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How Small Bookstores Are Bouncing Back
Support Your Local Sports Star page 33
The State of Our Verse page 23
Doug Knockwoodâ€™s Counsel is Hard Earned page 11
No. 86 Publications Mail Agreement 40038836
New books from the Camelia Airheart authors!
Maritime Melange Beth Weatherbee’s poetry
Miss Nackawic Meets Midlife Colleen Landry’s hilarious musings about life after soggy towels
Chocolate River Publishing
The ABC’s of Viola Desmond Grade 4 students at William King Elementary School and teacher Beatrice MacDonald. 54 pages, $23.95 Reviewed by Lauri Taparluie for Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.
Delmore “Buddy” Daye
Excellence in Africentric Education & Research
“A is for African Canadian.” The events of the fateful night when Viola Desmond was refused access to the “whites-only” section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, unravel page by page in this thoughtful and powerful book. In The ABC’s of Viola Desmond, readers are presented with the history of one of Canada’s esteemed civil rights activists in an alphabetical format. Written for an audience of grade three students, words such as “discrimination,” “inspiration,” and “segregation,” underscore the role Viola Desmond played in the fight for equality of all people, regardless of race. This book, written by Grade 4 Nova Scotian students for the African Nova Scotian History Challenges, speaks not only of Viola’s courage and strength when faced with racism, but also of the struggles of all Black Canadians of the time, the key people who aided her in her fight and details of her story overlooked in traditional historical texts. Exposure to diverse literature is imperative for students belonging to all communities.
History textbooks alone do not adequately expose students to the histories of Canada. Discrimination based on skin colour, ethnic origin and religious affiliation happens every day with examples frequently broadcast in mainstream media. Acknowledging the past and present struggles of people who have been marginalized will lead to a better understanding and appreciation of our history and our present day. This book can be used effectively as a mentor text to increase students’ cultural awareness and historical knowledge. While it has direct links to the Grade 3 social studies curriculum, it could also be used as a text to support understanding in Grade 6 social studies and Grade 7 and 8 history as students learn about the different communities that make up Canada and the privileges or lack thereof experienced by different groups. Lauri Taparluie is a member of Greater Essex County Teacher Local.
Order your copy through the Delmore Buddy Day Learning Institute at dbdli.ca
Contents Number 86 Spring 2018
Unlikely but Possible The hungry, yet humble, quest of Maritime sports stars
Young Readers 35
35 Foreword 6
Letters From Readers
Small, Independent Bookstores Are on the Rise Contrary to common perception of a failing book industry, small bookstores are on the rise as vibrant community hubs for lovers of literature
Shortlists Revealed for the Atlantic Book Awards Nominees showcase a diverse array of talent and theme
NEWS FEATURE: Nova Scotia libraries are doing more than you know to support local writers Librarians are leading the way with a range of creative initiatives to market local literature
Race and Place How racism shapes our cities
Atlantic Poetics The delightful heterogeneity of contemporary Atlantic poetry
All Our Lives Under the Sun Memoirs are about much more than just their authors
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR: Imdomitable Spirit Doug Knockwood, residential school survivor, addictions counsellor and now first-time author at age 88, tells Daniel Paul about his own long, treacherous road to recovery
Reading Books of War War never ends; its impacts haunt the generations
ABOUT THE COVER
Sarah Baker-Forward is a Nova Scotia photographer specializing in candid photography in natural settings. “I have been clicking away since my father gave me my first camera at the age of six,” she says. “Making my passion into a business has been an added bonus. The friends who travelled to surround Sheree the afternoon her bookstore opened affirmed what I already knew: Sheree is an amazing spirit for whom I am honoured to capture memories. Photography is my passion and I always leave a photo shoot feeling grateful. This afternoon was no exception.”
Showing Children the Mi’kmaw Language Alan Syliboy’s work lifts the spirits of children in Mi’kmaw, in English, and in stunning imagery Befuddled Fowl, Similar Singularities, Girl-crazy Garden Gnomes, Animated Art, Peripatetic Pipers, Breakup Buffs, Fun Facts and Cultural Celebration Lisa Doucet and Jo-Anne Elder review the season’s most anticipated books for young readers
Anne Levesque’s Changing and Tenacious Family Bonds
43 Lisa Moore and Alex Marland’s
Hodgepodge of Recipes for a More Delectable Democracy
44 Rachel Bryant’s Dedication to Reconciliation
Harriet Alida Lye’s Ecological Thriller
Elaine Craig’s Devastating, Factual Analysis of Our Legal System’s Failure and Sexual Assault
Annie Pootoogook’s Lasting Legacy for Inuit Art in Canada
New Books 48
Editor’s Picks 18 Atlantic Canadian books that are generating buzz this season
Home for the (Summer) Holidays Planning your perfect Atlantic Canadian staycation Atlantic Books Today
Editor’s Message Like many a good novelist, we at Atlantic Books Today strive for a balance between darkness and light—at times dissecting humanity’s failings, at other times basking in the sunshine of existence. In every case, we strive for honest, engaging talk about books. The specific resulting contents vary. Our spring issue is a good example. In our second feature, Evelyn White uses Ingrid Waldron’s There’s Something in the Water and Ted Rutland’s Displacing Blackness to illuminate a disturbing history of shaping our cities and towns through a racist lens, hurting families and communities in the process. In this moment, one charged by intensified, honest open discussions—and calls for action—around #metoo and #MMIW, our reviewer Erin Wunker considers the weight of Elaine Craig’s Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession, and Patty Musgrave takes heart in the existence of Rachel Bryant’s The Homing Place: Atlantic Indigenous and Settler Literary Legacies, and its reminder that reconciliation requires settler Canadians to do a whole lot of work.
In our cover story, it’s a case of “book retail is dead; long live book retail!” There is good news in the form of brightly coloured and beautiful storefronts selling real, tactile books. Thanks to an incredibly committed group of entrepreneurs, independent bookstores are thriving as more than just businesses. They are serving as community gathering places and doing much better than most people think. This summer I highly recommend heading to your local bookstore, and not just to shop. You’ll be surprised what you might find, maybe a game of chess with a new friend, the best Nanaimo bars west of Nanaimo, and maybe even a friendly donkey or two. (That’s right, the donkeys are friendly!) Lastly, given that it’s spring, which can only lead to summer, our issue is bookended (yes I did) with stories about the Atlantic Book Awards, libraries and books to help you find your way to some of the best outdoor attractions in the region, from the Bluenose II to little-known hiking trails and waterfalls. Happy summer; bask while you can. Chris Benjamin
New from MQUP
Putting Trials on Trial
Too Critical to Fail
Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession Elaine Craig Cloth, 328pp • $34.95
“A damning account of what goes on in Canadian courtrooms, filled with outrageous examples of misconduct by legal professionals, including judges, prosecutors, and defence lawyers. Craig has proven in this book what many women knew to be true already: sexual-assault trials are hellish, traumatizing experiences, and the fair dispensation of justice, in a society still steeped in a mistrust of women and women’s sexuality, is unlikely.” –The Walrus
How Canada Manages Threats to Critical Infrastructure Kevin Quigley, Ben Bisset, and Bryan Mills
L.M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature(s) Edited by Rita Bode and Jean Mitchell Paperback, 304pp • $29.95
Through innovative critical approaches, Bode and Mitchell open up conversations about humans’ interactions with nature and the material environment.
Paperback, 336pp • $39.95
“… a valuable addition to the very limited literature on Canadian critical infrastructure, the risks inherent to it and emerging from it, and provides a public response as well as a theoretical framework for analysis and further thinking.” –Andrew Graham, School of Public Policy, Queen’s University
M C G I L L - Q U E E N’S U N I V E R S I T Y P R E S S
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atlantic books today Atlantic Books Today is published by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (www.atlanticpublishers.ca), which gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canada Book Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Opinions expressed in articles in Atlantic Books Today do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Board of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association.
TWO LIMITED EDITION NOVELS
$9.95 each (only 500 copies of each available). Newest and ‘last’ of four novels by octagenarian Canadian novelist Dolores Careless-Moffatt& a rerelease of her generation-old Maritime Best-seller. Dancing on the Third Step, © 2018: First Century AD story of Mary, mother of Jesus, coping as any mother would, filled with human emotion, but with a lucid perspective as she writes her personal account from His birth to crucifiction. An Unfortunate Likeness, © AUL: 9781895814057 - Orig.$12.95 - $9.95 1998 - a 19th and 20th Century tale of the triumph of (140 pp/photos/sketches) LOVE over the power of darkness and evil: story of DOTS: 9781895814576 - $9.95 (54 pp.) young woman & grand-mother look-alikes set in a www.newworldpublishing.com small coastal village. In fine bookstores and on-line. 1-877-211-3334
No Choice The 30-Year Fight for Abortion on Prince Edward Island PUBLISHER Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association EDITOR Chris Benjamin email@example.com ART DIRECTOR and ADVERTISING SALES Gwen North firstname.lastname@example.org PRODUCTION MANAGER Katie Ingram email@example.com Printed in Canada. This is issue number 86 Spring 18. Atlantic Books Today is published three times a year. All issues are numbered in sequence. Total Atlantic-wide circulation: 100,000. ISSN 1192-3652 One-year subscriptions to Atlantic Books Today are available for $16 ($18.40 including HST). Please make cheques payable to the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association and mail to address below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org 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
by Kate McKenna; Foreword by Megan Leslie
Award-winning journalist Kate McKenna offers a firsthand account of Prince Edward Island’s refusal to bring abortion services to the Island, and introduces us to the courageous women who struggled for over thirty years to change this.
FERNWOOD PUBLISHING www. fernwoodpublishing.ca
David Huebert! Nominated for the 2018 Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award AND the 2018 Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction Available at Chapters/Indigo, Westminister Books, Bookmark Halifax, Bookmark Charlottetown, King's Bookstore, Lexicon Books, Lunenberg Bound, and wherever else fine books are sold!
IBL I OA S I S
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Atlantic Books Today
Dear Editor, We’ve been working on an online exhibit about Edward E Allen’s (the third director of Perkins School for the Blind) involvement in the relief efforts following the Halifax Explosion (interested readers can learn more at perkins.org/history/halifax). There are so many books out there about the Explosion and we wanted to learn more about them—this issue (Winter 2017/18) did exactly that. We are so impressed. In addition to the Halifax articles, we were fascinated by Maria Recchia’s “Knowledge As Verb.” Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Susanna Coit Archives and Research Library Assistant Perkins School for the Blind Watertown, MA USA Dear Editor, Can a glowing, enthusiastic review put readers off a great book? Hard to imagine. But your review of Sharon Bala’s The Boat People might do the trick. It starts well enough. The reviewer shows himself to be widely read, informed, and a lover of language and style. Exactly the sort of reader an outstanding novel deserves. But before long we are told of the “heuristic effort” required to read this “effortlessly Teiresian” book.
The novelist is further credited with creating “tri-colon crescendos interspersed with now melodious, now dissonant slant rhymes,” and praised for the refinement of her “prosopography.” This is high praise. At least I think it is. For those of us blind to prosopography and effortless Teiresianism it’s impossible to know for sure. And what’s a tri-colon crescendo? Some sort of grim surgical procedure? Literary fiction struggles to find a large readership, in part because many people think of it as dull stuff for dull bookish people, all big words and obscure ideas. A book review conforming to that stereotype doesn’t do anyone any good. The Boat People is a terrific story, crafted by a great storyteller. Sharon Bala’s writing is clear and precise and musical, as much a pleasure to read as the story itself. If I didn’t know that already, your review might have convinced me to give it a pass. Jamie Fitzpatrick St. John’s, NL
Dear Editor, Thank you to Barry Cahill, on the centennial of the Halifax Explosion, for the reminder that we need to look far beyond the explosion itself at the effects and meaning of the event. “The Significance of Disaster” (Winter 2017–2018, page 23) gave a very useful overview of the many good new nonfiction books about the Halifax Disaster (as I will now call it) as well as the best of the older ones. His examination of books on the topic will guide my reading. But his piece also amounts to a call for papers—or books—that would take the story further, to discuss the long-term effects of the Disaster on Halifax, on social programs, on marginalized groups and on our own thinking. For scholars, journalists and nonfiction authors, there is still work to be done. In the same issue and the same vein, Carol Bruneau’s article, “An Explosion of Fiction” (page 29), exploring novels about the Disaster, made the stories that started with the Explosion and then drew on the reality of the aftermath sound most intriguing to me. In fiction, too, there remains room to explore the greater meaning of the Disaster. Thank you, Atlantic Books Today, for offering two critical reading lists as well as the beginnings of a to-do list for writers and scholars. Patricia Relf Hanavan Halifax, NS and Cleveland Heights, OH USA
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Shortlists Revealed for the Atlantic Book Awards Nominees showcase a diverse array of talent and theme by Denise Flint
n the memoir Run, Hide, Repeat a woman learns the truth about her childhood on the run; and in Just Jen a woman faces the truth about her future. Fiction entries range across space and time, from the Copacabana Club in 1960s Brazil to a Buddhist Utopia in 1980s Maine. These are just some of the diverse books that have been nominated for this year’s Atlantic Book Awards. The Atlantic Book Awards Festival runs May 3 to 10 and free events will be held throughout the region, including school visits, author signings, and readings and panel discussions in libraries and bookstores. Beginning this year, the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the JM Abraham Poetry Award and the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award will be part of the Atlantic Book Awards instead of the now retired East Coast Literary Awards, which had been run separately by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS). WFNS Executive Director Marilyn Smulders explains, “We’re still doing all the work, but in the past we had our own ceremony. As a Nova Scotia-based organization with awards to service the whole region we had to bring writers in from all the provinces and it was getting expensive. We have funding for the awards, but nothing beyond that. The Atlantic Book Awards have sponsors and a good ceremony. We’ve kept the management—what’s changed is when they’re awarded.” Finalists for the Raddall include Carol Bruneau’s A Bird on Every Tree, Sarah Faber’s All Is Beauty Now and Oisín Curran’s Blood Fable. Bridget Canning is one of the nominees for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, a media savvy examination of accidental heroism. She has a couple of reasons for being thrilled. “There are so many excellent books coming out in Newfoundland alone and there are so many amazing authors in this region that it’s amazing to be recognized. It’s my first novel and award and you’re still very vulnerable. It’s nice to know that it’s being considered on a number of levels.” But beyond the personal recognition, Canning also appreciates the awards themselves for the attention they garner. “It’s important to create music and art and it matters to show how important it is and recognize its validity. It’s important to support art in your region. People should open their eyes and see what
people are creating just down the street. It gets overlooked, but it’s important for artistic contributions to matter.” Books, especially for children, are not limited to words and the awards recognize that with the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. This year Sydney Smith has garnered two nominations in that category for his work on Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow and Town Is by the Sea. “It’s wonderful that Smoot was recognized, but Town Is by the Sea is really special. It gives me a chance to share stories specific to Nova Scotia. I want to be able to tell the stories of my people,” says Smith, who recently moved to Toronto. “I’ve been trying to re-identify myself and stay connected to the East Coast. The book gave me a chance to go home every time I worked on it.” Smith won a Governor General’s Award for Illustration in 2015 and considers this a completely different, though equal, experience. “It’s not just a recognition of the quality of the work, it’s also a blessing that I was able to capture a certain essence of what it means to be from that area.” The 2018 Atlantic Book Awards will be presented at a gala awards ceremony on May 10 at the Halifax Central Library. There is an entry fee of $15. ■ 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.
The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes Bridget Canning Breakwater Books
Just Jen Jen Powley Roseway Publishing
Town Is by the Sea Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith Groundwood Books
Atlantic Books Today
ABA Shortlists Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction Scars and Other Stories by Don Aker Barrelling Forward by Eva Crocker Peninsula Sinking by David Huebert
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Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature The Painting by Charis Cotter Polly MacCauley’s Finest, Divinest, Woolliest Gift of All by Sheree Fitch The Memory Chair by Susan White Scholarly Writing The Mill by Joan Baxter The Homing Place by Rachel Bryant Steal Away Home by Karolyn Smardz Frost Democracy 250 Historical Writing The Mill by Joan Baxter The Endless Battle by Andy Flanagan Nova Scotia at War by Brian Douglas Tennyson Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award The Mill by Joan Baxter Run, Hide, Repeat by Pauline Dakin The Long Way Home by John DeMont Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award—Fiction A Bird on Every Tree by Carol Bruneau The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil by Lesley Choyce Peninsula Sinking by David Huebert JM Abraham Poetry Award Everything We’ve Loved Comes Back to Find Us by Allan Cooper I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game by Alison Dyer All the Names Between by Julia McCarthy
Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration Atlantic Animal ABC illustrated by Angela K Doak Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow illustrated by Sydney Smith Town Is by the Sea illustrated by Sydney Smith Margaret and John Savage First Book Award—Fiction The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes by Bridget Canning All is Beauty Now by Sarah Faber Crying for the Moon by Mary Walsh Margaret and John Savage First Book Award—Non-Fiction Run, Hide, Repeat by Pauline Dakin Just Jen by Jen Powley Chasing Smoke by Aaron Williams Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award—Non-Fiction The Mill by Joan Baxter The Sea Was in Their Blood by Quentin Casey The Halifax Explosion by Ken Cuthbertson Thomas Raddall Award for Fiction A Bird on Every Tree by Carol Bruneau All is Beauty Now by Sarah Faber Blood Fable by Oisín Curran
N E W S F E AT U R E
Nova Scotia libraries are doing more than you know to support local writers From e-platforms to promotional campaigns designed to get people to #ReadLocal, librarians are leading the way in creative initiatives to market local literature by Phil Moscovitch
Antigonish library photo courtesy of Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, Halifax library photo: Wikimedia Commons
Antigonish Library, “The Peoples’ Place”
eo McKay never expected he’d be going on a book tour in support of his novel, Twenty-Six, nine years after it came out. Released in 2003, the novel, inspired by the Westray mining disaster, was the first book selected by One Book Nova Scotia—a library promotion that aims to encourage Nova Scotians to all read the same book and discuss it. The program saw McKay visiting libraries across the province, from Yarmouth to Sydney. “Not many people begin a career in fiction hoping to make a lot of money. What people dream of is, ‘Someone will read my book and we can have a conversation,’” McKay says. “So, from my point of view, One Book Nova Scotia was fun. It was super well-organized and well prepared, and when I’d arrive for a reading people knew who I was and what the book was about.” Since One Book Nova Scotia launched in 2012, the province’s libraries have undertaken several other initiatives aimed at promoting books by local writers. They include a local e-book collection, a hub for digitized cookbooks by Nova Scotia writers, participation in the Atlantic publishers East Bound conference
Halifax Central Library
(a gathering of writers, illustrators, publishers, media, booksellers, libraries and other industry representatives May 9 to 11 in Halifax), the Canada 150 project 150 Books of Influence, and involvement in a variety of literary festivals. When it comes to promoting local work, “We should absolutely be playing a large role in helping support and promote local authors,” says Dave MacNeil, manager of collections and access for Halifax Public Libraries. “Some local authors may not have the resources—whether monetary, time or otherwise—to self-promote. I think the public library is able to take on some of that role for them. I think we can do it fairly easily and I think we benefit from it as well.” Promoting local books can be as simple as inviting authors to read (and sell their books onsite) and including work by writers from the region in library displays. “Books are really our best calling card to the world,” says Laura Emery, chief librarian of the Eastern Counties Regional Library. “We’ve always purchased books by local authors. But that has expanded into promoting titles through book clubs. And we have Atlantic Books Today
N E W S F E AT U R E
Whether it’s through promoting online collections, making e-books more accessible, or creative displays highlighting authors and collections…there’s no doubt libraries play a crucial role in connecting local writers and readers.
our own little homegrown marketing in-house…people get quite creative with local author displays.” Beyond displays and readings, libraries have played a role in much more involved, long-term projects that are promoting writers and helping the viability of local publishing. One Book Nova Scotia is still going strong and Emery was a key contributor to 150 Books of Influence—a project to create a list of (and guide to) significant Nova Scotia books. “They are important titles that will be around for awhile and will help library staff and new users get an entry into books that are really important to our culture,” Emery says. Libraries are also working directly to put local books into readers’ hands—and onto their devices. Browse a Nova Scotia library’s OverDrive collection today and you’ll find hundreds of e-books in the “Read local” collection. Normally OverDrive—the vendor providing e-book services to libraries—takes a hefty percentage of book purchase prices as a commission when libraries buy an e-book. But they’ve made an exception for local small-press books, says Dyan Bader, manager of systems and collections access for the Provincial Library. Bader was part of the team that negotiated the deal that made the collection—the first of its kind outside Quebec—possible. “We buy e-books directly from the publishers and then we load them directly into OverDrive. So the publishers get 100 percent of the purchase price and therefore their authors get a full cut,” Bader says. MacNeil says circulation numbers have been good and that the local collection has “opened the door” to other Canadian libraries “doing this in a more widespread way.” MacNeil, whose first job at the library was shelving books 13 years ago, is one of the people behind another e-book project— this one focused on cookbooks. Halifax Public Libraries launched Cloud Cookbooks (https://cloudcookbooks.ca/) last
fall. Through the library website, users can search dozens of Atlantic Canadian cookbooks—by title, recipe, author, ingredients or other keywords. The project came about when MacNeil was in a meeting with Bader and Formac publisher Jim Lorimer reviewing the success of the local e-book collection. “Jim mentioned this thing he was working on that would have lots of local cookbooks on it,” MacNeil recalls, “and that piqued my interest immediately. Fastforward five or six months and Halifax became the first Canadian library to host and promote the Cloud Cookbooks site.” Lorimer adds, “This is something new that creates new ways of using Canadian books. We have to be able to compete with Epicurious and the New York Times and all these other services. If we were putting up 100 miscellaneous cookbooks from anywhere, I don’t know what the response would be like. But when you tell people in Halifax they can get Craig Flinn’s recipes on the site, they know what that means.” For her part, Emery would like to see libraries go even further in promoting access to local writers, whether published or not. She hopes Nova Scotia libraries will eventually adopt the SELF-e platform, developed by Library Journal, which allows indie writers to upload their self-published e-books. She says the platform could “help these indie authors get going until they are published in more traditional formats.” Whether it’s through promoting online collections, making e-books more accessible, or creative displays highlighting authors and collections, Lorimer says there’s no doubt libraries play a crucial role in connecting local writers and readers. “Public libraries are a powerful source of awareness of books. The stats really show how powerful libraries are in telling people about books they don’t know about.” ■ Phil Moscovitch is a Halifax-based freelance journalist and radio documentary maker.
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR
IMDOMITABLE SPIRIT Elder to Elder: Doug Knockwood, residential school survivor, addictions counsellor and now first-time author at age 88, tells Daniel Paul about his own long, treacherous road to recovery by Daniel Paul
Doug Knockwood Photo: Lorna Lillo
i’kmaw Elder Doug Knockwood and his wife Michelle reside on Indian Brook Indian Reserve, Hants County, Nova Scotia, part of the Sipekne’katik Band. I visited Doug on February 19 and we talked about his upcoming book, Doug Knockwood: Mi’kmaw Elder, Stories, Memories, Reflections. We also reminisced about the past and had a laugh about the time in the 1950s when I was attending New York City’s New Year’s Eve celebrations and in the midst of about one million people we ran into each other. Like finding a needle in a haystack. Doug grew up with his parents, Ann Mary and Freeman Bernard Knockwood, and their extended family, including his grandfather Sam, in Halfway River, Cumberland County. Sam was blind, but for Doug a great teacher. When Doug was five or six years old he was separated from his family. Against their wishes, the Indian Agent had him enrolled in the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. This was possible because, at the time, the provisions of the Indian Act enabled the Canadian government to do just about anything it wanted with Registered Indians, who were classified as Wards of the Crown. Doug spent about two years in the institution before he was returned to his family. Doug didn’t recognize it at the time, but realized later in life that this was his first experience with overt racism. Such treatment, he learned, was the norm for his people.
It created in many of us large inferiority complexes. In Doug’s case, it probably sowed the seeds that grew into two addictions. They controlled his life for 34 years, traumatizing his family and nearly costing him his life. Doug’s addiction to nicotine began when he was about five years old. He started smoking butts left behind by others. Slowly but surely the habit grew into a strong craving. Alcohol came into his life when he was around 11. Doug: “At first I thought I had control of the nicotine and alcohol addictions; however, with the passing of several years, it dawned on me that they had me well hooked!” During the next 34 years, Doug would join the Canadian armed forces, which would increase his dependence on alcohol and cause his family to break up. After being discharged he hit the skids; sometimes he’d have a period of stability, then he’d be back at it. Along the way to his near destruction he contracted tuberculosis. Doug: “It was 1953. In Gagetown we were sleeping in tents on rolled up mattresses and it rained for about 11 days steady and we were all wet, cold, and I lost my voice. One morning I couldn’t answer my name on parade. They put me in the military hospital. I was there for seven weeks. Finally they decided to send me to Saint John, Lancaster Military Hospital, and I was in there for
Atlantic Books Today
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR
40 weeks. They took x-rays and the doctor came to my room to report. “There were probably half a dozen of us who used to play penny ante. We were playing cards when the doctor came down. We were playing penny ante on my bed. “The doctor said, ‘I have good news and bad news. You have an infection in your lung. I guess we’re going to be transferring you to Halifax, Camp Hill. You have a case of tuberculosis.’ “The guys playing cards asked, ‘What is tuberculosis?’ The doctor said, ‘Guys, if I were you, I wouldn’t be playing cards with him anymore.’ “One of the guys dropped his cards and money and left.” Even with this diagnosis, Doug continued to feed his addictions. He was locked up in a secure sanatorium because he would take off from voluntary ones to try to satisfy his cravings. Lung and other operations followed but they did not sway him. I asked Doug, what caused you to finally quit? Doug: “By 1964, my health had declined to the extent that [cigarettes and alcohol] were making me very sick, and when you consume alcohol you smoke like a stovepipe. I had spent several years in the sanatorium with contagious TB and had had several operations. I was in Halifax at the time I finally had enough and was staying at the city’s jail when AA offered me a chance to change my life and I took it. AA became my life raft.”
Top: Doug Knockwood at Age 13. Middle: Doug in Germany, 1951. Below left: Robert Smith (right) taught Doug (left) how to ride a bike. Below midde: Doug with family in Yellowknife.
Photos courtesy of Roseway Publishing
Below right: Receiving his honorary doctorate of humanities from Acadia University (photo: Dan Callis).
AUTHOR TO AUTHOR
“I was in Halifax at the time I finally had enough and was staying at the city’s jail when AA offered me a chance to change my life and I took it. AA became my life raft.”
As a reformed nicotine addict myself—90 cigarettes a day— and having found my three-year withdrawal from it a traumatic experience, I posed this question to my friend: which of the addictions was hardest to quit? Doug: “Nicotine.” (Said without a moment’s hesitation.) At the age of 88, he no longer has any inclination to indulge in either of the addictions that took him down such a rocky road. When he finally conquered his addictions, Doug became successful in helping others who had fallen into the same downward spiral he had. He was instrumental in establishing detox centres and became a sought-after addictions counsellor. The following are quotes from Bernie Knockwood, Doug’s son, and Vera Marr, a grateful benefactor of his wisdom and services. Bernie Knockwood: “When Dad talks to people, there’s that innate understanding…he knows where he’s coming from...the same place they are…a combination of knowing who he is as a person [and] his life experiences. “I’m really proud of my dad. I’m totally amazed that after all these years and all the things he’s gone through, and all the things I’ve gone through, and my sister, all of us—that we can still come together and be a loving family.
Doug Knockwood, Mi’kmaw Elder Doug Knockwood Roseway Publishing
“We’re not tearing at each other and saying, ‘You did this, you did that, why did you do this? Why did you do that?’ …because we know the pain of not being there for somebody. And I’m really glad…he’s my Dad. That’s all I can say.” Vera Marr: “If Doug wasn’t there, there would be a big chapter in our lives that would be gone. Lord knows how we would have ended up. Our dad was a strong man, but even strong men need help. I think the most important part was that we knew Doug was coming to visit Dad. There was someone who would come by to take care of Dad, because he had to be taken care of. He took care of us eight kids and his wife. Doug was always his constant. Everybody should have one constant in their life…Ours would be Doug.” Doug Knockwood’s life story is an inspiring one, about the courage and resilience needed to overcome powerful addictions. ■ Mi’kmaw Elder Dr Daniel N Paul, CM, ONS is an author, columnist and historian. He is the author of We Were Not the Savages and a novel, Chief Lightning Bolt.
Atlantic Books Today
SMALL, INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES
are on the
Contrary to common perceptions of a failing book industry, small bookstores are on the rise as vibrant, feel-good community hubs for lovers of literature— something online booksellers can’t provide by Sara Jewell Photos by Sarah Baker-Forward
Author-bookseller Sheree Fitch and husband, Gilles Plante, have created a colourful community book hub worthy of its namesake, her beloved character, Mabel Murple.
alls lined with shelves of books. A pair of comfortable armchairs tucked into a reading nook. A cat dozing on a table display of spring-themed books, the sound of a dog’s toenails skittering on the wood floor as it greets a visitor who has just stepped through the door. Reading socks and book bags; scented candles and mugs. Stop—you had me at books. No matter how large or small, there is nothing more satisfying to a reader than a bookstore. And despite those who declared, “Books—and bookstores—are dead,” there is nothing more gratifying than the fact the retail book industry is stronger than ever. The national Indigo chain has posted growth and profits for several years straight, publishers are increasing their output of books, and independent bookstores are opening up in the most unlikely, inspired, places. “We knew we were taking a chance,” says Alice Burdick of Lunenburg’s Lexicon Books, one of several independent bookstores that have opened in Atlantic Canada since 2014. “There were people coming into the store saying ‘Are you crazy?’ but we paid attention to trends in North America. And the trend of three years ago, which continues to strengthen, is that independents are on the rise.” Ellen Pickle might argue that’s always been the trend. She has put her faith in the staying power of books since opening Tidewater Books (now Books and Browsery) in Sackville, New Brunswick, in 1995.
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Scenes from the grand opening of Sheree Fitch’s Mable Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery in River John, 2017.
“The sky has been falling since the day I opened the doors,” she says with a chuckle. “A lot of people thought they saw the writing on the wall but books have such value, people keep coming back to them.” From experience, she believes if a bookstore can ride out the ebbs and flows of industry flux, it will be fine. Perhaps it was the ebb and flow of the river running past her rural property in River John, Nova Scotia, that inspired author Sheree Fitch to become the newbie to the Atlantic Canadian bookstore scene. “We didn’t have money to pay rent and we knew there had to be more than books to bring people out of their way,” she says of the decision to turn an old outbuilding into a bookstore. “That’s the reason we decided to be seasonal and why we integrated the sense of nature and books and reading.” While she admits her motivation for opening Mable Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery was to bring something back to a community that had lost so much—including its elementary school—she also wanted to create an experience for visitors. She brought Maple Murple’s famous literary house to life in a separate building alongside a barn, pasture and chicken coop. Of the success of her first season in 2017, Fitch says, “People came and usually stayed an hour. Some stayed half a day. The picnic tables were well used. We discovered people like the idea of coming, browsing and lingering. So it was an experience as much as it was a bookstore.” Fitch sees this as fitting in with an emerging industry. “From Anne of Green Gables to all the festivals we have, I think Atlantic Canada is developing a literary tourism industry. I’m part of that and I’m pushing that.” While they didn’t deliberately set out to create a destination bookstore, Gael Watson and Andra White took advantage of existing infrastructure when they jumped at the opportunity presented by a space opening up in the historic outfitters building along the LaHave River in southwest Nova Scotia. Watson has owned and operated LaHave Bakery in the building for 30 years; White does the bakery’s bookkeeping. The two simply expanded their business partnership. “Our expectations weren’t huge,” White says. “We weren’t desperate for the money as much as just having a place where people could come and buy books. As a result, it’s been better than we expected.”
White admits that the presence of a popular bakery, an already established community hub in a beautiful stopping spot, benefits the bookstore. But, she adds, “I think we were surprised by how supportive the community is. And by how much we love being in the bookstore.” If anyone knows how hard it is to resist the siren call of owning a bookstore, it’s Matt Howse of Newfoundland. On the cusp of turning 30 and wanting to plant potatoes in the fall and pick them in the spring, Howse decided to give up the life of an itinerant teacher (he taught for six years in four different communities) and fulfill a ten-year desire to work in a bookstore. He settled in St. John’s and opened Broken Books on Duckworth Street in 2014.
“When someone comes in that door, they visibly brighten up. People relax; you can see their shoulders drop as they get into the zone.” He now admits owning a bookstore isn’t as idyllic as he thought it would be. “I feel like working in a bookstore is much more fun than actually owning one,” he says with a laugh. “I spend half my time on the phone and the internet, talking to people, dealing with publishers and publicists and the government.” That didn’t stop him from jumping at the chance to expand into a larger space a few doors down earlier this year. “Since we’ve moved, we’ve seen an increase in foot traffic. We have more space, more chairs; and we still have the chess board.” Ask any independent bookseller, however, what brings them the greatest joy, and they’ll say it’s the chance to curate a unique collection of books. “For me, part the appeal is that visitors are getting Atlantic-focused books curated by somebody who studied children’s literature and is a book maniac,” says Fitch of her book shoppe and dreamery. Andra White in LaHave says she and her business partner simply pick books they like. “Some of them are classics, a lot are Canadian and local and we have a big non-fiction section.” Or if you’re Julien Cormier, a lifelong resident of northern New Brunswick, it’s the joy of offering books at all. Growing up Atlantic Books Today
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Mable Murple’s Book Shoppe and Dreamery grand opening.
in Shippagan, on the Acadian Peninsula, Cormier loved to read but there was no place to buy books. After living in Montreal as a young man, he returned to his hometown and in 1989, opened Librairie Pelagie, selling French-language books. “That’s what I’m proud of,” he says after nearly three decades in business. “I offer to the people around here what I didn’t have when I was a child. For almost 30 years, they have that. For me, that’s a big achievement.” In 2005, Cormier expanded to nearby Caraquet, where the bookstore benefits from being attached to a popular café/bistro, and then to Bathurst in 2011, where the cottage-like store is located in a quaint boardwalk-style strip. He says they are fighting every day to keep the three stores open but he credits book sales to schools and the annual book fair, held in Shippagan every October since 2003, for keeping them competitive. Creating a steady source of income is a priority for every independent bookseller, especially in a region with a considerable seasonal economy. “The biggest challenge is maintaining the store over the course of a year,” admits Alice Burdick of Lexicon Books. “The South Shore, like so many places everywhere, is deeply seasonal. We knew this coming into it so we had a plan but it’s still a challenge maintaining an acceptable level of sales in the winter months.” Ellen Pickle has kept costs down at Tidewater Books and Browsery for 23 years by doing her own accounting. “You have to know where you stand at any given point,” she says. It’s one of the reasons she doesn’t discount her books outside customer appreciation days. “I think they’re too important to do that and there’s not enough [profit] margin to keep your business viable if you do.” The high cost of rent and online retailers are the biggest challenges to “indies,” particularly if sales decline considerably during the winter. Creative strategies for keeping the community engaged and devoted are key for an independent bookstore’s success. Lexicon Books and suddenlyLISTEN Music (a multidisciplinary presenter of improvised, adventurous music) cohost
evenings of words and music, while Tidewater’s Ellen Pickle has turned a third of her bookstore into a “browser” featuring the work of local artisans. Matt Howse offers up a chess table; Sheree Fitch has donkeys and Andra White offers cake. “Everyone can count on having a piece of homemade cake when they show up to an author book signing.” White says she’s thinking of the writer as she decides whether chocolate or blueberry-zucchini or carrot cake is called for. This is why Howse in St. John’s, along with others, see the bookstore-as-hangout as the future of independent bookstores, because they can offer something that online retailers cannot. “The future of bookselling is creating community, creating space,” Howse explains. “It’s really important for us as booksellers to fill this void of third space, a place you can go to that’s not home and not work but a place to hang out and be social. I think it’s important for us to stay open a few nights a week and have lectures and poetry readings and live music.” Anyone daring enough to open a bookstore does it not to be trendy but to be happy, and to share that happiness with others. After all, consider the added benefits of owning a bookstore of one’s own: curating a particular selection of books, providing a hospitable space for hanging out, supporting the local writing community and, of course, meeting diverse and interesting readers. What every independent seller of books and gifts has in common is the feeling that the bookstore is their “happy place.” “I love coming to work,” says Alice Burdick. “When someone comes in that door, they visibly brighten up. People relax; you can see their shoulders drop as they get into the zone. It’s such a pleasure to see how much people enjoy being in here.” ■ Sara Jewell is the author of Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia, published by Nimbus. She lives near Oxford, NS.
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Race and Place N
ow hailed as a vibrant artist colony, Salt Spring Island, BC counts as its first permanent residents a group of free Blacks from California who settled the landscape in the late 1850s. Street signs bearing names such as Starks Road and Whims Road honour the island’s early Black families. Indeed, the enclave of about 10,000 continues to attract an eclectic coterie of people of African descent. For about a decade, I was among the Black folk who called Salt Spring home. One day during a visit to the Salt Spring library, I was drawn to a book titled The Spirit of Africville. I’d previously read about the “velvet touch” Canadian racism that had facilitated the razing of Africville and other close-knit African-Canadian communities such as Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver (the 1997 film Rosewood showcases the more “rigorous” tactics utilized in the US, where I was born).
Photo: Bob Brooks Collection, Public Archives of NS (PANS)
How racism shapes our cities by Evelyn C White
Aerial scan of Africville.
Atlantic Books Today
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But I was stunned to discover that Halifax officials, in the purported guise of being “helpful,” had dispatched municipal dump trucks to relocate many residents of Africville to new homes. Founded in the 1840s by William Brown and William Arnold, two Black men who’d purchased land abutting the Bedford Basin, Africville housed about 80 families when it was demolished in the 1960s. Published in 2010 (by the Africville Genealogical Society and Formac Publishing), here’s a passage from The Spirit of Africville: “Just think what the neighbours thought when they looked out and saw a garbage truck drive up and unload the furniture.” Juxtaposed against the history of Blacks on Salt Spring Island (admittedly not without its tensions), the humiliation of the Haligonian maneuver left me speechless. I can only imagine the anger and sorrow of African Nova Scotians freighted with memories of forebears who’d been hauled like trash. In Displacing Blackness: Planning, Power, and Race in TwentiethCentury Halifax, author Ted Rutland chronicles the machinations that have led to the degradation of the longest-standing community of Blacks in Canada; a group that, in the absence of government-sanctioned oppression, might have emerged as the archetype of Black achievement in North America. A made-in-Nova-Scotia Barack Obama? Damn skippy it could-a happened. But no… “More than any other Canadian city, Halifax is widely known for a particular example of anti-Black urban planning,” Rutland writes. “Africville is important because of…what happened to the people there, but also because of the broader structure of power that it symbolizes; the centuries-long neglect, plunder and subjugation of Black people in Halifax and across Nova Scotia by the state (in general) and planning (in particular).” Readers familiar with the Pentagon Papers history and its revelations about the deliberate US escalation of the Vietnam War will find resonance in Rutland’s bombshell narrative about Halifax. A faculty member in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment at Concordia University, the selfatlanticbookstoday.ca
described “white man from Northern Ontario” outlines his objectives in the text that spans from about 1890 to 2010. “The story of Africville helped to expose my own ignorance about Canadian racism and the role of racism in shaping (advantageously) the circumstances of my own life,” writes Rutland, who completed graduate studies at Dalhousie University. He notes that his sojourn in the city awakened him to “forms of political and spatial segregation” that stand as the hallmark of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), adding that all whites profit from the pervasive anti-Black (and Indigenous) sentiments in “Canada’s Ocean Playground.” The author continues: “For a white person…the injustices… are inscribed not just in unjustly higher levels of white wealth or unjustly better white housing conditions but in the very make-up of our bodies and experiences of the world. It is important…to acknowledge…the intimate privileges provided to white people in contexts produced and organized by anti-Black urban planning.” Those inclined to dismiss Rutland’s volume as Kumbaya pandering should check the data upon which he builds his account of the disempowerment of Blacks whose presence in Nova Scotia dates to the early 1600s. In addition to his analysis of myriad works on Africville, the author mines documents from the archives of the Halifax planning department, minutes and reports of Halifax City Council, the records of the Nova Scotia land registry and the records of numerous civic groups such as the Halifax Council of Women (HCW), to name a few. Having expressed his need for a “definition of systemic racism,” Halifax chief of police Jean-Michel Blais (aka “Street Checks R Us”) might consider Rutland’s 68 pages of source notes. There he’ll find, among other educational aids, a citation related to a 1916 HCW meeting at which members discussed city-owned and operated free-lunch counters where segregation was strictly enforced. Translation: Hungry Blacks were forbidden to step inside, let alone enjoy a sandwich. “One member suggested that the policy should be opposed,”
Left: Meeting at Seaview Baptist Church on relocation. Centre: Train through Africville.
TOWARDS AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
Below: Halifax planners in Africville, 1965.
Winner | 2018 HERITAGE AND HISTORY BOOK AWARD
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SAVAGE FIRST BOOK AWARD
I’D WRITE THE SEA LIKE A PARLOUR GAME
Finalist | 2018 J. M. ABRAHAM POETRY AWARD
have deliberately chosen to provide poor parents and children with a monthly allowance that they know is nutritionally inadequate.” —Vince Calderhead, Halifax human rights lawyer “I was impressed with the author’s knowledge of both the primary and secondary sources on
“…perhaps the prettiest and most picturesque pleasure-ground in the Maritime Provinces.” — Sir Charles G. D. Roberts “Although in New York we are conserving such ‘natural monuments’ for the benefit of the people… yet I do not know amongst us a municipality which has alone undertaken thus to save a great work of Nature for the enjoyment and instruction of its citizens.” —John M. Clarke, Director of New York State Museum
$14.95 ISBN 978-0-9868733-6-2
FAIRY DELLS & RUSTIC BOWERS THE CREATION OF VICTORIA PARK, TRURO, NS
JOSEPH M. A. BALLARD
the subject of poverty and how governments attempted to deal with this social issue in Nova Scotia during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. After reading this book the reader will no doubt spend some time thinking about how the complex issue of poverty could have been dealt with in a more humane way.” —Dr. Allan E. Marble, Chair, Medical History Society of Nova Scotia
The development of Truro’s magnificent Victoria Park is a compelling read. Full of romance, little known facts (the Olmsteds of New York’s Central Park fame were involved) and vintage Notman photographs, Joe Ballard’s Fairy Dells & Rustic Bowers is an eye-opener.
POOR HOUSES IN NOVA SCOTIA
THE CREATION OF VICTORIA PARK, TRURO, NS
response to poverty to its imperial origins in 17th century England. Thompson has dug deep and assembled an extensive inventory of Nova Scotia’s poor houses. A good read that will make you wonder about that abandoned house in your community where, decades ago, our brothers and sisters were humiliated and degraded and which, now, is just down the street from the food bank where the poor now go because our political leaders
A Wholesome Horror
FAIRY DELLS & RUSTIC BOWERS
“The topic is fascinating. This popular and accessible book is of value to specialists as well as the general reader interested in Nova Scotia’s segregation and discrimination against yet another disadvantaged group. The author traces the historical roots of this province’s
New from SSP Publications
POOR HOUSES IN NOVA SCOTIA
Rutland writes, referencing minutes from the HCW meeting. “But another argued that segregation was not the same as ‘discrimination,’ and the matter was dropped.” Fast forward and readers will find Rutland’s citation from a Halifax Regional Municipality Planning Strategy document (circa 2005) that detailed a proposed housing development (think: white) near the historically Black communities of North Preston, Lake Loon, Cherry Brook and East Preston. “In addition to plotting the location of new homes, the planning process sought to determine the ideal distribution of future investments in municipal services and infrastructure,” Rutland writes. Citing HRM planning department records, Rutland notes that residents of East Preston expressed their interest in better water services, bus transportation, the installation of sidewalks, functioning streetlights and the construction of new community and recreation facilities. “These requests were universally spurned by city planners,” Rutland notes. Hired in 2014, former Halifax chief city planner Bob Bjerke was fired (without warning), last August. Reading passages from Displacing Blackness one can’t help but wonder if Bjerke envisioned a planning process that valued the voices of African Nova Scotians likely wary of development projects (hatched before his arrival) that are steadily pushing them out of the city’s North End and outlying rural areas to which they’ve been relegated (apartheid-style) for generations. “I had no plans to leave,” Bjerke noted in a media report after he was sacked.
A Wholesome Horror
Left photo courtesy of Formac Publishing, centre and right photos: Bob Brooks/Nova Scotia Archives
w w w. b re a k w a te r b o o k s . c o m
JOSEPH M. A. BALLARD
A Wholesome Horror
Fairy Dells & Rustic Bowers
Poor Houses in Nova Scotia $15.95
The Creation of Victoria Park, Truro, NS $14.95
Witnesses to a New Nation
From Palette to Palate
150 Nova Scotia buildings that saw Canada’s Confederation of 1867 $29.95
Culinary Artworks from the Digby Pines Kitchen $24.95
Bringing the events of December 6th, 1917 to life and to heart
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“My greatest challenge…is to convince white people that [First Nations] not only have something to say, but to kind of raise a question in which [white people] ask themselves, ‘What am I doing?’ Because everything I do onto her, our Mother Earth, I do unto myself.”
Top: Africville residents were moved using City of Halifax dumptrucks. Bottom: Children play around City of Halifax pump.
“I am not disappointed,” said Halifax city councillor Matt Whitman about Bjerke’s sudden dismissal. Whitman’s offensive remarks about people of colour and his tacit support of pro-white groups (retweeting a letter from a white nationalist organization last February, for example) have been well publicized. In addition to the racist bent of many politicians, Rutland faults the city’s clergy, health officials, legal experts, educators and media for proffering damning stereotypes about Blacks. He cites an 1850s-era editorial in the Halifax Morning Post that decried African Nova Scotians as an “unproductive and destitute” group best suited for slavery. The Provincial Magazine chimed in: “We have no hesitation in pronouncing [African Nova Scotians] far inferior in morality, intelligence, and cleanliness, to the very lowest among the white population.” The relentless disparagement of Blacks played out in the process that culminated in the annihilation of Africville. As evidenced by the author’s documentation, the community had, since its inception, routinely pressed Halifax officials (all-white) for better living conditions. Instead, “The most undesirable and noxious facilities in the city had a tendency to be sited on Africville’s doorstep,” Rutland notes. They included: a dump, a tar factory, a slaughterhouse, a fecal waste pit, a prison and an infectious diseases hospital. The predictable outcome? Fetid air, contaminated water and battalions of rats. After more than a century of deliberate abuse and neglect, Halifax city planners condemned, as a “slum,” the enclave they’d helped to create. In doing so, they eviscerated a self-sustaining (albeit beleaguered) Black community that remains under siege. Promises of job training, legal aid, educational programs and financial support for displaced residents of the blueberry-laden landscape never came to full fruition. And yet, about Africville, the white owner of a prominent “eco-friendly” Halifax enterprise recently declared, in a private conversation: “I don’t know why the Blacks here just can’t get over it.” Whites inclined to lament the so-called carping of African Nova Scotians are well advised to check their attitude—especially those who’ve now set up shop in previously shunned, as “dangerous,” areas of the city. I’ll put it this way: Who’s zoomin’ who? Rutland’s chapter on the Black United Front (BUF) offers an overview of the Halifax advocacy group that formed in the aftermath of the destruction of Africville. Among others, the author salutes future attorney Burnley “Rocky” Jones (19412013) for promoting a platform of Black self-determination that, ironically, was later undermined by the organization’s dependence on government funding. Rutland also ventures that an informant with probable ties to the FBI and RCMP infiltrated the BUF and fuelled fears about “Black activism and violence.” By 1996, BUF had effectively disbanded. Readers will find a noteworthy companion to Displacing Blackness in There’s Something In the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities. The text by Dalhousie
Top photo: Ted Grant-Library and Archives Canada, bottom photo: Library and Archives Canada, Opposite page: Miles Howe, Halifax Media Co-op
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Effluent from the Northern Pulp Pictou Mill near Pictou Landing Mi’kmaq First Nation.
University School of Nursing professor Ingrid Waldron (who is African-Canadian) offers strategies to combat the polluting and poisoning industries (dumps, pulp mills, sewage “treatment” plants, pipelines, et cetera) routinely found within spitting distance of minority populations throughout Canada. Crafted with a pointed emphasis on Nova Scotia, the book is an outgrowth of Waldron’s efforts as director of the Halifax-based Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities & Community Health (ENRICH) Project. In the opening pages, Waldron reveals that she launched ENRICH in 2012 after a white social and environmental activist, Dave Ron, contacted her about a campaign to remove a landfill near the African Nova Scotian community of Lincolnville. Among the province’s early Black settlements, Lincolnville takes its name from President Abraham Lincoln, whose 1863 Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in the US. In an ironic twist, Lincolnville was home to the last segregated educational institution in Nova Scotia—the Mary Cornish School. It was not shuttered until 1983. “As a professor whose scholarship had focused mainly on the health and mental health impacts of race, gender, and class inequalities…environmental racism had simply never caught my attention,” Waldron writes. “…Was this truly a problem in Canada as well [as in the US], I wondered?” The book chronicles Waldron’s coming to consciousness on the topic and her collaboration, as an academic, with grassroots organizations in Lincolnville and other historically Black and Indigenous communities such as Pictou Landing First Nation, Lucasville, Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton, Acadia First Nation Reserve in Yarmouth, the Prestons (East and North) and areas of Shelburne. The author writes: “One of the most important lessons I have learned…is that engaging marginalized communities requires a shift in thinking about…power, privilege, and equity. … Considerations about how researchers can work with rather than for or on behalf of communities must be premised on organic, trusting, collaborative, reciprocal, and equitable relationships. … This involves recognizing and respecting community members as experts in their own lives…at every stage of the research process.”
To that end, ENRICH facilitated (then and now) the participation of local residents in initiatives aimed to improve the air, water, sanitation and overall daily living conditions of groups traditionally ignored by corporate and government power brokers. In doing so, the project challenged myths about purported Black and First Nations “imperviousness” to physical, psychological and emotional pain. “The reality is that both [groups] are more vulnerable than are other communities to illness and disease associated with their greater exposure to environmental risks,” Waldron notes. And here, the author offers the reflections of a Mi’kmaw Elder on the reluctance of dominant cultures to honour Indigenous traditions of knowledge: “My greatest challenge…is to convince white people that [First Nations] not only have something to say, but to kind of raise a question in which [white people] ask themselves, ‘What am I doing?’ Because everything I do onto her, our Mother Earth, I do unto myself.” There’s Something In The Water also breaks important ground in its discussion of the ways in which oppressed groups can internalize negative stereotypes about their own cultures and histories. “Resistance calls for a deep engagement with how colonization has impacted the minds of colonized people,”
There’s Something in the Water Ingrid RG Waldron Fernwood Publishing
Displacing Blackness Ted Rutland University of Toronto Press
Atlantic Books Today
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Waldron writes, noting the need for marginalized communities to believe in their inherent ability to survive experiences of “being burned, mistreated, exploited and ultimately abandoned” by outside “experts.” The “ground up” ENRICH approach has led to successes such as the implementation of a water monitoring project in Lincolnville conducted by African Nova Scotian residents of the community. The initiative had three objectives: “To determine if there was contaminated water flowing in the direction of [residents] from the landfill site, to build the community’s capacity to test their own water, and to provide community members with basic knowledge about contaminants and groundwater sampling. …Members also reviewed reports and other literature on…hydroecology, and bedrock geology, as well as facility siting regulations…and maps created by government.” Confronting both internal and external doubts about their competency, Lincolnville residents got their science on. In short, they moved from being victims of environmental policies that threatened their well being to informed “citizen scientists” brimming with self-worth. Presented as a series of case studies, Something in the Water stands as a valuable resource for scholars and social activists (of all stripes) hoping to foster and sustain measurable social change. “Environmental racism is about the way our systems, our laws and policies uphold white supremacist ideologies,” Waldron has noted in media reports about ENRICH. “…We put the dump in a community because that community doesn’t matter. Many
people may not want to admit…this…and they may not even know it, it is so deeply embedded in their psyche.” As for everyday relevance, the last I checked, the Canadian Football League was chockablock with players of African descent. Nova Scotia government and private investors now lobbying to lure a CFL team to Halifax should note that Displacing Blackness and There’s Something in the Water underscore the province’s “reputational risk” (as one HRM report put it) on race matters—the recent drop kick of the city’s infamous Cornwallis statue notwithstanding. Indeed, throughout my reading of these two volumes, “Somewhere” by Aretha Franklin wafted through my head. Less known than her smash hit “Respect,” Franklin’s gospel-infused rendition of the song from West Side Story gives new meaning to the lyrics crafted by Stephen Sondheim in 1957: There’s a place for us Somewhere a place for us Peace and quiet and open air Wait for us, somewhere. Set against the plight of Black and Indigenous people as detailed by Ted Rutland and Ingrid Waldron, readers will find a poignant pathos in Franklin’s haunting interpretation of the tune. Somehow/Someday/Somewhere! ■ Evelyn C White of Halifax is the author of Alice Walker: A Life (WW Norton).
ENRICH map of siting of toxic industries in relation to African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq communities. Available at enrichproject.org
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Poetics The maddening and delightful heterogeneity of contemporary Atlantic Canadian poetry by Karin Cope
Gerry Frager artwork from Signs of LIfe: “The Language of Clouds.”
t the outset the assignment seemed simple enough: on the basis of ten or so recent or soonto-be released publications, write an essay about contemporary “Atlantic Poetics.” Who and what is Atlantic poetry about these days? What are its themes, preoccupations, characteristics and methods, its key ideas? Because I was going to sea and several of the titles were in process or had yet to be released, I was delivered the contents of 11 books electronically by their publishers. As I read, I missed profoundly the scent and tactility of books, their heft in my hands, the care in their production, the look and disposition of the words and now and again images on the page. When it came time to write, shifting between electronic files on the same screen proved to be much more difficult and much less enjoyable than picking up and putting down a series of books arrayed around me. A first conclusion then, and perhaps one not limited to observations about Atlantic poetics: books of and about poetry are never simply about the words; they also involve spatial, phenomenological, corporeal experiences like page turning, the rhythms of picking up and putting down, dog earing, opening and closing, turning in our hands, looking up and looking back, and so on—all things we are less likely to do with screens. Canadian writers, readers, publishers and booksellers do well to continue to insist upon the importance of books as interesting and evocative objects, perhaps particularly when it comes to poetry, which tends to dedicate itself to listening to and for such phenomenological thickness and sensuous experience.
Atlantic Books Today
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Interestingly enough, Gaspereau’s beautiful books, so well known for their loveliness as objects, are also, thanks to the thoughtfulness, simplicity and generousness of their design, the easiest of all the texts I was delivered to read onscreen. Drawing clear conclusions about what qualified the collection of works I had been sent as contemporary, Atlantic and poetic was initially, however, quite a challenge. One file was a translation of a work from 1974 (To Live and Die in Scoudouc by Herménégilde Chiasson); three of the books were, for the most part, prose (one by Lorri Neilsen Glenn and two by Brian Bartlett); at least two of the poets represented were published locally but not from Atlantic Canada, nor had they lived there; one book involved an exchange between west and east coasts; and one book (Glenn’s Following the River) centred on unravelling a history that took place in another region of the country. Finally, of the poets living in or from Atlantic Canada and sometimes writing what looked or sounded like verse, only a few seemed to write about immediately recognizable traditional Atlantic themes like the sea, the wind, snow, islands, grey rocks, whorled black spruce, family, loss. The majority of poets here worked other subjects and themes including myth, gender, injustice, rape narratives, animals and language, environmental concerns, spirituality, meditation, belonging, immigrant experiences, political action, Indigenous-settler relations, racialized identity, body morphism and other topics. In time, however, I came to feel that such heterogeneity, and the ways that many of these texts ran against the grain of traditional Atlantic stereotypes, was itself the point and the story of whatever we might call a contemporary Atlantic poetic.
To Live and Die in Scoudouc Herménégilde Chiasson Translated by Jo-Anne Elder Goose Lane Editions
Following the River Lorri Neilsen Glenn Wolsak and Wynn Publishers
In coming to this conclusion, I have been grateful for the provocation, dialogue and company of Brian Bartlett’s critical musings and writings, collected in All Manner of Tackle: Living with Poetry, but also present in many ways in Branches Over Ripples: A Waterside Journal. Both texts function as rich resources for thinking and writing about contemporary Canadian poetry and poetic practices. They exemplify the breadth and worldliness of Atlantic poetics these days, the way that what counts as “Atlantic” rings changes on old tropes and practices. Among other things, I would argue, these recent works make visible the importance of moving away from old habits of identifying what is Atlantic and what is not, in favour of developing a variety of alternate, “mothers-of-many-genders” genealogies of Atlantic poetry. I am not plumping for, nor do I believe these books argue for an abandonment of, the traditions of Englishlanguage lyric poetry so well represented in Atlantic Canada, with their focus on nature, inner experience and well-wrought lines—after all, much of my own work falls into this category. Rather, as these and other recent publications demonstrate, we might proliferate accounts of what Atlantic poetry could be and is according to other models as well. Our poetic present, as well as our pasts and futures, are stranger, more interesting, more regionally complex, more generically varied and more politically demanding than the adherence to an Anglophone, largely patrilineal and romantic line of poetic inheritance would permit us to see. Take, for example, the much-belated publication in English by Goose Lane of Herménégilde Chiasson’s first book of poetry, Mourir à Scoudouc, (translated as To Live and Die in Scoudouc),
Faunics Jack Davis Pedlar Press
Penelope Sue Goyette Gaspereau Press
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a francophone work of the early 1970s that helped awaken Acadians to a collective, political and distinctively modern cultural consciousness. Taking aim at a moribund and impoverished version of culture that defined Acadie in terms of a collection of past losses and dispersed relics (“the blue display cases, the religious objects, the lace-lined cradles, the axes hanging in the work shed, the ploughs no longer turning the fields…”) Chiasson’s rousing and energetic poems began to articulate a modern, politicized and forward-looking Acadian consciousness, ready to reassemble its forces and take up space. “You should have awakened, Eugénie Melanson,” Chiasson writes to a mythic ancestor whose photo is in the museum of records of the expulsion, “but you fell asleep…/ you fell asleep while dreaming of new expulsions.” These are love poems to new possibilities. (A mock survey that concludes the poem “When I become a patriot” asks, “Is it possible that one day Acadians will begin to love how well they love?”) These are hortatory rants, and rebellious and slightly surreal re-fashionings of the world in the tradition of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who is invoked in the title of the collection’s first poem, “To Rimbaud from the depths of the night.” Why republish this work now, aside from the fact that it is embarrassingly long overdue in English? What makes it an important contribution to contemporary Atlantic poetics? First, Chiasson is a poet who at once challenges and broadens the notion of what counts as poetry. Like Rimbaud, he writes a precise and well-shaped prose poetry, which he then also performs “live.” Secondly, as a visual artist who had not intended to be a poet, he attends not simply to the disposition of words on the page, but to the design of the pages themselves. Mourir à Scoudouc is a beautifully composed book: pages of text alternate with photographs of a living Acadian present and involve a good deal of visual irony. The argument is clear: all of this—the written words, the spoken words, the imagery—is poetry, and not just what looks like verse; a conclusion towards which a number of other books consulted for this article tend. As Chiasson observes in a note on the origins and reception of Mourir à Scoudouc, “There is, between the act of writing and the act of
publishing, a transition that gives writing a social dimension and a presence made larger by the fact that it is starting to circulate and be shared.” In this way, he says, poetry may become “a carrier of a consciousness….” Thus as Chiasson’s work testifies, poetry may function not only as the harbinger of personal and political change, but, now and then, as its very agent. As the publication of this work in English at last suggests, To Live and Die in Scoudouc is destined to carry on in new contexts, to exhort new audiences to wake from their slumbers among the relics of their losses, their dead and their dying—a worthy message in Anglophone Atlantic Canada to be sure. In her long documentary poem, Following the River: Traces of Red River Women, Lorri Neilson Glenn also relies on poetry’s social, circulatory power, its role as “a carrier of consciousness,” by convoking a variety of competing and often contradictory voices from the past. “Behave as if we are all relations,” Glenn is urged as she uncovers fragments of the histories of her forgotten and maligned Red River Métis great-great-great-great grandmothers, their memories distanced and then set aside as her part of the family assimilated fully into settler culture. The ethics of her actions preoccupy Glenn. As someone born seamlessly into settler privilege, are the stories of these foremothers she uncovers hers to tell? How shall she treat them? Glenn resolves her dilemma at least in part formally, by carefully composing a complex documentary and poetic text in which her own is only one of many voices, and in which photographs, maps, songs and objects play an important part. Ultimately, Glenn’s careful attention to detail and to the “grief and responsibility that come with difficult knowledge,” allows her to stitch together a document that serves as an important, category shattering and timely revision of a century and a half of Canadian history. What if we are all kin, Glenn asks. What if we all counted? What if settler histories of Canada were reread for the papered-over remains of Métis pasts; how then would Anglo-Canadian selfhood read? Would all settlers also be Métis? Gerry Frager artwork from Signs of LIfe: “Process.”
Atlantic Books Today
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Of course, Glenn says, and of course not. “I am a fleck of [my ancestors’] dreaming, walking in the ruins alive.” Tracing some of the many and changing varieties of racial distinction deployed in Canada since the late 18th century— citations of racial taxonomies and regulation weave in and out of the poem—Glenn concludes, “where distinctions of race are concerned, there is still only power.” Her task then, as an implicated “settler-narrator,” is to attend to the workings of power, to unravel and come to recognize its structures, but never to bow to it. At the end of Following the River, Glenn paraphrases a line of Grace Paley’s as a way of laying claim to the feminist, genealogical stakes of her own work: “when you illuminate what’s hidden, that’s a political act.” Surely illuminating what is hidden in this way, by bringing together historic shards and allowing each to shed light upon the other, isn’t only a political, feminist or nationalist project. It is also, philosophically speaking, a part of what poetry does best: acknowledging fragmentary understanding and broken bits of knowledge as fragments, not wholes. Frustratingly perhaps, for those who want to trace the shortest distance between here and there, poetry never turns on all of the lights so that the whole night is illuminated, but rather slowly probes the darkness with fingers, nose, ears, tongue, footsteps, intuition, dreams and narrow flashlight beams, picking out first one element and then another, coming to understand each of them as they sit in their obscured surroundings. Faunics (a title in which we should also hear “phonics”), a debut collection of philosophically linked short poems by firetower lookout Jack Davis published by Newfoundland’s Pedlar Press and nearly 20 years in the making, takes the processes of such fragmentary illumination as both its method and theme. In particular, Faunics is concerned with the philosophical limits that inquiries driven by language place on human understanding.
Branches Over Ripples Brian Bartlett Gaspereau Press
All Manner of Tackle Brian Bartlett Palimpsest Press
What are the ways that the non-human natural world bespeaks itself; how may we, who have so thoroughly unlearned how to listen, begin to hear not simply what we make of the stone, but also how the stone pushes back? In spare, carefully shaped poems, Davis traces the echoes of things, objects and lives that may be learned, told or understood without words. Indeed, often Davis writes what I am tempted to call anti-poems: poems that turn the functions of naming and describing inside out, so that the words on the page are not there to make plain what we or the poet know and see. Instead, the few words on each page point us toward the blank spaces around them, which indicate how impoverished our words are and how much we do not and cannot know with and through them. There is philosophical and poetic rigour here—along with a great deal of environmental concern and plenty of jokes about one creature donning a costume of another and running about in the woods, which is more or less an admission of the impossibility and ridiculousness of the task Davis has set himself. Nevertheless, is any future at all imaginable if we cannot learn to attend to what and how the non-human environment knows and speaks? Davis suggests that poetry offers us a method for knowing as not-knowing, flash by flash, a laughably tiny but necessary remedy against the overweening and destructive hubris of that all-too-knowing creature, Homo sapiens. “Loss is using us as bait,” Sue Goyette writes in Penelope in First Person, which takes as both subject and form the figure of Penelope at her loom weaving and un-weaving as she waits, year after year, for Ulysses to come home. As with her 2013 collection, Ocean, in Penelope Goyette nods to and then utterly transforms key tropes of Atlantic poetry, in part by suffusing them with a feminist consciousness. Penelope is a long-suffering wife waiting for her seafaring husband to come home. We know that he has taken other lovers,
Ritual Lights Joelle Barron Icehouse Poetry
Toward the Country of Light Allan Cooper Pottersfield Press
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What characterizes contemporary poetics at the margins of the Atlantic isn’t any particular theme, style or approach, so much as a wakeful attention to thinking and making at the edges of perceptibility and possibility. but has she? We know that he has encounters with goddesses, hears things that he shouldn’t hear and that he contends with metamorphic forces that transform his men into beasts and confuse his senses, but has she? What do such experiences look like when seen from Penelope’s room and loom? Built of 70 ten-line stanzas, each of which is, like a tapestry, structured by variation bound to repetition, Goyette’s suite works to alter what counts as Penelope’s story. Every stanza begins with some sort of awakening—“I wake to another version;” “I wake to another day;” “I wake hungover;” “I wake to goddess;” “I wake up mortal.” Most stanzas also ring a variation on a claim to know, a claim that isn’t really a claim: “If I know the shore, it’s about low tide;” “If I know anything it’s about saltwater and this new tide of tears;” “If [Odysseus] knows anything, it’s about/ the passing of time.” Bit by bit the narrative of the poem—an account of Penelope’s impossible wait—is built by such ravelling of the tenline form: now it is done; she knows what she thinks; she knows what she knows; now it is undone. Penelope is not simply a sly feminist version of that great big epic daddy of a poem, The Odyssey. By giving us short poems that we may recognize as weavings, Goyette enables us to see that even the Odyssey is built upon such a loom. Indeed the paradigm for poetry might not be a journey, but the textile arts, which is to
The Way We Hold On Abena Beloved Green Pottersfield Press
say, often, “women’s work:” repetition with a difference that, bit by bit, makes a difference. Now I am well past my word limit and I have not gotten to Joelle Barron’s re-workings of Persephone and other myths as rape narratives, nor their rites of healing; I’ve neglected Allan Cooper’s Atlanticization of Asian and Sufi traditions; the specifics of Brian Bartlett’s critical writing on poetry and his experiments with writing prose by water; the two-handed bicoastal exchanges of Sean Wiebe and Celeste Snowber; Gerri Frager’s mixing of pottery, landscape and poetry, and Abena Beloved Green’s poems of protest, praise and prayer that blend African immigrant experience with Africadian, African Canadian and African American experience, literature and history. Nevertheless, I hope that even this brief list helps to underline the point that what characterizes contemporary poetics at the margins of the Atlantic isn’t any particular theme, style or approach, so much as a wakeful attention to thinking and making at the edges of perceptibility and possibility. ■ Karin Cope is a poet, sailor, photographer, scholar, rural activist, blogger and an Associate Professor at NSCAD in the Division of Art History and Contemporary Culture. When she is not at sea, she lives on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore.
Signs of Life Gerri Frager Pottersfield Press
Blue Waiting Sean Wiebe and Celeste Snowber The Acorn Press
Atlantic Books Today
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All Our Lives Under the Sun
Memoirs are about much more than their authors
by Marjorie Simmins
Question: what kinds of lives do we examine when we pick up a memoir? Answer: every sort of life. There are memoirs about the famous and the infamous, the accomplished and the humble, the nine-to-fiver and the world traveller. Readers drink them up like lifewater. Sales data from Amazon consistently show that memoirs are the best selling of all nonfiction books. Why are readers so thirsty for memoir? Because we want to know how people navigate complexity, and tragedy, how they heal from hurts—physical and psychic—how joy can be found or rediscovered. Memoirs remind us to recommit or rewrite our values, to stoke or re-stoke passions for life, for people. The story of a life—no matter what kind of life—is never really about an individual. Whether a celebrity memoir, a tale of addiction and salvation, an honouring of home or place, a travel story, a literary memoir, a journalist’s observations or a hybrid of two or more of these things, a memoir is always about so much more than its author. For example, The Grand Tour, by Newfoundlander Dave Quinton (former host and writer for CBC’s Land & Sea), is a classic tale of youthful travel, but also a snapshot of a time and place. Dave and his college friend Bob Gray did not have a grand budget for their cycling tour of Europe. But they had
a grand time anyway. For Dave, the experience included a short stint working as a labourer on the gardening staff at Buckingham Palace for Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth. You could call Quinton’s tale a pocket memoir. It is presented in a five-by-seven-inch (13 X 18 mm) format. At a slim 100 pages it would indeed be easy to slip inside a pocket. The book uses a large font size and is generously illustrated with photographs and travel mementos. This spare text makes the book itself a postcard from the year 1960, a resonant moment in time. Some memoirs, like former Charlottetown physician Grant Matheson’s The Golden Boy: A Doctor’s Journey with Addiction, serve a double purpose: sharing one’s own struggles and sometimes, solutions, or hard-won wisdoms in the hope of helping others, making them feel less isolated, more empowered. Matheson shares his personal story of opioid addiction. He writes: “We are all in this together, and to be honest, it would be difficult to envision life differently. Don’t let others, or your disease, determine who you are.” As with Dry, Augusten Burroughs’ harrowing memoir about alcoholism, readers of Matheson’s book will learn how addictions begin, take over and can be battled, in this case, with two rounds of intensive rehabilitation and lifelong work in recovery. Unlike Burroughs, however, Matheson was never a professional writer. Hence, The Golden Boy represents another sub-genre of memoir, which is the amateur scribe or the Everyperson as writer.
Photo: Jag Gundu, courtesy of HarperCollins
Measha Brueggergosman live at Massey Hall.
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“…hold fast to what is happening now. Grab it by the balls and run as far as you can with it.”
Most of us love a comeback story. Memoirs such as The Golden Boy have “characters” who have fallen, struggled and ultimately stood (wavering at times) back on their feet. Other memoirs, like Something is Always on Fire, by New Brunswick-born and-raised Measha Brueggergosman, inspire readers with a sense of the grandiose and the joie de vivre. She details her life, first as a musical child prodigy and then as an international opera star, award-winning recording artist, media personality and television host. The hook is Brueggergosman’s celebrity but what compels is the book’s honesty—especially regarding the subject of marriage—and its fascinating technical details about singing and performance. Brueggergosman’s spiritual life is also displayed front and centre. The other aspect of Brueggergosman’s memoir that is joyously, abundantly evident is style. Style can’t be bought or borrowed; it’s either in the writer or not. Brueggergosman, a sixth-generation Maritimer and descendent of Black Loyalists who has soloed in the great concert halls of Canada, the United States, Asia and Europe, seizes the memoirist’s pen with energy, candour and at times, life-affirming crudeness. Addressing the demanding reality of singers and instrumentalists, she writes: “Whether you go on to super-stardom or not (and you likely won’t), my advice is to hold fast to what is happening now. Grab it by the balls and run as far as you can with it—wherever you are and in whatever capacity you find yourself making music or living your life.” Often, memoirs tell us as much about a place as they do about a life. That is the case for David Ward’s hybrid literary memoir, Bay of Hope: Five Years in Newfoundland, “...part memoir, part nature writing, part love story.” Ward’s graceful writing chronicles the five years he lived as an ecologist in the isolated Newfoundland community of MacCallum, on the province’s southern coast. The book is also “vintage” memoir in that the storyline is contained within a specific, relatively short period of time. Love-of-place memoirs don’t always have sad endings (Alan Doyle’s Where I Belong, written about his upbringing in Petty
The Golden Boy Grant Matheson Acorn Press
Waking Up In My Own Backyard Sandra Phinney Pottersfield Press
Something is Always on Fire Measha Brueggergosman Harper Avenue
The Long Way Home John DeMont McClelland & Stewart
The Grand Tour Dave Quinton Boulder Publications
Bay of Hope David Ward ECW Press
Harbour, Newfoundland, hums with happiness), but they tend in this direction. As with people, love can be most intense when partings loom or threaten. It doesn’t take long to surmise that this homage to an outport and its peoples was actually written far from the whipping winds that come off the Atlantic Ocean, after the writer has returned to live in Ontario. In the right writer’s hands, however, individual nostalgia and longing become universal themes. Enter the journalists: John DeMont and Sandra Phinney. A senior writer and columnist for The Chronicle Herald in Halifax, John DeMont has written for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He has also written four non-fiction books. He recently added his fifth non-fiction title, The Long Way Home: A Personal History of Nova Scotia, “Equal parts narrative, memoir and meditation,” and, “…a biography of place.” Yes to these descriptors, though it’s just as easy to term the book pure and skillful creative non-fiction, a genre defined by Wikipedia as “using literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives.” I apply this term because of DeMont’s breadth and variety of subject and the weighted authority three decades of interviewing, researching and writing about anything and everything has given him as a writer. Atlantic Books Today
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DeMont understands that it is not enough simply to catch a reader’s attention. A writer must aim to keep it until the last page is turned. And that, again, takes style and emotional depth. DeMont’s writings about the mining days in industrial Cape Breton are searing. Like Brueggergosman, DeMont’s enjoyment of his subjects is also evident. I was a changed person after learning about the magnificent and ill-fated Madame
La Tour (Françoise-Marie Jacquelin), an Acadian heroine and warrior, and wife of Charles de Saint-Étienne de la Tour, who, writes DeMont, had “no quit” in her. Yes, it is possible for ink-stained wretches to have fun with their craft. Which leads neatly to Sandra Phinney’s Waking Up In My Own Backyard: Explorations in Southwest Nova Scotia, a hybrid memoir, a travel writer’s personal and broader-themed narrative.
St.John’s, Newfoundland 1-866-739-4420 www.flankerpress.com
Night at the Gardens
The statues in the Halifax Public Gardens come to life when the gates are closed for the night! Nicole Delory & Janet Soley: 32 pp. (colour); 29 ill. + 2 maps
NEW: Delightful summer reading for 7-10 year olds; can be read to younger children at bedtime. Developed by two sisters: story by teacher DeLory and masterful illustrations by artist Soley. Characters are based on Three Centuries of Public Art Night at the Gardens and concept on film, Night at the Museum: characters by day Nicole DeLory and Janet Soley are the Garden’s historical statuary; at night they come “alive” 9781895814828 - $10.95 ... in fine bookstores everywhere ! and are joined by Toby, the ‘cast iron’ dog from the Sacred Heart School. Events take place in Public Gardens & Victoria Park www. newworldpublishing.com with Robbie Burns and Linda Oland fountain. e-Book: $5.99 1-877-211-3334
Exquisite Destinations: adventures of a Maritimer in lesser-known places
Peter McCreath: 188 pp. (12 col.); 150 photos (30 col.) It’s Peter’s 8th book.
9781895814743 - $22.50 www.newworldpublishing.com
NEW: great summer reading with dreams of exotic places to travel, vacation or explore ... 12 countries and two Atlantic Provinces: part travelogue, part memoir, part exotic journeys by historian and world-travelled entrepreneur with a dozen occupations, careers and hobbies in a single lifetime. Explore these magnificent destinations through the author’s eyes, pen and lens! Many may not be your ordinary holiday destinations, but ones to consider for your bucket list or in your dreams. In all fine bookstores! e-book available: $11.99
Phinney is a done-it-all, done-it-well freelance journalist, author and photographer. Particularly skilled as a travel writer, she has won multiple awards for her work in magazines and trade journals. Her breadth of knowledge about and compassion for all things Atlantic Canada is notable. During the summer of 2015, Phinney began a “31-day summer odyssey” in July within a 100-kilometre radius from her home in rural Nova Scotia. The idea was for the engaging Phinney to meet up with neighbours and strangers alike, take in the remarkable and subtle features of her “backyard” of Southwest Nova as never before and write the stories that suggested themselves to her. Like DeMont, Phinney loves variety in her stories. She’s also an enthusiast, writing about Acadian rappie pie, visiting waterfalls, finding “bargoons” at Frenchy’s and playing drums with a friend while watching the blue moon rise over St Mary’s Bay. Like these gem moments, her more personal essays are memorable. An essay about learning to canoe, one of Phinney’s great life passions, is one of these. True-to-life stories entertain, inspire, shock, delight, amuse, inform and enlighten. Like novels or poetry or any genre, the variety is extensive. Some will change how you see your backyard. Some will change how you see the world. ■ 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.
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Reading Books of War War never ends; its impacts haunt the generations and the stories are innumerable, and always worthy of consideration by Jon Tattrie
he core of any good story is a character setting out to reach a goal and running into obstacles. War, with the clear goal of victory and the clear obstacle of enemy fire, is the ultimate story. Pacifists and history buffs alike are hooked. The stakes are high—we get one life and we guard it at all costs, yet millions spend their lives cheaply during war—and the tension is a natural result. By twist of time, we living today can answer the question they died not knowing: who won? This dramatic foreshadowing makes reading about past wars fascinating. Wars also serve as great what-if junctions of history. What if Duc d’Anville’s French mission to Mi’kma’ki in 1746 had arrived in full force? Perhaps today this would be a province where most spoke French or
Mi’kmaq, while an English-speaking minority huddled around Fort Anne. Three new Atlantic Canadian books on the First World War unearth information and add angles of understanding to the war that shaped our world. In I Remain, Your Loving Son: Intimate Stories of Beaumont-Hamel, editors Frances Ennis and Bob Wakeman show that a million deaths are a statistic, but one death is a tragedy. For 30 sunny minutes on Canada Day 1916, German machine gunners scythed a summer’s crop of men from the Newfoundland Regiment; 324 fell dead, 386 fell wounded and only 68 remained standing. Ennis and Wakeman turn the statistics into humans. We meet eager recruits like AJ Stacey, who pointed his
Atlantic Books Today
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For 30 sunny minutes on Canada Day 1916, German machine gunners scythed a summer’s crop of men from the Newfoundland Regiment; 324 fell dead, 386 fell wounded and only 68 remained standing. toes inward at CLB Armoury when enlisting so his fallen arches wouldn’t disqualify him. William Yetman lied about his age and quickly marched overseas before his frantic mother and father could run into town and haul him home. “In memory, I can still see the crowd on the wharf. Women trying to get a goodbye handshake and a kiss from their sons. And sweethearts waving goodbye. And the fathers and the brothers cheering the departing ones, trying to keep a brave front,” wrote Howard Murray. Where Duty Lies: A New Brunswick Soldier in the Trenches of World War One advances us to 1917. We find Frank Grimmer staggering through the meat-grinding Western Front, his boater hat and Gatsby days as the son of a prominent New Brunswick family blasted away. Ordered to join a crew reclaiming a German railway on the slopes of Vimy Ridge, he felt artillery shells explode at the job site. “The Germans sent over an awful dose of gas; such a night as poor devils put in,” he scratched onto a letter sent home. “We can still smell gas in our dugouts. We had to wear our gas helmets from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m.” He thanked cousin Alice for the hand-knitted socks. They may well have spared him trench foot, a nasty condition that rotted wet feet under marching men. Grimmer marched through the war, marched back home and buried mental wounds behind the front of a blustery old warhorse. When a rookie Mountie warned him of the dangers of jaywalking, he barked: “I made it up Passchendaele Ridge and back, so I can get across Water Street, St. Andrews, without your help.” His nephew, John Grimmer, pieces his story together, adding another face to the faceless numbers. On the first day of the First World War, just five nurses served in the Canadian Army Nursing Corps. In Brian Douglas Tennyson’s Nova Scotia at War: 1914-1919, we learn their matron was Pictou County’s Margaret Macdonald. She founded the rapidly growing service that would heal the wounded soldiers; she became the first woman in the entire British Empire to earn the rank of major in the armed forces. With her were five other Nova Scotian nurses, including Addie Tupper, 45, who lied a decade off her age so she could serve overseas. She died of pneumonia in England in 1916–a statistic never added to the war-front dead. Tennyson paints a portrait of Nova Scotia at war, from the front-line soldiers to the at-home farmers and miners fuelling the war effort.
Nova Scotia at War: 1914-1919 Brian Douglas Tennyson Nimbus Publishing
Where Duty Lies John Cunningham Pottersfield Press
I Remain Your Loving Son Edited by Frances Ennis and Bob Wakeham Flanker Press
When Tennyson was writing Nova Scotia at War, someone asked him, “What more is there to say?” His answer explains why we are still drawn to war stories: “The war didn’t end in 1918, even if the killing stopped. Its impact on those who went overseas, and those who waited at home, and everyone else, was profound and haunts us still.” ■ Jon Tattrie is a journalist and the bestselling author of several books including Dan Paul: Mi’kmaq Elder, The Hermit of Africville, Cornwallis, Limerence and Black Snow. He teaches at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College.
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by Daniel Reynolds
Possible The hungry, yet humble, quest of Maritime sports stars
Photo courtesy of Formac Publishing
espite a national identity built around an inborn sense of humility, Canadians really do enjoy seeing their athletes kick ass. Sorry! But also: it’s true. This is why we’re drawn to hockey, where the majority of NHL players hail from the great white north; or why we go nuts whenever baseball superhero Joey Votto jacks another homer; and it is definitely why we still know, word for word, what sprinter Donovan Bailey thinks of Michael Johnson: “He’s a chicken.” Yes, while we may be too gracious to admit it, Canadians often live for these moments of unabashed glory. But this secret emotion runs counter to the established national sentiment. We’re supposed to be the winsome underdogs, easily dismissed or gracious in defeat—a country just happy to be there. It’s the twinning of these two feelings—hunger and humility—that makes Winners: A New Generation of Maritime Sports Stars by Philip Croucher so engaging. The book doesn’t celebrate this country’s biggest sports stars, the ones we already know, the ones we cling to in our day-to-day as proof that Canada can in fact win. Instead, Winners wakes us to a different, more powerful reality: Canadian athletes are kicking ass all the time—you just need to know where to look. Croucher profiles 12 athletes from the Maritimes, from capital cities and small towns where everyone knows your name. Some of these athletes are familiar— St. Stephen’s Jake Allen is currently starting in goal for the St. Louis Blues, for example—but many are not. They are runners, gymnasts and boxers; they are team players and soloists. They are also neighbours, teachers, leaders and representatives of their communities. The stories differ but similar themes pop up again and again: the life of an
Shot putter Pamela LeJean.
In the Maritimes and across the country, these athletes walk a lonely road for a diverse set of reasons. There’s the runner with cerebral palsy; the boxer from a “bad neighbourhood;” the hockey defenceman from Eskasoni who became the first Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq to play in the Quebec Major-Junior league. Atlantic Books Today
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Above: Custio Clayton in London-COC. Below: Justine Colley AOY.
athlete is difficult and it gets harder with the passage of time. Canadian kids pick up a love of sports for the usual reasons— socialization, fun, an abundance of physical energy—but to compete at the highest levels requires a special level of dedication. There’s a necessary winnowing of life, a narrowing of focus, a drive that comes from within. For a sprinter like Jared Connaughton, the choice to complete has meant pursuing success in a lane dominated by other countries; for shot putter Pamela LeJean it has been about adjusting to a new life in a wheelchair; for gymnast Ellie Black it involves
landing literally face first onto failure, getting up and trying again. These are just a few examples, but the perseverance on display is impossible to ignore. It’s something they can each take pride in. With that pride also comes the personal desire to give back to one’s community. Even in defeat, these individuals serve as inspirations to those around them, those same children they once were. In a sense, this cyclical concept is even more significant than the competition itself, bigger than any potential triumph at its end. We need to value these athletes, even if—perhaps especially if—their biggest victories come off of the field of play. The athletes themselves all seem to innately understand this. Their example provides the template from which more young, talented Canadians can develop. They all need that vote of confidence, that profile of courage, a voice to tell them: you can do this too. The modern-day Canadian athlete, that young boy or girl inspired by the generation before and now staring down a life filled with training and hard work, must make a choice. They must prepare themselves to take their steps in a sort of isolation. Yes, there’s family support, a coach’s presence, some sense of community, big or small, throughout the stories in Coucher’s book. But in the Maritimes and across the country, these athletes walk a lonely road for a diverse set of reasons. There’s the runner with cerebral palsy; the boxer from a “bad neighbourhood;” the hockey defenceman from Eskasoni who became the first Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq to play in the Quebec Major-Junior Hockey League. There’s no promise of that arms-raised moment of victory, no guarantee that the national or worldwide pat on the back is coming. It becomes you against you, right to the end. And yet, these athletes commit anyway. They strive in obscurity, adhere to an ideal and gradually work towards a goal—even in the face of such obstacles and indifference. Theirs is a quest that is both hungry and humble. That’s why it’s important to celebrate these kickass accomplishments when given the chance. When taken all together, what could be more Canadian than that? ■ Daniel Reynolds is a Toronto-based writer who spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about movies, basketball, comics and municipal politics. Follow along @aka_Reynolds.
Photos courtesy of Formac Publishing
Winners Philip Croucher Formac Publishing
“Beaver” by Alan Syliboy
Showing Children the Mi’kmaw Language Alan Syliboy’s work lifts the spirits of children in Mi’kmaw, in English, and in stunning imagery by Deirdre Kessler
Atlantic Books Today
enowned Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy has three books due this season from Nimbus Publishing: a board book, Mi’kmaw Animals, in both Mi’kmaw and English; a new Mi’kmaw and English edition of The Thundermaker; and Humpback Whale Journal. Alan Syliboy’s luminous illustrations draw on the petroglyph tradition, which, in combination with his own vibrant colour palette and strong design sense, result in works that dance with story and meaning. Prince Edward Island’s poet laureate, Deirdre Kessler, spoke with Syliboy about the art of story and the story of art. Deirdre Kessler: Why do you consider it important to have your books published in both Mi’kmaw and English? Alan Syliboy: One way to support the language initiative with children is to put books in their hands, to bring them our stories and culture through books. This is an opportunity to change things with young people. Sometimes I am recognized on the street by Grade Two children! They have read or their teachers have read them The Thundermaker. Deirdre Kessler: You have spoken in other interviews, such as one with Cheryl Bell in billie magazine, about the influence of petroglyphs on your work and also how you recognize differences among Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Mi’kmaw petroglyphs. What are some of these differences? Alan Syliboy: All these neighbouring tribes use the double-curve design in their petroglyphs. All these tribes are close relations—we’re from the same stock, the same roots, but in Mi’kmaw rock art there are more spirals, the curl is more prominent. When I had my first real art lessons, years and years ago, with Shirley Bear, Shirley introduced me to Marion Robertson’s book, Rock
“Whale” by Alan Syliboy
I feel it’s a good idea to have books in both languages in the hands of children. I feel secure in the future that we Mi’kmaq will be seen as real, multi-dimensional human beings. Drawings of the Micmac Indians [published by the Nova Scotia Museum, 1973]. Petroglyphs became the way I learned about my own culture. I don’t have a copy of the book any longer and it’s out of print now, but I have the book in my hard drive. Deirdre Kessler: What other artistic traditions inform your work? Alan Syliboy: I keep away from other traditions. I like Miró and Klee and Kandinsky, but I don’t spend time studying them. I want to stay in my lane—I want to go down my own road. I’m not trying to incorporate other traditions. Deirdre Kessler: How are art and storytelling connected in your work? Alan Syliboy: Storytelling is not my focus. I am concerned with making a good picture. I developed the skill part many years ago when I was not working with colour. I worked only with pencil and charcoal for many years. When I finally got a studio and turned from black and white to colour, I had established my ability with design and how to balance a page. I was prepared for colour. It was easy to
add colour, and it’s one of my strengths: I’m a colourist. I experimented with contrast and colour for years in the studio. Deirdre Kessler: Your work is known nationally and internationally as well as in our Atlantic region. What is the significance of your work in our region? Alan Syliboy: When I started as an artist there were no well-established Mi’kmaw artists in the region. When Shirley Bear and I got together and found the petroglyph book, we then both had purpose. We wanted to do what was important to our culture. We educated ourselves and in the process we educated Mi’kmaw people. Very little was known about our culture. The Mi’kmaw culture is now accepted and Mi’kmaw design now thrives. Deirdre Kessler: What was your response to the recent matter of the removal of the statue of Edward Cornwallis from a south-end square Halifax? Alan Syliboy: The removal of the statue symbolizes a process of incredible advances in being Mi’kmaq. Momentum dragged the Cornwallis question along with it for years. When I was in school, we Mi’kmaq were invisible. Now we are visible. The obvious question around Cornwallis had to be answered. That’s a reality that can’t be ignored any more. It’s just the start. We have more texture now; we are more dimensional now to the dominant culture. We now interact with the dominant culture. Deirdre Kessler: Do you have any last words? Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to speak to? Alan Syliboy: I feel it’s a good idea to have books in both languages in the hands of children. I feel secure in the future that we Mi’kmaq will be seen as real, multi-dimensional human beings. That’s what I’m happy about: the new generation of Mi’kmaq learning about our own culture. ■
“Moose and Stars” by Alan Syliboy
Deirdre Kessler is Prince Edward Island poet laureate (2016-2018) and author of more than two dozen books for children and adults. The Sirens Choral Group will perform her poem “Sorrow Song of Whales,” set to music by Jeff Enns, on June 24 at PEI’s Indian River Festival.
Mi’kmaw Animals Alan Syliboy Nimbus Publishing
The Thundermaker Alan Syliboy Nimbus Publishing
Humpback Whale Journal Alan Syliboy Nimbus Publishing
Atlantic Books Today
Befuddled Fowl, Similar Singularities, Girl-crazy Garden Gnomes, Animated Art, Peripatetic Pipers, Breakup Buffs, Fun Facts and Cultural Celebration Lisa Doucet and Jo-Anne Elder review the season’s most anticipated books for young readers
Mallard, Mallard, Moose Lori Doody Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides (Ages 3–8) What do you do when you are a moose who is being followed by two unassuming mallard ducks? The moose in this story, who finds himself in precisely that predicament, strolls into St. John’s in search of a home for the wayward mallards. He traverses the entire city looking for someplace to divest himself of his unwanted companions, but to no avail. He tries to leave them at a park or possibly downtown or by the harbour but they are uncomfortable with the swans and the pigeons and the seagulls. A bakery and a local restaurant give him pause but then neither spot proves to be quite right. What is a moose supposed to do? Fortunately, just when his patience appears to be wearing thin, the answer appears.
This is the third picture book from Lori Doody, a Newfoundland artist whose two earlier tales, like this one, combine droll humour and delightful illustrations to wonderful effect. Short, simple sentences outline the moose’s plight and clever word play provides amusement throughout (as when he couldn’t find a place to “fit the bill”). Also, as in her previous tales, the text and illustrations very much work together to weave their magic. The images of St. John’s are distinct and easily identifiable and the folk-art style that Doody employs suits the story perfectly. Bold, bright and flat colours, thin lines and comic details enable the illustrations to tell their own tale and expertly capture the setting. Children and adults alike will be gratified when they reach the final page where the moose finally says goodbye “to the duck, the duck and the goose,” the answer that the story was, of course, begging for all along. EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street Sheree Fitch, illustrated by Emma FitzGerald Nimbus Publishing (Ages 4–8) This very special poem was originally commissioned as a fundraiser and a way to raise awareness regarding mental health. It is an exuberant burst of frolicsome rhymes that burst off the page and roll off the tongue while
highlighting the many different ways there are of being in the world. Author Sheree Fitch joyfully proclaims that there are an endless variety of personalities and life circumstances to be found, and calls attention to the myriad ways in which we are also similar: “All of us are perfect and All of us have flaws.” The playful rhymes celebrate the beautiful uniquenesses of all people while reminding us that there is always more than meets the eye. While we all have hopes and dreams, some of us struggle in ways that aren’t easy to see. Yes, we are all beautifully, inherently and radically unique. And it is equally true that we are deeply, intrinsically connected. There are equal measures joy, pensiveness and wisdom in Fitch’s words and wordplay. These carefully crafted words invite deep reflection on what it means to be human and how
REVIEWS we relate to and understand one another and ourselves. They challenge us to think about how we each experience life differently and yet all experience joy as well as pain. It is in these shared experiences that we can find connection while recognizing and celebrating our differences. This shared knowledge enables us to see beyond the surface and realize the profound truth that “You are Everybody and EveryOne you meet.” This new edition of this poem features the wonderfully whimsical artwork of Emma FitzGerald, whose loose-lined images fill each page with their own energy. Each drawing is chock-full of riotous details to pore over, telling its own vivid and complex story while still visually capturing the essence of Fitch’s heartfelt verse. FitzGerald’s images capture a sense of absurdity and nonsensicalness while perceptively zeroing in on the ordinary details of everyday life. A masterful pairing of words and images that speak eloquently to readers of all ages.
gnome… and it is clearly love at first sight. She picks him up in her arms, hugs him tightly and sets off on an outdoor adventure with her newfound friend. As the two traverse forests, fields and beaches, our protagonist keeps finding new ways to declare her love: “I love you like forests love a seed, like a plant loves to grow, like flowers love the sun, like the grass loves a breeze.” The duo make their way through raindrops and snow, springtime forests and blue summer skies, highlighting all the love to be found in our great, wide world, where “raindrops love a puddle” and “quiet loves the snow,” leading ultimately to “like a pillow likes to sleep, like the moon loves the night.” With its gentle, lilting cadence and its creative professions of love, this book is a lovely, reassuring choice for bedtime, or any time at all. The illustrations are playful and cheery, featuring smileyfaced trees and clouds and woodland creatures. The two new friends play in puddles, watch the clouds and hide in the snow during the course of their adventures. Young readers will love the quaint depictions of the two enjoying the wonders of nature. With a full palette of prettily muted colours, the joyful energy contained in the illustrations is a pleasing complement to the eccentric feel of the text. The Frame-Up Wendy McLeod MacKnight HarperCollins/Greenwillow Books (Ages 8–12)
I Love You Like… Lori Joy Smith Owlkids Books (Ages 3–7) The opening pages of this delightful picure book from PEI author/illustrator Lori Joy Smith wordlessly depict a little girl/garden sprite finding a garden
Sargent Singer has mixed feelings as he boards a plane bound for New Brunswick to spend the entire summer with his father, the curator of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. While he can’t imagine spending all those weeks with his father, maybe they will forge a connection through their shared love of art. But his father is under a lot of pressure and is frequently preoccupied and distracted.
Things take an unexpected turn when Sargent makes an amazing discovery: the people in the paintings in the gallery are alive! He befriends Mona Dunn, a 13-year-old girl from one of the paintings. As their friendship grows, these two lonely young people try to help one another find solace in their respective life situations. But there are strange things afoot at the gallery and soon the two youngsters find themselves in the midst of a major art heist that could yield tragic results for the people in the paintings, as well as for Sargent’s father and the Beaverbrook. This New Brunswick author brings middle-grade readers an action-packed tale with an intriguing premise. The narrative is told alternately from the points of view of Sargent and Mona, enabling readers to get a thorough glimpse into Mona’s world within the paintings: the social and political structure of their world, the relationships they have with each other and what it means to be a figure in a painting who sees what goes on in the outside world but can never actively participate in it. McLeod MacKnight sensitively depicts Sargent’s troubled relationship with his father and his apprehension about making new friends at the art camp he attends. The mystery element of the story is also well-developed and well-paced in this compelling and meticulously crafted tale of friendship, family and secrets.
Atlantic Books Today
sounds and smells of the sea to life, and through Dougal’s eyes, readers experience the horrific conditions aboard ship and the failing morale of the passengers as sickness and death become a standard part of their days. Dougal’s determination to learn to play the bagpipes from Johnny Piper helps him to get through the long and lonely days. Readers will empathize with his fear and frustrations as he tries to look after his sisters while his mother tends to the ailing passengers below ship. Piper Jacqueline Halsey Nimbus Publishing (Ages 8–12) Life is hard for Dougal Cameron and his family as they struggle to eke out a living in their home in the Scottish Highlands. So when Da learns about an opportunity to go to the New World where free plots of land are being given to anyone who is willing to farm them, he believes it is their best hope. But a terrible accident robs Da of the chance to realize his dream of creating a better life for his family in Nova Scotia. Still grieving the loss of his father, Dougal convinces his Mam that they need to pursue Da’s dream. Soon he and Mam and his three sisters find themselves aboard the Hector, a rotting, overcrowded ship that has been commissioned to take them across the Atlantic. It’s a voyage filled with heartbreak and sorrow, sickness and storms, hunger and despair. And yet, Dougal, Mam and his sisters cling stubbornly to the hope that brought them this far. While Halsey grew up in London, England, she has called Nova Scotia home for many years and has written several books for young readers that explore Nova Scotian history. In this latest work, Halsey vividly depicts the arduous journey that these early settlers endured in order to live free and own their own farms. She brings the sights,
100 Things You Don’t Know About Atlantic Canada (for Kids) Sarah Sawler Nimbus Publishing (Ages 8–12) (Disclaimer: I wish to gratefully acknowledge Woozles’ inclusion in this book. The opinions expressed in this review are nonetheless honest assessments.) Readers who call Atlantic Canada home, along with those who have never been to this part of our beautiful country, will find much to intrigue them in these pages. Sarah Sawler, herself a native of Nova Scotia, has gathered an impressive array of informative tidbits about all four Atlantic provinces. These span a period of hundreds of years. Sawler regales us with little-known facts of history and contemporary nuggets of surprising truths.
Each of the 100 items also features a sidebar in which Sawler provides a suggestion for how you can “Learn More” or offers ideas for additional “Fun Stuff.” These include myriad parks, museums and other wonderful places children and families can visit, and an assortment of activities to delve more deeply into the various topics she touches on. This fascinating compendium of Atlantic Canadian fun facts is enlightening for all ages but with a tone that displays a distinctly child-oriented sensibility. Sawler has kept her audience of young readers firmly in mind, not only in terms of which details she has selected for this book, but also in the easy, conversational style she has employed. She successfully manages to include an abundance of background information, when needed, to help put things into perspective and to give younger readers a clearer picture of a particular time in history. The book showcases all four Atlantic provinces in equal measure and tantalizes readers with everything from shipwrecks and UFOs to pirates and peace pavilions. Sports, art, literature, natural disasters…they all appear here. The author highlights some of the quirkier aspects of modern life in the region, including an outhouse museum, a whirligig festival and a robot-lending library. This is a wonderful resource and a source of great entertainment for the entire family. The Goodbye Girls Lisa Harrington Nimbus Publishing (Ages 12+) Who knew that a band trip to NYC could cost so much? Lizzie is deeply disappointed when she realizes there’s no way she can afford to go on the trip she and her best friend Willa have been looking forward to for ages. But a comment from her older sister gives Lizzie a brilliant money-making idea: a
business to help teens with the messy task of breaking up. Thus is born The Goodbye Girls, purveyors of breakup baskets to help make the breakup experience more positive (or less devastating) for both dumper and dumpee.
L’Acadie en baratte Diane Carmel Léger Bouton d’Or Acadie (Ages 99 and under) In this French-language book, Nico, a curious and imaginative boy from Quebec, visits his Acadian grandmother in New Brunswick for the first time. Together, they visit historical landmarks and beaches, learn about Acadian culture and literature, hear different varieties of language and
Initially, business is booming and it looks like Lizzie’s financial woes are over. But someone starts sending malicious prank baskets and claiming they’re from The Goodbye Girls. Is it someone who knows Lizzie and Willa are the ones behind this new business? Things start falling apart in nearly every other aspect of Lizzie’s life. A rift develops between her and Willa. She and her mother have a huge falling out. She struggles to sort out her new relationship with Garret, her sister’s ex-boyfriend. Lizzie suddenly finds herself needing to mend her own broken relationships. Halifax author Lisa Harrington delivers an entertaining story featuring relatable teen characters in a realistically depicted contemporary high school
setting. Harrington adeptly portrays the various relationships in Lizzie’s life: her close and easy relationship with her mother, her tried and true friendship with Willa and her complicated, fraught-with-tension relationship with her sister Trish. The complications that develop as Lizzie tries to negotiate all these relationships are portrayed with sensitivity and humour. The result is a fun family drama that will satisfy readers of her previous books and earn her new fans as well.
taste traditional dishes and local foods. During the weeks they spend touring New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia, Nico, who has frequently been told he moves around too much and makes too much noise, is carefree and engaged in new discoveries, and gives free rein to his energy and creativity. Baratte is the comical name Nico’s Mémére gives to her camper; it means a butter churn and suits the old camper jalopy that shakes, bumps and rumbles. However, her Westfalia is a unique and magical vehicle, much like the magic schoolbus; over their travels, it is converted into a helicopter, submarine and hot air balloon. This book combines the qualities of a tourist guide, a history text, a language arts resource and young people’s fiction. It will help Acadian children develop pride in and understanding of their history and identity. Adults will also learn interesting information—I learned that the name Tantramar comes from tintamarre, the fun and noisy celebration that takes place on August 15 each year, because of the raucous honking of geese
in the area. The language level is also appropriate for anglophones who have had a few years of French instruction, perhaps in Grade 4 or 5 French Immersion classes. Its lively narrative, interesting language and fanciful illustrations and characters will fascinate students as they explore Acadian culture.
Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Childen’s Bookstore. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.
Jo-Anne Elder has translated more than 20 works of poetry, theatre, film, fiction and non-fiction from French to English and has been shortlisted for a Governor General’s Literary Award for translation three times. She lives in Fredericton.
Atlantic Books Today
Reviews Levesque’s Changing and Tenacious Family Bonds
Lucy Cloud Anne Levesque Pottersfield Press Inverness poet Anne Levesque’s debut novel, Lucy Cloud, is a story of families, neighbours and friends whose lives intersect over the course of three generations. Anchored in rural Cape Breton, where once closeknit, self-sustaining farming and fishing communities are gradually diminished by outmigration and economic stagnation, the story wanders farther afield to northern Ontario, the Caribbean island of Tobago, and North and West Africa. The novel begins with infertility. Devout Catholic Annabel and her husband, Curley MacLeod, have all but given up trying to conceive, resigning themselves to a life without children, when a neighbour “delivers” them a baby, the unplanned offspring of an unmarried daughter. In memory of her dead brother, Annabel names the baby Blaise. The young Blaise is a promising student but is distracted in university by curiosity
THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM AN ADVANCE COPY PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
about his Sudbury-based birth parents. When he travels to the northern Ontario town to find them, he meets instead his future wife, Wendy. The couple has a daughter, Lucy, whose nickname, Lucy Cloud, riffs on her surname, MacLeod, as well as her uncanny ability to predict rain. After Blaise succumbs to cancer, leaving Wendy a still-young single mother, Lucy forms a close bond with her grandmother, Annabel, who instills in her a love of the rustic Inverness region. Levesque lets her story unfold in brief episodic chapters: some are self-contained stories, others evocative vignettes. Chronology wanders, much the way memory does. Her characters are flawed and she presents them without judgment. Annabel is narrow-minded and meddlesome, disapproving of her bohemian daughter-in-law, Wendy, yet she is also the emotional heart of the family and community. Levesque’s Cape Breton is a starkly beautiful place but she does not shrink from the ugly realities of life in a harsh climate and declining economy: alcoholism a constant presence—large chunks of iced beer are thawed in sinks and drunks fall asleep against woodstoves, oblivious to the heat. Curley’s tragic death remains unexplained and the effects of a character’s dementia are presented with unnerving candour. Levesque thoroughly explores the complex, enduring bonds between women and creates memorable male characters, notably the endearing but troubled Curley, as well as Alec and John A, Annabel’s eccentric bachelor brothers. The MacLeods’ neighbours, Eric and Jenny, are Toronto “come-from-aways” who move to Inverness to live a simpler life of farming. The cast of supporting characters is so large the novel is prefaced by a welcome dramatis personae list for readers’ reference. Lucy is an enigmatic presence in the novel. She has completed post-graduate
studies in Quebec, yet no one is entirely certain what she does. Rumoured to be a spy, she keeps intimate relationships at a distance. She marries her friend, Antar, to help him stay in Canada, but only forms a lasting romantic bond with an old friend at the novel’s end. Recurrent themes are secrets and uncertain roots. Levesque is intrigued by the way our lives overlap and connect, but also how we conceal aspects of ourselves even from those closest to us. Lucy discovers only as an adult that Blaise was not her biological father. While driving with her cousin, Donalda, Annabel sees Curley pass them in his truck. Annabel muses, “It felt strange, and kind of thrilling, to meet him like this. To see her husband as others saw him all the time.” Long after his death, Annabel is chagrined to discover Curley’s stash of beach rocks and glass, collected over years in secret. Some readers may find that Levesque leaves such moments under-developed: Lucy seems not greatly affected by learning the truth of her paternity and Curley’s rocks seems disproportionately significant for Annabel. Like so many prodigal Maritimers, Lucy ultimately returns to live in Cape Breton, having inherited properties. Her restoration of the dilapidated family houses is a metaphor for change as well as the tenacity of the ties that bind us to our origins. Mirroring the opening motif of sterility followed by birth, the novel ends with Lucy travelling in Burkina Faso, on an unspecified assignment, during the Ramadan fast. The heat is oppressive, yet even here, under the same sky as her home, Lucy feels the impending relief of the rain. ■ 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.
Moore and Marland’s Hodgepodge of Recipes for a More Delectable Democracy
The Democracy Cookbook Edited by Alex Marland and Lisa Moore ISER Books When I cook, I take recipes from a certain website. The recipes are pretty good, but the best part of the website is the user comments. Regular folks pitch in with their hands-on experiences in the kitchen. This is a keeper. That’s bad. This works. That doesn’t work. Try it this way. Use more of that. Use this instead. The recipes are the authority but the user comments are the democracy. I was reminded of all this when reading The Democracy Cookbook, a collection of 76 short essays (and 11 actual recipes) curated by Memorial University of Newfoundland professors Alex Marland and Lisa Moore. After the 2015 election in Newfoundland and Labrador, the new Liberal government
under premier Dwight Ball promised an All-Party Committee on Democratic Reform. Up popped professors Marland and Moore, who thought they could help. The Democracy Cookbook is the result and it gives the all-party committee plenty to chew on. About two-thirds of the 89 contributors are from MUN and the essays are focused on Newfoundland and Labrador; but the book will be of interest across the country. After all, the shape of Canadian democracy—and the malaise eating at its core—is the same from coast to coast to coast. Like any cookbook, this one is not intended for reading from front to back. The essays are grouped thematically, with descriptive titles and Twitter-like lead-ins. The reader can flip through or dip in and out as occasion requires. The editors imposed some discipline on contributors, like citing sources. That’s a good thing. There are no unhinged rants here, though a handful sail off in the other direction, into the clouds of academe. Some essays suggest a simple change, like Christina Doonan in her piece on breastfeeding in the House of Assembly. In 2018, it’s hard to believe that’s still not allowed. There’s an old and necessary rule in the Westminster system that “strangers” (i.e. anyone not elected) aren’t allowed on the floor of the House, but a nursing baby isn’t exactly the mischief the rule had in mind. Other essays take on tougher topics, like Sean Fleming and Glyn George’s piece on changes to the voting system. Dumping the antiquated first-past-thepost system is particularly relevant to Newfoundland and Labrador, which has had a problem with lop-sided election victories that leave a small, overwhelmed opposition. Alas, the idea of a different voting system has gone nowhere in British Columbia, Ontario and PEI, not to mention the prime minister’s recent abandonment of his campaign promise to end first-past-the-post. We’ll see
where Newfoundland and Labrador goes with it. There’s something here for nonprofits, for civil servants, for journalists, for Indigenous peoples, for voters, for thinkers, for historians and for anyone whose idea of political engagement is calling in to talk radio. The range is wide. Interestingly, the pieces that lingered longest in my memory were from poets, and from songwriter Amelia Curran writing on the youth vote. It’s no accident that one of the editors, Moore, is also an accomplished novelist. Artists know things. As a long-time politician, I can look at some of these ideas and grumble to myself, “That will never work.” But there are plenty of other ideas that made me think, “Why not?” or “What’s the harm in trying?” And that’s the point, isn’t it? To get people talking. To generate something like the user comments on that recipe website. To start with written recipes and then make them work with the kitchens and ingredients and fussy families that we actually have. Otherwise the status quo laughs and settles back into its armchair for another four years, just like it always has. The Democracy Cookbook reveals a deep well of ideas in Newfoundland and Labrador and especially at MUN. If the All-Party Committee on Democratic Reform doesn’t draw on it, it’s their loss, and ours. We’ve all had enough of the political pap that we’ve been fed forever. We want something else. We want something better. Dessert: Recently The Democracy Cookbook was made available in PDF format at no charge. It’s available to all, for free. Now that’s democratic. ■ Graham Steele is a former politician from Nova Scotia and the author of two books aimed at helping citizens understand how politics really works.
Atlantic Books Today
Bryant’s Dedication to Reconciliation
The Homing Place Rachel Bryant WLU Press What is interesting and compelling about this book is the pointed reference to the use of such statements as, “He is a Cape Breton native,” to refer to someone of settler ancestry born in Cape Breton, and a brilliant assessment of Maritimers who refer to themselves as “belonging to the land” that actually belongs to someone else. Settler families who identify as “Irish” or “Scottish” or “Dutch” etc. have significant pride in the heritage of their ancestors, who came to this land to begin again, to make a life for their families and who by doing so trampled a people who lived in peace and sustainability and governed themselves with respect and spiritual goodness. The Homing Place, by Dalhousie English post-doc Rachel Bryant, will no doubt cause some stir among those who see themselves as owners of the land and those who have inherited parcels of land from generations of their families. The reality is, it was stolen land to begin with, used to lure settlers to various locations of the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoq, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Territories. This process
pushed Indigenous people farther and farther away from their homelands and into swamps and unsuitable plots of land where nomadic travel—from fishing and living near waterways in summer and inland hunting grounds in winter—became complicated and in some cases, impossible. There were also subtle attempts to terminate Indigenous ways of knowing. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by Bryant’s acknowledgement of the events of the fall of 2013 in New Brunswick, on Mi’kmaq Territory. That’s when federal officials and the Mi’kmaq (who were supported by allies including Acadians and other Indigenous nations) became national news after a violent surprise attack upon the land defenders who were camped out. The land defenders’ aim was to prevent resource extraction by Texas-based multinational Southwestern Energy Company. The company planned to frack in Kent County. Women, youth, Elders and men were pepper sprayed and in many cases bruised and battered by the representatives of the federal government, sent to extinguish the defenders’ desire to continue to be traditional land stewards and protect the Mother, the earth and water. Bryant’s reference to Rita Joe and the beautifully cryptic way she told her stories is also magnificent. If you are of settler ancestry and are open to the reconciliation process in its truest sense, and if you are willing to learn as part of that process, The Homing Place is a good place to start. It’s not an easy read but it is worth the time and highlighter ink. I particularly appreciated the author’s acknowledgement that Indigenous people did not ever attempt to dismiss Christianity; in fact, this new religion was incorporated into their existing belief systems and practices, without the European “doctrine and exclusivity.” Indigenous people were willing to accept aspects of Christianity and were more than open to welcoming the settlers prior to their abhorrent disregard for
Indigenous people today still welcome newcomers into their homes and hearts and are willing to teach them their ways, culture and knowledge.
the Indigenous lives they stomped on. Indigenous people today still welcome newcomers into their homes and hearts and are willing to teach them their ways, culture and knowledge. Governments continuously use phrases like “nation to nation.” Yet they encourage corporate and not-for-profit Canada to use funding grants that are specific to Indigenous people, persisting with the practice of obtaining funds to “help” and “teach” and “include” Indigenous people, attempting to bring them into the settler fold. Our reality is, Settler Canada still has not accepted the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people who live on Turtle Island who are indigenous to these lands and were banished from their own spaces. They were locked up and traumatized in residential schools, stolen during the Sixties Scoop and are now subjected to environmental racism in each part of this nation. Rachel Bryant reminds her readers that there is a huge amount of work to do. I’m very glad to have come upon this book, the truth within its pages and the author’s dedication to making a positive contribution to the reconciliation process. ■ Patty Musgrave is the Indigenous Student Advisor at New Brunswick Community College in Moncton and a proud Shale Gas Land Defender.
REVIEWS THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM AN ADVANCE COPY PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Harriet Alida Lye’s Ecological Thriller
The Honey Farm Harriet Alida Lye Vagrant Press With reports of mass die-offs and hive collapse worldwide, the plight of honey bees—the almost invisible workers that pollinate three-quarters of crops and are vital for global food production—is dire and, exasperatingly, not completely understood. Plummeting numbers have been linked increasingly to the widespread use of pesticides. We have a love/hate relationship with the bee. It ensures our shelves are full and provides us with the ambrosia of sweeteners. Yet that small, flying insect, with its venomous sting, is also (along with wasps and hornets) the number one animal killer of people. As a metaphor to explore good and evil, where belief and innocence are on the battleground, the world of the bee is a fitting backdrop. Harriet Alida Lye, a graduate of King’s College in Halifax, is betting on that with her debut thriller, The Honey Farm, in which her two main characters wrestle with love, purpose and faith in a seemingly Edenic setting where ominous events unfold to test their psychological mettle. The novel’s half-page prologue, a sensual, auditory travelogue through the insect world, sets the tone of the novel with its rasping, disturbing undercurrent:
Listen. It starts with the bees. All day long the low, throttling hum of movement, the moment of liftoff—the bass note that never goes away. Then, swelling from the sidelines as day falls, comes the digital tick of tobacco-brown crickets—percussion-chkchking like an automated sprinkler, chrpchrping like needy birds............ It starts with the bees, and it’ll end this way too. In the conventional plot, we are first introduced to Cynthia, the owner of a small, remotely located and droughtthreatened honey farm, who devises a plan to attract artists in exchange for desperately needed free labour by placing an advertisement: The Honey Farm A free retreat for artists, writers, thinkers! Can’t work in the City? Come to the Artists’ Colony for a month or two (or longer!) and also learn how to keep bees! Starting beginning May. Among the many responses are those from two 20-somethings: Sylvia, a would-be poet, but who is otherwise goalless, fresh from college with a strict Catholic upbringing; and Ibrahim, a second-generation Canadian who wanders Toronto at night salvaging cardboard for painting canvasses. A cast of other young people who answer the ad round out the Agatha Christie-like party of farmhands. Soon, the heavier-than-expected work schedule conflicts with expectations of time for artistic creation. A plague of mysterious events (red-tainted well water; frog invasion; lice infestation; ailing livestock) see the young people, one by one, leave the farm. But not Sylvia and Ibrahim. The couple draw closer together as the farm proprietor in turn sweetens the deal for them to stay, though her unrevealed motive begins to create an unsettling atmosphere. The Honey Farm succeeds in creating a setting ripe for mystery and menace.
The paragraphs detailing the workings of bees—how queens are replaced, how swarms are gathered and subdued—are nicely rendered. The short chapters with their frequent and rote diary-like beginnings (“The next morning,” “Later that day,” “It’s a Monday”) sometimes distract from rather than produce the desired pageturning pace of a thriller. And the often naive dialogue rarely advances the plot and, with the exception of a few traits (one of the farm workers regularly drops f-bombs in her conversations), fails to bring much depth to the characters. The liberal peppering of the novel with Sylvia’s doubts and questions about life, love and identity: Does that mean he loves her? If he does what does that mean? Now that she’s not a virgin, has anything changed? Is she the same person? Do people every really change? Does it matter? Who put this tree here? Why? Why is it even on this earth? How has it made its way here and survived long enough to get this far? What does that mean— does its time on earth account for something? Who does it belong to? suggest it might be written for a YA audience, though the age of its protagonists suggest otherwise. For a quick read this summer, where the sinister and sweet mingle, The Honey Farm will likely deliver, without a sting. ■ Alison Dyer is the author of the poetry collection I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game, published by Breakwater Books in 2017.
Atlantic Books Today
Craig’s Devastating, Factual Analysis of Our Legal System’s Failure and Sexual Assault
Putting Trials on Trial Elaine Craig McGill-Queen’s University Press I remember sitting at my kitchen table when the verdict of the Jian Ghomeshi trial was announced on CBC. When the news reader said not guilty my phone started buzzing. Emails started coming in. Friends and colleagues began checking in with one another, first in disbelief, then in a panic and finally in resignation. Why, in a country with some of the most robust rape-shield laws in the world, do fewer than one percent of sexual assaults result in legal sanction for the perpetrators? Why, in Canada, do more than ninety percent of sexual assaults go unreported? According to the meticulous and unflinching work of Professor Elaine Craig, the answer is this: the process is unnecessarily and, sometimes, unlawfully punitive towards the complainants. Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession
THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM AN ADVANCE COPY PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
was, as other reviewers have noted, written and researched prior to the most recent deluge of public attention around systemic sexual harassment and assault. Craig, an associate professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, conducted her exhaustive research before #MeToo gained viral traction and before the development of the legal fund #TimesUp. And yet, Craig’s case studies are contemporary: not a single case examined occurred prior to 2009. Indeed, the cases Craig unpacks are in great part the material of headline news: the alleged sexual assaults by Jian Ghomeshi, the failings of Judge Greg Lenehan in his proceeding over the Halifax taxi driver assault case, the disciplinary action taken against former Justice Robin Camp for his behaviour in a sexual assault trial in Alberta. As Craig outlines in her introduction, the justice system in Canada does not protect the most vulnerable. Rather, in many cases the justice system compounds violence. In clear, concise language Craig explains how, despite changes to the legal system in the 1970s and 1980s, complainants’ experiences in the courtroom have not been eased. Instead, in example after example, Craig demonstrates that reporting sexual assault and pursuing legal action compounds a complainant’s trauma. Drawing directly from trial transcripts, Craig shows the ways in which defence lawyers rely on tactics of aggression that often cross lines of legality. Page after page of carefully documented evidence demonstrates that if you experience sexual assault and attempt to seek justice in Canada through the legal system you are almost certainly going to experience the opposite. Take, for example, a quote from a Crown attorney interviewed as part of a 2013 study on the effects of the Victim Impact Statement: “I did not want it to happen this way but it went down that I had a prostitute complainant not show up for court, and I had her arrested on the street that
night where she worked so that she could come and testify. She sure as hell wasn’t sticking around to file a [Victim Impact Statement] afterwards. “ This is but one of the scores of astonishing pieces of evidence Craig offers to demonstrate the ways in which the system fails complainants at nearly every level. From the various ways in which the Crown fails complainants, to the near-systemic damage caused by trial judges who fail to protect complainants from being attacked on the stand, to the calculated tactics of re-traumatization used and passed down by defence lawyers, there is no denying that the system is broken. If chapters outlining the fissures in the profession itself—the defencecounsel myths, the failures of the Crown and juridical error—are somehow not enough to convince readers that we are in a justice crisis in Canada, consider this: Craig asked all of the criminal defense lawyers she interviewed the same question. “If you or someone you cared about were sexually assaulted, would you recommend reporting it and pursuing criminal conviction?” Almost all of the lawyers interviewed said no, they would not advise loved ones to seek justice through the legal system. This is a devastating book in both its form and its content. What is perhaps most devastating is Craig’s methodology. Her research and writing are even keeled. At no point does she demand change. Instead, through evidence-based research, she presents the system as it is. It is up to those working within the system to implement changes to make it what it should and could be: a place to seek and find justice. ■ Erin Wunker is a writer and teacher. She teaches and researches in the field of Canadian literatures at Dalhousie University and she is author of the non-fiction essay collection Notes From a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life.
Annie Pootoogook’s Lasting Legacy for Inuit Art in Canada
Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice Nancy Campbell Goose Lane Editions / The McMichael Canadian Art Collection “Cutting ice” is an Inuit phrase denoting that something has importance. The art of Annie Pootoogook certainly falls into this category. A third-generation Inuk artist from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), whose grandmother was the famed printmaker Pitseolak Ashoona, Pootoogook has been at the forefront of a remarkable renaissance of Inuit art that has taken place over the past 20 years, marking its emergence from being the subject of ethnographic curiosity to being recognized as being on the cutting edge of contemporary art practices globally. Annie Pootoogook was not the first Inuk artist to portray both the light and dark side of contemporary Inuit life in her work, but she was the first to gain international recognition as a contemporary artist and the first to, as Inuk curator Heather Igloliorte wrote in 2016, break through the “ethnic art glass ceiling” that had kept Inuit artists from being taken seriously as, simply, artists.
THIS BOOK WAS REVIEWED FROM ADVANCED GALLEYS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice, copublished by the McMichael gallery and New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions, ably documents Pootoogook’s all-too-short career. The artist first came to national attention when she won the Sobey Art Award, Canada’s preeminent award for contemporary art, in 2006. [Full disclosure: I was the founding curator of the Sobey Art Award and chaired the jury until 2007.] Sadly, she was also the focus of national attention in 2016 when her body was recovered from the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, where she had been living, often on the streets, struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Between those events, she exhibited in major exhibitions across the world. In so doing she opened the door to contemporaries from Kinngait and indeed all of Nunavut, including her cousins Shuvinai Ashoona, Itee Pootoogook and Siassie Kenneally, as well as other Inuit artists like Tim Pitsiulak. This book, which accompanies a major retrospective exhibition at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg, Ontario, is the most definitive publication to date on this important Canadian artist. The author, Nancy Campbell, is one of the most highly regarded curators of Inuit Art in the world. Her deep knowledge and appreciation of Inuit artists, their culture and their land, shines through in every page. The book serves as a memorial to Pootoogook, as an important introduction to her remarkable art and as a much-needed history of the art milieu from which Pootoogook rose with such brief splendour. Divided into four sections, each bracketed by numerous illustrations of Potoogook’s drawings, the book provides a readable, engaging portrait of an artist and her community. The first section is a history of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, the sales and production centre in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) that has supported so many of the artists from the community and, as Campbell
makes clear in her history, can take credit for the emergence of Inuit art onto the world stage. The second section, Dear Annie…, looks at the life and art of Annie Pootoogook. Annie became famous after winning the Sobey, but she had already been making art for many years and was on the road to recognition as a contemporary artist. Her evolution is traced in Campbell’s text, which is clear and informative, written from the standpoint of a curator who knew Annie in Kinngait and in Toronto, and who had worked with her over many years. The third section, compiled by Stephanie Gagné with the consultation of Campbell, introduces the reader to some of Annie’s contemporaries from Kinngait, artists who are (or were) also pushing the boundaries of what was considered Inuit Art. Short biographic sections and examples of their work paint a picture of a vibrant arts community. Finally, the book wraps up with another short essay by Campbell, looking at the legacy of Annie Pootoogook and the impact her career has had and is still having on the perception of Inuit art in Canada and beyond. Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice, even from the pdf galleys, is visually striking—a beautiful book rich in imagery. Presented in English and Inuktitut, the texts flow well across the pages and the images are large and well reproduced. Truly a significant publication, this book deserves a much longer life than is normal for the typical exhibition catalogue—which this is surely not. Annie Pootoogook left this world too soon—but with this book on her life and art, her revolutionary importance and her convention-shattering impact continue to resonate. ■ Ray Cronin is a senior arts professional with more than 25 years of experience in multiple aspects of museums and creative industries. Most recently the CEO of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Cronin led that institution for seven years.
Atlantic Books Today
Editor’s Picks 18 Atlantic Canadian books that are generating buzz this season SHORT FICTION Ben Tucker’s Truck Azzo Rezori Boulder Publications Retired CBC Newfoundland journalist Azzo Rezori calls himself a professional observer, and that skill is apparent here not only in the everyday detail, but the inner selves of his characters as they tackle religion, romance, family and death. Too Unspeakable for Words Rosalind Gill Breakwater Books The pride of Corner Brook, Newfoundland explores a clash of values—old v. new—in her debut collection and shows herself, as Russell Wangersky puts it, “to be a master of character.”
Catch My Drift Genevieve Scott Goose Lane Editions
In Catch My Drift, from New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions, Genevieve Scott combines the tight, evocative prose of a short story with the scope of an epic family novel. The result is an astute investigation of the evolution of a family.
Marry, Bang, Kill Andrew Battershill Goose Lane Editions Another gem from Goose Lane in New Brunswick is Andrew Battershill’s Marry, Bang, Kill. It’s another soft-hearted tough guy joint, but the sharp writing and the audaciousness of the protagonist’s situation make it so much more: a literary page turner. Catching the Light Susan Sinnott Vagrant Press Susan Sinnott’s debut novel won Newfoundland and Labrador’s Percy Janes First Novel Award in 2014, before being published. Previous winners include Sharon Bala (The Boat People) and Joel Thomas Hynes (Down to the Dirt). This story of two characters and perspectives, polar opposites, is lyrical and rooted in small-town life. Hysteria Elisabeth de Mariaffi HarperCollins There are spectral aspects in this genre buster from St. John’s’ Elisabeth de Mariaffi, but the real terror comes from the most human of characters, a controlling husband who drugs his geographically isolated wife, who is suffering deeply from earlier trauma. This and other sinister characters work because of de Mariaffi’s precision with dialogue, setting and pace.
Mary Pratt: Still Light Ray Cronin Gaspereau Press
In a sense this is a nononsense look (from expert curator and frequent Atlantic Books Today contributor Ray Cronin) at the life and work of renowned Newfoundland artist Mary Pratt, with a sampling of seven of her diverse works in the middle. In another sense, Gaspereau has created a work of art all its own. Sixty Over Twenty Andrew Steeves Gaspereau Press Let’s pause and appreciate physical books and the artisans who still take the time to make them beautiful. Andrew Steeves, a co-founder of Gaspereau, chronicles 60 books published over a 20-year period, and “the influence that using traditional bookarts tools has had on his thinking about culture, design and manufacturing.”
Pay No Heed to the Rockets Marcello di Cintio Goose Lane Editions
Neil Postman once observed that, given our limited locus of control, international news is a useless distraction, especially given the shallow analysis of a 41-second news segment. Fortunately, as regards Palestine, New Brunswick’s Goose Lane has brought
us the work of Marcello di Cintio and his observant travels through the rich cultural heritage of an ancient land. From Black Horses to White Steeds Edited by Laurie Brinklow and Ryan Gibson Island Studies Press “Think global, act local.” Scottish planner Patrick Geddes (1854–1932) is credited with the phrase that urges us to make local decisions in the context of an interconnected, vulnerable planet. From Black Horses to White Steeds is filled with inspiring examples of local—especially rural and island—initiatives making a more liveable planet.
Jack Fitzgerald’s Treasury of Newfoundland Stories Volume III Jack Fitzgerald Breakwater Books
Jack Fitzgerald is of course a Newfoundland treasure himself, a folklorist first class and an excellent teller of the tale. In his latest, he’s onto high-seas adventure and spy stuff, including the story of a Nazi weather station in Labrador and the Newfoundland inspiration for Treasure Island.
Unchained Man Maura Hanrahan Boulder Publications
Memorial University Environmental Policy Institute adjunct professor and multiaward-winning author Maura Hanrahan has written a gripping true-life account of two men—including the celebrated Robert Bartlett—in 1914,
on a perilous 700-mile trek across the ice from Alaska to Siberia to save the crew and passengers of the Karluk, crushed and sunk under pack ice. The unsung Inuit and their teachings made the rescue possible. The Diary of One Now Dead Tom Drodge Flanker Press During the Battle of the Atlantic six men boarded the B-26 Marauder Time’s A Wastin’ in Greenland, en route to Goose Bay, Labrador. The Marauder hit rough weather and crashed in Saglek; all six men died. Drodge brings an account of the tragedy via the diary of the pilot. The title comes from the Ellis Coles song about the events. The Accidental Farmer The Story of Ross Farm Joan Watson with Murray Creed Nimbus Publishing The establishment of the original Ross Farm in 1816 in Nova Scotia is a story representative of settlers of the time, the many Atlantic crossings, the volatility of the region and its peoples and the essential labour of survival. Watson and Creed bring the history to life as part of Nimbus’s Stories of Our Past series. Caplin Skull MT Dohaney Pottersfield Press Dohaney mixes oral history, anecdote and documentary to enliven a place—a fictional one, but yet one as real as any—and time, just before Newfoundland joins Canada. Written with humour, vibrancy and poignancy, Caplin Skull is a love song to a very real people.
Alexander Graham Bell: Spirit of Innovation Jennifer Groundwater Formac Publishing Alexander Graham Bell remains a fascinating figure who maintained a home in Cape Breton for years of his life, and who with his wife mobilized the Baddeck community to assist victims after the Halifax Explosion. Groundwater’s account includes more than 50 visuals such as blueprints, artefacts and photos.
Half the Lies You Tell Are Not True Dave Paddon with illustrations by Duncan Major Running the Goat Books & Broadsides
Labrador-born Dave Paddon, aka Newfoundland and Labrador’s Robert Service, presents tall tales, wrapped in incantation, inside foolishness, but perhaps there is a key. That key is hilarity for the old, the young and the goofy at heart. How to Talk Nova Scotian Vernon Oickle MacIntyre Purcell It’s said that language is not merely a component of culture. It is culture. Our localized use of words—dialectical dictums, idiomatic colloquialisms and vernacular tongue twisters—give us more delightful details on a given culture’s internal logic than any anthropological study. Paging Dr Oickle, whose delightful guide to the Bluenose lingo entertains and enlightens.
Atlantic Books Today
Home for the (Summer) Holidays Planning your perfect Atlantic Canadian staycation
n the 20 years we’ve lived in Nova Scotia, my family has almost never left Atlantic Canada for a summer holiday. Why would we? Summer is short and often gorgeous and one of the beautiful things about the region is the variety of landscapes and many types of experiences available so close by. One year I was on the phone with someone at the Maine Tourism Association and when I gave her our address on the Peggy’s Cove Road she said, “Why would you want to come here?” You don’t even have to set aside extended holiday time to enjoy what the region has to offer because there are so many great day trips available. One of my highlights of last year was heading to Pockwock Falls with one of my sons in late spring after a heavy rainfall. It’s an impressive waterfall barely a half-hour from my home, yet I’d never been there. The Pockwock River waterfall is one of 100 featured in Benoit Lalonde’s book Waterfalls of Nova Scotia. (Somewhat confusingly, the book has the same title as one written by Allan Billard and published in 1997, but it is a completely different endeavour.) In his day job, Lalonde is an environmental scientist. He brings a scientist’s thoroughness to the book. Organized using the familiar tourism “routes and trail” system (Lighthouse Route, Glooscap Trail, etc.) Waterfalls of Nova Scotia offers an easy-toread and comprehensive guide to each of its 100 falls. The book includes photos, information on finding trailheads, difficulty level and GPS coordinates for the falls themselves. One nice feature is Lalonde’s “Bonus falls,” directing the reader to other points of interest—often a nearby, less spectacular waterfall that is still worth visiting. In addition to the specifics on each of the falls, Lalonde offers an extensive introduction filled with tips on safe and successful waterfall treks, including whether it’s worth going during dry periods and a classification system for waterfalls, so you’ll have a good idea what to expect when you get to your destination. If you’re planning a hike in New Brunswick, you’ll want to get your hands on the brand-new 4th edition of Hiking Trails of New Brunswick, by HA and Marianne Eiselt. The Eiselts have a breezy, chatty style, sharing their enthusiasm for the trails—all 800 km of which they re-hiked over a two-year period in researching this book—and the regions in which they can be found.
Waterfalls of Nova Scotia Benoit Lalonde Goose Lane Editions atlanticbookstoday.ca
Hiking Trails of New Brunswick HA and Marianne Eiselt Goose Lane Editions
Since the previous edition of the book, 12 years ago, New Brunswick has seen new trails, revamped or rerouted trails, and yes, some closed trails as well. The Eiselts can’t include every trail in the province. They focus on routes that have particularly interesting features and that are designed specifically for hikers. That excludes most multi-use trails, which also welcome ATVs. What makes this book really stand out is the clarity of the writing. Writing trail descriptions is harder than it seems and the Eiselts succeed in guiding readers with writing that is clear and full of detail, without being dry. The book is also packed with helpful, detailed maps and features spectacular photos. Striking photos are also on offer in Bluenose: On Board a Legend by Devyn Kaizer, with photography by Peter Zwicker. The book serves as a re-introduction to Nova Scotia’s sailing ambassador, following the Bluenose II’s extensive refit. It offers a history of the vessel, its intimate links to its homeport of Lunenburg and a taste of daily life on board—both above and below decks. Zwicker’s photography is stunning and Kaizer’s text provides enough detail to satisfy mariners while remaining accessible for those who couldn’t tell you the difference between a sheet and a boom. The Bluenose is a regular site in the summer waters of Nova Scotia and the book gives a fine taste of what it’s like to get aboard. The book is divided into two sections: the first is a guide to the Bluenose today; the second is an extensive and accessible history detailing the original schooner’s rise to fame (along with the story of the famed captain Angus Walters), her ignominious end hauling cargo in the Caribbean and the commissioning and building of the Bluenose II—which had the 82-year-old Captain Walters aboard for her maiden voyage in 1964. For those in Canada’s easternmost province, Field Guide to Newfoundland and Labrador, edited by retired Memorial University biologist Michael Collins, promises to be a handy guide for those living or vacationing in the province and wanting to learn about its natural history. I wasn’t able to review the book before press time, but it includes essays on flora, fauna and phenomena such as weather and icebergs from nearly two-dozen contributors, and packs an astounding 900 photos and illustrations, along with an index. ■ Phil Moscovitch is a writer and radio documentary maker living near Halifax. Follow him on Twitter @PhilMoscovitch.
Bluenose Devyn Kaizer, photography by Peter Zwicker Formac Publishing
Field Guide to Newfoundland and Labrador Michael Collins Breakwater Books
SYMPHONY NOVA SCOTIA Ticket packages for our 2018/19 season are on sale now! Order today and join us for spectacular concerts of the music you love.
• David Myles • Port Cities • Superheroes and Sci-Fi • Bernhard and Beethoven • A Celtic Tenors Christmas • The Nutcracker • The Music of the Eagles • Ballet Jörgen’s Coppélia • Jenn Grant • Beethoven’s Seventh • Ashley MacIsaac • Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony • and so much more!
New from University of Toronto Press Displacing Blackness Power, Planning, and Race in TwentiethCentury Halifax by Ted Rutland Focused on Halifax, Displacing Blackness shows the possibilities and limitations of modern urban planning. Ted Rutland shows how race has guided urban planning with grave consequences for the city’s Black residents.
902.494.3820 • SYMPHONYNOVASCOTIA.CA Forthcoming
Nova Scotia A Health System Profile by Katherine Fierlbeck This book presents a detailed assessment of health care system in Nova Scotia including physical infrastructure, service provision, and the efficacy of technological resources.
“Nature is the model, the aspiration of thought and From r o n n a b l o o m, its f or m; its bound less “tender, intimate poems, often dynamism, its inexhaustible set in hospitals, thus bodies, interconnections, diversions, separation, and tenuous hope.” mysteries and disclosures. . .” (Numéro Cinq) jack davis
Celebrating 40 Years of Local Books
100 Things You Don’t Know About Atlantic Canada (For Kids) By Sarah Sawler $14.95 | April 978-1-177108-567-0
EveryBody’s Different on EveryBody Street By Sheree Fitch Art by Emma FitzGerald $22.95 | April 978-1-177108-600-4
The Goodbye Girls By Lisa Harrington $15.95 | April 978-1-177108-635-6
Piper By Jacqueline Halsey $12.95 | April 978-1-177108-605-9
Catching the Light By Susan Sinnott $21.95 | April 978-1-177108-596-0
White Point: Then and Now Text by Rick Conrad Photos by Len Wagg $22.95 | April 978-1-177108-612-7
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Be a City Nature Detective By Peggy Kochanoff $14.95 | April 978-1-177108-572-4
Sailing in Circles, Goin’ Somewhere By Finley Martin $22.95 | April 978-1-177108-633-2
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Atlantic Books Today's Spring 2018 issue.