrates, the question it poses—why it had to happen—will always be a slippery one. We can blame humanity’s propensity to take up arms and the Great War for making Halifax’s harbour a sitting duck. But why its people? Why the residents of Turtle Grove and Richmond and not more moneyed ones in the South End?

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Why anyone? Why not. Here the facts hit a wall, a solid, unexploded one that fiction can scale if not quite breach. The only conceivable answer must be that catastrophe brings chances for ordinary people to shine, for the overlooked to do their heroic best. We commemorate the aid that poured in, repaying the kindness by sending a tree to Boston each Christmas. But, more intimately, we celebrate the fearless generosity symbolized, for instance, by Steven Laffoley’s version of Tiny Tim. Laffoley’s orphan is based on Tommy Sulkis, a 10-year-old paper boy-philanthropist who survived the Explosion exactly as his character does and later headed a charity providing Christmas gifts to Halifax’s poor. Fiction, too, comes out of generosity and bravery, albeit of the imagination. Anyone who writes stories or makes other forms of art knows how creative acts can give hardships form enough to make them bearable. Anyone who lives in the world knows that none of us are immune to devastation—and this remains the legacy of the disaster we Haligonians lay claim to. It’s a lesson for the ages that keeps evolving through the creation of fiction. So, what next? How do we give the Explosion story over, as it passes into the hands of future novelists bound to take it up, particularly as with time the boundaries between fact and fabrication become increasingly permeable? The answer, I imagine, is that we do so by seeing the events of 1917 as a starting point. They are a springboard for new and endless variations on the themes of human frailty, endurance and the lessons in compassion that come of experiencing things, albeit vicariously, through the lives of fictional characters. If we, their makers, choose, then these characters will go before us into danger, testing the waters as nimbly as though they walked on them. It’s our job to keep seeking answers to the unanswerable. As Walter Stone, Laffoley’s fictitious newspaper publisher, instructs his employee, “You’re a good reporter, Michael, the best I have. You’re tenacious as hell, and you report the facts like few others. But there is a difference between the facts and the truth. Even after all the facts are on the table, the truth may still need to be found.” Indeed, yes. ■ Based in Halifax, Carol Bruneau is the author of seven books, including Glass Voices and the just-released short story collection, A Bird on Every Tree.


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Words of One’s Own Women’s studies, diaries and letters offer fresh perspectives on herstory by Margaret Conrad

LM Montgomery’s “war novel,” Rilla of Ingleside.

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n the 1960s, feminist scholars began calling attention to the absence of women as subjects in most academic research, even in areas where we might expect to find them, such as family studies, history, literature and medicine. Three new books document how far we have come over the last half-century in assigning value to what became labelled “women’s history” and to the previously discounted diaries, letters and publications produced by women, which open a window on how half of humanity experienced their lives in past times. The Atlantic Provinces boast a particularly rich archive of women’s life writing. Beginning in the second half of the eighteenth century, the region was resettled by immigrants from Great Britain and its North American colonies, many of Atlantic Books Today

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LEFT: Born in Bermuda, Fanny Palmer Austen married Jane Austen’s brother Charles when she was only 17. RIGHT: Jane Austen’s youngest brother, Charles, served as an officer in the British navy. Both paintings by Robert Field who resided in Halifax from 1808 to 1816.

whom valued literacy and liberal individualism. As a result, we can document women’s diverse and changing experiences over a period of more than 250 years. It is admittedly an incomplete record, one that focuses primarily on relatively privileged, usually English-speaking Protestant women, who were among the most diligent in reflecting on their personal lives and keeping in touch with family and friends through gossipy letters. Gail Campbell’s long-awaited exploration of New Brunswick women’s diaries complements two earlier studies: Mary McDonald Rissannen’s In the Interval of the Wave: Prince Edward Island Women’s Nineteenth-and Early Twentieth-Century Life Writing and No Place Like Home: Dairies and Letters of Nova Scotia Women, 1771-1938 by Toni Laidlaw, Donna Smyth and myself. Although a few 17th-century female Planters in Newfoundland and Labrador were literate, no academic collection such as the ones mentioned above is yet available. Nevertheless, more recent oral and written reflections by women are a major feature

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of Them Days, a magazine that focuses on the history of Labrador. And oral history shines in editor Marion White’s The Finest Kind: Voices of Newfoundland and Labrador Women and editors Rhonda Pelley and Sheilagh O’Leary’s Island Maid: Voices of Outport Women. When Toni, Donna and I began our project in the late 1970s, we struggled to find the analytical tools we needed to explain what was revealed in—and left out of—the diaries and letters we gathered. This struggle is now happily behind us. As a field of research, Women’s Studies has blossomed over the last half-century, so much so that in “I wish to keep a record”: Nineteenth-Century New Brunswick Diarists and Their World, Campbell is able to present her analysis of 28 diarists born between 1795 and 1885 in 15 impressively researched thematic chapters. She begins by describing the diaries and explaining how they are now read by scholars, then outlines the historical context in which the diarists wrote and follows with chapters on women’s courtship practices, family life, social networks, schooling, religion, unpaid work, paid labour, voluntary activities, political agency and much more, drawing on the diaries to illuminate her analysis. What is striking about this book is the depth of the research that informs it and the diversity of lives that are uncovered. One of Canada’s foremost demographers, Campbell brings a remarkable rigour to


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bear on her investigation, which includes a chapter on demographic traits such as average age of marriage, fertility rates and paid labour-force participation based on early census records. The statistical findings offer general trends against which to measure the individual lives profiled throughout the book. While it was widely held in the 19th century that the place of women was in the home, Campbell shows convincingly that the so-called “doctrine of separate spheres” for men and women worked differently in practice than in theory. Ambitious women actively pushed against barriers excluding them from the public sphere of formal politics, the professions and higher education. Some women, without a reliable man to support them, had no choice but to make a living outside the private sphere as poorly paid domestics, factory workers, prostitutes and teachers. Others simply rejected marriage as an option and took the consequences—often poverty and ridicule. Most of Campbell’s diary-writing women may have been defined primarily by their caring, cleaning and reproductive roles in the home, but some of them also singly raised families, sustained community organizations, ran successful businesses and found ways to assert political agency long before the granting of suffrage in 1918-19. One of Campbell’s

“I wish to keep a record” Gail G. Campbell University of Toronto Press

Charles Austen took command of the HMS Cleopatra in October 1810.

diarists even summons up the courage to document for posterity the hateful behaviour of an abusive husband. An impressive number of writers display what Campbell describes as a “cosmopolitan outlook,” attuned to—and sometimes globe-trotting observers of—national and international developments. By far the best analysis currently available on New Brunswick society in the early years of industrialization, “I wish to keep a record” also offers readers a primer on how to think about documents that on the surface may seem thin and trivial. This is a useful skill that makes anyone who acquires it a better historian. A firm grasp of a woman’s life writing is also the foundation for Sheila Johnson Kindred’s biography of Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister. Fanny Palmer Austin (1789– 1814) would almost certainly have been lost in the dark hole of history had she not married Jane Austen’s youngest brother, Charles, who served as an officer in the British navy. Born in Bermuda, where Charles was briefly stationed, Fanny married him at the

Jane Austen’s Transatlantic Sister: The Life and Letters of Fanny Palmer Austen Sheila Johnson Kindred McGill-Queen’s University Press

L.M. Montgomery and War Andrea McKenzie and Jane Ledwell, eds. McGill-Queen’s University Press

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age of 17 and became a navy wife, accompanying him twice to Halifax in 1809–10 and then to England. Beginning in 1811, Fanny and her growing family lived on board Charles Austen’s ship, moored off Sheerness in Kent, where Fanny died in 1814 after giving birth to her fourth daughter. Kindred, whose research interests initially focused on Charles Austen, recognized that 12 of his wife’s surviving letters, some of them written in the form of an extended journal, were important in their own right. They not only offered insight into the naval themes that appear in Jane Austen’s novels but also into the largely ignored female world embedded in the British naval community. Two chapters reflect on Fanny’s sojourns in Halifax, some of which are described in lively letters to her sister in Bermuda. A busy military and trading port during the Napoleonic Wars, the town was well-stocked with British goods and home to a flourishing social round, in which Fanny and Charles participated. Compared to Halifax, Fanny conceded, Bermuda seemed “like the quietest place in the world.” [The underlining is Fanny’s.] The primary audience for this book will be scholars interested in Fanny Austen’s famous sister-in-law and readers of women’s life writing but, like all good biographical studies, it touches upon many topics and offers various delights. I particularly enjoyed following young Fanny’s evolution as a wife and mother, learning more about the lives of her distinguished extended families and

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viewing the black-and-white illustrations that accompany the text, among them portraits of Fanny and Charles painted by Robert Field, a British-born artist who resided in Halifax from 1808 to 1816. Insights from Women’s Studies have also greatly advanced our understanding of Lucy Maud Montgomery who, like Jane Austen, is now the subject of a flourishing scholarly industry. The 10 tightly focused essays in L.M. Montgomery and War, edited by Andrea McKenzie and Jane Ledwell, are derived from a conference held at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2014, the 11th in an ongoing series devoted to situating Montgomery in her larger context, both critically and historically. The value of taking this particular thematic approach is revealed in the military conflicts that framed Montgomery’s life. She not only commented extensively on the First and Second World Wars, but was also preoccupied by the war in the Canadian Northwest against Indigenous peoples (1885), in which her father participated, and the South African War (1899–1902), whose bloody battles were closely followed in Canadian newspapers. Many of the essays in this volume focus on Montgomery’s only war novel, Rilla of Ingleside, published in 1921, in which she explored the pressures of the First World War on the home front. Although a work of fiction, it makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of women’s history in this difficult period and highlights Montgomery’s own struggle to reconcile the horrific costs of the Great War on all Canadians. Other essays examine military themes in her poetry and late novels and two offer a comparative perspective, one to Canadian war artist Mary Ritter Hamilton, the other to a German writer Else Ury, who also wrote a novel focusing on the lives of girls and women in wartime. While Lucy Maud Montgomery is best known as a highly successful novelist, she also kept a remarkable diary which she later edited—how much we cannot be sure—for future reference on her complicated and often dark private life. Most of the essays in this collection make reference to Montgomery’s wartime diaries but none focuses exclusively on it. To my mind, the diary is even more compelling than her popular fiction. Anyone interested in Montgomery’s life writing can consult the five volumes of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, or the more fulsome L.M. Montgomery’s Complete Journals, four volumes of which have been published. ■ Margaret Conrad is a historian specializing in the fields of Atlantic Canada and Women’s history, and the author of several influential Canadian history books. She is Professor Emerita at the University of New Brunswick. Her website is margaretconrad.ca.


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PRISONERS OF WAR Lives risked for posterity by Cindy Brown

LEFT: Rifleman James Andrew Flanagan. RIGHT: Royal Rifles soldiers en route to Hong Kong, Nov 1941.

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t is hard to believe one might maintain hope in a prisoner-ofwar camp located thousands of miles from home, especially as health declines and the pages of the calendar turn with no end in sight. But it is courage, hope and resilience that shine through in The Endless Battle: The Fall of Hong Kong and Canadian POWs in Imperial Japan. The book draws on the personal papers of Andrew “Ando” Flanagan to recount the experience of one New Brunswick soldier who became a POW after the fall of Hong Kong in 1941. Written by Flanagan’s son, Andy Flanagan, The Endless Battle illustrates in vivid detail the brutal three-and-a-half years Flanagan suffered in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. Flanagan Sr’s personal papers and subsequent reflections on his own words in conversations with the author after he returned home offers insight into the enduring impact his traumatic experience had on him and his family. While he suffered in the POW camp, his family waited at home with little information regarding his welfare. Fortunately, he wrote home on occasion and sent one radio broadcast over Toyko Radio International. In his letters, he hesitated to reveal the true nature of his physical injuries from the backbreaking labour, regular beatings and barely substancelevel rice rations.

After the war, the physical effects and mental trauma endured. He admitted, “I still woke up at night screaming in Nip, fighting a battle without end. My family told me I was worse when I drank whisky. Drinking beer helped me fall asleep. Whiskey made me fightable.” The man Ando Flanagan was shines through in his own words. He learned Japanese so he could speak with his guards and advocate for his fellow prisoners. He was a man from a small town in New Brunswick and he mused regularly about being homesick. His casual way of writing allows the reader to visualize all things—from the worst beatings he endured to returning home and falling in love with his wife-to-be, Clara. The brutal reality of the prisoner-of-war camp is shown, as is the humanity he attempted to preserve as he wrote about his fellow prisoners of war and his family back home. The book is Volume 24 in the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society’s New Brunswick Military Heritage Project series that aims to provide the New Brunswick voice in Canada’s wartime experiences. The Endless Battle is the second book in the series recounting the experiences of a New Brunswicker who endured the harsh conditions in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. In 2009, Jonathan Vance published Bamboo Cage, which Atlantic Books Today

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Prison guards regularly inspected Flanagan’s diary and blacked out sections, ripped them out or beat him for what he wrote.

uses the personal diaries of Flight Officer Robert Wyse to highlight his experience in a camp on the Indonesian island of Java. In both cases, the books capitalize on a rich document set that allows the reader to hear about the brutal experience straight from the men who lived it. Some of Flanagan’s stories are so extreme as to seem unbelievable. But the use of his own words and his own personality make his experience real. Both Flanagan and Wyse kept diaries that revealed the harsh conditions and suffering that POWs endured as well as a record of events from before they were taken prisoner. This is even more important in Flanagan’s case as war diaries and message logs were ordered destroyed before Hong Kong was surrendered. One of Ando’s prized possessions was the short history of the events of the Battle for Hong Kong that he hid in his boot so he could keep it safe from the eyes of prison guards. Although important for the historical record, there was great risk to maintaining personal papers and difficulty acquiring paper and tools to write. Prison guards regularly inspected Flanagan’s diary and blacked out sections, ripped them out or beat him for what he wrote. Wyse, on the other hand had to keep his diary a secret and buried it at the camp so it would not be discovered. He only retrieved it after the war. Keeping a diary of his experience was a small act of resistance for Flanagan. He recorded many of the inhumane acts he and his fellow POWs suffered at the hands of their prison guards as well as the small acts of kindness by Flanagan and others to preserve their own humanity. In this way, his writing became an act of resilience and hope in a very dark time. Risking his life in this way also provides this rich account of one New Brunswicker’s experience as a POW in Imperial Japan. ■ Cindy Brown teaches history at the University of New Brunswick and is a faculty member at the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society. Her current research considers how war affects noncombatant civilians with a particular focus on the Great War and the Second World War.

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The Endless Battle Andy Flanagan Goose Lane Editions

TOP LEFT: Card sent by Andrew May 26, 1943. MIDDLE: Andrew Flanagan at left, Sept 9, 1945. BOTTOM: Reunion of Hong Kong veterans in Sussex, NB, c. 1984.


F E AT U R E

KNOWLEDGE as Verb Working toward an encyclopedia of Newfoundland knowledge, Pam Hall recognizes the collaborative nature of understanding by Maria Recchia

Its origins and sources, its rich cast of characters, and its alternately quotidian and wildly adventurous plot can best be told the same way it has unfolded: layered in fragments and shards and revealing itself in moments of relation, encounter, and exchange. —Pam Hall in Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge: Excerpts from Chapters I and II

P

am Hall, a visual artist, documentary filmmaker and scholar who has lived and worked in Newfoundland for more than 40 years, has produced a stunning book honouring the people of rural Newfoundland and their wide-ranging expertise. Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge is not only a gorgeous art book, it is also a scholarly work on the nature of knowledge. Her insightful social commentary on our society’s overreliance on scientific knowledge and marginalization of other kinds of knowing distinguishes this as a book about social change. The Encyclopedia begins with 42 pages of text describing the author’s creative research process and her discerning assessment of the power dynamics of knowledge in our society. Here she lays out a new relationship with knowledge documentation that is deeply respectful and holistic. Her work maintains the integrity of knowledge held by people in a place. Hall challenges mainstream society’s treatment of science as sacred. She examines the power dynamics around knowledge and sets out to change them. Both the introductory text and the Encyclopedia pages could stand alone. Hall’s writing is as eloquent and compelling as her artwork. When I received this book in the mail, I first looked at the pictures. It includes nearly 150 pages of gorgeous plates, collages of photographs, drawings and typed and handwritten text. Some of the images jump off the page as if three-dimensional. As I relished in the artwork, I got to know the people of Bonne Bay,

the Great Northern Peninsula, Fogo Island and Change Islands. All 142 knowledge holders who participated in the project are listed at the beginning of the book, as collaborators who “shared their knowledge in person.” This includes 14 children from Sacred Heart All-Grade School in Conche who became research assistants in the project. Hall’s deep respect for her collaborators is rare among researchers. We meet her collaborators in the Encyclopedia’s pages where they are often referred to by name: “What Lambert Kennedy Knows about how to build a longliner,” “Uncle George Elliott’s technique for making snow shoes,” “Isabella Pilgrim’s moose cutting skills,” “Joe Reid’s jams and jellies” etc. With “encyclopedia” in the title, I expected something akin to the Britannica volumes I used to write school reports as a child. That is, pockets of general knowledge in alphabetical order with an exhaustive index to make sure you could find the morsel of information you required. But this book has no index and is organized geographically. Chapter I covers Bonne Bay and the Great Northern Peninsula and Chapter II is Fogo Island and Change Islands. With a page about knitting socks next to a page about butchering moose next to a page about building a fishing boat, the Encyclopedia is not organized in a way that allows you to quickly locate information on a specific topic. Here one begins to see the political undercurrent of this work. The knowledge depicted in Hall’s book is deeply imbedded in the people and the places that developed it and this is a radical approach.

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The work is based on a definition of knowledge as a process, a verb. This dynamic definition of knowledge, along with a deeply collaborative documentation process, is a most valuable aspect of this work. The process is built upon genuine respect for people and places and the knowledge that emerges from the marriage of the two. Not only a preservation tool for knowledge in danger of being forgotten, the Encyclopedia pages also depict undeniably modern concepts like how to read the electronics on the bridge of a 60-ft dragger or processing and selling sea cucumbers to China. Other pages describe the marriage of old techniques with new materials like the story of Linda Osmond’s husband Winston, a gardener who likes to try new things. When he grew kohlrabi in his garden Linda made it into pickles: Just because it is an old recipe doesn’t mean it will not work on new things. A pickle is still a pickle. I might not know about kohlrabi but I know about pickles. Local knowledge, like scientific knowledge, is not an island in time. It is based on generations of observations that are passed down from grandparents to parents to children, from neighbour to neighbour, from business partner to business partner. Just as scientific knowledge is based on the careful work of past scientists, local knowledge is based on the observations and theories of previous generations and ingenuity. Clearly the impetus behind many of the Encyclopedia’s pages is to preserve knowledge that is in danger of being lost, as evidenced by the many pages dedicated to wooden-boat-building techniques. But

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…this remarkable glimpse into the world of rural Newfoundland and the people who shape it gives the outsider a sense of the richness of life in this place.


F E AT U R E

also there are many examples of the resurgence of traditional craft to fill a modern need. On Fogo Island, historic woodenboat-building techniques are used to create chairs for a luxury inn. Similarly, throughout Newfoundland interest is resurging in traditional low-impact fishing techniques like cod traps and hook-andline gear to ensure a sustainable harvest as the cod stocks return. And state-of-theart fish processing is being developed to provide a profitable high-quality product to get the most from a limited resource. The value local knowledge brings to our society is unequivocal. Science alone is unlikely to adequately solve today’s environmental problems without the knowledge of the grassroots. In a time of constant worry about climate change, the page about Derek Young’s 30-year daily weather calendar is a tremendous opportunity to study environmental change. What may seem a mundane endeavour becomes a rare and invaluable resource to help understand what the future may hold. As Hall writes: We have privileged the quantitative, the data-driven, and the statistical forms of knowledge to a dangerous degree—one that erases the qualitative, the embodied, the value-laden, and many individual and cultural ways of knowing that form and inform our embedded relationship within our now endangered ecosystems.

Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge Pam Hall Breakwater Books

When society values scientific knowledge above all else, not only does it sideline other types of knowledge, it also sidelines people. I see this over and over again in my work with commercial fishermen who are rarely treated as the experts that they are. Local knowledge

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F E AT U R E

Halifax Historic Streetscapes then and now, three walking tours, v.1 Barbara DeLory –ISBN 9781895814514 –$14.95; e-book- $9.95 126 colour photos, maps, cross references ... tours of downtown Halifax: Barrington, Hollis, Argyle, the Parade Square, Spring Garden Rd., South Park to Bell Rd. Increase your knowledge of architecture, history, building styles, famous residents, former businesses and future plans. Fits in your hand, pocket or purse: durable, bright, flexible magazine style paper & cover. Impress your friendswithyourknowledge! CompaniontoThreeCenturies title.

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is often taken from people and removed from place. Usually it is mapped or listed in a very reductionist way and used by government agencies to make decisions on behalf of the fishing communities. By proposing that knowledge is most valuable when the connection to people and place is maintained, Pam Hall’s work calls for a different management model, one that involves preserving the integrity of the knowledge and knowledge holders. She envisions deeply democratic, transparent and collaborative decision-making —a change that is sorely needed. Towards an Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge is a book to be savoured. It is not a quick reference book but rather the place to go to sense the wide breadth of knowing and the ever-evolving landscape of knowledge. It is a rare presentation that can bring this level of richness and depth to the outside world. The knowledge captured here is imbedded not only in the places and people of today but in the people and places of old. It recognizes and celebrates the dynamic nature of local knowledge that is continuously forming and reforming as people interact with places and each other. Even the democracy of visual images and written words cannot convey the totality of the knowledge to the outsider. It can never be more than excerpts. But this remarkable glimpse into the world of rural Newfoundland and the people who shape it gives the outsider a sense of the richness of life in this place. And it inspires us to value our own local knowledge; those things we know how to do, that our mother or grandmother or aunt or father taught us. ■ Maria Recchia has worked with inshore fishermen in Atlantic Canada for more than 20 years and is currently executive director of the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association. She lives and works by the Bay of Fundy.


F E AT U R E

When Your Real Life Is Fake News Pauline Dakin’s memoir of fugitive childhood by Marjorie Simmins

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hat version of the news would you like—Fox, CBC, Al Jazeera—or a station from elsewhere on the political spectrum? The world media can provide you with whichever “truth” suits your taste. What about different versions of your own life? Would you like some choice there, too? Would that not require that someone, or several someones, in your family lie on your behalf ? And lie big, on a Trumpian scale? How would you push through this mendacity? And its attendant feelings of betrayal, disorientation and fear. All to decide on your own best version of the truth. If you were Halifax journalist Pauline Dakin, you might write a book called Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood. Think you had a difficult or complex childhood? How about a fugitive childhood spent on the run? Reading Run, Hide, Repeat I found myself actively running alongside Dakin and her younger brother, Ted as their childhood careened from strange to incomprehensible. Here are two children whose divorced mother tells them they are running from the Mafia and receiving protection from a covert anti-organized-crime task force. Uprooted from Vancouver, where they began life as a family of four with their now-estranged father and ex-husband, the trio move to Winnipeg and, years later, New Brunswick. The moves are done on the sly, with no word to family or friends, dealing brutal blows to the maturing

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Obvious to many, thankfully, is the fact that skepticism and diligence are crucial when assessing “the truth.”

children’s hearts and psyches, rupturing ties with close and extended family members. Every time the astute young Dakin thinks the cloak-anddagger stories simply cannot be true, stacks of supporting evidence and a few actual events strongly declare otherwise. Her truth-loving mother, Ruth, along with loyal family friend and father stand-in, minister Stan Sears, assure her that danger is ever-present. Again and again the children are warned that one false step by any of them will result in kidnappings, physical harm or death. Incredibly, Dakin and her brother make new friends, complete high school, keep their senses of humour and develop into caring—if emotionally taut and worried—young adults. Along the way they are pretty much forced to accept, with varying degrees of grace, the disruptive and mysterious circumstances of their lives. They also realize, with some despair, that their questions merely bring on more circular and nonsensical answers. Or no answers at all. Nothing. Until February, 1988. It is then that her mother and Reverend Sears give Dakin, now working as a journalist at the Telegraph Journal in Saint John, New Brunswick, a story: “…our story— the story I was warned never to tell.” The heart of Dakin’s tale is the “why” of her strange, often terrifying young life. Well into the narrative Dakin is old enough, fed up and resilient enough to bring the determined gaze of the trained journalist to the deeper questions leftover from a life of byzantine deception. The lies being impressed upon her and her brother as children, the lies they still believed in their 20s, seem bizarre at first, then silly. Is there to be no challenging of reality by the Dakin siblings? Ever? And yet, think of the crafted realities, or “fake news,” that adults everywhere swallow each day. In the US, many Americans still believe that President Obama was not born in the United States and that President Trump had the largest inaugural crowds in history. In 2017, Canadians were told—and some believed—that a “man-eating shark” had been caught in Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec. Obvious to many, thankfully, is the fact that skepticism and diligence are crucial when assessing “the truth.” Dakin firmly pulls the reader back to reality when she drills deeper into the murky, complex inner worlds of betrayal and forgiveness. These she examines not from the journalist’s eye or from the still-wounded child’s eye, but also from an adult’s spiritual perspective. In the process, she gains clarity and gratitude. Ultimately, Run, Hide, Repeat is about the durability of familial love, especially her relationship with her brother, her only fellow

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foot soldier in surviving a childhood of perpetual and inexplicable threat. For Dakin’s two daughters and her brother’s family there is evident, bountiful love. Even with her father, the complicated alcoholic Warren Dakin, “...a soldier…businessman…father, with four children from two families,” Dakin is able to mend some fences. They exchange words of love down a telephone line as his life draws to a close. Of her mother, Dakin writes, “I think of her as a boxer in the ring, stunned by blows but pulling herself back to her feet again and again, only to face another punch, another loss, another betrayal. I am staggered by the strength and the weakness.” From her mother, and others, Dakin experienced “an unshakable sense of being loved.” In this strange time of negotiable truths, this “post-truth era” as American cultural writer Ralph Keyes put it, Dakin’s book examines some of the territory around truth, one part of which is intention. In her family, there was no intention to hurt or, incredibly, even to deceive. There was only the hope for and the achievement of protection and care. And there was love, enough for survival and ultimately forgiveness. ■ Marjorie Simmins is the author of the non-fiction works, Coastal Lives and Year of the Horse. She works as a freelance journalist and writing instructor in Nova Scotia and British Columbia and calls both coasts home.

Run, Hide, Repeat Pauline Dakin Penguin Random House


FOOD

Green Plate Special Sustainable food with mass appeal by Karl Wells

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FOOD

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hen I saw the cover of Green Plate Special: Sustainable and Delicious Recipes I felt a frisson of panic. I thought it was a school textbook; at least, it was giving a darn good impression of one. Textbooks have always had that effect on me, unless it’s about mathematics, in which case a mere pamphlet can make me faint. Apart from the dominant brown-green colour, the photo of mostly raw and not particularly appetizing food, and the conservative typeface, there were the bullets of information below the subtitle. Bullets like: Minimize Food Waste, Create a Greener Kitchen and Extreme Green Tips. (Each one looked like it should have ended with an exclamation mark.) I opened the book prepared for 200 pages of earnest and preachy. Relief was what I felt once I got into the book. Yes, there’s a little that’s hard to swallow— none of the food, by the way—like author Christine Burns Rudalevige’s suggestion we buy loose tea instead of tea bags for the sake of the planet. (Good luck with getting the world’s tea lovers to quit tea bags.) Most of the book’s green pronouncements are in essays, taken from the author’s column “Green Plate Special” for the Maine Sunday Telegram. They mildly punctuate the book and make for mostly interesting reading. I found the information about “best by” dates and how they lead to unnecessary food waste to be fascinating, as well as why ground, pastured meat is the cheaper, greener option. Burns Rudalevige’s explanation in “Modern Meat Vocabulary” of the difference between “certified humane” and “certified organic,” “grassfed” and “pasture raised” is extremely useful. “Blue plate special” is a term used in some restaurants for the daily special, usually going at a reasonable price. Burns Rudalevige has coined “green plate special” to describe the dishes in her book. Instead of being cheap and cheerful, they’re “green in the sense that the food on the plate is better for the environment and your body.” All well and good if the 100 or so recipes are easy to prepare and taste, as the book’s subtitle promises, “delicious.” Taste is subjective but I didn’t see a single recipe in Green Plate Special that wouldn’t appeal to most people—well, maybe the kimchi ramen might give some folks pause. Otherwise, what’s not to like about spicy crab and arugula omelet, lobster and corn wontons, mustard pork schnitzel and maple pecan cream tart? Burns Rudalevige has been a journalist for decades and was, for several years, a cooking instructor. In other words, she knows how to write a recipe that’s instructive and gets the job done. Each recipe gets the amount of explanation required and no more. Some, such as kimchi ramen, are brief. Others, like Spanish potato tortilla, are three times as long. A good result is what counts and, in both cases, Green Plate Special delivers. More shrift should have been given to the images. They’re important, because so many of us look to the pictures for inspiration. While photos such as a full-page snap of lemonand-herb spatchcock chicken and another of husk-cherry-and-hot-pepper upside-down cornbread look mouthwatering, others are downright disappointing. There’s no way, for example, I’d ever want to make kale rabe and potato tart based on the book’s image of the finished product. It looks like a bad Twitter pic from a too-dark restaurant. There’s enough special in Green Plate Special to recommend it, however. It’s a cookbook for its time and contains information needed in every kitchen and by every cook today. ■ Karl Wells is an award-winning food writer and restaurant critic for The Telegram in St. John’s, host/producer of One Chef One Critic and a restaurant panellist with enRoutemagazine.

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...what’s not to like about spicy crab and arugula omelet, lobster and corn wontons, mustard pork schnitzel and maple pecan cream tart?

Green Plate Special Christine Burns Rudalevige Island Port Press


FOOD

LAVENDER LEMON POSSET WITH CANDIED LEMON PEEL Serves 8

Candied zest: 4 lemons 1½ cups organic granulated sugar Pudding: 2 cups heavy cream ½ cup honey 2 tsp dried culinary lavender 5 Tbsp lemon juice

FRIED ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS WITH FRESH MOZZARELLA AND (OPTIONAL) ANCHOVIES Serves 4

20 zucchini blossoms 10 bite-sized fresh mozzarella balls (called bocconcini) 5 anchovy fillets (optional) 1½ cups neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed ½ cup olive oil ½ cup all-purpose or white rice flour ½ cup cornstarch ½ tsp baking powder ½ tsp kosher salt ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper ½ to cup ice-cold sparkling water Coarse sea salt 1. Prep the zucchini blossoms by removing the stamen from the centre of each flower. Slice each mozzarella ball in half. Quarter each anchovy fillet. Stuff one piece of cheese and one piece of anchovy into the centre of each blossom. Gently pull the leaves forward and give the ends a slight twist to keep the stuffing inside the flower while it’s being fried. Repeat until all blossoms are stuffed. 2. Pour oil into a 3-quart pan. The oil should come up no higher than a third of the pan. Place pan over medium high heat. Use a candy thermometer to gauge when the oil reaches 375°F. 3. Set a baking rack lined with a recycled paper bag on the counter next to the stove. 4. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in sparkling water until the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream. 5. When the oil is hot, dip one stuffed blossom into the batter and immediately lower it into the hot oil. Repeat the process with 2 or 3 more flowers, taking care not to crowd them in the pan. Fry the blossoms in small batches until they are puffed, crisp and golden (2–3 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the rack. Sprinkle the fried blossoms with coarse sea salt as soon as they come out of the oil. Serve immediately.

1. To make the zest, use either a citrus zesting tool or a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the fruit in long pieces, getting as little of the pith as possible. If you used a peeler, take a sharp knife and slice the peel into thin strips. Place julienned zest in a small bowl, cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes, then drain. 2. Place 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add zest. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer zest until it is slightly opaque (12–15 minutes). 3. Drain zest, reserving syrup for other uses. Allow zest to sit in strainer for 30 minutes to dry slightly. Place ½ cup sugar in a large bowl. Add drained zest and toss. Shake off excess sugar and place candied zest on a dry towel. After it has dried for 2 hours, transfer zest to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Note: Other citrus zest (limes, Meyer lemons, oranges or blood oranges) can be candied in this manner as well. 4. To make the pudding, heat cream and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until small bubbles appear on the edges. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat, stir in lavender and steep for 30 minutes. 5. Strain lavender from sweetened cream and return cream to medium heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice. Cool mixture for 15 minutes. Divide evenly among 8 small ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until set. Garnish with a pinch of zest.

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YOUNG READERS

Finding Compassion in Disaster How picture books help children understand horrific events like the Halifax Explosion by Sarah Sawler

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ith the centennial of the Halifax Explosion upon us, there’s been an influx of books devoted to the subject hitting the shelves; the picture-book market is no exception. Three of these books, Hope and Survival: A Story of the Halifax Explosion, with words and quilt art by Laurie Swim; The Flying Squirrel Stowaways: From Nova Scotia to Boston, written and illustrated by Marijke Simons; and The Little Tree by the Sea: From Halifax to Boston with Love by John DeMont and illustrated by Belle DeMont, all do wonderful work documenting this significant event

in world history. They also offer a way for kids to process the idea of disaster close to home, showing them opportunities to find comfort, remain hopeful and build community. These lessons are all relevant in a world where kids are grappling with issues like climate change, nuclear war and deportation. With the right approach, learning about historic catastrophes can give kids a glimmer of hope when they overhear heavy adult discussions about world events. These three books do this by allowing young readers to contrast Explosion-era Halifax with the rebuilt

OPPOSITE PAGE: Detail from a quilt by Laurie Swim commemorating the Halifax Explosion. LEFT: Children’s author and quilt maker Laurie Swim. RIGHT: Swim’s quilted list of the names of Halifax Explosion victims in braille, as many in the city were blinded in the blast.

Halifax they know today. There’s hope to be found in the story arcs too, particularly in Hope and Survival: A Story of the Halifax Explosion and The Little Tree

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…how do you write a picture book about a disaster that killed about 2,000 people and injured about 9,000 more without falling into the trap of sensationalism or talking down to young readers?

An illustration by Belle DeMont, from The Little Tree by the Sea.

Hope and Survival Laurie Swim Quilt Art Publishing

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The Flying Squirrel Stowaways Marijke Simons Nimbus Publishing

by the Sea, which both offer first-person accounts of the disaster and its aftermath. From the descriptions of medical and rescue aid in Hope and Survival to the story of a fisherman who answers distant cries for help in The Little Tree by the Sea, these stories offer examples of community resilience and human kindness that kids can understand and relate to. The Little Tree by the Sea and The Flying Squirrel Stowaways both tackle concepts of gratitude, remembrance and the importance of maintaining strong relationships between communities during less challenging times. Finally, reading literary fiction is a fantastic way to build empathy. According to a 2013 study in Science, “the worlds of literary fiction are replete with complicated individuals whose inner lives are rarely easily discerned but warrant exploration. The worlds of fiction, though, pose fewer risks than the real world, and they present opportunities to consider the experiences of others without facing the potentially threatening consequences of that engagement.” This means that even when life is relatively peaceful close to home, kids reading literary fiction will develop their ability to truly empathize with people experiencing traumatic or challenging events in other parts of the world. Of course, finding the right balance when writing kidlit is key. Simply put,

The Little Tree by the Sea John DeMont and Belle DeMont MacIntyre Purcell Publishing


how do you write a picture book about a disaster that killed about 2,000 people and injured about 9,000 more without falling into the trap of sensationalism or talking down to young readers? Each of these books addresses the challenge in a different way. Little Tree by the Sea is told from the point of view of a tree growing near the disaster—but not too close. This bit of distance gives readers a realistic view of the Explosion without exposing them to the finer details. Belle DeMont’s beautiful illustrations help here as well; she doesn’t shy away from images of the explosion, destroyed houses or the injuries, but her style allows her to brush over more disturbing details. The Flying Squirrel Stowaways, about a pair of flying squirrels that catch a ride from Halifax to Boston on a Christmas tree, has the benefit of looking backwards. It’s set in modern times but incorporates details of the Explosion, which gives readers some temporal distance. Its focus on the squirrel’s journey and the gift of the Christmas tree gives kids some breathing room, while showing how a city and its people recovered from trauma. Since Hope and Survival is aimed at slightly older kids, its intended audience is able to handle a little more—and Swim knows it. Swim’s book takes a closer look at the disaster than the others, by offering a detailed, first-person account of the experience and addressing issues like lost siblings, severe injuries and grief. But it also shows how communities can grow, survive and become even stronger. Despite the franker storytelling, Hope and Survival remains true to its title and nicely sums up the message of all three books. ■

BOOKS MATTER.

RON SUCH RONS@FRIESENS.COM T. 1.902.680.2498

friesens.com

Complementary social histories from the ColonialperiodtoConfederation. www.newworldpublishing.com Toll free: 1-877-211-3334

Interested in how many of the social, theatrical and sporting traditions of the Maritimes began with the British Garrison at the Halifax Citadel or how the original Nova Scotia territory became the Maritime provinces, (ca. 1785) then joined with other provinces to become Canada in 1867? Two fascinating books on the colonial period (1710-1867) by A.D Boutilier, author of The CITADEL on Stage, © 2015 and From the 14th Colony to Confederation, ©2017. Watch for Boutilier’s 3rd book on the evolution of the middle class (2019).

From the 14th Colony to Confederation: Governors, Placemen & the Merchant Elite

Sarah Sawler is a Halifax journalist, book reviewer and author of 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia.

ISBN 9781895814545: 374 pp. (66 historical photos, indexed, noted) ©2015 - $27.50. Well researched & authoritative title: humorous, insightful - see the origin of repetoire theatre in Nova Scotia and beyond; also sport & recreation, horse racing/ breeding in Maritimes & the East Coast traditon of regattas.

ISBN 9781895814668 (288 pp. 103 photos, noted, indexed, appendices.:$21.95 e-Pub 3 : $9.95 (ISBN 9781895814774) Canada150 storyof the Maritime region and how it slowly transitioned from a raw, neophyte colony toself-governance; then became Canada. Contains contributions ofallgovernorstogrowth ofprovince;listsallNS governorstopresent day.

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Tongue-Dancing Poems, Disoriented Birds, Sleepover Milestones, Family Secrets, Reality TV Gigs, Forbidden Dragon Quests and Icelandic Adventures Lisa Doucet reviews the season’s most anticipated books for young readers

All Around the Circle Cara Kansala and Max Dorey Breakwater Books (Ages 6+) From Uncle Brooklyn, who is fussing and fretting over Pearl the Cat, to the midnight dreamers who “Pluck the stars like peaches ripe, and keep them for a while,” this book is filled with lively verses celebrating the stories of everyday folks. Each poem dances joyfully off the tongue, begging to be read aloud. There is a beautiful blend of whimsy and poignance. “The Petty Harbour Cow” and “The Worried Chicken” will have young readers giggling, and “Marc Chagull” and “Itchy’s Moonsong” are similarly sweet and satisfying. Numerous selections—“Nan and Poppies,” “The House Next Door” and “Here Comes the Sun”—are more tender, heartfelt and stirring. It is a perfect blend, making this book pure fun with room for pensive contemplation.

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The energy and exuberance that Kansala exudes in these tales is well matched in the rich and vivid illustrations. Bright, bold colour and a subtle infusion of collage elements combine to bring the Newfoundland setting to life in each image, just as the poems capture a distinct sense of place. Words and images work together to create a rollicking and richly cadenced collection that is playful, jubilant, nostalgic and heartwarming. While some of the poems have an almost tongue-twisting quality, their rhythm never falters. It is truly a book for all ages to savour and enjoy.

The Puffin Problem Lori Doodey Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides (Ages 3–8) As this delightful story begins, we learn that “There once was a city by the sea

with a peculiar problem.” Puffins have suddenly and inexplicably invaded this seaside town, turning up in museums and galleries, on rooftops and doorsteps, at major intersections and anyplace the eye can see. They seem to be especially fond of the downtown, where they prove to be a major distraction, tying up traffic and generally becoming a nuisance to all but the birdwatchers. Would perhaps shipping them off to Iceland be a possibility? Fortunately “someone small and smart” proposes a more practical solution. Soon, boats filled with fish (donated by local seafood shops) head out to sea with a myriad of puffins happily following them to the ocean. Problem solved…for now! Utterly charming and winsome, this book is a delight, from the beautifully decorated endpapers to each page in between. A backnote explains how young puffins do, in fact, ofen get confused by city lights and wind up stranded on land as they try to make their way to the ocean. Young readers may be inspired to learn about the Puffin Patrol that seeks to rescue and reroute lost puffins. The simple, spare prose lends the book an understated quality that enriches the subtle humour and playfulness of the story. The illustrations are loose and layered and colourful with a folk-art flavour that perfectly suits the text and captures the distinctly Newfoundland setting. Using thin


REVIEWS lines, solid colours and a predominantly flat perspective, Doodey conveys warmth and whimsy in every image and the cheery, cheeky puffins add an impish tone to the story. Children will relish the opportunity to pore over the images in search of puffins while adult readers will appreciate the cleverness of both the text and illustrations.

Henrietta’s Nightlight Alice Whitney Chocolate River Publishing (Ages 4–8) “This will be an adventure, Henrietta. I’ll be back for you tomorrow, and you can tell me about all the new things you’ve done.” So says Henrietta’s mother as she prepares to leave Henrietta (and her beloved doll, Gwendolyn) for their first overnight visit at her grandparents’ cottage. Henrietta tries to think about all the things she loves about the cottage, the great blue heron Grampa has said she might see there and the brave explorers who venture off into the great unknown. She has a wonderful day with Gramma Lucie and Grampa Henry, canoeing on the pond, savouring an evening walk on the trail and listening to Grampa play his guitar until she is too sleepy to stay awake. Then she and Gwendolyn lie alone in the dark, listening to all the frightening noises. Thankfully, Gramma has just the

answer. Soon Henrietta is waking up to sunlight, the smell of breakfast cooking and a wonderful morning surprise down in the meadow. This gentle tale of a young girl’s first overnight adventure away from home sensitively addresses a child’s very real fears. Henrietta is encouraged to make up her mind to be courageous, just like world-famous explorers do when they face new situations. But ultimately her grandmother understands and respects her fear and provides the perfect solution in the form of a very special nightlight. Henrietta’s Nightlight also beautifully depicts all the wonders of Henrietta’s day at the cottage, her canoe trip with Gramma Lucie (where they encounter a wonderful assortment of birds) and all the exquisite flowers and plants she and Grampa Henry discover on their twilight ramble. The story and its soft colouredpencil illustrations work beautifully together to capture a strong sense of warmth and familial love as everyone strives to help Henrietta achieve this milestone. It is a sweetly satisfying story of warm, summer nights and loving families and one little girl facing her fear.

Take Off to Tantramar Odette Barr, Colleen Landry & Beth Weatherbee, Illustrated by Odette Barr Chocolate River Publishing (Ages 8–12) Camelia, the loveable but easily distracted heroine of Follow the Goose

Butt, Camelia Airheart, has a thing for bling. So when her older brother, McCurdy, announces that he knows where Aunt Tillie got her fancy leg bracelet, Camelia can’t wait to go there to get one for herself. McCurdy reminds her of her faulty GPS (Goose Positioning System) and she promises to follow the goose butt as they make their way to the Tantramar Wetlands. After a somewhat rocky landing (which involves crashing into a singing and dancing duck namd Drake), Camelia follows Drake’s advice on how to get her very own anklet. She then goes through a rather harrowing ordeal but is overjoyed when she ends up sporting a super shiny anklet. Meanwhile, McCurdy suffers his own heartbreak at the Wetlands. As the siblings wing their way home, McCurdy reminds his sister of Aunt Tillie’s motto: “What happens in Tantramar, stays in Tantramar.” This followup reunites readers with this feisty protagonist, who is somewhat challenged when it comes to directions. We are also introduced to a new and delightful character in Drake, the duck who keeps running “afowl” of Camelia’s shaky landing attempts. This rollicking rapper begs to be read aloud as he shimmies and shakes his way through an ode to crack corn. Odette Barr’s animated and energetic illustrations magnificently capture Drake’s rapping and beautifully complement this lively portion of the text. In general the soft, pastel-coloured illustrations are perfectly suited to the story, vividly depicting the facial expressions of each character, the wetlands and the terrain over which Camelia and McCurdy fly and the bursts of action when Camelia crashes into Drake (repeatedly) and when she goes through her ordeal in the enclosure. Once again, these authors have created a lighthearted New Brunswick adventure that will entertain young readers and listeners.

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YOUNG READERS

attitude leads him to sympathize with his mother and reevaluate his own feelings. The author deftly handles the full range of conflicting emotions Neil goes through, with his ultimate realization of how much he still loves and needs his mother feeling truly satisfying. While readers may long to learn more about Neil’s mother’s experiences, thoughts and feelings, this book beautifully captures the complex nature of familial relationships. The Disappearing Boy Sonia Tilson Nimbus Publishing (Ages 9–13) It’s not easy to leave the only home you’ve ever known to start over in a brand new city and school. Thirteenyear-old Neil MacLeod finds himself doing just that, now that his mom has uprooted them from their perfectly happy home in Vancouver to come and live in Ottawa. Neil is shocked to learn he has a grandmother living in Ottawa who wants to meet and get to know him. But meeting this previously unheardof grandmother makes Neil more determined to find out who his father is and why his mother refuses to tell Neil anything about him. With the help of his new friend Courtenay, Neil takes matters into his own hands and begins a search for answers. What he discovers is so unexpected he runs away to New Brunswick in search of the grandfather he has never met to get away from the enormity of what he has learned. The Disappearing Boy is a thoughtful, sensitive depiction of one boy’s struggle to come to terms with the truth about his family. Neil’s feelings of betrayal, anger at his mother and confusion about his own feelngs towards her are realistically portrayed. His gradual unease about his grandfather’s harsh and condemnatory

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Pop Quiz Tom Ryan Orca Book Publishers (Ages 11–14) Getting to be part of the cast of a fairly long-running cable TV show with a loyal following is a pretty sweet deal for 15-year-old Aiden. While he knows that Pop Quiz, a high school teen drama, isn’t exactly a world-famous production, he is proud to be part of the current cast. Even though it means he spends his whole summer filming the next season, it’s an enviable part-time job. Aiden also enjoys the camaraderie with his fellow cast members and is pumped when he finds out his character is slated to take on a more prominent role in the next season. He is also psyched that the romance storyline between he and Anais’ character is going to be more fully developed. However, his excitement is shortlived. The cast members soon discover that the show is being dropped. Ratings are down and it seems that young people

don’t watch TV any more. As Aiden and his friends process the news, they begin to formulate a plan to give Pop Quiz one last blaze of glory. This latest entry in Orca Books’ Limelight series highlights the behindthe-scenes workings of a typical TV series. In this book, Aiden points out all the work that goes into bringing even a modest TV series to the screen, how many people it takes to film each scene, each with their own particular part to play. He also recognizes that even Pop Quiz’s biggest stars rarely go on to become world-renowned actors and actresses. Whatever the future might hold, he still believes the show and its stars, past and present, deserve a proper finale. He and his friends come up with a creative and realistic proposal. Aiden is a likable protagonist who learns some valuable life lessons while also displaying tenacity and heart. The secondary characters are also captivating and readers will root for them to succeed.

The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me) Wade Albert White Little Brown and Company (Ages 8–12) As award nominees, Anne and her friends Penelope and Hiro are looking forward to a fancy dinner and frontrow seats at the annual Quest Academy


REVIEWS Awards. However, the evening takes a decidely unexpected turn when a strange boy steals her gauntlet, a group of Copper Knights storm the stage and before Anne can figure out what’s going on she inadvertently triggers a new quest. A Dragon Slayer quest. This is problematic for multiple reasons: Anne has no desire to kill the dragon queen (the goal of this quest); dragon slaying is highly illegal; and killing the dragon queen will quite likely result in war between the dragons and humans. This quirky and delightful trio, determined as they are to not kill the dragon queen, seek to warn her and once again find themselves on a seemingly impossible quest. As they attempt to find an ancient and powerful sword, they are nearly arrested for causing an avalanche, helped by a woman who is slowly turning to stone, betrayed more than once by friends, sentenced to death by the dragon queen (but opt to take the dragon trials instead) and ultimately do battle with a giant metal dragon that is intent on destroying the entire Hierarchy. While Anne is in the midst of these and other fantastic escapades, she also finds few new clues to the mystery of her past. This sequel barrels along at breakneck pace, offering unique and surprising plot twists at each and every turn. White has created a complex and enchanting world that is delightfully witty. The tips from The Adventurer’s Guide that preface each chapter are riotously funny and the author skillfully weaves humour and playfulness throughout the narrative, deftly balancing the tension and unrelenting action. The story is filled with clever and imaginative elements, sophisticated social and political structures and endearing and sympathetic characters who are fallible yet full of heart. There is something for every type of reader in this book, which is an absolute gem from beginning to its unexpectedly moving end, when Jeffery tells a subdued

and introspective Anne, “For what it’s worth, sometimes it’s okay to not get over something. Sometimes you just have to figure out a way to live with it.” Profound statements of truth from a sparrow.

The Things Owen Wrote Jessica Scott Kerrin Groundwood Books (Ages 9–12) Owen Sharpe is surprised to come home and find his grandfather, Neville, surrounded by boxes, particularly when he learns they contain the life’s work of his good friend Gunnar, who died a few years previously. Gunnar’s wife has asked Neville to sort through Gunnar’s papers and determine which ones should be sent to the archive in northern Iceland. Gunnar had been a translator of Icelandic poems and stories. Neville mistakenly sends one of Owen’s notebooks instead. The notebook contains a terrible secret, one that Owen is desperate to keep from his grandfather. Owen manages to convince Neville that the two of them ought to hop on a plane and head to Iceland to deliver the proper notebook to the archives and get Owen’s back. They get to Iceland and have some very memorable experiences, but Owen can’t ignore the fact that Neville’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic. There are several things that make this latest offering from Jessica Scott Kerrin

stand out. The unique and beautifully depicted setting is one of those things. Although Owen and his grandfather are only in Iceland for a couple of days, the country, its history, culture and people, are vividly brought to life. As a budding photographer, Owen tries to capture the magnificent landscape through his camera lens and in that way, the author cleverly brings readers into the unique vistas they encounter. The relationship between Owen and his grandfather is also genuine and touching, as is the way that the Red Deer Readers Book Club ladies look out for Neville. Kerrin also handles Neville’s frequent bouts of confusion and Owen’s mounting concern for his grandfather with sensitivity and compassion. There is an understated quality to the prose that serves to heighten its poignancy. A quietly powerful gem, this novel will find a special place in readers’ hearts. ■ Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.

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EXCERPT

Can’t Get Any Crazier? An excerpt from Craig Francis Power’s Skeet Love

Skeet Love tells the story of Shane, a conspiracy theorist and aspiring rapper; Nina, his girlfriend; and Brit, the couple’s lover. Craig Francis Power’s third novel is a drug and sex-fuelled critique of the world we think we know. Warning: this excerpt contains its fair share of profanity. They came for us in the night. We didn’t know at first, but they were there. The three of us dreaming in bed with the sounds of the traffic and the all-night convenience store right there on the corner, and the dive bars down the way, and the drunks. They came for us first in our dreams—barely noticeable—a shadow within a shadow in the corner of a dreamed room; the trunk of a car. Later, we thought we could hear them. First, behind the walls of our apartment; just outside the window, hanging from the eve trough or in the branches of the trees out front—then finally, we thought we could see them: news footage, music videos, porn sites—they were right there, flitting around the edges, in disguise. At last, we could feel them in our bones and in the beating of our blood. And I still don’t know where it all started. But it had something to do with the Painting Game. The Painting Game, Shane’s dad, the Radio Room, and the war. They’re tied together somehow—and then everything came to an end. And that had to do with me. *** I came a long way to find what my life meant, you know? From the bars and the back alleys of The Metropolis to the tenements of T Dot to the cliffs and the hills of the 7-0-9— sometimes I thought I’d never make it. But I found what I was supposed to do. It was like the seed of a flower inside me. And the seed of that flower was a flame stretching up into the heavens that would never die. That’s what I am. And this is how it happened. *** One day the satellite plunged into Lake Sludge. Shane, Nina, and Brit watching the shaky video footage on the news. A black cylinder, glinting darkly in the light, dropping out of blue sky. An enormous splash. Debris flying up. Shock waves in the water.

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It replayed over and over again, the angle of the satellite in mid-fall suggesting some terrible consequence. They’re in the car now, but will never be safe. The three of them knowing they just have to keep moving. And Carter, poor little Carter, with his PTSD. The man at the toll beside the ferry terminal watching as they pass. It actually made them feel good to see a person behind the glass. The black smoke from the ferry’s chimney hangs in the air above them. They blow by a hitcher on the gravel shoulder of the highway. Just another refugee. Her cardboard sign saying HOME. *** Nina’s like, it’s 1991. But it’s not your 1991, it’s ours. And it’s not even 1991, it’s 2024. It’s like, sci-fi or whatever. We’re ahead of you fucking dumb shits, but also, we ain’t. We’re like, an alternate universe or whatever. We’re like, hardcore over here—we ain’t your world. But we are your world. I don’t even know what it is we is, but we are, so like, deal, I guess. This here is your world. Don’t care what you say: This is your world. *** They call him Shaky, Milk, Dead Fox, Skeet Love. He’ll rap only in front of the mirror at home, a straight-up genius, thinks Nina, legit. Skeet Love, Shane says, that’s like, Rock, yo. Like where my dad is. That’s a fucking Rock term and that’s me, so fuck you. Know what that shit means? Naw, man, of course you don’t, you’re dumb as shit. But I’m not. I’m not, and here’s why: It means I’m like dirt, yo. Like, shit. Like, shit on my whole life, man. And there ain’t nothing that makes you smarter than being shit.


EXCERPT

Skeet. Like, what’s Nina say about it? Like, a derogatory term for urban, white, working-class. Someone who’s up to no good. A total outsider, like every damn day of my life. That’s me. (Except, not.) So whatever, and anyway, like I said, Fuck you. *** Nina and Brit checking his flow. His hands, the cut of his shoulders. At first, Brit was only around occasionally, now she’s here all hours. When she met them, Brit was on top of the moon. Like, over the world. Seriously giddy. That’s sometimes the way she talks when she’s excited—she mixes shit up. Shit is always getting mixed up—totally—like your world and this world. It’s messy, man—like where does one start and the other one end? Or do they even? Nina and Brit and hours and hours on karmaloop, lookbook. Ecko, Obey, HUF, Billionaire Boys Club. White Doves, Yellow Airplanes. Nina’s got the best clothes, Shane the best drugs. The two girls changing outfits while Shane paces and smokes, flexing his trophied lats in the bedside wall mirror—this world, and that man, like legit. Shane’s like, Know how many crunches I can do, motherfucker? Well neither do I cause I lose count after a thousand. Chin ups? Whatever. This body is tight, yo, like tight as shit, like a virgin—for real. He’s old school, thinks Brit, sells pills for five bucks a pop when everyone else is into powder. They go to a club, the dance floor crazy, Brit and Nina making out for the crowd while Shane leans at the bar sipping a cooler. He hates beer, has a gluten intolerance. Nina once said, Shit, you’re so skinny, baby, it’s hot. I wish I was sick. I wish I had cancer. She pictures herself, like him, with her ribs showing through. She could kill anything with ribs like that. She could destroy the universe if she were that thin, her knee bones knocking together painfully in bed. She sees herself emaciated, grinning. She winks and the skyline is flattened. Waves her hand and all the buildings utterly devastated. Blackened bodies, ash on the wind. Drop another twenty pounds and you’re the shit, she thinks, she smiles.

In the club, she screams over the music: Ever wanna just, like, destroy the fucking world? Brit smiles back at her. The vamp fangs she bought online glow in the black-light. When Shane first saw them, he was like, Keep that mouth away from my dick. But not really. Really, he was totally down. Brit’s fangs—they’re good for a week and then fall off—two white little talons, like bullets. Brit’s a poet—the fucking legislator of the wound is what she told Shane and Nina when they first met. Nina ws a polished gun barrel. *** Soon, Leo will get out of prison, and when he does, he’ll come looking for Nina. She belonged to him, but now she belongs to Shane. She puts her nose behind Shane’s ear and says, You own me, baby, you own me. She snuggles closer to him in bed. He rolls over to face her, his fingers in her hair, and she’s thinking how lovely it is to have his fingers in her hair. The thing he does when his fingers are in her hair is that first he smooths it all down—almost like he’s petting a dog or a cat, and then his hand comes down over the curve of the back of her head, and with her hair in his hand, he sort of clenches his hand very gently and tenderly into a fist, and then releases her hair and smooths the back of her neck. Then he’ll tuck some loose strand of hair behind her ear, and he’ll kinda cup the spot where her jaw and neck connect— kinda right where her earlobe is. Then he’ll caress her earlobe between his thumb and forefinger, and run his hand down her neck until his warm palm meets her collarbone—and then he’ll do the same thing again, and again. You wouldn’t think someone like him could be that way—so sweet—but he is. And when he’s like this with her, she worries he isn’t brutal enough for the world or something, but maybe he is brutal enough—and anyway, maybe it’s not something she needs to worry about. A phone call will come and it’ll go like this: Skeet Love? Yo. This is Dr Dre. You a fuckin’ genius. No shit? Dope. Here’s a million dollars. Sweet. ODB came back from the dead for this shit. I played him yo demo.

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Reviews PEI’s Fear Factor

Fear From A Small Place Edited by Dave Stewart with Laura Chapin Graphcom Publishing Prince Edward Island has produced its share of literature, inspiring placebased novels, poetry, children’s books and what seems to be a never-ending supply of historical writing. One genre that is rarely associated with the province, however, is horror. While the local oral tradition is rich with stories about forerunners, personal appearances by the devil and other supernatural occurrences, this has not translated into the written word. Prince Edward Islanders may know their neighbour’s business, Dave Stewart notes in the introduction to Fear From A Small Place, but what truly frightens them remains largely unexplored. The 20 short stories contained in this anthology are guided by two thematic underpinnings. All authors have, in the words of Stewart, “been shaped in some part by Prince Edward Island,” whether

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through birth, residence or in one case marriage. Authors were also given great leeway in defining “horror” on their own terms. The creative flexibility afforded the authors is matched by a diversity of experiences. Contributors range in age from teenage to senior, with the majority somewhere in between; some are publishing for the first time while others have numerous books under their belts. As with any collection of this sort, some stories resonate more than others. And what works for this reviewer may not with another reader. Disclaimers aside, one standout contribution is Kelly Caseley’s “Mistress.” A short story in the truest sense of the word—it contains just 25 words—it highlights the squeamish feeling of appearing in public in the same outfit as one’s peer. Far removed from the tropes of masked killers and sundry monsters, it nonetheless speaks to a deep-rooted fear that many have. Another standout is Russell Stewart’s “The Flag.” A piece of nonfiction told from the perspective of the author 26 years earlier, it describes his family’s early morning drive to an undisclosed location in Charlottetown. While Stewart and his sister struggle with sleep in the backseat of the family car, it is revealed in the postscript that his parents had joined other Islanders in attending the hanging of two men charged with murder. While this, the last public execution in Prince Edward Island’s history, has been written about elsewhere (most notably Michael Hennessey’s award-winning fictional account, The Betrayer, published by The Acorn Press in 2003), the juxtaposition of innocent youth unknowingly attending this gruesome event as the assembled adults treat it as a public outing speaks volumes. Also worth highlighting is Dale Nicholson’s “No Regrets.” An eight-

..his parents had joined other Islanders in attending the hanging of two men charged with murder. panel comic that addresses loneliness among senior citizens, it strikes a chord due to the reality of its premise. Like many other contributions to Fear From A Small Place, it reveals that for many of us, our deepest fears concern personal relationships and how they may play out over an extended period of time. One of the strengths of this anthology is the diversity of formats it represents. While most contributions appear as traditional short stories, Nicholson’s comic is joined by poet John MacKenzie’s “Blood and Frost in a Stand of Birch (a redneck neurological noir in narrative verse)” and David Moses’ “Birth Father,” which is presented in the form of a television script. I enjoyed this book and encourage fans of the horror genre—local or otherwise— to give it a read. My endorsement, however, is not without quibble. The book is quite attractive, as one might expect from a publication put together by a graphic design firm. That said, I did find myself distracted by the appearance of the occasional typo. While not the end of the world, these minor blemishes could have been rooted out with more vigilant proofreading, thereby affording the stories the final form they deserve. ■ Ryan O’Connor is a Canadian author and historical consultant. He is author of The First Green Wave and lives on Prince Edward Island.


REVIEWS

Jocelyn Parr’s Personal and Cultural Transformation

Uncertain Weights and Measures Jocelyn Parr Goose Lane Editions Montreal-based writer Jocelyn Parr’s debut novel begins with a bang: On a winter evening in Moscow, in 1921, Tatiana, a brilliant young science student, visits her favourite bookstore, Osorgins’, a haven for intellectuals and artists, increasingly under scrutiny by post-October Revolution Bolshevik authorities. Minutes after she lays eyes on the striking young artist, Sasha, the shop erupts in a fiery explosion. The young couple escapes, physically unharmed but forever changed. They marry three years later in the wake of Lenin’s death. Moving forward to 1927, Tatiana secures research work at the Institut Mozga, aka “The Pantheon of Brains,” with her mentor and father substitute, Vladimir Bekhterev, a renowned and innovative neuroscientist. As Tatiana becomes increasingly drawn into her work of analyzing the brain tissue of exceptional men (including Lenin’s), Sasha, by contrast, becomes

THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM AN ADVANCE COPY PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.

disillusioned, withdrawn and unable to paint. On a Christmas holiday with her wealthy and unwelcoming in-laws, Tatiana is devastated by the news of Bekhterev’s sudden death. Back in Moscow, tasked with dissecting her former teacher’s brain, she grows close to her Institute colleague, Luria, who piques her curiosity in the suspicious circumstances of Bekhterev’s death. The young scientist’s marriage continues to unravel as Sasha feels stifled by a country he no longer understands and the two cannot reconcile their divergent views of life, art and science. When Sasha makes clear he must leave Russia to survive, they conspire to fake his death. Following his self-imposed exile, Tatiana begins to “see” and talk to him, an apt metaphor for their deep but fissured connection, of the dialogue between presence and loss that lies at heart of this story of personal and cultural transformation. In this confident and accomplished novel, Parr creates a detailed portrait of a world haunted by the past but uncertain of its future direction. She builds her controlled, quietly intense narrative style in an ebb-and-flow motion, introducing an event then looping back to let details unfold gradually. A history professor at Montreal’s Dawson College, Parr reveals in an explanatory postscript that several members of her cast are inspired by real figures in the fascinating upheaval of early 20th-century Russia, as the country transitioned, violently, from a czarist oligarchy to Marxist-Leninist socialism. Most notably, Vladimir Bekhterev was a leading figure in the emerging field of neuroscience, now remembered primarily for his rivalry with Ivan Pavlov in developing new theories of behavioral psychology. Tatiana is a compelling protagonist, incisive in her analysis of the world around her, determined, even as a girl, to escape the conventional domestic dependency of the women she sees around her. Parr’s story is deeply

immersed in the dialogue—and perceived chasm—between science and art, exploring these ideas in the context of fully developed, flawed and searching characters. Central is the motif of time, how we experience the world in and outside of linear progression. Early in the story, Tatiana is struck by a diagram depicting Husserl’s phenomenological theory of past and present: The arrow is anticipation, what we project for our future, our imaginations moving forward at more or less the same rate as our memories move back until suddenly, again unbidden, the movement is broken by a memory, say, of a loved one and then we exist for a moment in no time and no place. The timelessness and placelessness of a scent or a sound: it exploded my heart just to think of it. Time is one of the “uncertain measures” of the novel’s title, a seemingly ordered system that is punctuated abruptly by unanticipated events. The novel is bookended by books. The destruction of Osorgin’s bookshop suggests a rupture of narrative, an alteration—if not obliteration—of history. Near the end of the story, following Sasha’s “death,” Tatiana discards belongings in preparation to move to an apartment for one. As she sorts through their book collection, reflecting that “books need to circulate,” she reassumes control of her own narrative. Parr’s book tells us that our stories, whether individual or collective, are affected by factors both beyond and within our control. We can find new directions for them in art, science and love. ■ Clarissa Hurley is an actor, playwright and director. She has published fiction, reviews, essays and a wide range of articles. She is a fiction editor at The Fiddlehead.

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REVIEWS

McKeon’s Fight for Feminism

F-Bomb Lauren McKeon Goose Lane Editions Pioneering Canadian author Jane Rule (1931–2007) noted that she was enraged after discovering the long reach of patriarchy as it was delineated in Sexual Politics (1970), the bestselling book by Kate Millet, who died in September. “I date my awakening to…the reading of [the volume],” Rule wrote in her essay “Before and After Sexual Politics.” “By the time I had finished… furious with the misogyny it revealed, I had come to know that…moral and political evaluations of literature were… important to everyone.” Published in A Hot-Eyed Moderate (1985), Rule’s sentiments will likely resonate with readers of F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism by Lauren McKeon. In the opening pages of her book, the 30-something Toronto writer speaks directly to women “who believe we are in a post-feminist world.” “I want nothing more than for all the women who have dedicated their lives to feminism to retire and sip pina coladas on the beach while women and girls everywhere enjoy the fruits of their labor,” McKeon writes. “Equal pay, lives free of violence, equal representation in positions of political power, absolute reproductive rights, harassment-free working environments, and about a

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THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM AN ADVANCE COPY PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.

bazillion other things. But I just don’t see that paradise yet.” Indeed, making excellent use of research from an array of respected government, political, educational and cultural organizations, the author details the growing backlash against equity for women in North America. But far from a dry statistical tract, McKeon includes her insights as an astute observer and proponent of social media. She concedes that antipathy toward women’s liberation is “nothing especially new.” Works ranging from Lysistrata by Aristophanes to Scum Manifesto by Valerie Solanas (the woman who shot Andy Warhol) deliver powerful takes on the subject. However, McKeon asserts that the internet has enabled antifeminist forces to re-emerge “wilder and…everywhere.”  Think: “Grab them by the pussy.”  “This new pukey-face-emoji reaction to feminism may have historical roots, but it also has contemporary reasons,” McKeon writes. “I’ve never before seen such a blanket rejection of feminism from those who actually have a vested interest in seeing it achieve its goals. …I can’t credibly claim they are all misogynists, and too many of them are not traditional, right wing. …I also can’t quite convince myself they are all under the big, fat, hairy thumb of men. … And yet…they repeat the same strange rhetoric of many anti-feminists: they… believe in equal rights, but feel feminism limits and confines them.”   In absorbing passages that evoke the seduction and subterfuge found in spy thrillers, McKeon chronicles her encounters with female leaders of men’s rights groups. Consider Ontario resident Janet Bloomfield (a pseudonym), creator of a popular website—JudgyBitch—that promotes “men power” with clickbaiting headlines such as “Why are feminist women so fucking pathetic?” and “The world’s most retarded feminist: I have found her.” “While she admits her shouty tone may be too over the top for some

In absorbing passages that evoke the seduction and subterfuge found in spy thrillers, McKeon chronicles her encounters with female leaders of men’s rights groups. readers, her hope is that JudgyBitch provides a portal into the diverse world of anti-feminism,” McKeon writes about Bloomfield, who holds an MBA from a major Canadian university. “She’s a smart, savvy woman who has overcome terrible things in her life, but whose smartness, savviness and tenacity have convinced her that feminism is no longer relevant for women. …Bloomfield also knows how to play the attention game against feminism, and win.” McKeon juxtaposes a growing trend to defend “men falsely accused of rape” against her experiences, at age 16, as a survivor of sexual assault. She notes that dozens of groups such as the US-based Save Our Sons “have sprouted up like weeds to combat the push for rape survivors’ rights, and they’re not losing.” “They argue that feminists use… gender bias against men and create the perfect revenge model for scorned women,” she writes. “In other words: Those lying, crazy feminists blow things out of proportion.”  Cue: Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby.  Reflecting on her assault in today’s political climate, McKeon wonders: “Would I have been convinced I just made bad choices? That it wasn’t rape at all?” A sobering but vital read. ■ Evelyn C White of Halifax is the author of Alice Walker: A Life (WW Norton).


REVIEWS

Doucet’s Moment of Indecision

The Pregnant Pause Jane Doucet All My Words If you aren’t 100 percent certain about becoming a parent, how do you make your decision? Should you begin a thorough process of deliberation or will this just use up precious time? In the long run, is it best to just let it happen? In Jane Doucet’s The Pregnant Pause, protagonist Rose Ainsworth weighs the many pros and cons of motherhood. Meanwhile, as her husband refuses to help set down a parenthood plan, Rose dreads her upcoming 37th birthday. She remains largely isolated in her internal struggle throughout the novel. Set in Toronto during the late 1990s/ early 2000s, Doucet takes the reader through a plethora of female-specific considerations facing prospective parents. Broody over not only a baby, Rose worries about her financial readiness, raising children in a large city, the possibility of losing her job, her changing body and balancing her marriage. All this while facing the immense societal pressure placed on women to be hyper-aware of their age and nurturing ability. Doucet establishes a circle of characters who contribute to Rose’s psychological tug of war: the lifelong friend rendered absent by new

motherhood, the mother-in-law who sends her a baby name book (hint-hint) for Christmas, the co-worker with the arranged marriage, the party girl with no desire for children, the sister with the beautiful family and Rose’s own distant, self-absorbed mother, who she does not wish to emulate. Each character presents options to consider or fears to avoid, or corners her with rigid expectations. Adding to her frustration is how her husband and the men in her life are excluded from this scrutiny. Her husband is dismissive and other male characters (friends’ husbands, her father) are mostly in the background, performing traditional tasks, not adding to the discussion. In fact, her own husband is often so callous in his words and actions it is hard to understand why she remains with him. There are hints to her possible moving on but these are never fully developed, which left me wanting more at times. If she really wanted a baby, wouldn’t her husband backtracking on wanting children (he said he wanted kids before they got married) be a deal breaker? Meanwhile, even though Rose is irritated with the patriarchal pressures she faces, she isn’t immune to a blinkered approach to parenthood. Throughout her internal struggle, she picks apart her friends’ parenting skills, labels herself as having a “case of baby fever,” makes sweeping statements about biological clocks and blames female hormones for relationship problems: “If you’re a woman, you don’t need to have a baby to let the estrogen coursing through your veins get the better of you.” If Rose didn’t maintain her own surface assumptions about female biology, she might not feel so overwhelmed. As I read this novel, I couldn’t help but wonder how it would differ if Doucet chose to update the setting. Although the year is never stated, pop-culture references and lack of social media set it at least seventeen years ago. Today’s Rose may worry about parental issues like privacy, breastfeeding struggles, affordable childcare, changes in adoption

…the sensation of the diminishing window of opportunity many women feel when it comes to getting pregnant after the age of thirty.

laws and hopefully, she’d be more savvy than to refer to post-partum depression as “being hormonal.” If Doucet’s goal is to provide a full presentation of the pressures women face when deciding whether or not to start a family, why immediately date the setting? I fear that in doing she loses much of the potential universality of the novel. Doucet uses a highly expository form of writing; Rose’s emotions are described in matter-of-fact statements throughout the novel. This is a choice I feel works well for the many wry, humourous bits, but at times it makes it difficult to connect with Rose’s point of view. This is especially so during emotional responses when we want to be right there with her. The best-drawn relationships are the familial ones; in particular, the tension between Rose and her mother was well crafted and intriguing throughout the story. Setting issues aside, Rose’s woes effectively describe the sensation of the diminishing window of opportunity many women feel when it comes to getting pregnant after the age of 30. ■ Bridget Canning is an author and e ducator living in St. John’s. Her novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, was published by Breakwater Books this year. Atlantic Books Today

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REVIEWS

Sharon Bala’s Migrant Odyssey

The Boat People Sharon Bala McClelland & Stewart “You are loved, he told the baby each night. You are so loved.” These are Mahindan’s words to his son, Sellian. But Mahindan’s words resonate further as regards contemporary cultural oscillations toward the global migrant crisis. Sharon Bala’s debut novel, The Boat People, draws us into a Catullan odi et amo—“I hate and I love”—with 503 Sri Lankan refugees who precariously reached the shores of British Columbia in 2010. Walking home from my local grocer here in what I make a dim shot at calling home—Toronto—I stopped at an intersection and read the crimson ink, blaring and bleeding on the cover of the Toronto Star: “A skyrocketing backlog is pushing the wait time for refugee hearings dramatically beyond the federally stipulated 60 days, with recent asylum seekers now waiting 16 months to have their claims determined.” That was today, September 21, 2017. Sri Lanka. Canada. Norway. We’ve been here before. Michael Ondaatje’s interstitial shudders between the ‘east’ and the ‘west’—conjoined with Somerset Maugham’s geographies of

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THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM AN ADVANCE COPY PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.

the heart—this is the company in which I place Bala. She is brisk, bracing and astonishingly prescient. Nothing in this novel is free. There are no dialogical quotation marks. The heuristic effort is mercilessly placed upon the reader in a manner that is effortlessly Teiresian. Bala has done that rare thing fiction can do: forecast the future. All the more remarkable, as each day’s news pounds the ears, Bala is completely without fuss about her apparent prescience. The Boat People will—and should, on the grounds of what Lionel Trilling called in his essay of the same name “The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent”—linger long in the mind as an almost Graham-Greene-esque thriller about Canada’s Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. Homeric in her narrative arc, Bala’s novel is rhetorically purposive— but poetically, softly rhetorical. One wonders whether this book could, like the late Derek Walcott’s Omeros, have been composed in verse after all. Read aloud, a poet cannot but hear Bala’s tricolon crescendos interspersed with now melodious, now dissonant slant rhymes. Mahindan’s arrival in British Columbia begets a new departure, as does, of course, Odysseus’ return to Ithaca in the Homeric Odyssey. Like Odysseus, the subsequent journey is not nautical but terrestrial. Like Odysseus, Mahindan has a “fighter from afar”—a not implausible etymology for “Telemachus”—in the form of his son, Sellian. Indeed, “arriving was just the beginning,” as Bala tells us. Mahindan’s “optimism dimmed at the prospect of another journey ahead.” Odysseus, upon returning home to Ithaca at the putative epic end of the Odyssey, must set out again—not outland by sea, but inland. So refined is Bala’s prosopography that one must pause at the city whence Mahindan has arrived toward another (Homeric) journey: Kilinochchi: I cannot but hear the words kill and on in that city’s name. In Canada, it is “left-wingers who let feelings [sic] undermine common sense,” according to Bala’s villainous Fred Blair, an MP whose CV ostensibly consists

Bala is ahead by a century in the cricket score of politically powerful contemporary fiction. in border patrol and not much else. An imperious, flat-track bully, Blair’s character is perhaps this novel’s only flaw: his every decision is painfully predictable. A newspaper calls the boat— “sensationally”—some semblance of a “ship of dreams.” We are accustomed, these days, to so much blustering against DACA and Dreamers, and demented talk of walls. And so the words of Bala’s Fred Blair: “those terrorists dream big.” Bala is ahead by a century in the cricket score of politically powerful contemporary fiction. She has seen rhetorically post-Brexit, post-Trump, possibly post-NAFTA, bombast from a country miles away. The heart of the matter, to return to Graham Greene (and to cricket), is the moral equivalency whereby Bala bowls us leg before wicket. We are still reeling from Norway’s, and others’ stupid adventures in Sri Lanka. We are still warbling in the wake of post-colonial chaos that has therefrom obtained. But, Canadians? “They’re no better than the Sinhalese.” Moral equivalency, again. Sure, “Ganesha is okay” among the metaphysically migrated bric-a-brac brought on The Boat. Why Ganesha, though? “Just don’t think about it.” But what then? “And it will go.” What then? This is what we migrants will always wonder. What, then, when we let it go? ■ US Dhuga is a writer, lecturer, critic and is the founder, publisher and editor of The Battersea Review. His latest book is a collection of poems entitled The Sight of a Goose Going Barefoot.


REVIEWS

Tremblay’s Collected Creative Releases

New Brunswick at the Crossroads Tony Tremblay, editor Wilfrid Laurier University Press New Brunswick at the Crossroads: Literary Ferment and Social Change in the East aims to provide, in Tony Tremblay’s words, “a starting point for literary interpretation” that will rehabilitate Canada’s view of New Brunswick socially, politically and culturally. The chapter titles are definitive: Foreword (Christl Verduyn); Preface and Acknowledgements (Tremblay); Introduction: The Cultural Geography of New Brunswick (Tremblay); Loyalist Literature in New Brunswick, 1783–1843 (Gwendolyn Davies); Emergent Acadian Nationalism, 1864–1955 (Chantal Richard); The Fredericton Confederation Awakening, 1843–1900 (Thomas Hodd); Mid-Century Emergent Modernism, 1935–1955 (Tremblay); Modernity and the Challenge of Urbanity in Acadian Literature, 1958–1999 (Marie-Linda Lord); and Afterword: Congruence and Recurrence in the Literatures of New Brunswick (David Creelman). One introductory chapter explains the subtitle: literary ferment is “‘the study of transactions among people, their messages, and their message systems’... We isolate historical periods in New Brunswick when literary activity is

THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM AN ADVANCE COPY PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.

intensified and we study the agents that give rise to large-scale releases of creative energy within those periods.” Agents are not primarily people; instead the word means, among other things, “...influential teachers and schools; institutional apparatuses (publishing houses, journals, and professional associations); pioneering writers and critics; a social climate that cultivates intellectual or artistic habits of mind...” Given that broad definition, it’s not surprising that the contributors almost completely refuse to determine artistic value. (While artists’ essays are mined for substantiating proofs of theories, their poetry, fiction and plays are seldom quoted.) The emotional affect wrought by the province’s artists over 200-plus years (inexplicably ending in 1999) does not feature greatly. Yet that reserve is dropped when Creelman faintly damns as insufficient James DeMille, Lorne Simon and David Adams Richards, “singular and interesting figures [who] prove to be innovative or even transformative, but they still may not spur a new wave of subsequent writers” because they do not form a loose association, are not colleagues at a university or habitués of a salon. The elect artists are those whose socially conscious work seeks to improve society through the depiction of the world via realism. The Group of Seven is one enemy, as are Montreal and Toronto, and the English and French are combative among themselves and with each other. In this limited space only a few of the book’s subjects can be mentioned. Some readers will welcome Tremblay’s book as a refreshing change from a survey devoted to personalities. Artists aren’t special, they are another vital part of the general culture and they emerge at times of upheaval. This might appear provocative, but it can be a virtue in readjusting our views. It is of great benefit to have assembled the many strands of New Brunswick’s Indigenous and settler histories and to get a better picture of the rivalries between and escalating

or deflating fortunes of Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. I especially appreciated the chapters on Acadia and its history for the ways they set out the tangled socio-politico-cultural setting as clearly as possible. Certain errors are not virtues. Pace Hodd, Fredericton has never compared to London or Paris as an international capital; even Creelman labels the city, after Confederation, as “hardly a metropolis.” Hodd exhibits an odd blindness when it comes to the “the province’s political elite.” Their presence does not mean the “intelligentsia” has arrived; it’s the absolute opposite. When Lord calls Quebec “the province next door” that definite article might irk Nova Scotia and, possibly, PEI. A proofreader could have caught such errors. In the Foreword Christl Verduyn unequivocally states what’s most important about New Brunswick at the Crossroads. This book “can be placed firmly at the forefront of the evolving landscape of twenty-first-century literary criticism in Canada. This study of literary New Brunswick confirms some of the most compelling analytical approaches to Canadian literature today and asserts a more central place for New Brunswick in the country’s cultural history.” A cohort has erected a work for all to keep in their mind’s eye while travelling through the 83 years left in this century. Are we meant to see this confluence of talent as an academic literary ferment? Is this book one that will be everlasting in importance or will it, sooner rather than later, recall Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and decay into a “colossal wreck?” I encourage everyone to engage with the multitude of ideas contained in New Brunswick at the Crossroads to determine their own response. ■ Jeff Bursey is a Canadian novelist, shortstory writer, playwright and literary critic born in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He lives in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He is a frequent contributor to print and online critical publications. Atlantic Books Today

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REVIEWS

Pawagi’s Harrowing Recovery

Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy Manjusha Pawagi Second Story Press For a writer to elicit tears and exuberant laughter in the same book is an accomplishment. Such is the triumph of Manjusha Pawagi’s memoir, Love and Laughter in the Time of Chemotherapy. For those who have not had to endure the anguish, nausea, depression, fatigue of cancer treatment, Pawagi’s memoir informs us. When she goes to the hospital for a minor procedure, doctors discover she has leukemia and must be treated immediately. “Usually you’re never tested,” she says. “You skate on the surface of an ordinary life, not realizing how lucky you are that the ice is holding you up.” The reader is right with her as she describes agonizing pain. A nurse or doctor saying, “You may feel a little pressure” is a statement to dread. The fevers, diarrhea, vomiting and nightmares that chemo induces are so relentless, Pawagi starts hallucinating and must force herself to open her eyes to realize she is not wandering in a post-apocalyptic war zone. We are privy to the indignities and discomfort of

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an ileostomy bag, of having her diaper changed, of being finally able to go to the bathroom in her wheelchair only to find the door won’t close. Walking on her own after months of being bedridden is just the beginning of a slow stumble up an enormous incline. But interspersed among these horrors is Pawagi’s humour. She says that rather than “First do no harm,” the Hippocratic oath should more accurately be, “You can’t say we didn’t warn you.” Describing an episode in her youth when she is unable to respond after fainting, her mother is asked if her daughter speaks English. “‘She went to Stanford,’ my mother informed him, which to an Indian parent is a more pertinent piece of information for a medic than a blood type.” Finding the bread in the hospital uneatable, she says, “I think it was toasted outside the city somewhere and then trucked in.” When she chooses Wave to reread in the hospital, a memoir about a woman who lost her parents, husband and two sons in the Sri Lankan tsunami, her husband wants to know if there were no memoirs about the holocaust or the Rwandan genocide at the library that day. The playfulness, generosity and devotion of her husband is another moving component of the book. Reading about him, readers agree when Pawagi writes, “Love is a rock, not stone that crumbles into dust. It’s the Canadian Shield itself, granite as old as the Earth, solid and unwavering beneath my weak and unsteady feet.” Family and friends are instrumental in her cure, mobilizing to help her survive. Her husband and mother are with her every day. She has a friend who has connections with the CBC and a radio documentary is made about her. Senator Asha Seth pleads with the Ottawa Senate to establish stemcell registration that reflects diversity among minorities. Fortunate to recover enough to have a stem-cell

transplant, Pawagi tells the story of finding a match. Meeting her donor after recovering is one of the moving experiences described in this memoir. Pawagi has had a remarkable career, from CBC journalist to children’s author to lawyer and then judge, but after only one week in the hospital she writes, “I’d already forgotten…that I’d ever been anything other than a sick person. …I never used to want to be anyone other than myself, and now I constantly look at people and wish I were them.” Yet as soon as she begins to feel better, in between hospital stays, her generosity prevails. Learning that one of her doctors is single she tries to set him up with her colleague. She suggests restaurants where they can meet. “Because,” she writes, “of course, a hematologist and a judge cannot be trusted to make a dinner reservation in downtown Toronto, where they both live, without careful supervision.” She has poignant perceptions about her children in this memoir. She also has insights about writing. “It seems counterintuitive that writing about being sick could serve as a distraction from being sick, but it’s true.” Manjusha Pawagi deftly explores the harrowing recovery of cancer through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, though of necessity it is a narrow subject, one with few surprises. Every reader will celebrate her recovery. I believe they, like me, will want to read another book by this intelligent, funny, generous writer, one yet unwritten and of a subject unknown, one that gives her the freedom to surprise us all. ■ Carole Glasser Langille is a poet and author living in Halifax. Her latest book is a short story collection called I Am What I Am Because You Are What You Are. She has given several writing workshops for women who had or are in treatment for cancer. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Dalhousie University.


NEW BOOKS

Editor’s Picks 18 books that are generating considerable anticipation this season Betrayal of Trust Joel Zemel New World Publishing Zemel’s first book, Scapegoat, explored the inquiry following the Halifax Explosion that scapegoated Acting Commander F Evan Wyatt and shed new light on the causes of the disaster, becoming the first Atlantic Canadian book to win a John Lyman Award. Zemel’s follow up digs deeper into Wyatt’s life and the navy’s failure to protect him. #History Tappan Adney and the Heritage of the St. John River Valley Keith Helmuth Chapel Street Editions Tappan Adney first met Peter Joe and saw him building a Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) birch-bark canoe in 1887 and began documenting how they were made, and building one-fifth-scale models using traditional materials gathered from the forest, making a significant contribution to the preservation of an Indigenous tradition. #History 400 Years in 365 Days Leo Deveau Formac Publishing This is a celebration of all things Nova Scotia, condensed into bite-sized morsels and representing varied communities. It sings the songs of prominent Nova Scotians current

and past, including Alexander Graham Bell, Carrie Best, Sam Langford, Viola Desmond, Rita MacNeil, Anna Leonowens, Alden Nowlan, Anne Murray, The Rankins, El Jones and George Elliott Clarke. #History Big Business and Hitler Jacques R Pauwels Lorimer Publishing In Nazi Germany, the re-arming of the deflated nation meant big bucks for multinational corporations. Pauwels lays bare the links between Hitler and companies including GM, IBM, Ford, Standard Oil and others, and how these connections kept America from joining the Allied Forces earlier, extending the war and holocaust. #History Wartime Edward Butts Lorimer Publishing Award-winning historian Edward Butts takes us back via news clippings, letters home from overseas and cinematic newsreels, as jubilant Europe-bound boys turned into casualties and lost promise and the Canadian government took desperate measures to enlist fresh recruits, by force if necessary. Ordinary Canadians struggled to make sense of a war without evident logic. #History Develop or Perish Gerhard P Bassler Flanker Develop or Perish is an illustrated companion to Gerhard P Bassler’s Escape

Hatch, an in-depth examination of Smallwood’s Newfoundland industrialization effort, which drew in 17 new industries and more than 1,000 new immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. Most of the images are provided from immigrants of the era. #History Death at the Harbourview Cafe Fred Humber Flanker Fred Humber plays the role of true-crime sleuth in uncovering details of foul play and disaster the night of Nov. 6, 1958 in Botwood, Newfoundland, and the gruesome events that rocked the nation, ending three lives, destroying a Chinese-Canadian-owned business and creating long-term disorder for those who attended the scene. #History Reconciliation Manifesto Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson Lorimer Publishing Non-Indigenous Canadians: prepare to have your assumptions about Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples challenged. Manuel and Derrickson show that governments are attempting to reconcile without addressing the very colonial structures that have long framed an attack on Indigenous Peoples, and highlight what is really required for true reconciliation. Atlantic Books Today

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NEW BOOKS

Smaller Hours Kevin Shaw icehouse poetry Kevin Shaw’s poems escort us back through #history to observe the archaic and gain insight into today’s condition through a celebrated cast of characters living ordinary lives, Ovid at the laundromat for example, the illusive innovators our city halls wish to entice, all to the anachronistic beat of cinema and music. Lost in September Kathleen Winter Alfred A Knopff Canada Fiction fans rejoice, there’s a new Kathleen Winter on the shelves. Her last novel, Annabel, was a finalist for everything including the Giller, Governor General’s Award and Writers’ Trust prize. Here she dives deep into broad themes of PTSD, war, homelessness, heroism and how we interpret #history. Peninsula Sinking David Huebert Biblioasis Huebert first captured the public imagination when “Enigma,” his short story about a woman grieving the death of her horse, won the CBC short story contest in 2016. His debut collection features Maritimers “marooned on the shores of being.” One of the many striking features of his work is his respect for the relations between humans and other animals. Beachbound Junie Coffey Thomas Allen & Son In the second in the Pineapple Cay series, her sequel to 2015’s Sunbaked, New Brunswick’s Junie Coffey offers up a

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well-written attemptedmurder mystery full of adventure with a little bit of romance. It’s a fun, engaging read and a great story with unexpected depth and insight. The Kingdom of No Worries Philip Roy Ronsdale Press Philip Roy continues creating fiction for young readers that plays on youthful desires for freedom, adventure and independence while exploring the sophisticated responsibilities and challenges of adulthood. Here, three friends set out to create a Utopic independent society but find themselves inextricably linked to other communities. Camped Out Daphne Greer Orca Books In this sequel to Maxed Out, Max once again finds himself under the stress of caring for his autistic brother, Duncan. Young readers are along for an emotional journey, with laughs and cries along the way and much scene stealing by the ever-observant Duncan. Plank’s Law Lesley Choyce Orca Books Teenaged Trevor has Huntington’s disease and has a year to live when he meets pottymouthed old Plank, whose philosophy is simple: just live. Their meeting inspires Trevor to improve his bucket list and get busy. This is a funny, fast-paced story

with fascinating, quirky characters and an underlying theme as relevant to the living as to the dying. Jumped In William Kowalski Orca Books This is the story of a bright young man spending much of his energy avoiding the violence of a street gang in his neighbourhood. It’s a quick read with potent themes around race and class, and it serves as a reminder that not every childhood is lived in safe quarters. Deer Island Mystery Don Kelly Chocolate River Publishing This page turner for young readers is a joy to read quietly or aloud. Children will be compelled by the adventures of Jamie and friends as they follow the mystery of Captain Nehemiah Butler’s lost treasure. It may even make them eager to start their own heritage projects and learn more about orienteering. The Gravel Pit Kids Geraldine RyanLush Black Rose Writing A beautifully written story of a friendship between two preteen boys in a small Newfoundland town. The setting is well enough rendered that it remains an important presence throughout. The boys’ bond is strong enough to endure significant differences in class and circumstance and the disapproving eyes of surrounding adults.


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