Atlantic Books Today, No. 90 - Fall 2019

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NO. 90


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atlantic books TODAY


STRANGE THINGS DONE IN THE NORTHERN SUN Books that explore the impulse to run away Publications Mail Agreement 40038836

ALCHEMISTS OF THE ATLANTIC Writers transform hardships into humour

COLLECTIVE RESILIENCE OF THE COD COLLAPSE The societal consequences of an industry’s flow and ebb

Exhale. Unwind. Disappear. Your fall reading list.

Contents Number 90 | Fall 2019

Cover Features



10 Alchemists of the Atlantic

26 Another set of eyes

4 Messages from the CMO and editor

Writers transforming hardships into humour by Amy Spurway

12 Telling the story of Atlantic Canada, book by book Whys and hows behind the creative inspirations unique to the East Coast by Allison Lawlor

16 Strange things done in the northern sun

Books that explore the impulse to run away by B. H. Lake

24 The collective trauma of the great cod collapse The societal consequences of an industry’s flow and ebb by Jeffrey Hutchings

Up Close and Personal 7 If you can’t play the fiddle, you have to tell a story It’s all about place... by Karalee Clerk

How sensitivity readers are making literature more authentic by Sam Fraser

32 Voices carry George Elliott Clarke talks about his greataunt, Portia White, and his family DNA by Karalee Clerk

36 Poetic license Inviting readers into the world of poetry by Annick MacAskill

38 The limitless flow, written from the Rock Michael Crummey speaks of books and his muse, the isle of Newfoundland by Jessica Leeder

44 And one small thing led to another How grassroot efforts help readers find books by Sarah Sawler

46 So, you want to write a book Locating the book mine, at the source by Kimberley Hicks

19 The truth is in the fiction A conversation with Donna Morrissey by Kimberly Hicks

20 In conversation with... Gemma Hicks, Sheree Fitch and Lesley Crewe talk about the memoir-writing process, by picture by Susan MacLeod

40 25 years in the making Sometimes a character gets in your head and just won’t let go by Sara Jewell

42 Even weirder than before The backstory behind a book by Desiree Anstey

Young Readers 50 The heart of home Sharing stories of leaving and staying by Lisa Doucet

52 Young readers’ reviews

Author Q & A 8 Thinking outside the edges

Exploring death, Buddhism and flat earth thinkers by Lindsay Ruck

Longform Reviews 28 Reading a book, by its cover 29 It takes a community 30 Of writing and story 48 A tipple or two

Reviews 56 Creating a University, I Am Herod, Thirty Years of Failure, The Guru in Your Golf Swing, Broken Man on a Halifax Pier, Siegebreakers, Martin Peters, The Wake, The Desirable Sister, Crow Gulch 65 New books

ON THE COVER Jenn Thornhill Verma is a journalist, landscape painter and non-profit healthcare executive. She holds a Master of Science in Medicine (Memorial University of Newfoundland) and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction (University of King’s College). Her landscape paintings feature scenes of seaside and outport communities, mostly from her home province, Newfoundland and Labrador. NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today MESSAGES

CMO’s message Full disclosure: I’m not from the book Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association, world. But in the last year, I’ve been the publisher of ABT magazine, for giving captured by it. The region’s publishers and our editor, Karalee Clerk, the freedom to authors’ passion, creativity and openness probe the ‘whys’ behind the region’s creativare infectious, and as business guy turned ity, and in particular, how it informs and book convert, my goal now is to both impacts books. expand awareness and consumption of This issue is bigger than usual, and as you Atlantic books. read the articles and features, you’ll see no Recently, one of Canada’s largest book one person has the ‘why’ figured out. The printers commented that there are more answer might be more akin to a quilt, fabric new books coming out of Atlantic Canada made and cut over time, each piece unique than he can ever remember. Me not being and impossible to replicate, sewn together to from the book world, I started to wonder create a new whole, beautiful to see. Unwinding on the South Shore. why. To anyone who lives or is from here, Enjoy your read, and I do hope you the answer might be obvious. The Atlantic might let me know your thoughts on the region is a mixture of culture, resilience, perseverance and, as issue. You can email me at, or give I have learned, sheer writing talent. me a call at the office: 902-420-0711. In this issue of ABT, we take advantage of the creative urge, and the magazine is newly designed, inside and out. I have to thank the Alex Liot

Editor’s message True confession: four years ago, of hardship into humour in Alchemists of the I moved from Waterloo, Ontario, to Atlantic and Sarah Sawler helps us all find Halifax. With me came the naive belief more books in her aptly titled And one small that every place in Canada was mostly the thing led to another. same. And isn’t that just how it goes here, as How wrong I was. I’ve learned—life in defiance of the six This windswept, hurricane-prone East degrees of separation rule. In the Atlantic Coast and its craggy, seemingly limitless region, it’s one, so best mind your p’s and shoreline is anything but. Here lives an q’s, as Linden MacIntyre pointed out to me intricately connected holding ground for in a recent chat. raw, unadulterated, infinitely creative writJam-packed with profiles and reviews and ing talent, informed by place and plentiful even a hand-drawn feature on three memoir enough to write a book about. authors by Susan MacLeod, we got up close How about a magazine instead? Yoga in the Park, Point Pleasant Park, Halifax. with the Atlantic region’s places and its This issue honours the Atlantic region’s writers and examined how they fold their astonishing literary ecosystem, beginning words into what it is we all love: books. with its cover. The original artwork was painted by Jennifer I do hope you enjoy the books mentioned, and what the authors Thornhill Verma, whose first book, Cod Collapse, is reviewed in and writers have to say. We packed in as much as we could, and for the issue by Jeffrey Hutchings, a professor at Dalhousie known every book mentioned in these pages, know there are many more internationally for his work on the ecology of fish. (And, coinwaiting for you to find them. cidentally, Jennifer is a graduate of an MFA program profiled in So, get thee to your local bookstore! Kim Hick’s feature, So you want to write a book.) And Halifax? Yeah, it’s the farthest thing from a “every place in Meanwhile, Allison Lawlor explores the region’s explosion of Canada is the same,” and this Come From Away is both gobbooks in Telling the story of Atlantic Canada, Jessica Leeder uncovers smacked and humbled to have been let inside its creative ethos. how living in Newfoundland inspires Michael Crummey, Cape Breton-born and raised Amy Spurway writes of the transformation Karalee Clerk 4

ab Publisher

Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association

Chief Executive Officer

Lisa Harrison

Chief Marketing Officer

Alex Liot

Editor Graphic Designer Administrative Assistant

Karalee Clerk

INTERESTED IN YOUR FAMILY'S HISTORY? Discoveries like these are better in person. Visit our Scotiabank Family History Centre today.

Gwen North Chantelle Rideout

Atlantic Books Today is published by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (, 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.

Printed in Canada. This is issue number 90 Fall 19. Atlantic Books Today is published twice 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). For a special offer on a 2-year subscription with a bonus canvas tote bag for $25 ($28.75 including HST), visit and use code ABT90A. Please make cheques payable to the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association and mail to address below or contact for subscription inquiries. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40038836 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Atlantic Books Today Suite 710, 1888 Brunswick Street Halifax, NS B3J 3J8

L'HISTOIRE DE VOTRE FAMILLE VOUS INTÉRESSE? C’est encore mieux en personne. Visitez notre Centre d’histoire familiale Banque Scotia aujourd'hui.

Phone: 902-420-0711 Fax: 902-423-4302 @abtmagazine NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL Atlantic Books Today

If you can’t play the fiddle, you have to tell a story Linden MacIntyre shared with ABT’s editor his thoughts on Atlantic Canada’s storytelling, and writing about home. by Karalee Clerk On being home… That’s a complicated and complex question. I live in Toronto, where I have all kinds of friends and feel at home. But in Toronto, family is who I share blood with, so I’m more at home in Cape Breton because the whole island, really, is family. People are interested in who your grandfather is, and not just my generation. I met a young woman recently, hardly more than 18, and asked if she was from around here. She said, yes, but her family only moved here 100 years ago. Big versus small… Large, complex societies are more guarded. No one knows each other well enough to let it all hang out—you either trust people enough or you don’t. There’s a number of things about growing up in a small place, and not just in Cape Breton, where people are conscious of being either unique or marginal, whether ethnic or social, and that makes you very aware of needing people and interested in knowing your neighbours.

Photo: Joe Passaretti

Knowing thy neighbours… Small places impose a certain kind of civility. You weigh in a little more not to be gratuitously critical or alienate people because you never know who a person might be related to. My wife, not from here, asks why that’s important. It’s because someday, when you need someone, if you’ve insulted their third cousin, you might be out of luck. It also means you know a lot about people and what makes them tick which naturally lends itself to storytelling or music. What comes with a civil society… There’s no higher form of civility than to entertain. Every kid grows up wanting the favourable attention of an adult, and the best way to get that is to play the fiddle. If you can’t play the fiddle, you have to tell a story. So there’s an oral tradition, passed between generations, embedded in stories from simple, ordinary lives. Turning that into something that holds attention puts a high premium on clever speech and humour. You learn to embellish

anecdotes from daily living and make them entertaining enough that people remember you. Telling stories of Atlantic Canada… Fiction writing is huge in Atlantic Canada, and I’d be burned at the stake if I didn’t acknowledge that. Yet, I’m always surprised when people outside the Atlantic region ask—why do your stories focus on people down that way? No one questions an Irish writer why Ireland is a character in a story. Canadian literature has a lot of pressure to get in other area codes and wedge in other references. Books that could be purely about one place and still win national respectability are overshadowed by the books from people and places that we don’t even know. It’s all about the place… Place has a huge impact on what makes people who they are and the stories they tell. In Cape Breton, a mother’s belief in a life spent in the coal mine shapes a man’s life, and he carries that narrative instinct from a deep place he probably couldn’t even articulate. But he has a story of universal truth to tell and a point to make and place makes it memorable. It’s a crucial character in every story, no matter where, including Cape Breton. When it comes down to it… Sometimes, no matter how sophisticated our literary output, either we remain marginal to the world or there’s this expectation we must be eccentric. In some ways, we’re okay with that. The Atlantic region has a wide range of writers who may never get a Giller, but if they make a splash at an Atlantic anything, that’s big. If they go on to national recognition, that’s fine for financial security, but what every creative Atlantic person most cares about is Atlantic Canadians—the people who matter to them and who they matter to. ■ LINDEN MacINTYRE’s book, The Wake, was published this fall. He’s currently working on another project and mentioned working on The Wake “until the day they took it out of my hands.” NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today AUTHOR Q&A

Thinking outside the edges by Lindsay Ruck

DEATH, BUDDHISM and flat earth thinkers are the themes explored in three very different books that hit the stands this fall. From a conversation with Tina Turner about the power of music, to an entire museum dedicated to flat earth findings, four authors are using creative ways to present topics they’re passionate about and, hopefully, intrigue readers around the world. Now that they’ve wrapped everything up into perfectly bound packages, writer Lindsay Ruck had a chance to chat with each of them and ask a few questions about their recent works.

ANDREA MILLER, author of Awakening My Heart: Essays, articles and interviews on the Buddhist Life Pottersfield Press

Q: Would individuals who don’t practise Buddhism be interested in this book? A: Awakening My Heart will work for a readership that’s much wider than card-carrying Buddhists. First of all, the material was never intended to just be for Buddhists. The thing is that a large number of people who don’t identify as Buddhist nonetheless relate to the core teachings of Buddhism. Buddhism, at the heart of it, doesn’t require you to believe—or not believe—in something otherworldly. The core of Buddhism is simply timeless, universal observations about the nature of life—what makes us suffer and what could make us truly happy. Awakening My Heart is largely

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focused on that very accessible, very relatable core of Buddhism. Q: I was especially excited when I saw children’s singer Raffi was one of the individuals featured in your book as he was a childhood favourite of mine. Is there one particular individual featured in the book who made a lasting impression on you? A: In 2010, I was assigned to write a profile of the Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. I wasn’t wildly excited about doing this article, but in the process of doing the research, I became intrigued. Thay, as he’s affectionately called, is widely recognized as the creator of the modern

Engaged Buddhist movement; that is, the movement to bring Buddhist teachings and practice to bear on activism. During the Vietnam War, Thay worked tirelessly for peace, and for his efforts, he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. Then later, after the war, Thay went on to help the so-called boat people who were fleeing Vietnam. I was also drawn to his creative side. He was a poet, novelist and calligrapher. In 2012, I went—for work—on a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, and it was so much more powerful than I ever could have predicted and, ultimately, it led me to start identifying as a Buddhist.

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JEANETTE A. AUGER, author of Social Perspectives on Death and Dying, third edition Fernwood Publishing

Q: I’m always curious as to why authors select a certain topic to turn into a book. What (or who) inspired you to write this book? A: I grew up in the East End of London, England, and most of my family members died in hospices, so I was always fascinated with death and dying, especially as I was born at the end of the second world war and death was such a part of my community. As an adult living in Canada, I continued my interest in the topics and while teaching at Acadia and being involved in the local hospice initiative, decided to offer university courses in death and dying, which were (and are, as I still teach online) very popular.

Q: There is the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover. The topic of death is not always comfortable for some people to discuss and some try to avoid it all together. What would you say to those readers who may be uncomfortable with the subject of death and therefore be wary of reading the book? A: Because we all die, as will everyone and everything we know and love, it is important to explore our thoughts and feelings about this subject as well as understand the academic, historical, social, political and cultural approaches to this complex topic.

KAY BURNS and DAVID ESO, editors of The Earth is Flat!: An Exposé of the Globularist Hoax ISER Books

David Eso

Q: What is a flat earth thinker? A: (David): “Flat Earth thinker” is an alternate term for “Flat Earther,” which is usually a pejorative, and refers to someone with a blind faith in a particular shape of the planet as well as biblical literalism, conspiracy theories, anti-science, etc. “Flat Earth thinkers” are those who use a symbolic or metaphorical Flat Earth ideology to creatively critique dominant beliefs. (Kay) : Flat earth thinking reflects an inquisitive mind. A Flat Earth thinker doesn’t simply choose to accept the first answer, even if it is the dominantly accepted one. A Flat Earth thinker chooses to explore and examine multiple viewpoints and can be quite happy with having an unanswered question. Q: The book seems to be about far more than the shape of the earth. What would you say to those who simply read the title and are immediately turned off?

A: (Kay): That kind of defensiveness—passing judgement before becoming more fully informed—is too often apparent in all sorts of situations. I would simply be inclined to ask why they would make that assumption without looking further. This book does have much greater meaning than the playful implications, but it is through the sense of play that a greater awareness can occur. Those willing to read it as satire will understand its relevance in today’s world of misinformation and disinformation and the irony of perceiving flat earth thinking as limited. (David): My advice would be to look again. This book is an antidote to our climate of polarized opinions. Ferrari’s philosophy is surrounded by humour—sometimes cutting, sometimes joyous, sometimes absurd. And I think we need books like this today, ones that refuse to remain in a particular box and defy the divide between seriousness and irreverence. Ironically, this book might be most useful for those who don’t want to read it. ■

LINDSAY RUCK is an editor and writer from Dartmouth, NS. Author of Winds of Change: The Life and Legacy of Calvin W. Ruck, Lindsay has also contributed to a number of collaborative works, including The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers, Nova Scotia Love Stories and an updated edition of The Black Battalion: Canada’s Best-Kept Military Secret. NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019

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Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE

ALCHEMISTS OF THE ATLANTIC: Writers transforming hardship into humour

by Amy Spurway

A view out to sea in Chéticamp, Cape Breton.


AM ONE GENERATION removed from the kind of poverty and strife that has long been woven into the fabric of Atlantic Canadian literature. My mother was born and raised in a Cape Breton mining town, one of eleven kids, and many details of her life are not out of the ordinary, given the time and place. Abusive alcoholic father who worked in the perilous mines? Check. Unspeakably cruel Catholic school? Check. Not enough food for thirteen people in a three-bedroom house that didn’t have an indoor toilet for much of her childhood? Check. When I set out to write my novel, Crow—about a dying woman returning to her struggling homeland, in a family full of hard luck “lunatics and criminals”—I had all the inspiration I needed to write one doozy of a depressing book. What emerged, however, was something different: a darkly themed story that might make you snort tea out of your nose if you’re not careful. I didn’t set out to write a funny novel. It kind of just happened because that’s the culture I’ve been steeped in my whole life. The place and the people I come from have long been adept at “hanging on by the skin of our teeth” and finding the funny side of… well, anything. Whether it be stories about “Potatoes and Point” for supper, or my mother and her sisters fighting over who’d get to sleep next to the family bed-wetter in the hopes of some fleeting warmth on cold nights, or the laughter that ensued when the ashes of my cranky great aunt


Atlantic Books Today

blew back in the minister’s face as he opened the urn at her waterfront memorial service, the message was clear: find light in the darkness. For many writers with roots in Atlantic Canada’s mining and fishing towns, or other rural communities, such comically skewed views of the world help us transform the hardships of “home” into storytelling gold. The title of Newfoundland author Tracey Waddleton’s debut short story collection (Send More Tourists…The Last Ones Were Delicious from Breakwater Books, July 2019) is itself a nod to the kind of surprising, subversive humour that often shows up in her work, and in Atlantic Canadian literature. “Dark humour naturally sneaks into my writing as a kind of lubricant for difficult topics,” Waddleton says. “It’s easier to consume reality when you’re already laughing.” Indeed, there’s no shortage of difficult topics, given the socio-economic reality of many Atlantic Canadian communities—historically and currently. “There’s so much trauma in rural communities, it reaches a kind of surreal pitch: the weather, the isolation, the lack of infrastructure and economic stability, abuse and alcoholism, the dangers inherent in fishing on the wild North Atlantic,” Waddleton says. “At some point, all you can do is joke about it. It’s a coping mechanism. A distraction. A means to survival when everything seems bleak.”

Photo of Cape Breton: Karalee Clerk. Photo of Amy Spurway: Alex Pearson at A.S. Pearson Photography.

“It’s easier to consume reality when you’re already laughing.” Finding ways to laugh in the face of tough circumstances and long-standing struggle demands a certain perspective, but not the kind that discounts, diminishes or ignores reality. Rather, the kind that seeks to see both beyond and deeper into it. Prince Edward Island poet Chris Bailey—who launched his debut collection What Your Hands Have Done (Nightwood Editions) last fall—draws on his experience as a fisherman, and themes of loss, heartbreak, violence, death and “the malaise of existing” surface in his work alongside an on-point reference to The Simpsons, and a healthy dose of swearing. “When experiencing any hardship, it’s so easy to be myopic,” Bailey says. “You can’t see beyond yourself, your own problems. But if you can laugh about it, then there’s a light that gets in and you see a little further, even if it’s only a brief glimpse.” So what is it that we see, when we turn to humour despite—or because of—hardship? In the context of writers and artists in Atlantic Canada, Tracey Waddleton says, “It’s a kind of anti-shame that results in brasher, bolder work. We can showcase the incidents that tear apart lives and communities without alienating our audience, thus passing on important layers of our culture that might normally have been swept under the rug.” It can also have a more personal impact, and as Chris Bailey notes, “There’s less taken for granted when you’re given something after going without, or with so little, for so long.” Humour can show us the place where absurdity meets adversity. It can intensify the flashes of joy that pierce the haze of grief. For me, writing about death, poverty and familial dysfunction in Crow brought into clearer focus the strength, resilience and sense of community that pulls us through things that might otherwise trick us into thinking that we’re weak, defeated and alone. By embracing the blurry lines between “serious” and “funny” writing, and working from a sense of honesty, bravery and love for the people, places and stories that shape us, we strengthen an important creative cultural narrative of our region. Legendary Cape Breton author Alistair MacLeod concluded his novel, No Great Mischief, with the profoundly true phrase, “All of us are better when we’re loved.” It seems just as profoundly true that all of us are better when we’ve laughed. ■ Cape Breton-born and raised, AMY SPURWAY is the author of Crow and has written for Today’s Parent, Toronto Star, Babble and Elephant Journal. She’s currently at work on her next novel.

Amy Spurway

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Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE


The Atlantic region is well-known for telling stories in various art forms. Today, one of the outputs of that creative culture is an explosion of books and authors, with more titles being published in the area than ever before. Atlantic Canadian publishers explore the whys and hows behind the creative inspirations unique to the East Coast. by Allison Lawlor


DITOR JAMES LANGER looks up from his desk at Breakwater Books in St. John’s long enough to take a phone call. The call is a welcomed distraction from the final copy-editing he’s doing on East Coast Keto, a cookbook by Bobbi Pike, an artist living in Topsail, Newfoundland. With six books on the roster for the season, Langer is left with little time to pause. When he’s not copy-editing, or doing a more substantial edit, he turns his focus to nurturing the next wave of Newfoundland writers. “It is a lively place for young writers right now,” says Langer. Newfoundland isn’t alone. Atlantic Canada is buzzing with new books and writers. Whether it’s favourite PEI author Finley Martin unwinding Charlottetown secrets in her new mystery novel, Killings at Little Rose; Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy spinning an adventure tale about Wolverine and Little Thunder or author Matthew Douglass uncovering a piece of history in The New Brunswick Rangers in the Second World War (to be released Spring 2020), emerging and established writers are collectively telling the region’s narrative—one new book at a time. “Publishers in Nova Scotia are publishing more books than ever,” explains Terrilee Bulger, General Manager and co-owner of Halifax-based Nimbus Publishing and publisher of PEI’s The Acorn Press. Having published books for 40 years, Nimbus is now producing more than 50 new fiction and non-fiction books every year, up from about 30 books five years ago.


Atlantic Canadians have long loved storytelling. Stories help us to shape our identities and inform us about how we see the world and how we interact in it. Growing out of a culture where a tale was passed down from one generation to another orally, the tradition of storytelling continues today in new ways. Through its publishers, writing programs, literary festivals and mentoring of writers, the region is creating a place where imaginations are nurtured, and writers are encouraged to stay and tell stories. “We live in a context that values stories and storytelling in all its many forms. And writers here, like writers everywhere, work hard toward articulating place and their sense of place,” said Professor Robert Finley, who teaches creative writing and creative non-fiction at Memorial University. “People are extremely supportive within their communities of writers,” said Kelley Power, president of the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador’s board of directors. “This is a place that fosters creativity and storytelling.” Poet Shoshanna Wingate came to the region 15 years ago from New York City. Working at a busy literary magazine in the city that never sleeps, she had little time or space to write. When she moved, first to Newfoundland and later Sackville, NB, she knew she had entered a special place that would inspire her as a poet. “As an outsider, I’ve noticed that Atlantic Canadians have a strong sense of the natural world,” said Wingate, now the Executive Director of the Writers’ Federation

Atlantic Books Today

“Boats in the Harbour” from Maud Lewis: Paintings for Sale by Sarah Milroy.

“I am honestly trying to snatch up all the young talent and keep working with them for the long term.” —James Langer, Breakwater Books, St. John’s, NL

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE

of New Brunswick. “They are very connected to the sense of landscape.” Whether sandy beaches, Acadian old-growth forests or windswept coastal barrens, the region’s large, unpopulated spaces are freeing, and Wingate believes it encourages a creative independence. “In Atlantic Canada, there is so much wide-open land. You can just roam,” she said. “That has to have an effect on our imaginations.” For generations, the region’s writers have been stirred by the spirit of the place. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s imagination was ignited by the pristine beauty of Prince Edward Island. Communicating that deep love through her writing, more than 50 million copies of her book Anne of Green Gables have sold since its publication in 1908. More than a century later, Montgomery continues to excite new readers and writers. Atlantic Canada’s internationally recognized writers like Montgomery and Alistair MacLeod continue to not only draw attention to the region but have helped pave the way for newer generations of award-winning writers like David Adams Richards, Lisa Moore, Michael Crummey, Ami McKay and Sheree Fitch.

“The international attention on some of our writers is a great help and inspiration to writers here—partly because of that success, yes, but mostly because of the amount that all of those writers put back into the writing community here by way of encouragement, mentoring, advice,” said Finley, referring to writers such as Lisa Moore. A double award winner at this year’s Atlantic Book Awards for her short story collection, Something for Everyone, as well as the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction and the $25,000 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, aside from writing good books, Moore teaches creative writing at Memorial University and works tirelessly to champion Newfoundland’s literary community. “Lisa is wonderful,” said Langer. “She is selfless in the promotion of young writers.” In Nova Scotia, writing programs offered through the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, such as the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program, and the University of King’s College’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction, are not only helping emerging and established writers, but producing more publishable manuscripts, said Bulger.

MORE INDIGENOUS STORIES ARE BEING PUBLISHED Rebecca Thomas, an award-winning spoken-word artist and Mi’kmaw activist, is publishing her first book called I’m Finding My Talk (Nimbus Publishing). A response to Rita Joe’s iconic poem “I Lost My Talk,” (Joe is often referred to as the poet laureate of the Mi’kmaq people), Thomas’ poem comes in the form of a children’s picture book illustrated by Mi’kmaw artist Pauline Young. New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions is publishing several beautiful Indigenous art books including Itee Pootoogook: Hymn to the Silence by Nancy Campbell. Sherry Blake, an Inuit throat singer from Labrador, is working on a collection of stories for younger readers to be published by Breakwater Books. Earlier this year, Nova Scotia’s Pottersfield Press published Elapultiek (We Are Looking Towards) a play by playwright and ecologist shalan joudry, who lives and works in the community of L’sitkuk (Bear River First Nation).


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At Breakwater Books, Langer and his colleagues are committed to nurturing emerging writers, actively seeking writers to help them move toward their first book and a career in writing. In 2015, Breakwater published Racket, an anthology featuring previously unpublished short stories by 10 new writers working in Newfoundland, edited by Moore. Morgan Murray, one of the young writers published in the 2015 anthology, didn’t stop writing, and in 2020, Breakwater will publish his first novel, Dirty Birds. Struggling with his crippling mediocrity, the hero of Murray’s book tries to find purpose in art, money, power, crime and sleeping in all day. In Spring 2020, Breakwater will also publish another collection of short stories by emerging writers, edited again by Moore. Developing close relationships with writers is something small publishers in the region do well. “It falls on local publishers to be the champions of the region’s writers,” said Wingate. Chapel Street Editions, a tiny non-profit publisher in New Brunswick’s Saint John River Valley, has carved out a niche. Since releasing their first book in 2014, they have published several books of non-fiction, poetry and fiction. Taapoategl and Pallet: A

The magic of Anne, L.M. Montgomery and PEI An enduring love of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life and the fictional world she created in her Anne of Green Gables books continues to inspire and resonate with writers and readers. Author Stan Sauerwein draws on the latest Montgomery research and dozens of photographs in his new non-fiction book, Lucy Maud Montgomery: Canada’s Literary Treasure (Formac Publishing). “The Montgomery world continues to grow,” said Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, author of Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery (Nimbus Publishing). “The scrapbook is so important,” said Epperly, who serves as a guide through the new edition of the scrapbooks. “You see her mind at play.”

Mi’kmaq Journey of Loss and Survival by Peter J. Clair won a 2018 New Brunswick Book Awards for fiction. Strongly rooted in the Saint John River Valley region, the publisher is committed to not only making books that are aesthetically pleasing and deeply connected to the place, but to nurturing local writers. “I make it a point to be in continual communication with authors. It is kind of a continual conversation,” said Keith Helmuth, publisher of Chapel Street Editions. Ongoing conversations are taking place, not just at Chapel Street, but between publishers, writers and readers across Atlantic Canada, allowing for the region’s stories to continue to be told in engaging new ways—one book at a time. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats and, as it seems in the Atlantic region, that includes the book community. ■ ALLISON LAWLOR’s work has appeared in The Globe and Mail and several magazines. She is the author of several non-fiction and one children’s books. She lives in Prospect, NS, with her husband, two daughters and several animals.

LOCAL LORE Kate Merlin Hanson, a retired school librarian, is publishing children’s books she’d like to see in New Brunswick libraries. In 2015, her company Chocolate River Publishing published its first book, Bay of Fundy’s Hopewell Rocks by Kevin Snair. Stormy Passage, Merlin Hanson’s adventure book, designed to give reluctant or struggling readers a push, will be published this fall. “Children need to hear their stories,” she said. “If you read them something about a place they know about, they get really excited.” While publishing in a small market is challenging, Hanson is buoyed by her small successes. “I don’t think the books would have gotten published without me. The small publishers are sort of the incubators, and they help tell the untold story.” Meanwhile, over at The Acorn Press, Terilee Bulger is excited about the company’s fall books, especially Bygone Days: Folklore, Traditions and Toenails by Reginald “Dutch” Thompson, a CBC Radio columnist who loves oral history and folklore and lives in a 170-year-old house in Bunbury, PEI. NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE

Strange things done in the northern sun

Books that explore the impulse to run away by B.H. Lake

Our history is comprised of many voices, but there are a small handful of Atlantic Canadian stories that are told more often than others. These tales, while important, are not the whole picture. Untold stories are hidden everywhere: in small and all-but-forin dust-covered photo albums. Silent stories also reside in our streets. For instance, countless people travel through Higney Avenue in Burnside on their way to work each day, but few know the story of its namesake.


n 1939, Maurice, John, James Jr., William, Robert and Edward Higney left their home in Dartmouth to fight in the Second World War. All but one returned. John survived the war but was killed when a friend’s gun accidentally discharged as they prepared to leave for home. William returned to Nova Scotia and realized soon after that he was not finished travelling. He went to the Yukon to build bridges in 1948. It was there that he discovered Robert W. Service’s poetry. He lost, and found, himself in Service’s blackly humorous tales of the North, in struggles against the bitter cold and the longing for the warm fires of home. He and Service shared the hunger to be on the move. William fought in the Korean War before returning to Nova Scotia for good. Like so many veterans of that generation, he suffered from PTSD in a time when no mental health resources were available. But he found solace in a little red and yellow copy of Songs of A Sourdough.


Photo courtesy of Yarmouth and Acadian Shores Tourism Association

gotten Nova Scotia towns, in abandoned buildings and in old photographs that lie

Atlantic Books Today

EXPLORING REASONS BEHIND WHY THEY RUN… The story of William Higney and his brothers is one of many that has long gone unheard. In five recently published Canadian books, new voices are raised and stories shared, but common among all the tales is the desire to run, either in one’s home province, or far and wide. Yet, in each book, the reasons for taking to the road varies. In his excellent memoir, Cures For Hunger, Deni Béchard recounts what it was like to grow up with his bank robber father. Béchard spent his formative years torn between his hatred for what his father’s destructive personality did to their family while also craving his love and approval. They shared the hunger to run, to move, and look for something more. His father allowed this hunger to destroy him, but Deni used his for greater purposes. Cures For Hunger is an extraordinary accomplishment that combines loss, love, regret and humour in a way this reviewer has not seen since A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. Sometimes the reasons are philanthropic. Emily Taylor Smith embarked on a personal challenge to walk the perimeter of Nova Scotia in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Brigadoon Children’s Camp Society. She shares her story in her new book, Around the Province in 88 Days, a loving testament to the human spirit and the simple joy of walking. Some run to flee past horror. In Rebecca Fisseha’s debut novel, Daughters of Silence, Dessie is a flight attendant who is forced to confront a terrible secret in her past when her flight is grounded. Despite an over-simplified and abrupt ending, the novel contains characters that are well-drawn and the world they inhabit is vast and colourful. Fisseha is skilled at moving quickly between past and present tense, even when they appear in the same paragraph, without losing the reader.

Brenda J. Thompson’s book, Finding Fortune: Documenting and Imagining the Life of Rose Fortune (1774-1864), tells the story of Rose Fortune. Fortune’s parents escaped slavery in the United States and brought Rose to Nova Scotia at the age of ten. Rose grew up to defy convention and live life on her own terms despite the racism of the era. Thompson’s painstaking research is evident and the transparency she maintains regarding unknown or unrecorded periods in Rose’s life is refreshing. Like Fortune, racism forced Suzanne Berliner Weiss to run. Born in France in 1941, Weiss spent part of her childhood hidden from the Nazis before her adoption by an American couple. She later became a social activist and devoted her life to helping victims of injustice. She tells her story in Holocaust To Resistance: My Journey. Weiss offers the reader a rare and thrilling vantage point: it begins in the French orphanages of those war-torn years and extends across the border to include pivotal historical moments in American history. Berliner credits her confidence in her own voice to the Socialist Movement, an ideology some may find troubling. But her story is valuable and offers readers an opportunity to listen to and contend with all perspectives and viewpoints. There is one constant in each of these stories: that wanderlust cannot be ignored. As a child, I did not realize that William had been a war hero who touched down on Juno Beach. I knew him simply as Grandad Higney who let me eat Cheezies and stay up past my bedtime on Friday nights. Five years ago, I discovered that, like Grandad, I was not finished travelling. I packed up and moved to Toronto to study playwriting at the Tarragon Theatre. When I boarded the train, I had in my bag one red and yellow copy of Songs of A Sourdough. ■ B. H. LAKE is a Halifax-based writer who has been published in The Furious Gazelle and Write Magazine. She is currently at work on her upcoming novel, In The Midst of Irrational Things.

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


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UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL Atlantic Books Today

The truth is in the fiction A conversation with Donna Morrissey by Kimberly Hicks

Photo: Karalee Clerk

DONNA MORRISSEY, best-selling author of six novels including Kit’s Law and Sylvanus Now, is working on her memoir, tentatively titled Rocking Her Babies, a journey through love, grief and mental illness, and back to life again. She shared some of the memoir-writing experience with Kimberley Hicks. KH: It took you just five months to write your memoir. Did you give up eating and sleeping!? DM: Whenever I’m writing, I get obsessed. Up in the morning at 6 or 7, beeline to the computer, stay until at least 12 or 2 pm. Then, I’ll mop the floors or do something that needs to be done. In the evening, I’m usually working with students because I mentor and edit for Humber College as well. KH: Did you have to do any research for this book? DM: No! That’s the beautiful thing. That’s why I did it in five months. No research—I knew everything. KH: So was knowing everything, and making yourself the protagonist, much easier than creating a character for a novel? DM: Two things tripped me up hugely during the first month of writing. I felt too indulgent, so I reverted to the fiction approach. I treated myself like I was a character, instead of narrating events, and that really worked for me. The other difficulty was that I’d already cherry-picked, writing important parts of my life exactly as they’d happened for my novels, so writing the memoir was a challenge. I thought, I can’t make up my memoir or copy what I’d written already, so how do I rewrite those moments? I also had to find the entry point and learn how to discriminate between things that were interesting but not relevant to the main thread. There were a lot of beautiful little moments I wanted to

write about, but I had to keep focus on the heart of my memoir, which was my mother, my growing consciousness around imagination and my feelings of loss and love. KH: Writing a memoir is putting it all out there—your most vulnerable self—for people to know your secrets and possibly judge you. Do you need a thick skin to survive that? DM: When you’re dealing with loss of family and mental illness, people have to be sympathetic. If not, I’m really in trouble. What I worry about is boredom. Will it hold their interest and capture their imagination? Because it’s not a novel, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of conflict, intrigue, mystery. It just has drama and emotion. KH: Reliving those profound memories and experiences must have been excruciating. DM: I cried a lot, and I got scared writing about PTSD. Usually, no one wants to look back and focus on those experiences, but I had to, though I was afraid talking about it might trigger it again. Somedays, I walked around holding myself, wondering why I was bringing it to the page. The answer was always clear: I have something to say. My brother manifested himself to me in many ways, and reliving that was beautiful, but there were moments that were incredibly painful. Since I’ve been done [the memoir], I feel so close to those I’ve lost—my brother, my mother, my father. I lost a beautiful niece as well, but I couldn’t put her in the book—it was too much. In writing the memoir, they surrounded me again. Rocking her Babies is slated for publication in 2020. ■ KIMBERLEY HICKS is a teacher, editor and writer. Her work has appeared in Today’s Parent, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail and Saltscapes Magazine. She works as a communications course editor at Saint Mary’s University. NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

In conversation with... by Susan MacLeod

Memoir is one of the fastest growing genres today. Yet the telling of personal stories and lessons learned is a calling not for the faint of heart, demanding of an author a mixture of honesty, bravery, insight and, of course, powerful writing talent.



Gemma Hickey Breakwater Books

In an epic effort to raise awareness and money for survivors of religious institutional abuse in August 2015, social activist and poet Gemma Hickey walked 938 km across Newfoundland. The journey was more than a geographic traverse. The long, lonely road led Hickey to stories of abuse and recovery, including their own trauma, and the discovery of their transgender identity.


Atlantic Books Today

Three memoirs recently hit Atlantic book stores, and their authors—Gemma Hickey, Sheree Fitch and Lesley Crewe—took some time to share with writer/illustrator, Susan MacLeod, what their writing process felt and looked like.


YOU WON’T ALWAYS BE THIS SAD A Book of Moments Sheree Fitch Nimbus Publishing

In her new memoir, beloved children’s writer Sheree Fitch navigates the profound grief of losing her 37-year-old son. Written in verse, this collection of moments captures a mother’s shock and sorrow as well as boundless love, gratitude and hope.

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL



Lesley Crewe Nimbus Publishing

Lesley Crewe’s latest work is a collection of 16 years’ worth of the author’s columns that appeared in The Cape Bretoner Magazine, The Chronicle Herald and Cahoots Magazine. The collection reads like a stand-up comedy routine of pet peeves, covering forty years of life’s large and small irritations, from kids and husbands to menopause and math. But she also reminds us of the unexpected joy we can find in those ordinary moments if we simply take a breath long enough to notice them. ■

SUSAN MacLEOD is a Nova Scotia writer and artist. She has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from King’s and created the program’s first graphic memoir, a humorous first-hand look at longterm care. Laugh a minute! 22


BOOKS OF 2019 Longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize

For readers of Lawrence Hill and George Elliott Clarke

How the Scottish Highlanders made Canada

An incredible true story of destruction and survival

Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE

The collective trauma of the great cod collapse by Jeffrey Hutchings


he evolution of cultures, economies and languages has long been underpinned by fisheries. For Newfoundland’s European immigrants and their descendants, Atlantic cod anchored coastal communities for centuries, leading to an inexorable dependence on the natural environment unique in the Canadian experience. The key fish was northern cod, a “stock” extending from southern Labrador to the Grand Banks, first exploited by the Basques and Portuguese in the late 1400s. Once supporting Canada’s largest fishery, between the early 1960s and the early 1990s, the 30-year diminution of cod throughout Canadian waters was roughly equivalent to a reduction of 27 million humans. The collapse remains the greatest numerical reduction of an animal in Canadian history. The societal consequences of Newfoundland’s cod moratorium in 1992 were equally staggering. Thirty to forty thousand jobs vanished overnight. Corrected for population size, this would have amounted to 650,000 job losses in Ontario. Politicians would have been tripping over themselves to take corrective measures. But this was Newfoundland, an island out of sight and out of mind for most federal politicians whose interest in coastal fisheries ranged from negligible to nil. This might account for the government’s deceitful announcement that the moratorium would end


in 1994. The scientifically indefensible two-year timeframe was apparently used to sway cabinet ministers reluctant to provide Newfoundland with financial assistance. As a scientist who has researched northern cod for almost 30 years, the biological and ecological consequences of the collapse are distressingly familiar. But until I read Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys, by Jennifer Thornhill Verma, I hadn’t appreciated how little attention has been directed to the human dimensions of the cod moratorium (Nigel Markham’s 1994 film Taking Stock being a notable exception). Stoked by the ancestral fuel of eight Newfoundland generations, I was enthused to read a perspective motivated neither by science nor special interests. I was not disappointed. Verma’s thoughtful and thought-provoking book combines personal, familial and societal experiences with historical and contemporary accounts of the fishery. She has produced a remarkably engaging blend of memoir, history, science and humanism. The first of the book’s three parts (Roots), skilfully intersperses family history and some wonderful stories (“wheelbarrow” has been splendidly redefined) with outport Newfoundland’s experiences with cod. The reader unfamiliar with Newfoundland’s history will learn a great deal (including the visceral response many Newfoundlanders have for “Canada’s N-word”: Newfie). In Part II (Resurgence), Verma eases the reader into the years

Atlantic Books Today

preceding and following the collapse. She does a fine job explaining the science, including the underlying sputtering “comeback” of northern cod, for which progress has been hindered by the remarkable absence of a recovery target and inconsistent implementation of government’s sustainable fisheries policy. Verma follows this with the harrowing and rather disarming experiences of an individual whom CBC Newfoundland once described as being “determined to be at the vanguard of the reimagined cod business.” The theme of re-imagining the cod business grows as the book progresses into Part III. Revival begins with a visit to houses left behind by Newfoundland’s resettlement programme, a visit colourfully accompanied by an individual with an intriguing (or ever-so-slightly off-putting, depending on your perspective) sense of what the vacant dwellings might reveal about the re-settlers. After recounting a memorable trip to Quirpon on the northwestern tip of the island, Verma rounds off with a chapter imbued with personal reflection and forward thinking. While Verma embraces the past, she does not yearn for its repetition. Aided by interviews with fishermen, scientists, union activists and journalists, she spends considerable text looking ahead to what a future cod fishery might, if not must, embrace. An emphasis on fishing practices and fishing gear—such as cod pots and handlines—that value quality over quantity. The necessity of traceable chains of custody for fish and fish products. A change in mindset towards achieving long-term, rather than short-term, sustainability.

“The collapse of cod remains the greatest numerical reduction of an animal in Canadian history.” Regarding the science, I might have a scattered quibble. Not everyone realized the stocks were failing in the late 1980s. Many inshore fishermen did experience declining catch rates, a trend usually indicative of declining stock size. But most scientists and managers did not discern a major problem, primarily because they didn’t consider the inshore fishery to be a reliable source of information. And not all scientists would agree with the hypothesized link between the recent positive trajectory of cod abundance

COD COLLAPSE The rise and fall of Newfoundland’s saltwater cowboys Jennifer Thornhill Verma Nimbus Publishing

and the abundance of capelin and a warming ocean. But these are quibbles, and scientists are natural quibblers. Verma aptly and emotionally describes the collapse as one of the greatest collective traumas in the history of Newfoundland. Who is to blame? Ottawa? Bottom trawlers? Foreigners? I’m not sure it’s that simple (fisheries never are). Perhaps we should look at ourselves. Collectively, Canadians are apathetic towards our fisheries, and there are few if any political costs in Canada to making bad or poorly conceived fishery management decisions. The result is a cumulative set of fishery collapses—encompassing many species—comparable to, if not greater than, that of any other country. Implicitly put by the Supreme Court of Canada, Canadians have a collective responsibility to maintain and conserve fisheries. In 1997, the court concluded that “Canada’s fisheries are a ‘common property resource,’ belonging to all the people of Canada. Under the Fisheries Act, it is the Minister’s duty to manage, conserve and develop the fishery on behalf of Canadians in the public interest.” The fisheries are ours to squander or sustain. Verma shows us how good we have been at the former and provides enormous justification for why we should strive to achieve the latter. ■ JEFFREY HUTCHINGS is Professor of Biology and Killam Memorial Chair at Dalhousie University. His work on the evolutionary ecology of fish has influenced sustainable fisheries policies, sourcing of sustainable seafood and recovery of species at risk. He has researched northern cod since 1992.

Other books on the Atlantic narrative… A FUTURE FOR THE FISHERY

Rick Williams Nimbus Publishing


Daniel Soucoup Nimbus Publishing

LIFELINE The story of Atlantic Ferries and Coastal Boats Harry Bruce Breton Books


Kenneth G. Pieroway Flanker Press

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Another set of eyes

How sensitivity readers in Atlantic Canada are making literature more authentic


by Sam Fraser

HITNEY MORAN isn’t sure where or when she first heard of sensitivity reading, but when the term first crossed her path, she immediately recognized it was something she needed to incorporate. “It was a few years ago, and I just kept hearing this word,” says Moran, the managing editor of Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press, “and I kind of looked into it and it just seemed like: ‘We should be doing this. Why haven’t we been doing this?’” A sensitivity reader is someone with a background in, or expertise relating to, a marginalized community historically depicted from an outsider’s perspective in literature. Such depictions have led to inaccurate and sometimes grievous portrayals, often unbeknownst to the well-intentioned writer. Typically, a sensitivity reader is hired by a publisher to comb through a manuscript and provide feedback on the portrayal of the characters and situations they can relate to. Their job is to ensure their community is represented in a way that is not considered harmful, offensive or inaccurate.


Artwork copyright Pauline Young, provided courtesy of Nimbus Publishing.

Atlantic Books Today FEATURE

Atlantic Books Today

One novel Nimbus hired sensitivity readers for was Crocuses Hatch from Snow. Set in the North End of Halifax, the novel’s protagonist is a young, white, queer woman (based in part on author Jaime Burnet), while the other characters’ backgrounds reflect the historically multicultural community. Part of the text also deals with the former Shubenacadie Residential School. While writing the book, Burnet drew from her own research and consulted with friends and peers from the Mi’kmaq and AfricanNova Scotian communities featured in her story. When negotiating the contract, both Nimbus and Burnet were in agreement about the need for the valuable feedback of sensitivity readers. The input from both amateur and professional readers was crucial to Burnet’s process. Some of the suggestions included comments about the way residential school violence was portrayed. Others offered insight into family dynamics in different cultures. “There are things that you will not be able to perceive or understand when you live with white privilege,” says Burnet. “There are things that you just can’t know.” Writing is an inherently collaborative process between authors, editors and publishers. The addition of even more creative voices may give the impression there are “too many cooks in the kitchen.” But, when it comes to the number of sensitivity readers employed on a manuscript, writers, publishers and readers agree: the more the merrier. “I really think you can never consult with enough people from a community,” says Burnet. “I’m only one lived experience,” says former Halifax poet laureate Rebecca Thomas, who provided feedback on Burnet’s novel. “I can’t speak on behalf of an entire community. I can just give my understanding.” For Crocuses Hatch from Snow, writers Andre Fenton and Lindsay Ruck both reviewed the text from an African-Nova Scotian perspective, while Thomas and writer and professional sensitivity reader Tiffany Morris, as well as academic and activist Cheryl Maloney, provided comments on the depiction of Indigenous characters in the text.

“You can’t put all that on one person,” says Ruck. “So, it’s nice to know a few people are being used. Someone might catch one thing, and someone could miss something else. If you have those other sets of eyes, it could make a big difference.” While grateful for the readers’ input, when asked if she felt her story was now more authentic, Burnet believes that’s not her call to make and she answers, “That assessment has to come from people who are from those communities.” Sensitivity reading is a growing practice among publishers throughout the Atlantic region. It has been adopted not only by Nimbus on titles such as Crocuses Hatch from Snow, Alison DeLory’s Making it Home and Andrea Gunraj’s The Lost Sister, but also by the Fernwood Publishing imprint Roseway Publishing. For an upcoming fiction release set in the American West, Fredericton publisher Goose Lane Editions sought out a sensitivity reader to review the depiction of Indigenous characters who feature in the story. “Especially since the Western has a very troubled history of acknowledging presence and also perpetuating stereotypes,” says production editor Alan Sheppard, “we wanted to send it to a sensitivity reader.” Writers who feel entitled to explore characters and settings outside of their understanding without consulting those from the communities may find the process daunting, but sensitivity reading should also be seen as encouraging for writers seeking to tell authentic stories. Andrea Gunraj says for the parts of her novel set in the controversial Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, the support of sensitivity reader Wanda Taylor, as well as former home resident and friend Garnet Smith, was “important, valuable and wonderful.” “I can write to it more responsibly,” says Gunraj, “and truly reflect it in the way that a reader—any reader—can read it and say ‘hey, this is true.’” ■ SAM FRASER is a recent graduate of Journalism at the University of King’s College and enjoys writing about language, culture, history and film.

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today LONGFORM REVIEW

Reading a book, by its cover by Judy Donaldson



Rie Croll ISER Books

Inmates spent long days working, washing laundry for the church, hospitals and other paying customers.

he poignancy of the title, Shaped by Silence, grows with each chapter in Rie Croll’s superbly written and important book, which seeks to correct the world’s ignorance about life for girls and women institutionalized in Magdalene laundries. The clever cruelty behind this system of oppression is shocking and frighteningly parallels the horrors of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. With stories that include suicides and stolen infants, Croll reveals how the shame and silence imposed on these women assisted the church in maintaining a sordid legacy, dating back to the 1830s. She begins with a dense and clearly presented introduction of essential background and then seamlessly weaves additional research with excerpts from interviews with five former inmates, all survivors of the Magdalene laundries in the 1930s and 1960s. Croll tells the survival testimony of Chaparral, born and raised in the laundry and abused by a priest from the age of 3. Her mother Delcina, a 13-year-old rape victim, was detained at the nuns’ discretion until age 18. The unwed mother story is common, but many girls were sentenced merely for being willful or socially inconvenient. Others were sent on the counsel of priests, under the guise of receiving a fine education, both moral and scholastic. The nuns, however, were unqualified to teach and most institutions had little time for schooling. Instead, inmates spent long days working, washing laundry for the church, hospitals and other paying customers. Frugality was emphasized, and the girls suffered for it. Injuries sustained in the laundries typically went untreated. Upon return to their community, these women were hopelessly undereducated, harshly stigmatized as “Maggies” and rarely successful. Those who ran or were involved with the laundries were complicit in the rules that

assured silence and anonymity among survivors. Assigning new names, often repeatedly, enforcing silence and forbidding talk of life outside stripped women of their identities, preventing them from finding each other upon release. The nuns’ relentless shaming, the trauma of solitary confinement and head shaving, among other punishments, and the enduring threat of being returned further discouraged many from ever speaking about their incarceration. The last of the Magdalene laundries closed in 1996, ending 150 years of operation by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and other Catholic orders. Claims, queries and lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church have been met with denials by nuns and a frustrating lack of evidence due to poor record keeping. Recently, Prime Ministers of several former British colonies have made public apologies on behalf of their governments for failing to protect these youths. Despite the desperate experience of these women, the fifty plus years since their time in the laundries has allowed for considerable healing. Many now advocate for justice, demanding apologies from governments, while bringing together former inmates for mutual support. Rie Croll has shone a harsh light on the Roman Catholic Church, whose dark practices inflicted on tens of thousands of young women made them forever Shaped By Silence. The need for citizens to learn about and acknowledge the wrongs committed by church and state is essential in the ongoing quest for justice. As with residential schools for First Nations children, the Magdalene laundries deserve broad exposure for the heartless shams they were and the intergenerational trauma they caused. ■

JUDY DONALDSON’s roots are in Halifax. She is a ceramic artist, teacher and arts writer who has written reviews for Canadian and American magazines. 28

LONGFORM REVIEW Atlantic Books Today

It takes a community by Joyce Gladwell Michael Ungar


am not a superwoman! You don’t get through tragedies …on your own,” said the speaker on CBC of surviving the trauma of seeing, at age 19, her father axed to death, and later, experiencing a divorce, the removal of a brain tumour and the loss of her house in a fire. Getting past her tragedies took resilience, and as she pointed out, more than herself. And this is the theme of Michael Ungar’s book, Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success—the ability to move beyond the damaging effects of life events and how the capacity for resilience comes about. Ungar’s message, demonstrated and reported from research studies and illustrated with anecdotes drawn from a wide range of settings, is that resilience is not “a set of personal qualities that we attribute to rugged individuals.” Rather, we get through life’s tragedies as “resourced individuals” when given an environment that provides what we need to meet our challenges; it is “services that make us resilient.” To underscore his argument, Ungar demotes the sacred cows of our culture—the self-help movement, the cult of positive thinking and even the current trend of mindfulness-based intervention. His pronouncement: our environment is more important than our brain. Ungar’s writing style is engaging, direct and conversational—if one allows space for the occasional digression or example of academic obscurity. He also acknowledges the complexity of the roots of resilience

as providing an ongoing problem for researchers: “Most people have good lives in spite of bad starts—why?” The book is a virtual encyclopedia, seemingly an exhaustive documentation of the sources of resilience and the conditions for success in life, with references to familiar and infamous figures of our world—Kim Jong-un, Osama Bin Laden, the Klu Klux Klan—and mentions of current issues such as Brexit, robotics, epigenetics, clean energy and the millennials. In his chapter on Social Justice, he raises the social and political issues of society, such as vaccination and the concept of “herd immunity,” health-care and politics, noting “A truly advanced society takes care of the most vulnerable before it goes to the moon.” The pages are sprinkled with quotable nuggets of the author’s conclusions. About change: “It is easier to change environments than people” About parenting: “Add a baby, grow your mind” About work: “Life-long learning is no longer an option” About where we live: “Urban planners can do just as much for our health as diet doctors and fitness coaches…” Ungar’s conclusions are balanced and his outlook hopeful. He believes changing our environment could realistically achieve outcomes which include “empty jails, fewer people addicted to drugs, less police, the end of the obesity epidemic, far fewer unplanned and teenage pregnancies,

better academic achievement and a healthier, less violent population,” within a generation. From time to time, someone uncovers our blind spots and brings to the forefront of our attention a perspective we have overlooked or suppressed and a shift in the thinking of a culture is generated. Michael Ungar’s book Change Your World has the potential to provide such a shift. ■ JOYCE GLADWELL is a retired family therapist and author of the memoir Brown Face, Big Master.

CHANGE YOUR WORLD The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success Michael Ungar Sutherland House

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today LONGFORM REVIEW

Of writing and story Putting it all together by Donald Calabrese

Lynn Coady


YNN COADY used to tell students of writing that “if you’re not having fun writing, you shouldn’t do it because what’s the point?” Since monetary rewards are elusive, a writer should at least write because she enjoys it. For Coady, her latest novel Watching You Without Me poses an exception to that advice. Cutting deeply into noxious literary reservoirs of aging, infirmity and self-doubt, Coady experienced “extended periods of misery” writing her most disturbing and emotionally demanding work yet. In Watching You Without Me, erstwhile Maritimer Karen Petrie returns to Dartmouth, NS, after her mother’s death to care for her adult sister Kellie who has a severe intellectual disability. The novel is an exceptional examination of guilt and grief of loss and the relationships between mothers and daughters, but it turns the screw with the introduction of Trevor—an emotional vampire driven by anger and self-importance who inserts himself into the sisters’ lives as the ostensible professional caregiver of their late mother. Trevor is a great villain, a kind of junior to the likes of Iago,


Stringer Bell and Count Dracula. But rather than dominate the artistic centre of the novel, Coady explains to me that “Trevor is actually Karen’s bogeyman. He’s like the ghost in the house. He is an avatar of all her fear and guilt and feelings of inadequacy. He’s not actually the thing; he’s the Babadook [emphasis added to represent emphatic vocalization].” Like the Babadook, Karen’s ambivalence toward her perceived failure as a daughter and a caregiver takes the shape of a monster—Trevor. Coady has a profound understanding of the anger of men. Her readers will be accustomed to the violent, addicted, narcissistic men in her past work, and find fresh and unnerving explorations of the subject in Watching You Without Me. Coady explains that “narcissism, entitlement,” and “the need to be the centre of attention, the need to be special” are what drives men’s anger in her novels and short stories. Coady’s deepest dive into toxic masculinity was her 2011 Giller Prize-nominated novel The Antagonist in which Gordon Rankin “Rank” Jr. and his father tour the cavernous but ultimately finite pits of


phone 709-739-4477 toll-free 1-866-739-4420 w w w. f l a n k e r p r e s s . c o m check us out on


Lynn Coady House of Anansi Press

unchecked masculine anger. The reason why Trevor’s manipulation is such a reprehensible sort is not because it explodes spontaneously like Rank’s, but because he is always in control of it; it is constant “beneath the surface, like buried cables, humming with information.” Coady laughs when I ask her about the authorial imagination that is able to summon such an unsettling character, pointing out that Trevor is “calculating all the time. His anger motivates him. It’s behind every gesture he makes toward Karen and Kellie.” The narrative is arranged in Karen’s mind according to shame. In her reflection, Karen explains that she spent “the days after [her] mother’s funeral flailing around for some kind of cosmic reassurance” that the future she plans for her sister is humane, kind and demanded a sufficient personal sacrifice of her own. She refers to her “pathetic gratitude” to Trevor as the moment for which she is most ashamed. Throughout the novel, Karen pulls back and describes the way her listeners have reacted to the story in previous tellings. “Whenever I get to this part,” and “people always stop when I get to this part,” she says, indicating that even after routine retellings, the story is still a story of shame. After “the scales fall from her eyes” and she has at least initially vanquished Trevor, Karen remains absolutely tethered to her shame. In a way, the novel saves Karen from her shame. Karen tells us that “Trevor’s identity took precedence” in her narrative, but Coady doesn’t let the story be about him. The story instead focuses on Karen’s emergence as a self-determined identity—neither tragic nor triumphant. Moments of closure, when they do materialize, are “a hideous kind of closure” and “uniformly feel awful.” Karen’s story is about disentangling emotional toil from the work of mourning and grief—the kind of story that is nothing if not gradual and confounding. ■ DONALD CALABRESE is a writer and illustrator living in Sydney, Cape Breton. He is working on a graphic novel about the life of Moses Coady. NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Voices carry George Elliott Clarke talks to ABT’s editor about his great-aunt, Portia White, and his family DNA by Karalee Clerk

K: You were a child when your great-aunt, Portia White, passed. How was it that you got to know her so well? GEC: I was child of the 60s, and my parents were all too aware their children had to grow up in an inclement, racialized environment as “coloured” or “negro,” relegated to a community that was economically repressed, socially disrespected and politically unimportant. It was important to them, as our consciousness was developing, that we know we were connected to this great lady, to instill pride in ourselves and to help us understand that we could realize our potential and to never to take a back seat to anyone because— look at what Portia achieved. So those days, when we were looked upon as an expression of a negative stereotype, one of our arsenals for that was to say our great-aunt sang for the queen. And that made storytelling essential. My grandmother, Nettie, (Portia’s sister) and my father made sure to repeat all the stories. It was almost ceremonial… the same photo album got dragged out, and the White family were retold family successes, and not just Portia’s. K: So there is more to tell, in addition to Portia’s story. Can you share some history on the White family’s DNA? GEC: The “black” White family was extraordinary. My greatgreat grand-parents, Andrew and Isabella White, were from Virginia and former slaves. Andrew and Isabella had good relations with their ex-master, Mr. White, and eventually built a church on the property he gave to them, post-civil war, which 32

still stands today. Their son and my great-grandfather, William, dreamt of becoming a millionaire. But he heard the calling and decided to study for the ministry. He attended bible college in Richmond, Virginia, and moved to Nova Scotia, becoming the third black to graduate from Acadia University in 1898, the first black officer in the British Army in 1916 and the head of the African United Baptist Association. And then there is Portia, of course, and my Uncle Lorne, a regular on Singalong Jubilee alongside Anne Murray, and my dad’s brother, Bruce, first black police officer in Vancouver… the list goes on. K: On to the book, which is gorgeous, the verse lilting, sumptuous, evocative and alive. And the words you wrote, they are her words. How did you get to her voice? GEC: Portia was one of the first icons I looked up to as a writer. As a teenager, when I was starting off as a poet, I always had her in the back of my mind and would write a poem for her, here or there. In my first book, I had her in a Haiku, and, as I became more invested in poetry and then fiction, I made room for the image or name, Portia White, in my work. She was always with me. I was approached to do a biography of Portia—a kid’s book that would have illustrations. But a funny thing happened on the way to that book… I could not find my way to it as a children’s book, and the way the book came to me—it had to be in Portia’s voice. I had to let her voice in, through my understanding of her, and let her speak for herself. ■

Atlantic Books Today

Portia White was a woman ahead of her time, ahead of this time, even. Born in Truro and descending from Nova Scotia Black Loyalists, she was a singer, teacher and Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke’s great-aunt. This book is an ode to his great-aunt, illustrated by Lara Martina.

II – Beginnings (1911–1914)


Portia May White, born on June 24, 1911: 1 of 13, but Shakespearean— Dubbed for Will’s lawyer-heroine— And lagoon-gondola’d Venus— That Merchant of Venice Princess…. The third child of Izie Dora And William Andrew White, fora* Would open for me, so many, I’d reap coins—the plural’d penny; Let conductors posture or pose— Batons that argue cons and pros (Of Music versus rests, Silence Versus Clamour), the wild vi’lins Of lilting halls, tilting stages— Sopranos vamping outrageous— While contraltos conquer tenors….

PORTIA WHITE A Portrait in Words

George Elliott Clarke Illustrated by Lara Martina Nimbus Publishing

A singer’s at home with dancers— Or actors or musicians at Curtain, where goes round a doffed hat For change, while clapping crowds apply— Echo of each expensive cry Purchased by ticket (paid Attention— No deficit). May I mention? Applause rings cheap, but very rich That noise is, rushing the ears, which Is lush reward for brash, flash words Brandished, bandied, like clashing swords. It was Helena Blackadar Selected—prophetic—my star Christening. I knew I’d perform Under lights—hot and cold and warm— * Plural of forum.

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


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Atlantic Books Today FEATURE

Poetic license

Inviting readers into the world of poetry by Annick MacAskill


HEN IT COMES to selling poetry books, Alice Burdick knows what she’s talking about. Not only is Burdick the author of four full-length poetry collections, she’s also co-owner of Lexicon Books, an independent bookstore based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Since Lexicon Books opened in 2015, Burdick has found the general readership of poetry books, although not as high as for other genres, has definitely grown. According to Burdick, there are a few reasons for the increase, including a specific interest in books by Atlantic Canadian authors as well as what poets, publishers and booksellers are doing to encourage poetry sales. In her own store, Burdick adds shelf talkers and notes slipped inside books to indicate staff favourites. She also stresses the more variety of titles a bookstore carries, the better, and noted, “a lot of bookstores have very slim or


lopsided poetry selections and the randomness of the books available makes the poetry options feel like an afterthought.” Susanne Alexander and Alan Sheppard of New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions say in-store displays are helpful devices that can positively affect poetry book sales. As they explained, one of their recent best sellers, Amateurs at Love by Patricia Young, did well partly because it found its way into the Valentine/romance sections of some bookstores, partly because it was often displayed beside the books of Rupi Kaur. In terms of readership, Monica Kidd, co-owner of St. John’s publisher Pedlar Press, found a distinction between buyers who are already fans of poetry and new readers. “I think the average reader of poetry books (if there is such a person) is already committed to poetry,” explained Kidd. Similarly, Julie Scriver, Creative Director of Goose Lane, spoke of the “small but mighty dedicated audience” for

Atlantic Books Today

poetry and that “typically those readers are buying for the poetry and the writer whom they may know.” Scriver went on to suggest that book design can be particularly important for attracting new readers noting, “design performs the nano-second seduction for the uninitiated book buyer and the use of design is one of the hallmarks of [Goose Lane’s] brand.” It certainly seems that other publishers on the East Coast take this point into consideration. When asked about design, Kidd’s answer was direct. “We take book design seriously. Pedlar books, if I may, are known for their beauty. […] We typically have an original work of art on the cover—it must speak in some way to the content—and the books are often printed on laid Zephyr Antique paper at Coach House Printing.” Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Press is another Atlantic Canadian publisher known for its attention to design. Matt Robinson, a Halifax-based poet, has published several collections with Gaspereau and finds that readers rarely comment on their reasons for buying poetry, “other than to note when a poetry collection is a beautiful object in and of itself.” But beyond design and in-store marketing, which remain out of an author’s control, there are other factors in broadening the audience for poetry. While Robinson mentioned he enjoys sitting down with a gorgeous, well-produced full-length collection, he also noted as a poet, he’s likely going to always have more people consume his poetry on a poem-by-poem basis, whether in literary journals, on the radio or social media, or in temporary installations.” Robinson hardly sees this as a bad thing. “More poetry as public art is probably a smart idea. I’m thinking, too, that poetry needs more of an audiobook presence or its own Sirius XM Radio channel.” Halifax-based author Andre Fenton also spoke to the potential of using different media for attracting new readers to poetry and making a poet’s work easy to share. “In the age of spoken word and slam,” he said, “a great way to get your work to a wider audience is to invest into cinepoems, otherwise known as video poems.” He added that emerging slam poets often become consumers of poetry books. It seems that the energy of a spoken word performance can contribute to the audience’s appetite for the printed product: “Spoken word is a bit of an emotional adrenaline rush of ups, downs, vulnerability and resilience. Being able to have a piece of that, own it and take it home is meaningful.” Fenton’s words remind us that a reader’s interest in poetry is often highly personal. It’s also difficult to generalize about the audience for poetry when, as Burdick put it, a buyer can be “of any age or gender.” Though publishers, booksellers and poets certainly benefit from investing in book design and exploring strategies like in-store placement and cinepoems, much of poetry buyers’ motivations remain unknown, except to themselves. ■ ANNICK MacASKILL is a writer, poet and critic based in Halifax. Her debut, No Meeting Without Body (Gaspereau Press, 2018), was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the J. M. Abraham Poetry Award.







Books created in Acadie - Printed in Canada

LOUISIANA 506-382-1367

Holocaust to Resistance My Journey Suzanne Berliner Weiss

“For everyone who wants to change the world, please, read this book.” — Abigail B. Bakan, University of Toronto

ROSEWAY PUBLISHING an imprint of Fernwood Publishing fernwood NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today FEATURE

The limitless flow written from the Rock


INDING HIS WAY to the start of a new book has become a familiar route for the award-winning Newfoundland author Michael Crummey. First, there is the avoidance, a glorious, elastic period that stretches for months and sometimes even years. It involves high productivity with activities such as baking molasses buns midday and, really, anything other than book-writing. Then comes the reckoning, a shorter phase wherein Crummey turns from the temptation of never writing again towards the notion of putting pen to paper once more. Next, there is a trip to the archives in St. John’s. “I just sort of poke around until I find something that feels like it belongs,” Crummey said in a recent interview. “Usually that’s how it happens.” The exception to this is Crummey’s much-anticipated new novel, The Innocents. An outport survival tale featuring the orphaned siblings Ada and Evered Best as they navigate adolescence in an isolated cove, the book stems from a scrap of an idea that embedded itself in Crummey’s mind years ago. He has been trying to ignore its thorny territory ever since. But last year, Crummey found himself nearing the end of one of those long stretches of non-writing and under contract to produce

by Jessica Leeder

a new novel. He contemplated dusting off the old orphan idea but worried about botching the tale and the tone. What if he didn’t have the stomach to tackle a story that involved incest? What if he did? When Crummey finally sat down, the book spilled out of him with such tidal force that there was no time for his usual diversion to the archives. “I actually never made it out of my office. It felt like an out-ofbody experience,” said Crummey. That experience happened in step with the creative outpouring flowing steadily from the Rock. Its ripples are being felt not just across Canada, with books, movies and television shows written and produced by Newfoundlanders, but around the world, with streaming services giving reach to narratives with roots on the easternmost margin of the country. “The number of stories to be told here are limitless. But why there are so many good writers coming out of here at the moment, that’s one of those happy accidents. I feel like I’m one of the waves washing up on shore as part of that,” Crummey mused. “It is a place of extremes,” he said, adding: “Which leads to interesting stories.” It was nearly a decade ago that Crummey first discovered the small story that inspired The Innocents in the form of an old

Battle Harbour, Labrador

38 38

Photo opposite page: Carter Hutton

Michael Crummey, hard at work with the writing thing.

clipping documenting the historic travels of a clergyman. He wrote about stumbling across a feral pair of orphaned siblings in a remote, isolated outport cove. The children refused the clergyman’s help and ultimately drove him away, but not before he observed that the girl was pregnant. He believed her brother to be the unborn child’s father. The fraught scene both captivated and terrified Crummey. “I was really interested in telling the story of these two children, completely sheltered from the outside world in so many ways and sheltered from their own natures,” Crummey said. “Part of the reason the story stayed with me the way that it did was because I just could not imagine how lonely and isolating it must have been for this brother and sister,” he said. Crummey’s first attempt at writing about the pair stalled, though, after just a few pages. “I lost my nerve,” said Crummey, who wrote his first novel two decades ago and has since won and been nominated for several of Canada’s most prestigious literary prizes, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Canada and the Caribbean), the Scotiabank Giller Prize (River Thieves), the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (The Wreckage) and the Governor General’s Literary Award (Galore and Sweetland). At the encouragement of his longtime editor, Martha KanyaForstner, Crummey committed himself once more to the Best siblings. The result, after a writing marathon that landed him at his desk every day for nearly four months, was The Innocents, a book he dedicated to Kanya-Forstner. Stuffed with the rich, sensory descriptions of latter-day Newfoundland that Crummey’s readers have come to yearn for, with spare but poetic prose, he recreates the piercing outport cold that numbs Evered and Ava, using ink on the page to give readers goosebumps. His Newfoundland remains consistent with past works: it is simultaneously vast and claustrophobic; those who love it must sacrifice for it, submit to its cruelty and navigate heartbreak to survive. Readers ought to be warned of the risk that they, too, are apt to suffer sore hearts as they plod through the hard times Ava and Evered face. “As the book progresses, the outside world and their own natures are sort of forced upon them or revealed to them in awe-inspiring and also terrifying ways,” Crummey said. “Whatever washes up on the beach becomes part of their story,” he said. “That’s a very Newfoundland thing.” The same is true of Crummey’s life on the island. Although he wrote most of his first novel, River Thieves, in Kingston, Ontario,

Crummey moved home to Newfoundland shortly thereafter to write full time. His writing, he said, is better for it. “The books that I’ve written since I’ve been home would have been very different if I wasn’t living in Newfoundland,” he said. “That’s simply because so much of what’s in those books, I’ve gotten from being here, from being out and talking to people, from experiencing the weather.” Indeed, one storm that Ada and Evered suffer through in The Innocents was one that Crummey was in himself. “To not have been here… would have made my sense of it very different,” he said. He doesn’t doubt his ability to write about Newfoundland from afar (while he did not grow up in an outport community, his hometown Buchans, a mining town, was full of people who did, including his parents). But he said his stories are richer because of where he lives and the material Atlantic Canada affords access to, compared with other places. “So many turns of phrase or anecdotes that I’ve heard from people, just would not have been available to me,” Crummey said. “You see or hear something and you think, ‘Ah, I can use that!’ I would have never gotten that in Ontario,” he said, adding: “The flavour of my books would have been completely different if I wasn’t living here.” Crummey describes himself as “too insular and too shy” to participate in any of the official writing groups in St. John’s (The Burning Rock Collective, which has included authors Lisa Moore and Michael Winter, is perhaps the most well-known). But he has a sense of shared momentum with Newfoundland’s burgeoning cast of creatives. “I feel like the work that I’m doing is connected to the work of all these other people, not just in fiction and poetry, but in the theatre and the music coming out of here, the comics,” he said. “The work feels like an expression of the place we come from.” “Fifty years from now, most of the people will be forgotten. But the work itself, the sense that there was a flowering of Newfoundland literature and music and culture that spread across the country and around the world, that will remain.” That includes Crummey’s increasingly brave books. ■ JESSICA LEEDER is an award-winning national journalist and former Atlantic Bureau Chief for The Globe and Mail, based in Halifax. Her awards include an Emmy, a National Newspaper award and a gold medal from the Atlantic Journalism awards, 2019.

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

25 years in the making Laurie Glenn Norris

SOMETIMES A CHARACTER gets in a writer’s head and won’t let go until their story is told. Laurie Glenn Norris shares her own story of a three-decade journey researching and writing the novel, Found Drowned, based on the life of Mary Harney and the true, unsolved crime surrounding her death.

Q: When did you first hear about Mary Harney? A: In 1995, I was working at the Cumberland County municipal office as a summer student. At the end of my desk were a few local history books written by local historical societies, and I took home The Lore of Cumberland. There I found “The Mary Harney Story,” written by Grace Trenholm, telling the story of this young girl who had gone out on a September evening to bring the cows in and never returned. People went to look for her but as time went by… Grace mentioned that a body turned up on PEI and also that the father was implicated. Something clicked inside my head, making me wonder, “Did that really happen?” I questioned if it might be more than a made-up story, if it had a kernel of truth in it. Q: What did you do to find out more about Mary Harney? A: While working as a summer student, I was doing title searches, spending a lot of time at the Cumberland County Museum going through newspaper reels. It was my chance to do my own research. Starting in September 1899, I looked at every newspaper from that year and back until I got back to 1877—and there she was. It was the September 15 item in the Patriot [newspaper in Charlottetown]. Once I had a date, I started going through other papers from the 40

weeks before and the weeks after. I found the story and had a sequence, and from there, I had Mary. I read that her mother and father had been charged with murder, and I started to wonder— what went on in the Harney house in Rockley? I began to create these scenarios, and sentences and paragraphs formed in my head, and I tried to figure out what Mary would have looked like because I never came across any photographs. Q: Why did you research everyone involved in the original investigation? A: I wanted as many details as I could possibly get. I didn’t know what happened to Mary in that particular incident, but if I could know as much about the characters who really existed, maybe I could discover more about what might have happened. It helped to know the personality of the doctor and detective. I also felt I needed to know about the medical procedures and how detective’s work went at the time. Some of the characters actually existed, some I made up. Q: What is it about Mary Harney that made you want to give her a life and a story? A: One of the newspaper articles talked about someone describing her as “mentally clouded” and I thought, “That wasn’t Mary describing herself that way.” So who was? Was it a family member

Photo: Dana Brown

Q: What did you study at university? A: My degree is in anthropology and history. I love doing research.

by Sara Jewell

Atlantic Books Today

This young girl died, at 17 or 18 years of age, and her story was over, and I wanted to pay tribute to her in some way. who had a stake in what happened? This young girl died, at 17 or 18 years of age, and her story was over, and I wanted to pay tribute to her in some way. There’s a good chance what I’ve written was far, far, far from what really occurred, but I wanted Mary Harney’s name to be known. My heart is with non-fiction, but I also love novels or short stories that are taken from true historical incidents. Q: You had to make a choice about how to end Mary’s story. How did you decide what to do? A: I went to a writing workshop, and we were asked to consider what if our story had a different ending. I hadn’t started ad abt_Layout 1 9/15/19 4:06 PM Page 1


Laurie Glenn Norris Vagrant Press

writing Mary’s story so I thought, “What if I did something differently?” And that’s how the ending came about. Q: It took you 25 years to see this story published. What was it like living with Mary all that time? A: Not a day would go by that I wouldn’t think, even for two seconds, about Mary and what I had to do. Mary was always in my mind saying, “I haven’t done that yet” while I was going to grad school and getting married. There were long stretches when I didn’t write because I didn’t think I could do it, and there were parts I thought were too hard to write, to figure out. But I felt I had to tell this story. For me, Mary’s



story ended too abruptly. I wanted to extend her life and make it more meaningful. She was a real person, not a foolish girl with a clouded mind. Grace Trenholm did a great thing, writing down that local history, because without that, Mary would have been forgotten unless someone went back to those old newspaper stories and thought they sounded interesting. ■ SARA JEWELL is a freelance writer and the author of Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia. She has lived along the River Philip in Cumberland County, NS, for twelve years, just upriver from where Mary Harney died, but has never seen her ghost. Distributed by LitDistCo




BY BOB BARTEL i llu s trate d b y M ar y A n n Pe n as h u e

T ransl ate d b y Sebastian Piwas, Stel l a Ric h , Mani Katinen N un a

with illustrations by Caroline Clarke

THE MYSTERY NUTAUI’S CAP OF THE PORTUGUESE WALTZES (a co-publication with Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu Education) by RICHARD SIMAS; illustrations by CAROLINE CLARKE by BOB BARTEL; illustrations by MARY ANN PENASHUE ISBN: 978-1-928917251, 36 pages, trade paperback, $11.95 ISBN: 978-1-927917244, 68 pages, hardcover, $22.95

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Even weirder than before Susie Taylor, a resident in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, penned her novel, Even Weirder Than Before, after discovering her teenage diaries 20 years later in her mother’s basement. Susie shared some of the backstory with Desiree Anstey. THE BIRTH OF INSPIRATION…

In 2015, I won the NLCU Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers. It was a Cinderella moment for me, both instantly wonderful and bizarre. This is how the novel came into existence.


The diaries spanned from Grade 7 to the age of 16, and they chronicled my parents’ divorce and my feelings on discovering my sexuality. There were so many confused feelings back then. I wish I could talk to that kid back then and say, ‘The world is crazy, and you are not.’ But while there are certainly similarities with the character Daisy, and of experiences I went through when I was that age, this fictional book is not about me.


When I grew up, girls were still very much expected to be quiet, well-behaved and believe in God unquestionably. There was a lot of misogyny around. It was believed everyone was equal, when the reality was that girls were treated very differently to boys, and I wanted to address this within the book. Daisy’s father abandons them, and her mother Sheila is an immigrant in Canada. Sheila doesn’t have a big support system, so the two really must hold each other up. But in the end, the women move on and evolve.


Atlantic Books Today


As for the naming of the characters, I was legally named Susan but have always gone by “Susie.” Growing up people were always telling me Susan is more conservative, but it never fitted my personality. So maybe there is something (subconscious) when the character ‘Sheila’ wants to be called ‘Shell.’ She doesn’t want to be that person sitting at the kitchen sink anymore. It’s a reinvention. Sheila at first is incredibly lonely and suffering depression after going through a personal tragedy, and I have a huge amount of empathy for her. It’s realistic to experience a bout of depression, and it’s a part of life just as much as it is to be happy. We need the two as a balance to understand real joy.


We see the mother-daughter duo trapped in the suburbs—Sheila in a (toxic) relationship, Daisy in a school she is too smart for, and when they finally get out, there’s a huge sense of freedom. Sometimes when you go through trauma, it really pushes you to live a more extraordinary life. Characters like Wanda and Cora show Daisy there’s a different way to live. Looking back to my own youth, while there were so many things wrong with this time, as kids we had a lot more freedom. We were able to have our own social lives that our parents couldn’t direct and—quite frankly— know anything about because of the lack of technology. I think such freedom was a wonderful thing because it allowed us how to shape our own identities. ■ DESIREE ANSTEY is a multimedia journalist for the Journal Pioneer in Summerside, PEI, as well as a freelancer for Saltwire, and writes regularly about travel.

New from the authors of SALTWATER MITTENS

SALTWATER CLASSICS FROM THE ISLAND OF NEWFOUNDLAND More than 25 favourite caps, vamps, and mittens to knit

From salt-and-pepper caps to boot socks, and from trigger mitts to vamps (slippers), this book has something for everyone. 709-895-3457 • •

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today FEATURE

And one small thing led to another... How grassroots efforts help readers discover Atlantic Canadian books

by Sarah Sawler

If friend and fellow author Melanie J. Fishbane hadn’t come to Halifax to promote her novel Maud, I probably wouldn’t be working as a publicist at Conundrum Press. Yes, the two events may seem disconnected, but if you’ve ever read the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, you might think otherwise. When Fishbane came to Halifax in July 2017, I offered to help her schedule some interviews and events. After one of her readings, we ended up at a crêpe restaurant with Christy Ann Conlin (Nova Scotia-born and raised author of the brand-new and brilliant Watermark), and Fishbane casually mentioned that I’d helped her with the tour. A couple months later, I ran into Conlin at the launch of Carol Bruneau’s short collection, A Bird on Every Tree. Afterwards, while chatting under a streetlight’s glow, she mentioned I should expect an email from Andy Brown, her partner (life, not business) and Conundrum Press’s publisher. He needed a publicist, and after our talk at the crêpe place, Conlin suggested me. Sure, I have the qualifications and the experience and, as an author, the required empathy, but ultimately, that door opened because I helped another author on a whim (and maybe also because I go to a lot of book events). In the Atlantic Canadian publishing industry, such stories aren’t uncommon. Ideas are shared, help offered and spontaneous brainstorming happens over drinks. Over the last couple of years, more of these conversations seem to be resulting in grassroots marketing efforts, probably in part because it’s getting harder to bridge the gap between readers and books. Newspapers are cutting book coverage, Goodreads is overwhelming and social media algorithms are constantly shifting. But thanks to these behind-thescenes conversations, readers can find great books in new ways. 44

WATCH BOOK TRAILERS… Take RC Shaw’s Louisbourg or Bust: A Surfer’s Wild Ride Down Nova Scotia’s Drowned Coast, for example. When it was released, the book was promoted using an unexpected book trailer. Bebop Film Collective had profiled Shaw in a short film, and when he saw the end result, he realized it would make an excellent book trailer. With Bebop’s permission, Shaw and Pottersfield Press used it to market the book. And it worked—more than 1,100 people have watched the trailer on Vimeo, a video-sharing site. Those viewers include journalists who ended up interviewing Shaw, exposing more readers to the book. ( Shaw’s isn’t the only book being promoted using a book trailer—it’s becoming more common to find these trailers on YouTube or publisher websites. Goose Lane Editions is using a highly effective trailer to promote Amy Spurway’s book, Crow— I know, because within 24 hours of watching, I was $23 poorer. ( Crow Teaser


Atlantic Books Today

Nimbus Publishing’s Book Me! podcast, hosted by former CBC host Costas Halavrezos, was the brainchild of Robin Grant. Currently, Grant is Nimbus’ sales rep (and the producer of Book Me!), but at the time, she was working as the publisher’s educational consultant. She thought a podcast featuring different authors in conversation would be a great way to get the word out about new titles, so she pitched the idea to Nimbus co-owner Terrilee Bulger. They applied for funding from Arts Nova Scotia, and they got it. Just as Grant expected, plenty of readers discover new books through the podcast, but there’s been a bit of an unexpected twist: because the interviews cover everything from ghosts to Sable Island, some people tune in for the topics instead of the authors, which means Nimbus is reaching new markets. Like Louisbourg or Bust, Book Me! has also attracted coverage from other sources, including bloggers and traditional media. (

READ QUICK BITS The BookBits videos used by Running the Goat Books and Broadsides also resulted from a pitch. Michelle Porter, a writer and researcher, brought the idea to Marnie Parsons, Running the Goat’s publisher. Porter wanted to highlight new books by creating very short promotional videos. Parsons agreed to try it, and now she posts the videos on Running the Goat’s website. The videos are purposefully brief—Porter hopes to leave readers wanting more. ( Readers can even discover fascinating books on crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter. That’s how Bradan Press raised some of the funds necessary to publish Anna Ruadh, a Scottish Gaelic translation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. For obvious reasons, actually bringing this book to fruition was a collaborative effort between Bradan Press and its readers, but the Kickstarter effort also served as a marketing campaign. Bradan shared the campaign widely on social media, and with the help of the wider Gaelic community and plenty of dedicated Anne fans,

With traditional book conferences, many incredible literary festivals, events like the Atlantic Book Awards and new digital possibilities, opportunities for people to talk, dream and brainstorm books will continue, and new promotional ideas and collaborations will ensue. Meanwhile, the real winner will be you—the reader with the teetering pile of Atlantic Canadian books. ■ SARAH SAWLER is a Halifax journalist, book reviewer and author of 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia.

the Kickstarter fund raised over $17,000—and prompted traditional media coverage.

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today FEATURE

Participants, including Jeri Brown (right) at the King’s MFA program.

So, you want to write a book “You should write a book!” How often have you said or heard that? Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone seems to know a master storyteller, especially on the East Coast. But spinning a yarn is more akin to threading a needle, compared to the long, dedicated work of weaving an intricate tapestry that is an actual book. Getting published is another mystery to navigate and daunting enough that most don’t dare even try. by Kimberley Hicks


ALIFAX’S UNIVERSITY OF KING’S COLLEGE is home to a unique program designed to guide professional and novice writers through the process of becoming a bona fide book author. Since its inception in 2013, King’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction has focused the artistic vision of roughly 100 students, many of whom hail from Atlantic Canada. Of the students and graduates to date, 30% have published or secured book contracts with regional or national publishers, evidence of the broad appeal of East Coast nonfiction to national and international audiences, and a testament to the deep well of creative talent in our region. RC Shaw, Cow Bay-based teacher and author of Louisbourg or Bust (Pottersfield Press), and Jennifer Thornhill Verma, originally from Newfoundland and author of Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys (Nimbus), are two graduates whose work reflects Atlantic Canadian themes that resonate with readers well beyond our region. Shaw says those themes often reflect a reverence of place, but they are also as diverse as the genre of nonfiction itself, and include memoir, history, biography, true crime, journalistic investigation or business treatise. Over the program’s two years of intensive writing, feedback and revising, the stories that unfold are often not the same as the


students’ original project ideas. A year into the program, Shaw’s book evolved from an historical look at the Nova Scotia surfing scene to a Bill Bryson-esque travel quest, relatable to Canadian adventurers from coast to coast. Thornhill Verma’s project morphed from a National Magazine Award-winning journalistic piece in Maisonneuve to a book-length account of the causes and effects of Newfoundland’s cod collapse, incorporating extensive research as well as memoir. The MFA program focuses on refining ideas and strengthening writing and storytelling skills, but it also concentrates on the business of authorship, demystifying the book industry by exposing students to agents, editors and publishers. Dr. Gillian Turnbull, a 2017 graduate and author of Sonic Booms: Making Music in an Oil Town (Eternal Cavalier Press), says that a combination of craft and business is key to success, though she and her classmates were initially resistant to the latter. “We all wanted to become better writers, and we were getting a lot of information about all this stuff that at the time we felt was detracting from craft.” However, Turnbull says, students quickly realized becoming an author is not just about being a good writer; it’s about navigating the publishing world, including how to market a book, how to pitch to publishers and how to create a social media platform.

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Kim Pittaway, Executive Director of the program, emphasizes that even if students are uninterested in the business end of authorship, such as contracts and marketing, “they at least need to be equipped to not get taken advantage of.” The program cultivates partnerships with the Atlantic region’s publishing community, and students’ industry savvy from participation in the local publishing ecosystem is complemented by highly polished book proposals, a requirement for graduation and magnets for publishing houses that don’t have the resources to devote to editorial input. The critical input comes from the MFA program mentors—professional writers from across Canada and beyond— recruited not just for their impressive publishing credits, but also their ability to teach. Each mentor is a teaching superstar, Pittaway proudly attests, and brings out the best in students’ writing. Halifax-based journalist Pauline Dakin, MFA alum and award-winning author of Run, Hide, Repeat (Viking), found the mentorship offered a safe space to explore difficult subject matter while honing her veteran writing skills. Verma and Shaw also note the invaluable support and expert critique of their mentors. Extending beyond the program, instructors, mentors and alumni have created a nation-wide community of supportive writing colleagues. Such bonds keep the writing energy flowing long after graduation. Everyone has a story to tell, and with the direction of the King’s MFA program, the daunting task of putting ideas to paper—or keyboard—is more achievable. The fusion of writing ability, expert tutelage and industry savvy is the alchemy of success for Atlantic authors-to-be to transform their passion projects into published works. Maybe you should write a book! ■ KIMBERLEY HICKS is a teacher, editor and writer. Her work has appeared in Today’s Parent, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, and Saltscapes Magazine. She works as a communications course editor at Saint Mary’s University.

Spring flood, 1887 19th-century New Brunswick through the lens of GEORGE THOMAS TAYLOR

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902.494.3820 • NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today LONGFORM REVIEW

A tipple or two by Bill MacPherson


EETOTALLERS ASIDE, most of us enjoy the occasional drink. Alcohol, though not healthy in excess, tends to loosen us up, relieve the day’s stresses and make us a tad less inhibited. For better or worse, alcohol has always been a part of the Maritime and Canadian fabric, its historical, cultural, societal and economic significance stretching from pre-European times until today. This is the subject of two fall titles, Canadian Spirits, by co-authors Stephen Beaumont and Christine Sismondo, and Adventures in Bubbles and Brine, by Philip Moscovitch. The former covers alcohol in its entirety—from sea to sea to sea, as proud Canadians like to say—while the latter delves into the fascinating world of fermented food and drink, alcohol-based and not, in Nova Scotia. And while each has a different approach, both deeply explore alcohol (and other treats), making for a perfect read with a glass or two of your favourite tipple.

Starting with bubbles

Adventures in Bubbles and Brine, by Halifax-based writer and fermentation aficionado Philip Moscovitch, focuses specifically on Nova Scotia. Moscovitch takes us on a provincial tour of epicurean delights, providing compelling historical evidence and factual information while lacing the book with simple, straightforward how-to advice and eighteen recipes. His writing is clear and concise, with considerable research, history and first-hand knowledge of the subject matter, which is primarily the benefits of fermentation as a means of preserving food and drink.


Atlantic Books Today

The idea of terroir—in simple terms, the flavour of a place—and the growing movement to use local, fresh, naturally sourced ingredients contributes to an increased interest in fermented food and drink craft industries. Moscovitch provides fine anecdotal evidence for this as he tours the province, meeting people who adhere to making products using fermentation, tasting and learning as he goes. Moscovitch readily admits he hasn’t covered everything happening in the Nova Scotia food and drink scene. He doesn’t write about mead, for example, or about craft distillation (covered completely in Canadian Spirits), acknowledging this is a personal book. He’s been experimenting and getting to know the province’s practitioners of food and beverage fermentation for about 20 years. He divides the book into chapters that cover a wealth of information by food type. A longstanding Nova Scotia tradition of sauerkraut making/eating is followed by chapters on kimchi, vegetables, bread, dairy products and even meat (limited fermentation in the curing process but still fascinating for the process and artisanal products available). He also devotes chapters to beer, cider and wine, all of which have seen a recent upswing as regulations have become less cumbersome, opening doors for small-scale producers. Informative and fun, Adventures in Bubbles and Brine covers the province while explaining the science and simplicity of food and drink fermentation in laypersons’ terms and is a pleasure to peruse and learn from.

Photo on opposite page: Philip Moscovitch. Top photo: Gwen North.

About the bottle, by province

Markedly different in approach, co-authors Stephen Beaumont and Christine Sismondo have exhaustively catalogued the spectrum of craft distilleries across the country in the encyclopedic Canadian Spirits. The wealth of insight to the industry—along with a provincial and regional breakdown of all (up to publication date; new ones keep opening) the craft distilleries—makes this the go-to book to learn where they are and what they offer. And, not unlike craft brewers, this new wave of distillers (the big players get a scant chapter devoted to them) are inventive and unafraid to try all sorts of botanicals, food staples, flavours, scents and colours in their products. Mushroom-based and flavoured gin? Yep, it’s made by a handful of them. There’s apple pie moonshine, butter tart liqueur too, even bacon-infused and flavoured vodka, if that is your fancy. The authors provide an intriguing history of each distillery’s startup, catalogue what they offer—cocktail bar, on-site sales, tastings, tours—and then highlight a few (maximum four, or this nearly 300-page book would be a lot heavier) of their best products with informed, accurate tasting notes. Canadian Spirits will make your jaw drop at the range and ever-increasing number of urban and rural craft distilleries that dot the country. It is an industry that is moving towards maturation—consider that the first craft distillery, Cape Breton’s Glenora Distillery, was founded in 1990 and produced its first whisky a decade later. Today, many more distillers and distilleries combine state-of-the-art technology with chutzpah and flair, boosting the quality of spirits in this country to world-class status. With intriguing sidebars, author favourites, cocktail recipes and an extensive glossary, Canadian Spirits is an indispensable guide to the diversity—in products, locations and stories—of an industry that is growing exponentially every year. My sense is a revised edition will be necessary in a year or two at most, and Sismondo and Beaumont are the team to do just that. Their current effort provides all you need to know about Canadian craft distillation, for now. ■ BILL MacPHERSON is an award-winning fiction writer whose work has appeared in Zoomer, Up Here and Bounder, among others. He is the co-author of a historical non-fiction book and is currently working on a first novel.


Stephen Beaumont and Christine Sismondo Nimbus Publishing


Philip Moscovitch Formac Publishing

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today YOUNG READERS

Saku’s Great Newfoundland Adventure

The heart of home Home. The word conjures up vivid images and, oftentimes, conflicting emotions. We may be anxious to leave home or long to return. It might be a particular house, neighbourhood or town. It could evoke memories of boisterous family gatherings or of a quiet, cosy place to find peace and solitude. Home means different things to different people while still being a concept that resonates in some way with everyone. 50

by Lisa Doucet

Atlantic Books Today

Illustration courtesy of Flanker Press


OOKS CAN PROVIDE a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to the subjectivity of “home.” It is as much an experience as a physical place, and unsurprisingly, “home” lays at the heart of many stories. In four new children’s releases, home is explored, with lessons to learn and joys to celebrate. In Sid the Kid and the Dryer, we see how a house can truly be a home for a young boy like Sidney Crosby. For some, the house where they grow up is a haven, a place to retreat from the rest of their world and truly be themselves. In Sidney’s case, it is where he dreams of being the greatest hockey player. He gets discouraged, but, here in this safe and private space, he learns that it is okay to make mistakes, and he finds the encouragement to pursue his dreams. Such is the power of home. Meanwhile, journeys often help develop an appreciation for the joys and comforts of home, as in Saku’s Great Newfoundland Adventure. This travelogue portrays the grueling conditions that a Cape Shore water dog and his master encountered on their expedition and the exhilaration they both experienced as they let the Newfoundland wilderness become their home for over two months. While Saku accepts this new version of home, his excitement as he and his master finally return to their St. John’s home is heartwarming. Similarly, many children must leave their homes behind, for various reasons. Adapting to different surroundings is a valuable life skill, but most readers will appreciate the sense of joy and relief when one finds oneself home at last. And what about new homes? Adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings can be a challenge for people of any age, and sometimes, even birds! In Paint the Town Pink, a flamingo wonders if a certain town might make a perfect new home. But there is more to home than just a pretty place. Young readers will recognize Rose’s need to determine if she can fit in in this place, for home is not just a building or a city or a spot on a map. It is also the people, and a sense of belonging. Ultimately for Rose, it is the townspeople and their warmth, their efforts to create a place for her that make this town home and that demonstrate that we, too, can make new homes for ourselves, with support, encouragement and openness. There are also times when someone leaves home and/or loses their way, as in Sydney Smith’s Small in the City. The simple, poignant text, coupled with evocative illustrations, leads readers on a tour of one boy’s city home. Together, words and images create an eloquent portrait of his urban home: the frenzy and relentlessness; the towering buildings and jostling crowds; the motion and mayhem. But they also provide a more intimate look at home: the shortcuts and alleyways, the best hiding places and other quiet but touching observations about this place. All in the hopes that perhaps someone will find their way back home. The circumstances and definitions of home as well as the feelings that it evokes vary enormously…which is precisely why home is so profoundly satisfying to write and read about! Sharing these four stories with children will give adult readers and young listeners alike the chance to think about what home means to them, and to savour the wonder and whimsy of each one. ■

More on the books... SID THE KID AND THE DRYER A Story About Sidney Crosby by Lesley Choyce, illustrated by Brenda Jones (Nimbus Publishing) When a Whirlpool dryer comes to live in the Crosby household, it gets to witness firsthand all of young Sidney’s passion for hockey as well as his doubts and fears. PAINT THE TOWN PINK written and illustrated by Lori Doody (Running the Goat Books and Broadsides) An unexpected visitor must decide if this new town will make a perfect new home for her. The townspeople go to great lengths to welcome her and to convince her to stay. SMALL IN THE CITY written and illustrated by Sydney Smith (Groundwood Books) A child wanders through his city’s busy streets, navigating traffic and construction and neverending crowds of people. But amidst the cacophony of everyday city life, there are also hidden spaces, and the people and places that make this otherwise overwhelming urban jungle a home. SAKU’S GREAT NEWFOUNDLAND ADVENTURE by Marie-Beth Wright, illustrated by Corey Majeau (Flanker Press) A Cape Shore water dog joyfully relates the true story of how he and his master, Justin, embarked on a journey across Newfoundland, back to their home in St. John’s.

LISA DOUCET is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young adult books as our young readers’ editor and book reviewer. NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today YOUNG READERS

Young readers’ reviews WELCOME TO CAMP FILL-IN-THE-BLANK

Hope Dalvay Acorn Press (Age 8–12)

When Page agrees to go to PEI to babysit her cousins for the summer, she is apprehensive. Crusoe and Danger are notoriously high-spirited and have made it known that they don’t want a babysitter. What they really want is to go to summer camp. So Page decides to create their own personal summer camp for them, right in their own backyard. Thus Camp Fill-in-the-Blank is born. Page comes up with a different theme for each week, activities to capture the imagination of the boys (and their lively neighbour Moxie) and tries to manage the inevitable predicaments that arise. By the summer’s end, she realizes that she has made new friends, surprised herself and her family with her resourcefulness and creativity and even become somewhat of a local celebrity.

by Lisa Doucet

PEI native Hope Dalvay’s debut novel is a charming, lighthearted romp that is filled with likeable characters and summer fun. The boisterous brothers, along with super-athletic and readyfor-any-adventure Moxie, are believably rendered and endearing, and while Page clearly has her hands full entertaining them, it is heartwarming to see how she ultimately succeeds in winning them over. Page herself is a sympathetic protagonist with her own insecurities. Although the dialogue occasionally feels forced and/ or unlikely for a fourteen year old, she nevertheless comes across as a typical teen who is determined to do her best to meet the challenge that she has been set. The PEI setting works well for the story, and readers will enjoy the time they spend in the company of Page and her quirky family. THE GREY SISTERS

Jo Treggiari Penguin Teen Canada (Age 12–16)

Two years have passed since the devastating plane crash that claimed the lives of D’s twin sister, Kat, and Spider’s brother, Jonathan. The two families have been longtime friends and now both girls are still struggling to cope with their grief, each in their own way. When D decides to make a pilgrimage up the mountain to the site of the plane crash, she convinces Spider and their friend Min to join her. Then Min goes missing.

NO GIRLS ALLOWED Inspired by the True Story of a Girl Who Fought for her Right to Play Natalie Corbett Sampson (Nimbus Publishing)

In 1977, Tina Marie Forbes tried to join a hockey team in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and was turned away because she was a girl. Now, over forty years later, Maritime-based author Natalie Corbett Sampson has honoured Tina’s story in her novel No Girls Allowed, a sweet story based on the inspiring fight Tina led to give girls like herself the right to play hockey. No Girls Allowed follows Tina’s move to Nova Scotia from Ontario, establishing her love for hockey through an endearing narrative. Tina’s excitement grows as she gets closer and closer to being able to sign up to play on a real hockey team. When registration day finally arrives, Tina goes with her father and brother to fill out the forms that will make her dream come true. To Tina’s horror, they accept her brother onto the team, but she is told that she can’t join because there is no place for a girl on a boys’ team. What follows is the story of her fight to play hockey, beginning with a legal battle backed by the Human Rights Commission. She wins because, after all, isn’t it discrimination and an obstruction of her rights to deny her access to a sport based on the fact that she’s a girl? This book tells an empowering story for young women, athletes or otherwise. It is a story about fighting for one’s rights, a message of enduring importance as women continue to strive for equality. —Emma Martel EMMA MARTEL is a Grade 12 student in Halifax, NS. She has a wild imagination and loves channelling it through reading and writing. 52

Atlantic Books Today

Ariel has spent her whole life in a commune on the mountain where Big Daddy has taught them all to survive. As one of Big Daddy’s soldiers, she and her sisters compete for his approval as they strive to be ready for the war that he says is coming. But then Aaron gets seriously hurt and Ariel knows that he needs medical attention. When Big Daddy sends Ariel and her sisters to get rid of D and her companions, they all eventually realize that they each might be able to help the other. Until other forces that have been set in motion threaten to destroy them all. Treggiari’s latest teen thriller weaves multiple storylines together into a single propulsive narrative. Told from multiple viewpoints, it is a multi-layered, carefully nuanced tale that explores the complexities of grief, how we define family and what it means to be brave and to be a true leader. Tension runs high throughout the story as unexpected revelations mount, and readers will enjoy the riveting plot, highly sympathetic characters and richly complex relationships. COOPER CLARK & THE DRAGON LADY

Valerie Sherrard Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Age 8–11)

Cooper Clark loves Linda, his babysitter. Every day after school, he goes to Linda’s house until his parents come to pick him up. Then one day Linda tells his mother that she has been offered a new job at the Monkey Bowl, which means she won’t be able to be Cooper’s babysitter anymore. Things go from bad to worse when he learns that old Mrs. Mulligan is recruited to replace Linda. Cooper can’t believe his bad luck because Mrs. Mulligan has a dragon in her basement, and what none of his friends or family know is that he is extremely afraid of dragons. He tries everything he can think of to get out of going to Mrs. Mulligan’s house, but all to no avail. Ultimately, despite his best efforts, Cooper is forced to enter the dragon’s lair and face his fear…

Award-winning New Brunswick author Valerie Sherrard has once again succeeded in creating an earnest and appealing protagonist in this new offering for early readers. She portrays Cooper’s dilemma with sensitivity and compassion, and skillfully captures his genuine fear in a way that will elicit empathy from young readers. The adult characters in the story are also well-drawn and believable, and Cooper demonstrates ingenuity and resourcefulness as he concocts his various plans to avoid going to Mrs. Mulligan’s and being eaten by her dragon (even when he doesn’t necessarily foresee the consequences of his actions). Readers will appreciate the unexpected but satisfying ending. THE LOOKOUT TREE

Diane Carmel Léger, illustrated by Michel Léger

Nimbus Publishing (Age 8–12)

When young Fidèle discovers that the English have begun rounding up Acadians, he knows that he must warn his family and friends. They quickly realize they must leave their homes in search of safety. Fidèle, his sister Prémélia, their grandfather, Pétard, and the feisty widow Rosalie flee into the forest with their neighbours. However, maman and papa stay behind and are captured and imprisoned by the English and later deported to the Thirteen Colonies. Fidèle and his family hide out in the forest, hoping that maman and papa will find a way to escape, and then just wanting the war to be over so that they can go back home. Life in hiding is hard, and Fidèle becomes determined to join the rebels who seek to rescue the deported Acadians. Pétard is afraid to lose Fidèle as well, but how long can they go on living this way? While young readers may be familiar with the details of the Deportation of the Acadians in 1755, native New Brunswicker Diane Léger’s account of this family’s ordeal puts a personal face on the terrible event and provides a thoughtful depiction of what it meant to those affected: the initial shock and disbelief; the confusion, fear and anguish as families were separated; the feelings of betrayal and sadness at the incredible injustice of it all. She also highlights the support they received from Mi’kmaw friends who were themselves all too familiar with the scenario of being hunted by English soldiers. A very accessible account that humanizes this particular piece of Canadian history. ■

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


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Atlantic Books Today REVIEWS

Reviews THE STORY OF MUN CREATING A UNIVERSITY: The Newfoundland Experience

Stephen Harold Riggins and Roberta Buchanan ISER Books

Ten years ago, when I was a student at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), I heard a rumour that the library had been built backwards. This was supposedly due to an error by the contractor: the windowed part of the building facing north was supposed to face south where it would get more sunlight. I loved that story, and I loved that library, and I was disappointed when Creating A University: The Newfoundland Experience, a collection of memoirs from MUN’s former faculty and staff, kiboshed the rumour once and for all. But while the book was a buzz kill in the campus myth department—north-facing windows provided better reading light—the disappointment was offset by great anecdotes about the school’s history, including two of particular note: #1– Premier Joey Smallwood wanted to drop “Memorial” from the title, but was advised to hang on to it as it was politically savvy to keep the military vote on side. #2 – In an all-time-great auspicious meeting, Herbert Halpert, future head of MUN’s renowned Folklore Department, ran into Smallwood when he (Smallwood) was working as a pig farmer near Gander in the 1940s. Halpert was there to collect tales from working people in outport communities. Smallwood informed Halpert that he had already been doing so for some time. Indeed, Smallwood is a big presence in the early sections of Creating A University, whose thirty-two essays move from the university’s establishment in 1949 to the end of the 1980s when MUN had more or less taken on its current form. And while the early essays portraying Smallwood’s hubris and the chaos that accompanies any new endeavour are fascinating, the most enjoyable pieces were by “Come From Away” (CFA) faculty members arriving in Newfoundland during the 1960s. Their stories of neighbour kids amazed at a sandbox, weather leaving


“much to be desired” and the price of fish (free if you stopped at a dock far enough from the city) were terrific. Essays written by local professors counter these takes with their observations of being treated almost as “specimens” by the newcomers. Philosopher Lin Jackson’s essay asks who exactly is doing the gawking as recently hired profs get to know each other at a dinner party. Sociologist Ralph Matthews, who writes about his family’s roots there, also incorporates a brilliant broad strokes history of his home province. The book is handy to a CFA like me, who’s been and misses it and was glad to get some more dirt on the place, even if it meant a bit of myth busting. —Aaron Williams lives in Halifax and is the author of Chasing Fire: A Wildfire Memoir. His writing has been published in newspapers such as The Globe and Mail, Halifax Chronicle Herald and Vancouver Observer.


Richard Kelly Kemick Goose Lane Editions

How was last summer? It probably wasn’t as unusual as Richard Kelly Kemick’s in 2017. That is the year he joined the Canadian Badlands Passion Play, an annual outdoor summer spectacle in southern Alberta. I Am Herod is his hilarious telling of the author’s experience with the production. His part? Herod, or as Kemick puts it, “one of the most slandered figures in Scripture (which is saying quite a bit considering the Bible’s cast includes, namely, The Devil).” Kemick is a poet, humourist and journalist, but not a Christian. The vast majority of the people in the play are; in fact, their faith is a big part of the reason they are willing to give up their summer weekends to volunteer. However, there is a fairly wide spectrum of Christianity represented here, and we get to know people’s quirks and foibles as the summer goes on. Kemick identifies them by their Passion Play name only; it’s fun to imagine Baptizee 4, Thief on the Left Cross and, my personal favourite, Widow with Two

Atlantic Books Today

Pennies, eating lunch together. We get to know others in greater depth: Jesus Understudy, who played Jesus last year but has been demoted; Gabriel, who entertains from his coveted RV with highend Scotch; and the delightfully foul-mouthed Pilate (“how hard is it to read the motherfucking Bible?”). Kemick also has a great knack for storytelling. I laughed out loud more than once at his descriptions of the mammoth job of organizing a mostly volunteer cast of hundreds. A typical example is his summation of the shrinking staging of one scene: “What was once an elaborate montage of interpretive dance has become six minutes of twenty-two men shuffling in and out of various triangles, semi-circles, and rectangles. Our choreography is now reminiscent of a North Korean military parade, yet with neither the precision or fervour.” All this could have been simply a voyeuristic exercise, but Kemick applies the lens to himself as well. He is disarmingly frank about his own demons, and tells his own stories with humorous honesty. In the end, I Am Herod is a very funny book with an underlying pathos and sweetness which I found quite moving. — Heather Carruthers, a classical musician by training, wrote a weekly food column for the Brandon Sun, in Brandon, Manitoba, from 2007 until 2010.

CLIMATE POLICY THIRTY YEARS OF FAILURE — Understanding Canadian Climate Policy Robert MacNeil Fernwood Publishing

Robert MacNeil’s Thirty Years of Failure – Understanding Canadian Climate Policy takes on the political, economic, cultural and institutional roots of climate policy and is a substantial contribution to the subject in Canada. MacNeil, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney (Australia), retired news anchor and co-creator of The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, certainly has a breadth of knowledge and historical perspective to take on the topic. MacNeil brings to bear an exceptional depth and breadth of the data on the subject and exposes how the confluence of societal and cultural factors, the federal organization of the country, our legal system and the bounty of natural resources Canada is blessed with, have conspired to hamstring efforts to control our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In a highly readable writing style, he outlines how Canada went from being a climate leader in the 1980s—hosting one of the first serious climate conferences in Toronto in 1988—to one of the “blocking states” in the 1990s, contributing to the watering down of the Kyoto Protocols, and leading Canada to becoming one of the most flagrant climate offenders in this century. MacNeil shows in disheartening detail how and why in 2016 Canada came to be ranked 59th out of 61 peer countries in the Climate Action Network’s Climate Change Performance Index. The author outlines what has gone wrong but also gives prescriptions for what must go right to maximize climate activism’s effectiveness and to bring about the long-term structural changes required for a sustainable and viable economy and regulatory framework. With authority, he details how provincial federalism, the nation’s electoral system, Canada’s legal system’s interactions with aboriginal land claims and the nature of the national economy have all conspired to create the situation that exists today. Supported by a wealth of well-presented data, MacNeil describes and analyzes, province by province, what must be done to reduce GHG emissions, concluding with a haunting, yet wellknown reminder: “… It requires reorienting our entire system of cultural values, and replacing them with ones not dependent upon ceaseless material growth… it requires not only imagining but demanding other possible worlds.” Changing the world is a very high bar. To meet that challenge, and for anyone who wants to be a well-informed climate change advocate in Canada, this book is a “must read.” —Royce Winston, a recovering American (it’s one day at a time), emigrated to Nova Scotia in 2013, shedding his prior existence as a businessman (a man of numbers) and becoming a man of letters.


Ed Hanczaryk SSP Publications

Ed Hanczaryk, author of The Guru in Your Golf Swing, is a golf pro who spent decades helping others learn and perfect their golf game, even as he struggled with a severe case of the yips for most of his adult life. It was as a young man attending university on a golf scholarship that Hanczaryk developed the yips, and it was in 2007, when he was invited to teach a youth golf program in the Kingdom of Bhutan, that he met the young Buddhist monk who helped him finally rid himself of the condition. This book is a magical tale of Hanczaryk’s time in Bhutan and his friendship with the monk. It is the story of how he taught the monk to golf and how the monk taught him to meditate, setting Hanczaryk on a path towards enlightenment where he discovered the deeply rooted cause of his yips. NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Resist. Challenge. Influence. Reflect.

Big ideas for fall, now available across Atlantic Canada INCLUDING:


Tidewater Books & Browsery 13 Bridge St. Sackville






Broken Books

172 Queen St. Charlottetown

5686 Spring Garden Rd. Halifax

245 Duckworth St. St. John’s

Downhome Shoppe and Gallery

Westminster Books 88 York St. Fredericton

303 Water St. and Avalon Mall, St. John’s

REVIEWS Atlantic Books Today

In an intimate and conversational narrative, Hanczaryk takes readers to Thimphu, Bhutan, where we meet his amazing young students, experience some of the country and join him as he exchanges meditation lessons for golf lessons with the monk. The book is dotted with his use of teaching techniques, like the game of “Golchery” (golf–archery) that he created after attending an archery tournament, and anecdotes like the author’s ill-advised day walk to the Motithang Takin Preserve to see the Takin, a strange-looking antelope-type beast. Part memoir, part golf instruction, part exploration of the self and the mind, this book reads as any or all of these. If you are a golfer, you may find some helpful tidbits in the golf lessons and, like the author, you may discover a hidden cause for some of your golf failures through meditation. If you don’t golf, but have an interest in meditation, then the golf can become more of a backdrop. Each golf and meditation lesson has a key takeaway. As an undistinguished golfer myself, and someone who has never meditated, I found the summaries to be helpful in the short term and the actual lessons something to study over a period of time. Unusual for this sort of a book, there was a surprising twist at the end, but you will have to read the book to discover it. —Leslie Patterson is an avid reader and golf enthusiast who recently returned to Canada from the UK.


Lesley Choyce Dundurn Press

This summer, I took my grandchildren back to the little village in Scotland where I grew up. Dunlop’s population of 700 distinctive souls made it a “wee” village, where everyone knew everyone. As we roamed its streets, my 12-year-old grandson, Alistair, was astonished to learn that as a boy I became a commercial garden digger, under the instruction of the local gravedigger. “You knew the gravedigger?” he asked. To a boy raised in the stratified world of Toronto, that sort of inclusive community was unthinkable. And that is precisely the sort of community we plunge into in Lesley Choyce’s fine novel, Broken Man on a Halifax Pier.

Stewart Harbour, on Nova Scotia’s ruggedly unfashionable Eastern Shore, is a backwater village where a few stubborn fisher families hold out against banks too bored to even close them down. It is the town where Charles grew up, and then escaped—just as soon as he could—to Dalhousie, and a King’s journalism degree. He has never been back, and then, in the dramatic opening scene, everything changes as Charles’ writing career is destroyed by the death of his paper and his savings swindled away. He finds himself, indeed, a broken man gazing morosely into the waters at the end of a Halifax pier, when a woman appears out of the fog. She offers to buy him breakfast. They hit it off, and their lives change. Her name is Ramona Danforth. A Halifax woman with a history in TV and minor movies, she also has an impressive bank account. But she feels rootless, so Charles takes her, in her Lexus, back to Stewart Harbour, where his father’s old fishing shack still stands, and his old boat still floats. There, the brave couple encounter more than expected. Although no gravedigger appears, locals remember them, and an unsuspected son emerges from the past. Soon the idyllic return “home” is plagued with problems, situations so serious that Charles and Ramona are compelled, on different occasions, to offer the other a chance to walk away from it all. The tight, exciting plot allows Choyce, the seaworthy Lawrencetown author, to do his impressive writing: “As a kid I’d seen winter storms with waves towering at thirty feet and winds that could suck your skin off, but you’d never hear a word about those on the news.” And later, he describes a hurricane so terrifying, readers might feel the urge to batten down the hatches. Choyce has crafted an impressive novel about the power of the sea, the power of community and the power of memory. And he also happens to have told a fine love story. —Douglas Gibson is a former Canadian book publisher, a stage performer, and the author of Stories About Storytellers, and Across Canada By Story.




NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019



at UNB SAINT JOHN presents


Shandi Mitchell reading from The Waiting Hours, Sept. 17, 18, 19, 20 Emily Davidson reading from Lift, Wed., Sept. 25 Craig Davidson reading from Saturday Night Ghost Club, Thurs., Sept. 26 David Moscrop reading from Too Dumb for Democracy?, Wed., Oct. 2 Shane Neilson reading from New Brunswick, Mon., Oct. 7 Danny Jacob reading from Sourcebooks for Our Drawings, Mon., Oct. 7 Kirby reading from This is Where I Get Off, Mon., Oct. 7 Richard Kemick reading from I am Herod, Wed., Oct. 30 Lauren B. Davis reading from The Grimoire of Kensington Market, Sun., Nov. 3 Rebecca Fisseha reading from Daughters of Silence, Thurs., Nov. 7 Natalie Morrill reading from The Ghost Keeper, Sun., Nov. 17 Sheree Fitch reading from You Won’t Always Be This Sad, Sat., Nov. 23 Lesley Crewe reading from Are You Kidding Me?, Sun., Dec. 1 Douglas Gary Freeman reading from Exile Blues, Sat., Feb. 15 Dan Falk reading from The Science of Shakespeare, Wed., Mar. 11 Sarah Henstra reading from The Red Word, Mon., Mar. 16 Jesse Thistle reading from From the Ashes, Tues., Apr. 21

THE LORENZO MUSIC SERIES Join us for Munch & Music at 12:30 p.m. in the Whitebone Lounge, Thomas J. Condon Student Centre at UNB Saint John. November 21 February 20 March 26

Dvorak String Quartet in F Major Op. 96 Borodin String Quartet in D Major Schubert String Quarter in D minor D810

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 506-648-5782 | |



REVIEWS Atlantic Books Today

WAR AND ESPIONAGE SIEGEBREAKERS A Novel Justin Podur Roseway Publishing

Academic, author and activist Justin Podur’s latest novel, Siegebreakers, is an international tale of war and espionage centred in the Gaza Strip. The novel is a fictional account of Palestinian resistance fighters Nasser and Leila, whose paths become intertwined with a conscientious Israeli spy named Ari and a group of skilled American security contractors. Together, they attempt to carry out a plan to unite feuding Palestinian factions and expose Israel’s siege on Gaza to the world. Through his meticulously researched descriptive writing, Podur evokes a vision of Gaza where inhabitants lead desperate lives among bombed-out buildings and the lurking threat of sniper fire. Stylistically, Siegebreakers moves at the relentless pace of an actionpacked thriller. To punctuate the onslaught of information, Podur interlaces the narrative with one resistance fighter’s spontaneous recitations from revered Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Much of the novel alludes to true events in the history of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, but Podur takes care to alter names of certain organizations and figures, which gives the work an air of speculative fiction. In an afterword, Podur lists his sources to justify some of the more outrageous events depicted, as well as highlight and explain his artistic embellishments. A controversial aspect of Siegebreakers is Podur’s sympathetic depiction of the Palestinian resistance movement. As shown in the afterword, “The Resistance,” as it’s called, is inspired in part by Hamas. However, Podur is no apologist for extremism. His freedom fighters are presented as a sanitized, secular version of the group regarded by many countries to be a terrorist organization. The Resistance could be seen as representing an idealized version of a pro-Palestinian force, who, unlike Hamas, do not espouse anti-Semitism, religious extremism or the targeting of civilians. Readers may find the framing of these militants as morally righteous to be irresponsible, but it’s clear that Podur intends to generate discussion. As a work of fiction, Siegebreakers is a riveting Middle Eastcentred thriller that expertly dodges the predictable clichés of the

genre, giving nuance and depth to its protagonists. This audacious account of the Israel-Palestine conflict is sure to provoke and entertain. ­—Sam Fraser is a recent graduate of Journalism at the University of King’s College and enjoys writing about language, culture, history and film.


Patrick Allaby Conundrum Press

With charmingly direct and simple drawings, Patrick Allaby leads us through a compelling true-life coming-of-age story that digs deep into the social life of teenager Martin Peters in Fredericton, beginning in 2009. If teenage life weren’t fraught enough, Martin’s is complicated by Type 1 diabetes. His parents are overly protective, having witnessed his father’s father suffer and die an early death from the disease. As a result, he’s a socially stunted kid. We meet him as he begins to stumble dumbly through a relationship of sorts with a new girl at school who shares his love of Pink Floyd. She takes the lead. Almost predictably, it descends from pleasantly awkward to nearly tragic, and there’s rejection of all kinds, of course. It’s high school. Allaby’s genius lies in more than his facility with a pen. He’s a natural-born storyteller. Martin Peters is not just a tale of a painful adolescence complicated by a life-threatening condition. Allaby skillfully takes us out of the story on several occasions to vividly show his own struggle with diabetes and his awkward relationship with the real Martin Peters while involved in the creation of this story. He also invites the reader into the hard-slog process of developing a graphic memoir without making us feel in any way removed from the story arc. What I’ve always enjoyed about memoirs is that they’re like, well, life. Nothing is wrapped up neatly, but still, the recognition of reality is comforting, even if the reality itself is not. This is especially true with Martin Peters. I couldn’t stop reading it and landed comfortably at its conclusion with the rueful thought, “Yup, that makes sense.”

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today REVIEWS

Martin Peters is an excellent addition to the canon of Graphic Medicine, a recent genre that mergers comic arts with health-care issues as an escape from system-speak and pityparties. It’s a genre that’s about showing it like it is, whatever “it” reveals about people, conditions, systems or simply living with a body and mind that suffers. Like the best in this genre, Martin Peters tells a truth that honestly resonates on many levels. —Susan MacLeod is a writer, visual artist and cartoonist. Her work has appeared in Lion’s Roar.

MINING CONNECTIONS THE WAKE The Deadly Legacy of a Tsunami Linden MacIntyre HarperCollins

Somewhere back around 1990, I first watched Linden MacIntyre do his impressive investigative reporter routine on CBC’s Fifth Estate. I was impressed by a man willing to dig deep and to get to the truth of a difficult story. The digging part might be because mining is in his family: his father was a miner. His latest book, The Wake, reaches back into the fluorspar mining history of a small remote town on Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula—St. Lawrence. And it’s a disturbingly gruesome tale of poverty, political neglect, brutal working conditions and death. For any book I read, I try hard to find some kind of personal connection to the story. So, okay, this is a book about mining. Connection one: When I was in grade seven, I took some kind of aptitude test and the guidance counsellor told me that I should one day become a miner. This had something to do with the fact I collected rocks. (Thank God, I didn’t go that route.) Connection two: The baddest of the bad guys in Linden’s book of woe, Walter Siebert, is from New Jersey. And so am I, but I hope no one will hold that against me. Connection three: The book begins with the story of the 1929 Atlantic tsunami, and I love anything to do with waves—even big destructive ones. Surely, the way to read any book is to allow the author to put the reader in the middle of the action. So there I was, watching the townsfolk being swept out to sea in a Newfoundland outport on November 18, 1929, finding myself grieving for my family


and friends lost in that tragedy. What followed was loss of a livelihood—the fish just disappeared after the disaster. Before long, the promise of full-time work was offered and I was, as my guidance counsellor suggested, down in the mines trying to make a scant income to keep my family alive. Fluorspar mining was rotten work. And no one was around to protect the miners or insure their health. The work was dirty and physically devastating, and it eventually killed you and your colleagues. The man from New Jersey, the entrepreneur Siebert, was to blame and so was the weak Newfoundland government of the time. Linden MacIntyre takes it all personally—partly because of his father’s connection to the place. Yet he also does his darndest to explain exactly how it all happened and how all the pieces fit together. Most of us know little about the history of the Burin Peninsula but now, this dark chapter is out there by one of Canada’s finest investigative reporters. —Lesley Choyce is the author of 87 books. He runs Pottersfield Press and has been teaching English and Creative Writing at Dalhousie for over thirty years. He has won the Dartmouth Book Award, Atlantic Poetry Prize, the Ann Connor Brimer Award and has been shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal and the Governor General’s Award.


Taslim Burkowicz Roseway Publishing

Taslim Burkowicz’s The Desirable Sister describes the lives of sisters bonded by their ethnicity, but cleaved apart by their colour. It surveys a Gujurati family twice removed from their homeland and divided manifold by desire, ego, tradition and all of the accompanying angst that arises out of an identity in disarray. Sisters Gia and Serena Pirji come of age in the 1990s in homogeneous Burnaby, BC, where Gia’s fair skin enables her to blend into the surrounding whiteness with ease and comfort. Conversely, Serena encounters constant, though often unintended, prejudice as a result of her brown skin. Their grandmother calls them two halves of the same coconut—the sweet, white inside and the coarse brown outside (this is one of the gentler insults that sets the tone for much of the novel).

Atlantic Books Today

The story is one of immense intimacy, fleshing out the intricacies of family quarrels. But the narrative never develops tunnel vision; rather, the much broader context of colonized and colonist Indians, diaspora and displacement pervades the novel. Bukowicz sets the Indo-Canadian experience against the relatively unexplored backdrop of Gujarati colonialism in Uganda in the mid-twentieth century, offering an interesting take on the common plight of dispossessed first-generation immigrants. When Serena leaves the family home, embarking on the bland beigeness of the Burnaby condo world, her mother Zeenta surreptitiously plants a bowl of mangoes on the table meant to instill a sense of homesickness. Meanwhile, Kasim, the father of Serena and Gia, considers the futility of the plan since neither of them agrees on what home even means. Indeed, the question what is home? is one the novel asks relentlessly. The sisters, both eager to flee the family home at different moments, find themselves crashing and visiting in futile attempts to confront a more existential homelessness. Gia finds temporary solace in the tabula rasa of Serena’s Burnaby condo, while Serena—who never checks the depth of the water—dives headfirst into one disastrous romance after another, each time cobbling a toxic relationship into an impermanent home. Between the Greater Vancouver Area, Nairobi and Goa, the novel makes a point of placing the sisters into awkward cultural conflicts—conflicts usually borne out by the distinction in their skin tones, and ultimately resolved by the bond of sisterhood. ­—Donald Calabrese is a writer, illustrator and musician. He lives in Cape Breton and teaches English at Cape Breton University.


Gulch would eventually be relocated, sometimes forcibly, by the Newfoundland government in the 1970s and 1980s. Crow Gulch shows us a poet with a distinct style and point of view. Notably, many of the poems pack fragment sentences, often lists, next to each other. The result is a clipped tone and a tense atmosphere. In “Escape,” this technique underscores the bleak conditions faced by Crow Gulch’s residents: “No way to heat this house at night. / Winter mornings, your breath gone / vapour. Frost on the bunk above you, / on the ceiling, pray the firewood’s / not too damp.” The same structure is used in “Ella Josephine Campbell,” a poem written for the author’s grandmother, to whom Crow Gulch is dedicated. Here, the poet pays tribute to the strength of an ancestor who “made it work, / had to,” without compromising the complexity of her life, at once difficult and joyous: “Lived for a dance on the weekend, game / of Bingo during the week. Draped in her / favourite sweater, blue-green swirls on black / three times her size.” ­—Annick MacAskill is a writer, poet and critic based in Halifax. Her debut, No Meeting Without Body, was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award and shortlisted for the J. M. Abraham Poetry Award.

In an unflinching look at love, sex, and fertility, one of Canada’s most celebrated playwrights vividly recreates a couple’s struggles with reproduction.


Douglas Walbourne-Gough Goose Lane Editions /icehouse poetry

Engaging, tender and astute, Douglas Walbourne-Gough’s debut poetry collection Crow Gulch lends its attention to a working-class community formerly located to the west of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. The author, himself descended from Crow Gulch paper mill workers, uses compact, dense language to sketch his portrait of a place settled in the 1920s by mostly migrants, many of whom had Mi’kmaw ancestry. The people of Crow

“What a Young Wife Ought to Know is more than a compelling history lesson, it is an opportunity to contemplate the state of sexual health and freedom in our society today...” Meghan Hubley, The Globe and Mail

Find exciting new plays from Playwrights Canada Press at

NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


New World Publishing presents ... an exciting array of new historical non-fiction titles for 2019 Three new authors and several more authors with three or more published books In fine book stores everywhere . . . or call toll-free: 1-877-211-3334 or ‘Capturing Crime’ by Carol Taylor with narrative by Greg Marquis, with Roselyn Rosenfeld & Connell Smith – ISBN 9781895814972 – $24.95. Full colour coffee-table book with 80 lb. gloss paper (11 x 8.5”) New Brunswick law courts, judges, prosecutors, Carol Taylor witnesses, defense CAPTURING CRIME teams, red evidence narrative by Greg Marquis with Roslyn Rosenfeld bags, all drawn from and Connell Smith an artist’s perspective. The good guys, the ‘bad’ guys, including the top fourteen stories (many of those on the national stage: Alan Légère, Premier Hatfield, the Oland trials, a Columbian cartel, Bourque RCMP murders . . . more.) Covers the last three decades, in one tidy package, with fascinating images and well constructed verse from gifted writers explaining the trials. Carol Taylor’s courtroom sketches over 30+ years, documenting a wide variety of cases, is both factual and entertaining. HC Edition forthcoming: ISBN 9781989564110 Abraham Beverley Walker by Peter Little – pp. 120, ISBN 9781989564 073 – $16.95 e-book available. Be transported back to the days of systemic racism in 19th Century New Brunswick/Canada/USA to experience the life and times of Canada’s first black attorney; first black magazine editor; and a pre-eminent advocate for civil rights. Ride the roller coaster of life with Abraham Walker as he campaigns tirelessly for fair play and justice for his people. He was a brilliant orator who never shied from battle orally or in writing with notable adversaries, regardless of their political stature or his personal cost. He was a true warrior! On Oct. 30, 2019, Walker will be awarded the Order of New Brunswick (posthumously) in Fredericton . . . finally a tribute befitting an outstanding soul!

The Gambia Saga: an epic tale of ... by Burris Devanney, 402 pages ISBN 9781895814538 – $27.50; plus e-book avail. An amazing book and a truly N.S. success story, as well as an inspiring story of adventure and achievement, risk and resilience, luck and learning, covering the 38-year relationship between Nova Scotia and the smallest, but most densely populated country in continental Africa. Includes the substantial involvement of students, faculty from several Nova Scotia universities and high schools, plus others interested in international development. This involvement has seen a marked increase in the quality of health and education in this tiny west coast African nation, with Gambians in impressive numbers also coming to Canada for graduate degrees. This follows upon Devanney’s earlier successful memoir: African Chronicles (ISBN 9781895814422).

Evolution of the Middle Class: Colonial Society Rules by A.D.Boutilier. ISBN 9781895814996 – 270 pp., 150 photos; – $22.95; + e-book avail. This publication is a social history; the third in a trilogy by Boutilier since 2014 on colonial life and times. The research Evolution of the is deftly organized into a panorama of Middle Class topics that trace the historical roots Colonial Society Rules of the Bourgeois of the late 1700s up to their emergence with Joseph Howe’s reform movement in 1835. The middle-class rapidly evolved as a dominant force, fulfilling its vision of political, civic, and family life until 1867, creating an innovative political organization and a new social order: A.D.Boutilier performing civic duties along with “islands of sociability.” Readers will be astonished, outraged, amused!

Sawbones: Hospitals, Institutions, Medicine and Nursing (1749-2018 ) by Devonna Edwards . ISBN 9781895814521– $27.50 – BW 10 x 8 Coffee-table book (224 pp/230 photos © Nov. 2108. An amazing story of medicine and hospitals from the first hospital ship, HMS Roehampton in 1749, to the evolution of hospitals from the very first Naval Hospital to every modern hospital from Sherbrooke to the Cobequid Centre, the expanded Dartmouth General to the QEII/ Infirmary in Halifax; as well as medicine & nursing through three centuries! Includes a comprehensive chapter on the significant number of temporary/ emergency hospitals during the Halifax Explosion; hospital ships of both World Wars; plus a myriad of diseases, old and new. This late 2018 BESTSELLER is Ms. Edward’s 4th published historical work.

The Forgotten Acadians by Jude Avery: 120 pages/150 photos ISBN 9781989564004 – $15.95; + e-book available. It reveals a “lost chapter” in Nova Scotia and Canadian history; a significant story that begins with Mi’kmaq and Basque seasonal presence in the 16th Century, followed by a permanent settlement in the latter part of the 18th Century. Did you know Samuel de Champlain stayed in the Tor Baie region of Guysborough NS, in 1607 before he founded Quebec City the following year? Discover the Acadian Awakening in Nova Scotia; its connections to the Province of Quebec and the first Acadian premier of New Brunswick; and federally, the arrival of the francophone “Three Wise Men” who changed national perspectives on bilingualism and multiculturalism in Canada forever.

Atlantic Books Today


18 Atlantic Canadian books that are generating buzz this season DIVERSIONS

I Lost My Talk

Charlie Rhindress (Formac Publishing)

One of Rita Joe’s most influential poems, “I Lost My Talk” tells the revered Mi’kmaw Elder’s childhood story of losing her language while a resident of the residential school in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia.

Lifeline The Stories of Atlantic Ferries and Coastal Boats (Breton Books) The history and story of the roots of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton ferries and coastal boats, and the aquatic transportation of the incredible Atlantic waters.

I’m Finding My Talk

Street Cars of St. John’s

Stompin’ Tom Connors The myth and the man

This biography offers an in-depth look at the man behind “Stompin’ Tom.” It tells the story of an earnest, intelligent and complicated man who created a character that would be embraced by Canadians from coast to coast. From Rum to Rhubarb Modern Recipes for Newfoundland Fruits, Vegetables and Berries Roger Pickavance (Boulder Books)

The region’s fruits and vegetables— as well as the rum, raisins, and marmalade prevalent in cupboards and kitchens—are at the heart of recipes that shine a spotlight on specific ingredients for salads, soups, pastries, ice creams, gnocchi, and much more.

JUNIOR MINTS My Hair is Beautiful

Shauntay Grant (Nimbus Publishing)

A celebration of natural hair, from afros to cornrows and everything in between, My Hair is Beautiful is a joyful board book with a powerful message of self-love.

Rita Joe, illustrated by Pauline Young (Nimbus Publishing)

Rebecca Thomas, illustrated by Pauline Young (Nimbus Publishing)

A response to Rita Joe’s iconic poem “I Lost My Talk,” Thomas, a second- generation residential school survivor, writes this response poem openly and honestly, reflecting on the process of working through the destructive effects of colonialism Amazing Atlantic Canadian Kids John Boileau, illustrated by James Bentley (Nimbus Publishing)

This fascinating, full-colour, illustrated book features over 50 amazing and diverse young people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador, sharing their incredible stories and accomplishments, past and present.


Kenneth G. Pieroway (Flanker Press)

A trip back in time and a visual journey through Newfoundland’s transportation history, from the days St. John’s boasted of having one of the most advanced street car systems of the times, on par with major North American cities.


Bygone Days Folklore, Traditions & Toenails Reginald “Dutch” Thompson (The Acorn Press)

Dutch has been collecting informative, illuminating, poignant and hilarious stories from the minds and hearts of Maritimers born between 1895 and NUMBER 90 | FALL 2019


Atlantic Books Today NEW BOOKS

1925. This is a long-awaited companion to the CBC Mainstreet column of the same name. Before the Parade

Rebecca Rose (Nimbus Publishing)

Journalist and activist Rebecca Rose brings her queer femme, feminist perspective to this compelling, and necessary, history of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community in Halifax, with over 40 blackand-white images and a colour insert. Operation Vanished

Helen C. Escott (Flanker Press)

A riveting, can’t-put-it down missing-person thriller; the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Operation, Wormwood; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Operation Vanished, are the backdrop to Corporal Gail MacNaughton’s investigation in the Major Crime Unit.

Catherine McKercher (Goose Lane Editions)

Three of the McKercher children lived at home. The fourth and youngest brother, Bill, did not. Born with Down syndrome, his story is reconstructed as McKercher explores the clinical and public debates about institutionalization.


Itee Pootoogook Hymns to the Silence


Local Haunts

David White, Stan Dragland, editor (Pedlar Press)

The growth of a poet’s mind through the darkness of remembered trauma into the light of creativity. It ends with “Sunrise On The Coldstream Road,” originally written almost 40 years ago Soft Power

Stewart Cole (Goose Lane Editions)

Nancy Campell (Goose Lane Editions)

Featuring more than 100 images and essays by curators, art historians and contemporary artists, this book celebrates the creative spirit of an innovative artist that transformed the creative traditions of Inuit art.

Morgan Murray (Breakwater Books)

Slow Seconds The Photography of George Thomas Taylor

A quest novel for the twenty-first century—a coming-of-age, rom-com, crimefarce thriller— where a hero’s greatest foe is his own crippling mediocrity as he seeks purpose in art, money, power, crime and sleeping in all day. (Available in 2020.)

A curated selection of George Taylor’s photographs, together with an account of the beginnings of photography and Taylor’s life and work, offer a fascinating glimpse into nineteenth-century New Brunswick.

Dirty Birds


Shut Away When Down Syndrome was a Life Sentence

expatriate existence.

Lyrical yet shot through with experimental and political veins, Cole’s voice revels in questions of travel while resonating with the unheimlich “Canadalienation” of his

Fixing Broken Things Gregory M. Cook (Pottersfield Press)

Ronald Rees & Joshua Green (Goose Lane Editions)

things that matter.

Cook offers contemplative glances and lingering views on everyday life, as if observed through a window on the weather, landscape and appearance or disappearance of

The World in Words Thethe World inofWords Since launch Word on the Street Halifax in 1994, there has been an explosion of literary festivals inSince Novathe Scotia and throughout Canada. The festivals are big an and small and year tens launch of Word on theAtlantic Street Halifax in 1994, there has been explosion of each literary festivals ofinthousands of individuals attend them eager to connect and engage with their favourite writers, Nova Scotia and throughout Atlantic Canada. The festivals are big and small and each year tens storytellers, spoken-word artists and illustrators. of thousands of individuals attend them eager to connect and engage with their favourite writers, storytellers, spoken-word artists and illustrators.

Throughout the past 25 years, hundreds of individuals, organizations and community partners have contributed the success andhundreds sustainability of WoTS organizations Halifax. In addition to book readings, launches, Throughouttothe past 25 years, of individuals, and community partners have lectures, discussions, workshops and debates, the festival program continues providelaunches, something of contributed to the success and sustainability of WoTS Halifax. In addition to book to readings, interest fordiscussions, attendees workshops young andand old.debates, the festival program continues to provide something of lectures, interest for attendees young and old.

The opportunity to create a space to host established and emerging writers, literary, and book industry The opportunity create a space to host and andThe book industry professionals, is atobig responsibility. Withestablished the support of emerging CBC Novawriters, Scotia,literary, CBC Kids, Government professionals, is a big responsibility. With the support of CBC Nova Scotia, CBC Kids, The Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund, the City of Halifax and Halifax Central Library, WoTS Halifax of Canada Canada Book Fund, CityScotia, of Halifax Halifax Central Library, WoTS Halifax remains thethrough largest the FREE literary festival inthe Nova withand attendance exceeding 9,600 people. remains the largest FREE literary festival in Nova Scotia, with attendance exceeding 9,600 people. Books have always been starters of conversation and debate, friendship and rivalry and with the Books have always starters of conversation and excite debate,and friendship and rivalry and with the help of Word on thebeen Street, they continue to startle, bring together people of all ages and help of Word on the Street, they continue to startle, excite and bring together people of all ages and backgrounds. backgrounds.

The festivals most influential stakeholders are the visiting publishers who travel from throughout The festivals most influential stakeholders are the visiting publishers who travel from throughout Atlantic to attend attendthe theevent. event.WoTS WoTS Halifax is an excellent opportunity to promote AtlanticCanada Canadaand and beyond beyond to Halifax is an excellent opportunity to promote the books they publish and the authors they represent. In addition, Pitch the Publisher affords the books they publish and the authors they represent. In addition, Pitch the Publisher affords publishers newauthors authorsand andnew newbooks. books. You would surprised at just many publishersaachance chance to to discover discover new You would be be surprised at just howhow many people book.As Aswe wereflect reflect the past 25-years of the festival, we chuckle peopleyearn yearnto towrite write and and publish publish aabook. onon the past 25-years of the festival, we chuckle atatthe writersstanding standingon onmilk milkcrates crates “pitch” their story or read thememories memoriesof ofemerging emerging writers to to “pitch” their story ideaidea or read fromfrom their long way waysince sincethen! then!Successful Successful “Pitches” from 2018 Festival include theirbook. book. We Wehave have come come a a long “Pitches” from thethe 2018 Festival include Jane “Fishnetsand andFantasies” Fantasies” (pitch title) picked by Vagrant Press JaneDoucet’s Doucet’spitch pitchfor for her her novel novel “Fishnets (pitch title) picked up up by Vagrant Press (Nimbus Barr’spitch pitchfor forher hermemoir memoir “Teaching at the of the World” (pitch (NimbusPublishing) Publishing) and and Odette Odette Barr’s “Teaching at the TopTop of the World” (pitch title), picked up by Pottersfield Press. title), picked up by Pottersfield Press. Whetherititisisthe thewritten, written, spoken spoken or link to to thethe past, present, andand future will will Whether orillustrated illustratedword, word,the the link past, present, future always remain unbroken. Our silver-anniversary festival featured 8 stages, 80 presenters, 40-hours of of always remain unbroken. Our silver-anniversary festival featured 8 stages, 80 presenters, 40-hours programming and over 30 exhibitors. Thank you for joining us to celebrate the richness of Canada’s programming and over 30 exhibitors. Thank you for joining us to celebrate the richness of Canada’s literaryculture. culture.Thank Thank you you for for talking the mechanics of books withwith illustrators, literary talkingthe thetime timetototalk talkabout about the mechanics of books illustrators, editors, publicists, and publishers. Thank you for recognizing the important role the written and spoken editors, publicists, and publishers. Thank you for recognizing the important role the written and spoken word plays in our lives. Word on the Street Halifax is your window to the wider publishing ecosystem. word plays in our lives. Word on the Street Halifax is your window to the wider publishing ecosystem. Celebrating reading. Advocating literacy. Celebrating reading. Advocating literacy.

Some of the best stories have no . Be sure to put down your beloved books occasionally and surround yourself with other powerful works of art that tell important stories, often using no words at all. Visit us at the gallery this season for a host of thought-provoking exhibitions.

Join a community that celebrates culture and diversity through the visual arts. Become a member at today.