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Contents Number 93 | Spring 2021
6 Notable quotables
12 Constant Nobody
Cover Features 7 Atlantic literature in the world Our literature both defines and expands us by Chris Benjamin
14 Spinning off Marilla with love Why a beloved LM Montgomery character still beguiles by Melanie Mosher
15 Making Anne big in Japan The fascinating translator who made Prince Edward Island a Japanese tourist hub by Evelyn C White
19 Alexa in the world McDonough has been a champion of justice at home and abroad by Joan Baxter
23 This dark place that made us Stories about home should be celebrated around the globe by Trevor Corkum
20 Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians 24 Us, Now
Gardening 26 Garden booking with Niki Think about it; do it. Two books to help you rethink your outdoor spaces by Niki Jabbour
Young Readers 29 Young reader reviews
Reviews 34 One Who Has Been Here Before 35 My Daughter Rehtaeh Parsons 36 My Grandmother’s Days 37 A Love Letter to Africville 37 Future Possible 38 A Number of Stunning Attacks 38 It’s Our Time 39 Clary Croft 39 If, When
Afterword 41 Teasers 44 Staff Picks ON THE COVER Our cover model, Fumi Yamada, is a student at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, and studied at Saint Mary's University in the student exchange program. “For me,” she says, “Anne of Green Gables is what has opened up the door to the world, brought me to Atlantic Canada, and connected me with all the wonderful people I met there.” The photograph was taken by Mike Grainger.
This issue is dedicated to the memory of Ernie Hadley of Nevermore Press, a kind soul and a bright light, who loved good words and stories.
Editor’s message I’m not sure how our writers feel about it, but Deadline Day is my favourite part of editing a magazine. I love opening the inbox the Monday after writers submit and reading, page by page, of their experiences with new books. How did they respond to an author’s style? Were they moved by a particular character? Were they delighted by an unexpected word combination? Did their assignments spark new ideas, angles on life they had never before considered? I’ve often said that each book is a world. The decision to crack the spine is like taking the red pill, i.e. deciding to change your perception of reality. Books shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. In this issue, our writers explored a fascinating diversity of books, including a couple that delved into new takes on Anne of Green Gables. That 113-year-old novel has become the google search term that brings more traffic to our website than any other. It is arguably the most commercially successful piece of Atlantic literature in history. But this isn’t a strictly Green Gables issue. It is rather a look at the worlds in our books, how they are influenced by the wider world, and how we in turn use our stories to define ourselves and project that image abroad. We are living in an increasingly globalized and complex world. Our identities (plural) are becoming ever-more important, psychologically but also economically, in determining how we live together in this place. We depend on each other. The books in this issue show an increasing tendency of our publishing industry to create content reflective of the diverse histories and contemporary realities of peoples in our region, and to connect those realities internationally. This should not be seen as a threat to anyone’s traditions, but rather a more fulsome exploration of who we really are, and the often-harsh realities from which we come. I think that shift is to be celebrated, as are the wide array of books being produced and sold. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Chief Marketing Officer Editor
Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Alex Liot Chris Benjamin
Administrative Assistant Marketing and Sales Assistant
Mallory Burnside-Holmes Alex Levy
Atlantic Books Today is published by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (www.atlanticpublishers.ca), which gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canada Book Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Opinions expressed in articles in Atlantic Books Today do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Board of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association.
Printed in Canada. This is issue number 93 Spring 21. Atlantic Books Today is published twice a year. All issues are numbered in sequence. Total Atlantic-wide circulation: 50,000. ISSN 1192-3652 One-year subscriptions to Atlantic Books Today are available for $15 ($17.25 including HST). For a special offer on a 2-year subscription with a bonus canvas tote bag for $25 ($28.75 including HST), visit atlanticbooks.ca/join and use code ABT. Please make cheques payable to the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association and mail to address below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for subscription inquiries. If you would no longer like to receive copies of the magazine sent to your address, please let us know. 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
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Atlantic Books Today FOREWORD
Quotables “I am raw as a split fish, insides outside, and the salt – preserves – but I’m alive, don’t you see? I can breathe the air. The centre of a traitor’s punishment, guts everywhere. And here the crows are coming” —From This Is How It Is, by Sharon King-Campbell (Breakwater Books) “Schooner Stables, a syndicate of six Maritimers from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, never dreamed they’d own a harness-racing legend. But somehow, someway, the Standardbred pacer Somebeachsomewhere had entered their lives, and turned them wildly, happily, irrevocably upside down. ‘The Beach,’ as he was known to his legion of fans, loved his chow, loved his people, and most of all, loved to win.” —From Somebeachsomewhere: A Harness Racing Legend from a One-Horse Stable, by Marjorie Simmins (Nimbus Publishing) “...tha e millean turas nas fheàrr a bhith nam Anna Ruadh bho Stuaghan Uaine na bhith nam Anna nach eil às àite sam bith, nach eil? [...it’s a million times nicer to be Anne of Green Gables than Anne of nowhere in particular, isn’t it?]” —From Anna Ruadh: Anne of Green Gables in Gaelic, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, translated by Mòrag Anna NicNèill (Bradan Press) “I collected in rain, sleet, snow and ice – once hanging over the sides of a cliff with a fellow fanatic holding onto my legs so I could grab that one piece that eluded me…I went morning, noon and night…looking for footprints…And if no footprints – oh, the joys of being the first there.” —From A Sea Glass Journey, by Teri Hall (Nimbus Publishing) “Margaret Ryall’s studio looks more like a cabinet shop than an artist’s lair. There is a table saw and a chop saw and boxes of ‘special’ wood pieces. As she says, the pieces find her, they jump out at her as she walks by. They are fragments of where she lives, fragments of Newfoundland’s past.” —From Time Fragments: Traces of Newfoundland The Artwork of Margaret Ryall (Komatik Press) 6
“It was a beautiful Caesarean. Almost textbook. Tom is proud of the little time it took him, the small incision, the tidiness of his sutures. He’s pleased with how the cow nosed the calf directly after they’d dragged it over to her. He’d seen her licking it as he trudged out of the barn with his gear.” —From Night Watch: The Vet Suite, by Gillian Wigmore (Invisible Publishing) “Despite all my misgivings, I heard myself say, ‘Yes, Roy, we’re going to write a book!’ We would tell the story of Bounty—her Nova Scotian beginnings, her voyage to Tahiti and her starring movie role. We would tell the stories of the men who sailed on her … Alzheimer’s might someday rob my old friend of those memories, but his story would not be lost.” —From Memories of the Bounty, by Janet Coulter Sanford (Nimbus Publishing) “Now you’ve got me to keep you hoppin’ and boppin’. Jeremy sat bolt upright. He was no longer building up sweat or shivering. ‘Who said that? Who’s out there?’ Me, Jerry-boy. Jewel. A glorious sensation was spreading through his body. ‘Wait—you’re inside me?’ Bull’s eye, Jerry-Jo. Gottit in one.” —From A Boy and His Soul, by John Graham-Pole (HARP Publishing) “Your backyard is an entire ecosystem that can be enjoyed all year long, and with a little help, it can be made into an inviting habitat for all species. The more diversity in your yard, the more diversity of wildlife will visit.” —From East Coast Backyard Nature Guide, by Jeffrey C Domm (Formac Publishing) “Now the hardest lesson / of all, from her fetal-furled body / and her jerky head that nods yes / and shakes no, a lesson that’ll become / a lodger — that you can be / in and fully of the world, yet helpless / as an amnion shadow.” —From “Portrait of My Mother as a Red Kangaroo” in Poisonous If Eaten Raw, by Alyda Faber (Goose Lane Editions) “The sea your road the hole in the sky your light to travel by You learn to climb before you can walk swim before you can talk the language of wind that lures you to shore then makes you leave again” —From My island’s the house I sleep in at night, by Laurie Brinklow (Island Studies Press)
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“It’s a common misconception that eating a ketogenic diet is more expensive than the average Western diet, but that’s not the case at all. With a few easy tips, you can be eating healthy and saving much more than you ever did before.” —From East Coast Keto 2, by Bobbi Pike with Geoff Pike (Breakwater Books)
COVER FEATURE Atlantic Books Today
Atlantic literature Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE
IN THE WORLD
by Chris Benjamin
Canadarm from 50 Things to Know About the International Space Station
Our literature both defines and expands us
ears ago, I talked to a friend about Salman Rushdie. We were fans of the way his word tapestry infuses India, a place neither of us had been, with magic and wonder linked to an ancient history and timehonoured fables. We were entranced, enriched with an appreciation of a place and its people. “Beats reading about it on some dude’s travel blog,” my friend said. Later, when I set half of my first novel in Indonesia and half in Toronto, several Atlantic publishers turned it down because it lacked a local connection beyond my roots and residence here. The reasoning frustrated me. Do we not live in a global village now? Has the internet and multinational corporate branding not made us all residents of Benjamin Barber’s McWorld? Isn’t the purpose of a book to take us beyond the world we know, the familiarity of home? That last question demonstrates my flawed thinking. For one, each book has many purposes, all of which depend on the reader more than the writer. Rushdie’s work is an escape for my Canadian friend and me, but for Indian readers he is perhaps much more: an important voice of home. His writing is powerful because it is steeped in that mix of ancient stories and contemporary perspectives on what India is, its place in the world. I believe this parallels Atlantic Canada’s obsession with local stories—by telling, retelling, reshaping and contemporizing our traditions in story, we define ourselves. We remind ourselves who we are, announce it with pride and dignity; important traits for a small “have-not” region at the northeast edge of North America. My thinking has evolved. I think the mindset of publishing has shifted as well. The proud responsibility of identity-shaping remains, but we’ve broadened the definition. This isn’t only a question of adapting to new realities of more immigration and further globalization of culture. It’s also an acknowledgement of stories that have been excluded for too long. Nova Scotia’s George Elliott Clarke addresses Canadian identity shaping through literature in The Quest for a “National” Nationalism. He considers the several failed attempts of Newfoundland-Toronto poet EJ Pratt to write a “national epic,” a poem to speak for Canada. Take for example “Brébeuf and His Brethren,” written nearly a decade before Newfoundland joined Canada. The problems? Pratt takes the French perspective, leaving out the other solitude. It turns Indigenous Peoples into representatives of primitive barbarity. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE
It’s a delight to see international influences on our literature, and know that some of our literature has in turn influenced the world. It is only through story, and especially the immersion of literature, that our imaginations can so fully occupy another time and place. In this way, literature connects us.
“Frye imposes the standard reading of Canadian colonial history: Indigenous Canadians are doomed savages,” Clarke writes. In an effort to rally French-Canadian support for the Second World War, Pratt Nazified his Iroquois characters. He presented them as an infestation on the “Canadian” wilderness. Pratt attempted another national epic with “Towards the Last Spike,” about the laying of the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks. He barely mentions the ChineseCanadian labourers who did the work in appalling conditions, with hundreds dying, for half the pay. “[Pratt’s] heroes ain’t labourers, anyway, but robber-baron capitalists,” Clarke writes. Especially white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, particularly Scots. “So, Pratt’s national-poem project again falls victim to a racial blindness … where are the First Nations, whose territories are being invaded and annexed to assist the expansion of White European ‘Canadian’ power and capital?” I asked Clarke if we need a national epic or text. He said no. But, “we do need a ‘national’ sensibility; i.e., a theme or modus operandi or dream that animates the vast majority of us.” Previous literary attempts to galvanize us don’t animate the majority of us. They come from a singular “spokesman of his society,” white and colonial, male. How can Canada, with diverse and competing yet convergent histories, have an equivalent to the Finnish national text, the Kalevala? Clarke’s advice? “Pitch your tale to the outcasts, and you are more likely to author a meaningful, national text.” By considering the “outcasts,” a would-be writer of a national epic must think more broadly than the usual suspects, the ones with enough power and resources to have already recorded abundant pieces of their histories. Clarke tells me, “One is likely best off to take a region, province or city, and own and celebrate it—in the way that Leacock does in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, which does seem to speak to rural or small-town Ontario, but in a manner that may apply to Cavendish, PEI, as much as it does to Niagara-on-the Lake, ON.” All the diverse perspectives on Canadian history and contemporary issues can be found anywhere in Canada. As Clarke notes in Quest, there’s no sense criticizing Anne of Green Gables “for not being Anne of Red Deer, or Yellowknife, or Whitehorse.” A worthy goal is diversifying any given region’s own literature, telling the tales of all its peoples. These stories, if honest, won’t always be positive or portray the nicest versions of Canada, or Atlantic Canada. They will speak for more of the people who live here, and their histories. Doing so connects us to a broader world. Slavery, which connects us in the most inhumane fashion to Great Britain, the United States and the African continent, is one example of a subject that has been so taboo many Canadians hold the delusion it isn’t part of our history, other than that
Photo courtesy of Breakwater Books
COVER FEATURE Atlantic Books Today
we served as a destination for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. We were, in fact, a British colony, which thus allowed slavery until 1834 (except in certain jurisdictions, like PEI, which abolished slavery in 1825). Being young enough a nation that slavery was abolished by our southern neighbours before we called ourselves Canada is no excuse. Author Sharon Robart-Johnson, a 13th-generation Nova Scotian with heritage linked to early slaves brought to Digby County, was fascinated by the true story of Jude, “a young enslaved woman … in Raynardton, Shelburne County,” who was murdered in December, 1800, for stealing food. Her killers were the family that claimed ownership of her. Jude was brought up from New Jersey, via Carolina. Her murder case was tried in court, providing a rare historical record of an individual slave, but still with sparse details of her life. Robart-Johnson created—from this history, oral stories from the community, her extensive knowledge of Black history and her imagination—a novel, Jude & Diana, a vivid fictional account of life in colonial Nova Scotia, two-thirds of which is from the point of view of Jude and her sister, Diana. The first part is set with Jude dying on the floor, remembering her life story: being sold in the US, again in Nova Scotia, coming to Nova Scotia by ship. “They would be travellin’ on a ship from a place called New York to a ‘nother place called Nova Scotia.” Jude is a fighter, a resister, constantly punished for her determination to find some inclination of freedom. “I wanted readers to understand the unjust pain in Jude’s life,” Robart-Johnson notes. “But there is also love in their stories.” Jude and her family resist in humour and fierce loyalty, risking their own bodies for one another. In the novel and the real-life archives, Jude’s father took his master (a respected Major) to court, challenging his ownership of them on the grounds that he had no papers. “[The judge] telled us we has to stay with the Major till he bringed [him] a paper sayin’ that he buyed us.” He didn’t. The judge never came looking. The middle section, told from the perspective of a neighbour and fiancé of the Major’s daughter, shows another side of Canadian history: there were many who opposed slavery long before it was abolished. Israel Hibbert is sympathetic to Jude and Diana, whom he calls friends. He struggles with the acceptance of slavery as a way to build the “new country,” and notes that, “Some people did own slaves, but there was also a consensus in his town that what you don’t speak of isn’t really there.” Hibbert initiates the coroner’s inquiry into Jude’s murder. His fiancée, the daughter of slave owners, is appalled by her father’s, mother’s and brothers’ abuses of the slaves. But the fate of the killers is decided by other slave owners. Robart-Johnson includes a hopeful epilogue on Diana’s daughter, a reminder that not all stories from history are as painful. Jude and Diana and their parents illuminate an important truth about us. Hiding from that is a denial of our past, and of their contemporary descendants. We cannot hope to find Clarke’s “national sensibility” without stories that connect our history to larger, often ugly events, including the transatlantic slave trade.
George Elliott Clarke’s latest is The Quest for a “National” Nationalism.
As important as looking inward at our divergent and convergent histories, is looking outward, at our place in the world. Let’s appreciate Atlantic writers who set their stories elsewhere. St. John’s author Michelle Butler Hallett’s Constant Nobody comes to mind. It’s set in Spain, England and Russia at the height of Stalin’s purge in 1937—with a couple of fun Newfoundland references, worldly characters in impossible circumstances fantasizing about starting a language school in the most remote place they can name. Nobody is a spy novel and love story, with a plot that imprisons its characters—Temerity, a British spy with a fake passport, and her kidnapper and saviour from a possibly worse fate, Kostya, a Soviet internal affairs man—in a small Moscow apartment surrounded by more tattletale eyes than 1984. “We existed on that knife-edge of expecting nukes in the air at any moment,” Butler Hallett says of growing up in the Cold War era, part of the inspiration for writing Nobody. “All surrounded by espionage, military exercises, and even the occasional air raid siren test, and I kept asking myself, how did we get here?” She studied Russian and Soviet history and literature in university, was further influenced by an international cabal of writers including Anna Akhmatova, Franz Kafka, John LeCarré, Varlam Shalamov, Vladimir Sorokin, Evgeny Zamyatin and George Orwell; as well as folkloric work like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the epic poem Beowulf. It’s a delight to see international influences on our literature. It is only through story, and especially the immersion of literature, that our imaginations can so fully occupy another time and place. In this way, literature connects us. Temerity and Kostya’s story is beautifully framed by the Russian fairy tales they share when they meet, imparting a sense of the universality of story and the human condition. The tales also set up a sense of intrigue and intimacy, as captor and captured fall for one another in the stickiest, most complex and tense way possible. A prominent figure of the fairy tales is the crone Baba Yaga, but as Temerity notes, they share tropes with ancient stories worldwide.
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE
FURTHER READING ANNE OF TIM HORTONS Herb Wyile WLU Press Counterpoint to Atlantic Lit as quaint, using contemporary works exemplifying cultural diversification and subversive selfconsciousness, focused on “contemporary economic, political, and cultural developments, particularly the broad sweep of economic globalization.”
COVID-19 AND THE FUTURE OF CAPITALISM Efe Can Gürcan Fernwood Publishing Globally, this is proving to be one of the most pressing issues of our time, how we move on from the pandemic, how our current economic systems could fail us, and what are the alternatives?
50 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION John A Read Formac Publishing Globalism too narrow for you? More of a universalist? Check out how small our world really is from a spaceeye view, and learn more about the nitty gritty of space exploration from John A Read.
The characters return to a phrase from “The Maiden Tsar,” spoken by a merchant’s son when asked why he has come to see Baba Yaga. “Largely by my own free will, and twice as much by compulsion.” The phrase becomes a mantra for taking responsibility for choices and actions, despite the impossibility of circumstance, facing the harshest of consequences for the slightest miscalculation. Their situation will find universal resonance with all us shut-ins during this global pandemic. From taut claustrophobia, Butler Hallett creates an entertaining treatise on the shifting nature of power. Kostya’s mentor explains it well. “The steppe gives up in patches to forest, and forest gives up in patches to tundra, yet in places where you see no change, all the differences blend. Power works like that.” In Constant Nobody’s top-down bureaucratized world a lowly clerk whose signature you need holds immense power. A street bully becomes a victim. A high-ranking internal affairs man who has been forced to murder hundreds finds himself in perpetual proximity with betrayal and death, afraid of every footstep. Even the executioners are entrapped. Butler Hallett’s talent for creating sympathy for villains is profound. It is thrilling to read an Atlantic book reminiscent of James Clavell’s Asian saga in its ability to inhabit the many worlds—and variant cultural and political perspectives—of our shrinking but still diverse planet. “We all come from somewhere,” Butler Hallett says. “Our homeland influences how we see the world.” Her tale is more introspective, more complex, than the typical overseas historical adventure novel like the kind Clavell popularized. It provides a more sophisticated feminist perspective, giving proper due especially to Butler Hallett’s main female character’s dilemma, as well as her strengths, flaws and perspectives on global events portrayed. It is a novel of its shrinking-world time, from the mind of one of Newfoundland’s best contemporary writers. If she can do that, surely a single writer is capable of bridging cultural divides and creating a piece of literature that speaks for Canada. It takes careful research, with an open mind and empathetic heart, and a willingness to champion, rather than sweep aside, the underdog. As Clarke says, writing an epic that represents Canada may involve championing a more specific place, its local complexities. It may involve themes that weren’t considered in Pratt’s time (when forests were enemies to be conquered), like, as Clarke adds, “environmental degradation and our desperate attempt to stop poisoning the planet.” Regardless of whatever themes serve us at any given time and “animate the vast majority of us,” it’s a pleasure to see Atlantic authors and publishers embrace identities and perspectives, local and overseas, that have historically been overlooked. ■ CHRIS BENJAMIN is managing editor of Atlantic Books Today and the author of four books, most recently Boy With A Problem, which is shortlisted for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction.
My biggest take away from NSCC was learning how to be versatile. I have adapted my skills to work with youth. One of my favourite things is letting them know how important it is to find their voice, and tell their story. -Andre Fenton
Proud to support #ReadAtlantic We are fortunate to have many talented alumni like Andre who are transforming Nova Scotia’s creative and education spaces. At NSCC Foundation, we work everyday to remove barriers to education and help students realize their full potential and reach their career goals. Visit nscc.ca/foundation today to see how you can lead the way for students. Andre Fenton, Author of Annaka (2020) and Worthy of Love (2018). NSCC Class of 2015, Screen Arts, and Class of 2018, Social Services.
Atlantic Books Today EXCERPT
Twice as much by compulsion
he nodded. —Thank you. I’m sorry I teased you about your accent when you spoke English. I can only imagine what mine sounds like in Russian. —I could listen to you speak my language all day. All night, too. The flirtation’s frisson sharp, Temerity almost complimented him on his technique. Then she chided herself for giving away so much, her mother’s name for God’s sake, while gleaning so little. The water in the bowl splashed as Kostya shifted his weight. — So how did you learn Russian? —I always wanted to, I suppose. My father would translate fairy tales for me out of one of my mother’s books, and I loved the Cyrillic alphabet. —Which fairy tales? —Oh, so many of them. It’s been a long time. Narodyne russkie skazki, that was the book. Kostya felt tension leave his neck and shoulders. This woman smelled delicious, honeyed musk and peppery sweat. And she
spoke Russian. —I like ‘The Maiden Tsar,’ the hero saying he does things by his own free will yet twice as much by compulsion. —I remember that. And ‘The Frog Princess.’ —‘Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What.’ And ‘Vasilisa the Beautiful.’ Temerity looked to the ground. —I remember the illustration. —You’re blushing. —I shoved the book away. My father was partway through the story, the bit where Vasilisa’s stepmother gives her the impossible task, and I just shoved the book away. Knocked it to the floor. Kostya lit another cigarette. —Willful child. —No. I was scared. Temerity surprised herself, saying that. Kostya gave her a long look. —Of what? —The task. Vasilisa was too small. She couldn’t win. —Go back and finish the story. She finds Baba Yaga, or is it Baba Yaga finds her? Anyway, Baba Yaga gives Vasilisa her blessing and some holy fire. Then Vasilisa finds all the bones in Baba Yaga’s
Painting of Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin, 1900
In this excerpt from Michelle Butler Hallett’s Constant Nobody, set in Spain during the civil war, two days before the bombing of Guernica, British expatriate Temerity is posing as a nurse while observing the same anti-Stalinist communist doctor Kostya has been sent to kill on behalf of the Soviet government. They meet in the hospital where he is being treated for gonorrhea and find an unexpected human connection through Russian fairy tales, which as Temerity drolly observes are not just Russian—in a sense, they are universal stories of human nature.
EXCERPT Atlantic Books Today
Michelle Butler Hallett Goose Lane Editions
yard, chooses a skull, and turns it into a lamp for the holy fire. Off she goes, completes her quest, happy ending. —She gets out of the boneyard? Kostya nodded. Then he wondered why he’d earlier thought this woman irritating. Almost unaware, Temerity switched to English. —Holy fire. My father’s got a print of the Novgorod Gabriel in his study. Kostya followed her to English. —My grandparents had three copies of that ikon on their beauty wall. I stared and stared at it. The angel’s eyes were so big. But you must use his correct name: Gavriil. She studied him, that serious face, those green eyes, and laughed. Then she returned to Russian. —Gavriil it is. All the archangels are Russian, I suppose? Kostya refrained from laughing, though he did smirk. —As Russian as Baba Yaga and Koshchei the Deathless, and just as ridiculous. You know Koshchei, right? She wanted to hear the story in his voice, how he’d tell it. —No. —Koshchei is a terrible old man, a tyrant, and he’s managed to hide his soul away, so if anyone should strike a killing blow, he will not die, because his soul is still intact. He rapes, he kills, he steals what he wants, and no one can fight him, only serve him. One day, Ivan, who’s only heard stories of Koshchei and doubts the old brute even exists, sets out on a quest. He bumbles through the woods for a summer and a winter and comes out of it starved and chilled and bloodless from fly bites. He meets a woman, Marya Morevna, who’s looking for something. She’s a warrior. She takes a liking to Ivan. Maybe she pities him. They fall in love, get married, have a big party, and then a messenger brings Marya Morevna some news. Marya tells Ivan she must go, but he’ll be safe in her castle. She and her knights gather weapons and food, put on their armour, saddle their horses, and instead of telling Ivan she loves him, as he expects, Marya warns him not to go into the cellar. Ivan asks why. Marya begs him to trust her, then kisses him goodbye. Soon he hears someone cry out from the cellar. It’s a dry old voice begging for water. Ivan is not heartless. He immediately brings water to the cellar, and he finds this old, old man, starved and foul, chained to a wall. Ivan is angry with Marya for her cruelty, and he helps the old man drink until he drains twelve barrels of water. Then the old man stands up, breaks his chains, knocks Ivan over, and runs up the steps. He’s gone, and the servants tell Ivan it was
Koshchei the Deathless. Marya Morevna had captured him and then starved him to keep him weak while she looked for his soul. How’s my toenail? Soaked long enough? Temerity peeked in the bowl. —Almost. —Ivan sets out to find Marya and her knights and warn them, maybe even help them. He finds all the knights dead except one, who says on his last breath that Koshchei has taken Marya. Ivan buries the knights, then sits down in despair. He has no idea what to do. Baba Yaga finds him, tells him what a fool he is, and then, because she likes Marya Morevna, gives Ivan a magic horse which will take him to the island where Koshchei has hidden his soul. Baba Yaga says Ivan will recognize the spot when he sees it, because every child knows where Koshchei keeps his soul: under the oak tree and inside a locked chest. And in that chest waits a rabbit, and within the rabbit waits a duck, and within the duck waits an egg, and with the yolk of the egg lies a needle, and in the eye of the needle rests the soul of Koshchei the Deathless. This is a very long story. Are you sure you don’t remember it? Nodding, she moved a little closer to him, close enough to feel his body heat, not quite enough to touch. ■ Excerpted from Constant Nobody by Michelle Butler Hallett. © Michelle Butler Hallett. Published by Goose Lane Editions. gooselane.com. Michelle Butler Hallett is also the author of This Marlowe, deluded your sailors, Sky Waves, Double-blind and The shadow side of grace.
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE
Spinning off Marilla with love
Why a beloved LM Montgomery character still beguiles
by Melanie Mosher
hat author would choose to write about an already existing character? The joy of writing fiction is inventing people, places and plots. Without these freedoms, writers risk making stories seem forced, unauthentic. Louise Michalos felt that with the right character, she could draw a familiar audience yet create a fresh experience. In her debut novel, Marilla Before Anne, Michalos tells the story of Marilla Cuthbert, long before the spunky red-headed Anne arrives at Green Gables. “I’m a new, unknown author, and because of that, I thought it would help to write about a character who already had an audience,” Michalos says. “And if I’m from the East Coast then it should be an East Coast character. Who better than Marilla Cuthbert?” The reader sees a young and spirited Marilla grow into the cold and dour spinster from LM Montgomery’s classic. Marilla endures loss and tragedy in a time when the roles of women were limited. Michalos demonstrates the grit and perseverance of these women, providing a sense of hope and belief in their ability to love, even after heartbreak. This handling of characters appealed to Whitney Moran, managing editor of Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press. “I first heard of the project in September 2018,” says Moran. She gave a presentation on editing at the Sherbrooke Village Writer’s Camp where Michalos, one of the participants, spoke of a story she was working on. Moran was struck by how much Michalos cared for her characters, her ability to show a Marilla readers had never seen before. Moran says the story is more than a prequel to Anne of Green Gables. It’s about strong women, the importance of their friendships, being there for each other as they bear burdens and live within the confines of their society. It’s told with a uniquely Maritime voice. Some of the challenges Marilla faces were drawn from the story of Michalos’ own family. “[Women] kept the family going during tough times, pushing aside thoughts of themselves to maintain family and community.” Moran expects varied reactions to Marilla. There will be purists 14
who will not accept anything not written by Montgomery. There will also be avid Anne fans wanting to expand their collection. Marilla will also draw entirely new readers interested in a piece of historical fiction with a well-told story about a young woman on Prince Edward Island. They may be persuaded to pick up other Anne titles, like millions of readers around the world. A globally loved character with a steady readership for 113 years, Anne of Green Gables is part of school curricula in Japan. Many Japanese tourists visit Prince Edward Island each year to see Green Gables. When asked about this universal appeal, Moran says, “I think Anne was before her time and we’re now just catching up.” The characters are believable and relatable, which keeps people reading. Their wisdom and insight make it hard to believe they were written so long ago. “The original Anne books were commissioned as an example of how young ladies should behave,” says Michalos. Montgomery created Anne, a character willing to act outside those boundaries of expected protocols. “Who hasn’t chosen to defy authority?” Michalos asks. “Especially for the sake of love.” In her book, Marilla does just that, paralleling the life of Anne, and she must face the consequences. Regardless of where you are around the world, Anne has a humanness that can’t be denied. With Marilla Before Anne, Michalos has crafted an extension of that story and a character worthy of her own tale. ■ MELANIE MOSHER grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and won an essay contest in Grade Two, sparking her imagination and beginning a lifelong love of stories. She is the author of Fire Pie Trout, Goth Girl and A Beginner’s Guide to Goodbye.
Author photo: Nicola Davison
Making Anne big in Japan
COVER FEATURE Atlantic Books Today
A new biography illuminates the fascinating life of the translator who made Prince Edward Island a Japanese tourist hub by Evelyn C White
Hanako when she worked as an editor for the Christian Literature Society of Japan in Tsukiji in 1919.
Photo of Hanako Muraoka: Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin Archives, photo of book: Tokyo Eiwa Jogakuin Archives.
he two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you discover why.” It’s an adage often attributed (mistakenly) to Mark Twain. The maxim would prove pivotal for Hanako Muraoka (1893-1968). It was after she translated Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper that Muraoka dedicated her life to translating books for Japanese children, known as “family literature.” Muraoka was in her 30s when she completed her translation of Twain’s novel (Oji to Kojiki) about a poor boy and a noble youth who switch identities. Published in 1952, Muraoka’s translation of Anne of Green Gables transformed Anne Shirley, the protagonist of the 1908 novel by PEI author Lucy Maud Montgomery, into a near cult figure in Japan. Sparked by the popularity of the novel among Japanese readers, PEI welcomes a steady stream of tourists from the land of the rising sun. The island’s booming sushi restaurant business has been linked to the Japanese enchantment with the province known by the Mi’kmaq as Epekwitk, “lying in the water.” Anne’s Cradle: The Life of Hanako Muraoka chronicles the triumphs and tragedies of the woman celebrated as a literary trailblazer in Japan. Written by Muraoka’s granddaughter, Eri, and originally published in Japanese, the volume has been translated into English (by Cathy Hirano) and immerses readers in the history, philosophy, religion and culture of Japan. About the Canadian missionary women who first arrived during the Meiji period (1868-1912) who founded the school where her grandmother became enthralled by English language books, Eri Muraoka writes: “Over the first few decades of the Meiji period Canadian Methodist missionaries established bases. … The level of girls’ education in Japan at the time was abysmal. Not only were women deprived of social status, they were required to subjugate their will completely to that of their male kin.” A humble tea merchant who’d converted to Christianity (Shinto and Buddhism are the major religions in Japan), Hanako Muraoka’s father envisioned a better life for his daughter. In 1903, he arranged her entry, as a scholarship student, to the Toyo Eiwa Girls School. She was 10. “[His] earnest desire to nurture the budding talent he witnessed in his child would pave the way for Hanako to surpass the class barriers her parents faced and pursue
Hanako’s copy of Anne of Green Gables, received from the Canadian Missionary Miss Loretta Leonard Shaw, alongside Hanako’s handwritten Japanese translation
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today COVER FEATURE
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“Readers sent Hanako letters, some of which were influenced by Anne’s style of talking. ‘Mrs. Muraoka, won’t you be my bosom friend?’” higher education,” Eri Muraoka writes, noting that Hanako had wowed her dad with a tanka poem at age seven. Initially bewildered by the boarding school’s customs—such as the use of cutlery at some meals instead of chopsticks—Hanako quickly adjusted. A diligent student, she won the admiration of her classmates and Isabella Blackmore, the Nova Scotia-born principal who’d developed the school’s rigorous coursework in English grammar, reading comprehension, literature and Bible study. “Textbooks used for Japanese studies were virtually the same as those used in other Japanese girls’ schools,” Eri Muraoka writes. “But those used for English studies demonstrated the school’s uniqueness… Most of the missionaries were highly educated women from eastern Canada.” The author’s rendering of Hanako’s affection for some her school chums calls to mind the “bosom friend” passages in Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Hanako is overcome with emotion when a pupil (wearing a long-sleeved crepe kimono) grooms her hair. “[Chiyo] looked dazzlingly refined and even dashing,” Eri Muraoka writes. “She took out a comb and, stepping behind Hanako, deftly redid her hair, tying it with her own ribbon… Eyes downcast, Hanako blushed, a mixture of shyness, joy, and anxiety churning inside her… She felt she might burst into tears.” A frequent visitor to the school’s library, Hanako’s life shifted when she discovered an English-Japanese dictionary on a shelf. “She considered [the dictionary] an outstanding invention, for with its aid, she could slowly decipher the English language. Gradually the world of words from which she had been excluded opened its doors to her.” Bolstered by her growing oral and written proficiency in English, Hanako read, among other works: Little Women, Robinson Crusoe and the Elsie Books, a children’s literature series about a girl in the antebellum American south. After graduating from Toyo Eiwa, Muraoka taught English at another mission school and became active in women’s rights issues, including lobbying against licensed prostitution, which was prevalent in Japan at the time. Muraoka began to study Japanese language editions of classic works. She delighted in a Japanese translation of The Improvisatore, an autobiographical novel by Hans Christian Andersen. “It read like an ode, rather than a novel,” Eri Muraoka writes. “[The] translation was an eye-opening experience for Hanako. Intoxicated by the enchanting vocabulary and rhythm, she submerged herself in the beauty of the Japanese language.” Anne’s Cradle details Muraoka’s marriage to a printing company executive and the death of their son, Michio, of infantile gastroenteritis, at about age six. Muraoka assuaged her sorrow by translating The Prince and the Pauper. “Although she had lost her own son … the flame of motherhood that had burned within her grew … to a broader, more universal sentiment,” Muraoka writes. “Michio’s death became the impetus for Hanako to start … aiming for shinga before shoga, ‘the true self ’ over ‘the small self.’”
COVER FEATURE Atlantic Books Today
atlantic books.qxp_Layout 1 2021-03-26 4:29 PM Page
Explore Atlantic Canada, Past and Present mqup.ca
by Eri Muraoka, translated by Cathy Hirano Nimbus Publishing
On Record Audio Recording, Mediation, and Citizenship in Newfoundland and Labrador beverley diamond
Michio’s death prompted Hanako to host a popular children’s radio show and raise a niece, Midori, as her own. In the late 1930s, Muraoka reconnected with missionary friends and colleagues who would flee the country at the outset of the Second World War. The group included Loretta Leonard Shaw, a New Brunswick native who’d spent nearly 40 years teaching in Japan. Before returning to Canada, Shaw gifted Muraoka with a worn copy of Anne of Green Gables and encouraged her to translate it for the girls of Japan. Eri Muraoka writes: “The story lit up [Hanako’s] heart. The heroine, Anne, was a skinny little orphan girl with freckles and carrot-coloured hair, whose cultural environment and school life closely resembled Hanako’s own… The dress with puffed sleeves for which Anne pined was the same style as those worn by the missionaries who had taught at Toyo Eiwa.” With Canada denounced, during the war, as an “enemy alien” of Japan, Muraoka was compelled to conceal her work on Anne of Green Gables. “Regardless of the danger, [she] continued to translate … driven by the desire to prove her friendship to the Canadian people.” Hanako toiled more than a decade on Akage no An (Red-headed Anne), an instant bestseller. She was 59. “Through Anne’s words, readers knew the joy of using their imagination, and their admiration for the heroine extended to Anne’s homeland, Prince Edward Island,” Eri writes. “Readers sent Hanako letters, some of which were influenced by Anne’s style of talking. ‘Mrs. Muraoka, won’t you be my bosom friend?’” Muraoka would go on to translate Lucy Maud Montgomery’s entire Anne series. Having met Helen Keller during one of Keller’s visits to Japan, Muraoka published a children’s biography of the disability rights advocate. It helped educate Japanese society when deaf and blind people were often shunned, Eri writes. At 74, Hanako made her first trip overseas to spend time with Midori, who was living in the US. “Passersby often did a double take when they saw … an elderly woman dressed in kimono, and gave her a smile. Hanako returned their smiles and spoke to them … in fluent English … an even greater surprise.” Hanako declined invitations to visit PEI for fear “that reality might mean the loss of the imaginary world in her mind that she loved so dearly.” At her funeral, in 1968, a mourner placed in her coffin sheets of manuscript paper, her pen and a Japanese copy of Anne of Green Gables “into which [she] had poured her soul,” Eri writes in her poignantly powerful biography. Nova Scotia’s Bradan Press has also published Anna Ruadh, a Scots Gaelic translation of the novel. Fans of Montgomery’s iconic work included the late Aretha Franklin who, shortly before her death, proclaimed her desire to “see the place” Anne Shirley came from. Sadly, the Queen of Soul never made it to PEI. ■ EVELYN C WHITE is the author of Alice Walker: A Life. A resident of Halifax, she is passionate about okra.
Paper $39.95, 434 pp May 2021
Joseph Roberts Smallwood Masthead Newfoundlander, 1900–1949 melvin baker and peter neary Cloth $34.95, 248 pp May 2021
Just the Usual Work The Social Worlds of Ida Martin, WorkingClass Diarist bonnie huskins and michael boudreau Paper $34.95, 200 pp, 26 photos
The Miramichi Fire A History alan maceachern Paper $34.95 288 pp, 9 photos, 23 maps
Ordinary Saints Women, Work, and Faith in Newfoundland bonnie morgan Paper $37.95, 360 pp, 22 b&w photos, 2 tables Winner of the Clio Prize – Atlantic Region, Canadian Historical Association / Société historique du Canada 2020
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
New World Publishing: Three New Non-Fiction Titles for June,2021- and 3 Best-sellers from 2020) www.newworld publishing.com 902-576-2055 –Adventure, Crime, Culture, History, Intrigue, and Pandemic NEW: Amazing Ancient Astrolabe Adventure: by Wayne Mushrow. ISBN 9781989564158–$19.95 So, what is an astrolabe? A navigational device for ships at sea during the 16th -18th Centuries. They are rare, literally worth millions of dollars. There are only three such artifacts within Canada, and two of those were discovered by a Port aux Basques, milkman-cum-diver. The story is multi-faceted: the author’s early life, his initiation into diving: locating drowning victims, dangerous commercial diving, to his amazing discoveries near shipwrecks, of not 1, but 2 astrolabes (French & Portuguese) in near-perfect condition off Isle aux Morts. The odds:? Perhaps a billion to one.MushrowofferedtodonatethemtotheGovernmentofNewfoundland, but that’s when two decades of political intrigue began, with a standoff between an ordinary citizen and “big” government, instigated by relentless bureaucratic intimidation. In the end, cooler heads prevailed with an agreement that benefitted PAB and its Museum with these artifacts on display during the summer; the people of Newfoundland & Labrador; and The Rooms where they are displayed for eight months of the year. NEW: Joie de Vivre- Love of Life: Isolated Acadians celebrate their culture through traditions and folklore byJudeAveryISBN9781989564196 $19.95 Second new title on Acadian history and culture fin 18 months.,Avery was recently (March, 2021) awarded the first Lt. Governor’s Award of Excellence - for contribution to Acadian Culture and History (NS). Avery’s first book The Forgotten Acadians, launched in September 2019, sold out in 58 days; an UpdatedEdition, releasedjustbefore the pandemic, sold widey in Acadian communities. His second volume, Joie de Vivre, will be available to stores/online buyers early this summer. Read of early life in close-knit communities, where caring for one another was paramount and critical to suvival. Relivetheir imporantfestivals:richAcadianculture steeped in music, with musicians from all Maritime provinces; winter festivitiesandsummerpicnics,connectedwithreligiouspraxisandholidays;and, of course, wonderful traditional Acadian food. These communities represent Acadian settlements everywhere,separated only bytimeand/orgeography. Late2019-20Best-Seller.TOGO to the Rescue! - a Halifax Explosion story by Laura King; illustrated by Hannah Aubrecht. $13.95; Quality children’s picture book: 8 x 10 full colour; 80 lb. silk ISBN9781989564219 Mother and daughter team, both experieced school teachers, bring you this delightful story of TOGO, the grocery delivery horse and its owner, Uncle Arthur, real family members who lived through the actual explosion in the city’s north end. Their world is turned upside down by this shocking event, but they spring into action to save a young boy trapped in the rubble. Artfully illustrated adventure story for elementary children, aged 7-10.
NEW: Acadia’s Warrior Priest: A Conversation with Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre by Peter L. McCreath ISBN 9761989564172 – $16.95 Who would have thought the most formidable guerilla leader in Canadian history (c.1737-1756 in the Maritimes) would be a humble French missionary priest? Enter L’abbe Jean-Louis Le Loutre, who single-handedly, but covertly, led Mi’kmaq warriors (with French funding) to contest the establishment of Nova Scotia as a British/ Protestant colony, and in doing so, left the pacifist Acadiens in the middle – a possible contributing factor in the Expulsion? It also likley did a disservice to the aboriginal peoples (mosty Mi’kmaq) who originally had sought peace. Arguably, in the name of religion and the prevention ofProtestant settlements within the region, Père Le Loutre likely purchased more Protestant scalps than Governor Cornwallis collected via his now infamous scalping proclamations. This is his story. 2020 Best-seller! Capturing Crime – Carol Taylor; narrative by Greg Marquis,withRoselynRosenfeldandConnel Smith. Full colour coffeetable book: ISBN 9781895814972 - ,$24.95 NEW: LE HC Ed. – $39.95 Law courts, judges, prosecutors, witnesses, defense teams, red evidence bags, all drawn from an artist’s perspective – the ‘good’ guys, the ‘bad’ guys – 15 stories and trials – half of them reported widely in the Canadian media: Alan Légère, Premier Hatfield, the Dennis Oland trials, Columbian smuggling cartel, Bourque RCMP murders, child molestation, and more. Covers the last three decades, in one tidy package, with fascinating images and well-constructed verse from gifted writers explaining each trial. Carol’s courtroom sketches from over 30 plus years, are both factual and entertaining. See great Video review and story of Carol and her book in Created Here , plus ABT review; Short-listed for ABA, 2021) 2020 Pandemic Best-seller! Quarantine; What is Old is New (2nd Intl Ed) Ian A Cameron, MD © March, 2020 ISBN 9781895814453 – 216 pp, $22.50; + e-book. Important reading for the world today! Covers quarantine practices and procedures throughout medical history, not unlike self-isolation today with COVID–19. Describes virulent diseases, quarantine centres, epidemic/pandemic diseases and impact on immigration, Deals with viral mutation, ‘shift’ and ‘drift’ in influenza, plus critical viral & bacterial infections/pandemics over200yearsinCanada–withworldpostcripts on the 10 worst pandemics of the last 2000 years! Describes cornonaviruses/ COVID-19up to the time WHO declared it a pandemic in March, 2020.
COVER FEATURE Atlantic Books Today
in the world McDonough has been a champion of justice at home and abroad by Joan Baxter
Photo: Family Collection
n Stephen Kimber’s superb biography of Alexa McDonough, the former leader of the Nova Scotia and federal NDP, and the first woman to lead a major Canadian political party, he documents how McDonough—now retired and living with Alzheimer’s—has always worked hard to right wrongs, at home and abroad. When she was 15, Alexa took part in a church group’s Model United Nations discussion about Africa and learned about the “nascent England-based Boycott Movement intended to pressure the government of South Africa to abandon its racist apartheid policy.” Alexa posed “an explosive question,” asking: “Why are we talking about apartheid in South Africa when we have apartheid right here in Halifax?” She was referring to the racial divide in a city where “1,750 Black citizens were clustered in two ghettos far from wellto-do neighbourhoods,” one of which was Africville. Kimber tells of how Alexa and three friends worked with Reverend William Pearly Oliver of Cornwallis Street Baptist Church in the city’s North End, and Reverend Donald Skeir whose pastoral territory included Seaview Baptist Church in Africville, to organize a two-week camp for 50 children in Africville in 1961, which became an annual event. “Alexa’s pointed question might not have led anywhere except for the fact that she was Lloyd and Jean Shaw’s daughter,” Kimber writes. In an interview for Atlantic Books Today, Kimber says McDonough came by her worldview from her family’s commitment to a better world, which involved local politics with a “more global vision.”
Her father Lloyd had a deep, long and public affiliation with progressive causes. In the 1945 election, he ran in Halifax for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the predecessor to the NDP. He was also a “well-known anti-nuclear activist and international humanitarian,” Kimber writes. “The Shaws regularly hosted guests in the thick of global issues, and world affairs featured prominently in their family dinnertime conversations.” While in high school, Alexa was on a student committee that organized the Third Annual Halifax High-Y Model United Nations Assembly, determining what issues students were to debate. She once contemplated taking a job in Africa with the international news agency, Inter Press Service. She asked Kimber about it—he had done some freelance speechwriting for her—but he doesn’t recall what he advised. What kept her in Canada to run for the leadership of the federal NDP, Kimber says, is that Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin came along with an austerity budget that she was determined to fight. As leader of the provincial then federal NDP, Alexa had enough local and national issues to focus on, which she did with stamina and determination in the face of misogyny and opposition that, Kimber says with a laugh, would have made him quit “right away.” She never stopped challenging injustice and discrimination wherever she saw it. Just after 9/11, Alexa put forward a motion in the House of Commons that the government table a report “to fight the rising tide of intolerance and racism directed against Arab and Muslim Canadians.”
Alexa (c) with father Lloyd Shaw (l) and Tommy Douglas (r), 1979 federal election campaign.
Kimber says her defence of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who had been detained by American authorities in 2002 and then sent to Syria where he was imprisoned in inhumane conditions and tortured, was “very telling.” Asked by reporters why she was taking up Arar’s case, Alexa replied: “If Canada can no longer stand up to the Americans, no longer can stand up against grotesque violations of international law, then Canada’s soul is literally withering away.” Alexa’s successor as leader of the NDP, Jack Layton, appointed her shadow critic for International Development Cooperation and Peace Advocacy in 2006. In 2010, as interim president of Mount St. Vincent University, Alexa organized a fourday peace conference, showcasing more of Alexa’s passions as peace educator, activist and disarmament advocate. Even after politics she remained focused on the local from a global perspective. ■ JOAN BAXTER is a Canadian journalist, award-winning author, development consultant, researcher and writer and anthropologist. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today EXCERPT
Black legacies Edited excerpts from Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians by Linsday Ruck Sylvia Hamilton
Part of recognizing the place of Atlantic literature in a connected, global context is paying homage to all our region’s people and cultures, including those who have for too long been overlooked or misrepresented in our history books. Lindsay Ruck’s new book for young readers, Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians (illustrated by James Bentley), profiles 50 incredible individuals, historical and contemporary, and their achievements. In these excerpts, the author introduces the humbling task of selecting and writing about so many Atlantic Black heroes, and filmmaker and poet Sylvia Hamilton is also introduced.
people in Atlantic Canada and my hope is that you too will not only learn, but also be inspired by these amazing men, women, and children. For many of these individuals, it all started with a dream or drive to make a difference. They have worked hard to achieve what some would describe as the impossible. They’ve jumped over hurdles, broken down barriers, and beaten the odds to achieve greatness. And that is what makes each and every one of them truly amazing. *** The first recorded Black people in Atlantic Canada date back to the 1600s. Some were brought to the Maritimes as enslaved people, while others arrived as free men and women who were searching for a better life. Moving to a new place and starting all over again isn’t always easy—especially if that new place is cold and you are used to warm weather. These men and women had to work very hard to provide for their families. Jobs weren’t easy to find, fertile land was hard to come by, and many had to get creative in order to find ways to survive. Some achieved great success in the Atlantic provinces, while others moved on not long after their arrival, but their legacy as the first Blacks in Atlantic Canada lives on through their ancestors. Their tales have been passed down from one generation to the next, so that we do not forget those who came before us and called Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, or Prince Edward Island home. Their stories, struggles, and triumphs are an important part of Canadian history.
Illustration courtesy of Nimbus Publishing
hat does it mean to be amazing? Someone may be amazing because they’re in a hall of fame for reaching greatness in a sport. Others may be amazing because they’ve written stories or poems that people all around the world will read. Some are called amazing because they’ve performed in front of thousands of people—some have even shared their talent with kings and queens. Still others are amazing because they’ve taken a brave stand against racism and have used their voice for good. They’ve helped others in their community any way they can. As an author, I love discovering fascinating stories about the people and places around me. When I was a girl, my grandfather would tell me stories about how Black soldiers in The Black Battalion struggled to be allowed to fight during the First World War; how the people of Africville were taken away from their beloved community and homes; and how the Black Loyalists first arrived in Atlantic Canada in search of a better life. As a family, we would visit the Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia and learn more about opera singer Portia White, journalist Carrie Best, and Canadian war hero Jeremiah Jones. My grandfather taught me the importance of Black Canadian history and those conversations are where my journey began in discovering more about the amazing individuals you’ll read about in this book. Working on this book was a big task. I spent a lot of time reading history books and biographies. I did a lot of research on my computer to check facts and gather interesting tidbits. And I spoke with people across the Atlantic provinces who were eager to help me tell these stories. While this book features a lot of Black Atlantic Canadians, it’s important to know that not everyone was able to be included in these pages, but that does not mean they are any less amazing. I learned so much about the history of Black
EXCERPT Atlantic Books Today
AMAZING BLACK ATLANTIC CANADIANS
NEW FROM CHRISTY ANN CONLIN
Lindsay Ruck, illustrated by James Bentley Nimbus Publishing
*** As a young girl, Sylvia Hamilton rarely saw on television or read books about people who looked like her. In high school, she went to her first non-segregated school and noticed all of the textbooks didn’t really mention any Black history. From that moment, Sylvia knew she wanted to find out more about her ancestors and wanted to tell the stories that no one else was telling. And she’s found many creative ways to tell those stories. As a filmmaker, Sylvia goes behind the camera and captures others who share their triumphs and struggles as Black Canadians through her film company called Maroon Films. As a poet, she’s written poems about hope, hurt, and faith. Sylvia gives a voice to Black men, women, and children who may otherwise not be heard. Her documentary films have appeared in festivals around the world and have been broadcast on several television networks. Sylvia’s first film, Black Mother Black Daughter, was made with an entirely female crew, making it the first film out of the Atlantic studio of the National Film Board to be run completely by women. In 2000, Sylvia released a documentary about contralto opera singer Portia White called Portia White: Think on Me. Fittingly, in 2002, Sylvia received the Portia White Prize, which recognizes artistic excellence and achievement by a Nova Scotian artist. When Sylvia began teaching at the School of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, her goal was to open her students up to the world around them. Her hope is that they will have far more experiences than she did when she was that young girl attending an integrated high school and craving to learn more about her history and her ancestors. ■ LINDSAY RUCK, born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is a graduate of Carleton University's School of Journalism in Ottawa. Since graduating in 2008, she has worked in the marketing, communications and publishing fields. Similar to her grandfather, the late Calvin W Ruck, she has a deep and abiding respect and affection for her home province of Nova Scotia. She is the author of Against the Grain: A Biography of Dr. John Savage, and Winds of Change: The Life and Legacy of Calvin W Ruck.
“Gripping, suspenseful, and lyrically written.” — ALIX OHLIN, AUTHOR OF DUAL CITIZENS
“A singularly powerful piece of work.” — TORONTO STAR
“A page-turner with a fierce heart at its core.” — MONA AWAD, AUTHOR OF BUNNY
HOUSEOFANANSI.COM @HOUSEOFANANSI ANANSI PUBLISHES VERY GOOD BOOKS
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
About Steven Schwinghamer and Jan Raska’s beautifully illustrated Pier 21: A History
“Schwinghamer and Raska’s clear-eyed examination of immigration policies, through the lens of a single port of entry, demonstrates the impressive and hard-won gains of our modern immigration system.” — Matthew Lombardi Literary Review of Canada Co-published by the University of Ottawa Press, the Canadian Museum of History, and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Pier 21: A History
Steven Schwinghamer, Jan Raska Softcover | 9780776631363 | $27.95
Quai 21: Une histoire
Steven Schwinghamer, Jan Raska Souple | 9782760331402 | 34,95 $
www.Press.uOttawa.ca Antlantic Books 93_PUO March 2021_.indd 1
CONGRATULATIONS MORGAN & BRIDGET
AND TO ALL THE FINALISTS FOR THE 2021 ATLANTIC BOOK AWARDS
SHORTLISTED FOR THE
APMA Best Atlantic Published Book Award Margaret and John Savage First Book Award Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award Source: HVS, Cape Breton County Death Register, SOME PEOPLE’S 1918, Book 30, Page 47, Number 273. CHILDREN SHORTLISTED FOR THE
Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award
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FEATURE Atlantic Books Today
This dark place that made us Stories about home should be celebrated around the globe by Trevor Corkum
Photo by Casey Horner
or anyone who has never visited the Miramichi region, it’s a wild, gorgeous place. I lived in Miramichi—a part of the city then called Chatham—for a year when I was young. My father was in the military and we lived on the old air force base. It was the year my father was diagnosed with cancer. I was mostly too young to know about cancer, or death, but I remember vividly the shadowy ravine behind my school, the giant flinty boulders and the wide, propulsive river we drove across to get to Newcastle. I thought a lot about rural New Brunswick reading Wild Green Light, the new poetry collaboration between David Adams Richards and Margo Wheaton. Anyone who has read Richards knows he has built an admirable, award-winning career exploring and transcribing the reality of New Brunswickers who have often gotten the short end of the stick in the dog-eat-dog world of global capitalism, but who still manage to find dignity, mercy and meaning in their lives. The dark heart of nostalgia beats through this new collection—featuring 20 lyric poems by Richards and a series of ghazals by Wheaton: decaying country homes, raucous kitchen tables, rambling rivers, dark woods like the kind I knew as a boy. These are poems that look back over the shoulder, a mourning for what’s been lost: childhood, dreams, forests, mentors and beloved matriarchs like Wheaton’s grandmother. We live in an age where we believe ourselves to be untethered to time and space. We’re citizens of a virtual commons, where the oligarchies of Big Tech control the minutiae of our lives, much as the lumber barons and coal company overlords did in decades past. Amidst this shrinking psychic space, what does regional literature—the rooted, complex worlds spun in poems like those in Wild Green Light—offer us today? First, these seemingly insular poems, with their testaments to local seasons, their homage to the “wild and forgotten river,” their references to Escuminac and Neguac, remind us that despite our nomadic qualities and virtual longings, our lives are inherently local. While our day jobs in Sydney or Summerside might connect us with customers and consumers the world over, at night we wander streets and trade gossip with folks close to home. When we find ourselves leaving—as any Maritimer who has headed Out
West or to Toronto or Beijing for work will tell you, “travelling all my life,” as Richards says in one poem—we dream of oceans and bays, islands and tidelines. Our imaginations are fed by mysteries laid down in our blood from these dark places that made us. And while demographers tell us that many parts of our region are emptying, dreams are still dreamt and tears still wept right here on the edge of the world. We forget the magical quality of our local lives and literatures at our own peril. In an interview with Image Journal a few years ago, speaking of his obsession with writing about his corner of New Brunswick, Richards said: “I think because it is the world as much as any other place—just as much as Saint Petersburg or Mississippi or London or Paris. In fact, all people are regional, no matter how cosmopolitan they believe they are—and all people are in some sense cosmopolitan.” And if there’s a truth to this golden age of Netflix, it’s that there’s a hunger now more than ever for authentic local stories. For literature that holds up a mirror to who we are and shares this vision confidently with the world. The poems in Wild Green Light, in all their luscious darkness, their longing and mourning, speak to us not because they’re from anywhere, but because they’re from right here. There’s no reason for the stories we tell about this place we live and love not to be celebrated around the globe. By so deeply inhabiting and translating a world that’s full of its particular strangeness, its taut textures and plainspoken beauty, Richards and Wheaton prove this for us, poem after intricate poem. ■ TREVOR CORKUM lives on the South Shore of PEI. His novel The Electric Boy is forthcoming with Doubleday Canada. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today EXCERPT
Distance and coming together Edited excerpt from Us, Now Us, Now is a collection of stories, edited by the venerable Lisa Moore, connecting Newfoundland and Labrador to the world via racialized Newfoundlanders. These are stories that fit George Elliott Clarke’s thinking on what a truly Canadian national tale might be: local, yet connected, broadly and diversely. They are at their essence about the concept of home, finding home, feeling at home and communicating about home. The catalogue has it right: these writers create “new visions of an in-the-present-moment Newfoundland.”
The desire to know another person’s experience, to leap into their skin, is the fuel of fiction, a desire that’s potent and sometimes incendiary. It leads, with a speed-of-light circuitry, to the heart, to empathy. Empathy might be what it takes to make us agile in a fast-changing world; it might show us how we leap from ice pan to ice pan as the turbulence of political unrest, injustice, climate crisis, and—on the opposite end of the scale, love, beauty, and truth—work to upend us, alter us, make us new. The word us is deliberate. In the title of this collection, I believe the us is inclusive, decoupled from its cold, brittle twin them. In the title of this collection, us is linked with now. The brief pause between the two words, the comma, lets the reader understand it has taken us some time to get here, to the now, but we are all here together. This is a book about belonging. Sometimes in these stories, belonging is fragile and fought for, but the act of writing from a place and about a place is belonging—the sometimes sacred, sometimes scary act of witnessing means writers always stand 24
apart and, at the same time, are a part of. […] I think these stories, taken as a whole, have the power to create a new understanding of Newfoundland literature. Together, they say with certainty: This is us, now.
From “Across Oceans” by Tzu-Hao Hsu The decision to move the family to a new continent was not fast or easy. You made several prospective journeys after much discussion with your wife, the children blissfully unaware. They found out in the winter before your move. They were excited enough; their knowledge of the future new home started and ended with the many famous misadventures of that red-haired island girl. You thought it serendipitous that the children should connect with that story out of all the books in your family collection and offered silent thanks to your ancestors for luck, taking it as a sign and blessing though you have never been one for superstitions. You arrived in the middle of summer, late in the night, after a thirty-hour journey. The children were ecstatic to see the
Photo by Noorulabdeen Ahmad
From Lisa Moore’s Introduction:
EXCERPT Atlantic Books Today
“Look how excited they were throwing rocks on the beach—only a little disappointed they could not swim in the frigid water—or how happy they were to plant a bulb in your sister’s backyard, though they dug mere inches before their hands started to bleed from the rocks that made up this island.” internationally recognizable golden arch of a global fast-food franchise, but there the similarities ended. Apprehension set in. But they are children, you and your wife told yourselves. They are adaptable by nature; there is nothing to worry about. Besides, look at them, they were delighted. They were stiff trying to introduce themselves in an unfamiliar tongue when they met their teachers, and they made a face at spaghetti, but this was expected. They will adjust. Look how excited they were throwing rocks on the beach—only a little disappointed they could not swim in the frigid water—or how happy they were to plant a bulb in your sister’s backyard, though they dug mere inches before their hands started to bleed from the rocks that made up this island. Everything will be fine. They will adjust. You all have to.
From “This Town” by Kyekue Mweemba The decisions you have made this past year, since the first day of spring in particular, have been coming for a while. Leaving was inevitable from the moment you stepped off the plane and realized you were actually on an island and couldn’t simply take a bus to Toronto. Remember how shocked you were to learn they didn’t have a train? It definitely wasn’t Scotland. But the weather was the same, until the snow finally arrived. Your father talked to you about depression that first winter. But it wasn’t all bad. You moved into that beautiful house by Bannerman Park and met your beloved Pisces. You will get those matching tattoos before you leave. She is your Sweetie, and you, her Darling. Remember how you used to spend those cold winters ordering Venice Pizza and watching Daria and English comedies, laughing and dying, as you like to say? And people still talk about that Halloween party. You know they do. You smile thinking about it. But then you moved out of that house, and the joy it gave you turned into a distance and an uneasy discomfort, and the gap between yourself and the inevitable need to leave began to shrink. You applied to go on international exchange that year. You got accepted, and then you had that seizure in the airport and were told you should take care of your health. You have gotten better at that since October 2016. It’s funny now, how often you think about what you will do with your medication should you decide you are ready to have a baby. Remember, you never wanted children. Now you imagine teaching them how to swim at George’s Pond after a day of picking berries on Signal Hill. You know by now. The summers on this island are sweet and short. They make you forgive and forget the winter. You forget the
inevitable brightening of the summer. You pick the berries from the hills and swim in ponds that look out to the ocean. Still, with every fall you are reminded that it can and will only give so much. Don’t be ungrateful; this island has given you more. Have you forgotten the Aquarius with the dark lipstick? You met her at that party. It was at that house on Fleming Street, not the one lined with Trollz or the one with more cats than people but the one with purple plants in the window. Wasn’t that a great time?
From “Ondu Nenapu” by Prajwala Dixit I tugged on her hand, making her stop midway as we rushed through the packed bus stand. Her eyes followed my gaze, spotting the newest attraction that had caught my fancy. A piece of cloth was attached to a tray that hung from his neck. Tired from the weight of the hundreds of tiny bottles arranged in a colour-coordinated manner, he wearily blew at the end of a stick, producing a round, thin, transparent film of liquid filled with air, thoroughly unenthused by this task. Upon occasion he’d sputter, “Bubbeloo, bubbeloo, hath Rupaiyee.” I couldn’t fathom his lacklustre approach. I mean, they were bubbles! And he sold them. In my innocent eyes, there couldn’t be a better job in the world. I looked up at her. She had the kindest smile on her face, and not because I was her grandchild. Simply because that is how she was (and still is). After the momentary pause, we were back to walking. And this time, I guided her, my tiny feet jumping with every other step. Watching us speedily wend our way toward him, the Bubble Man upped his ante. “Bubbeloo bubbeloo, hath Rupaiyee” now had a rhythmic beat and a pep usually associated with fizzy drinks. He smiled at Ajji, revealing three missing teeth along the way. Ajji’s soothing voice and his gruffy bark exchanged pleasantries, testing my patience. I yanked on Ajji’s blue silk just to ensure that the important purpose of the visit wasn’t forgotten. ■ NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
with Niki Jabbour Think about it; do it. Two books to help you rethink your outdoor spaces Niki Jabbour
t’s no secret that gardening had a big year last year. We’d been spending more time at home and many homeowners and apartment dwellers had been rethinking their outdoor spaces. Elements like raised beds, decks, container plantings, fire pits and flower gardens have made garden centres and building supply stores busier than ever. This interest has also translated into garden book sales and two new releases from Canadian publishers are ready to get you growing. The Philosophy of Gardening, edited by Blanka Stolz, and Shrubs and Vines for Atlantic Canada by Todd Boland have arrived just in time for spring. The first is a collection of essays, originally published in Germany, that address a wide range of garden types, sizes and styles while answering the question, “Why do we garden?” The second book is more of a how-to with Boland, who lives and gardens in St. John’s, Newfoundland, exploring the plants that make up the foundation of a garden. Although these books fall into different categories, they complement each other. One inspires you to want to make a garden and the other shows you how to do just that. Boland, the Research Horticulturist at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Botanical Gardens is an established authority and the author of Favourite Perennials for Atlantic Canada, Trees & Shrubs of the Maritimes and numerous books on wildflowers. His approach is that of a gardening friend; he’s encouraging, inspiring and ready to help you pick the plants that best match the growing conditions of your yard. He’s also a talented photographer with beautiful images on almost every page of the book.
In a landscape it’s often perennial and annual flowers that draw the eye, but look closer and you’ll notice that most of the yearround interest comes from woody plants: foliage, bark, form, berries or flowers. In Shrubs and Vines for Atlantic Canada, Boland focuses on these plants and offers plenty of detailed growing information and specific cultivar suggestions. The first section is a comprehensive guide to deciduous shrubs like dogwood, witch hazel, hydrangea and roses. This is followed by a chapter on Ericaceous plants, which grow particularly well in the acidic soil conditions of Atlantic Canada. Common members of this family include rhododendrons, azaleas, heaths, heathers and blueberries, which all make excellent low-maintenance choices for the home landscape. Good garden design doesn’t rely solely on deciduous plants for interest, but also includes conifers like false cypress, pine and spruce. They add form and colour during the long winter months with hues in shades of green, gold and bronze, and shapes that include narrow, spreading, rounded and pyramidal. Conifers are beautiful in spring, summer and autumn, but it’s winter when these plants are truly appreciated. Even small space gardens benefit from conifers, which can range in size from just a few inches tall to shrubs several metres high. Some, like ‘Silver Spire’ Yew and ‘Pendula’ European larch have striking forms that create living sculpture in a garden. In the last section of the book, Boland features vines—both common and unusual selections for Atlantic Canada. Clematis, honeysuckle and climbing hydrangea are among the best-known
HANDS ON SERVICE FEATURE Atlantic Books Today
garden vines, but don’t overlook lesser known choices like kiwi, porcelain vine and bittersweet. Each plant description includes information on plant size, foliage and flowers, as well as advice on supports, pruning and general care. In The Philosophy of Gardening we discover gardens that serve a variety of purposes; they grow food, celebrate urban permaculture, introduce us to new friends and pay tribute to weeds. The essays are written by a diverse group that includes gardeners, designers, agricultural scientists and philosophers. Their insights into how and why we garden are universal and a delight to read. In the essay “On the Metaphysics of a Garden,” Dieter Wandschneider notes that a garden exists somewhere between nature and design; it is structured nature, designed nature and living art. This is a book to read in the garden. I enjoyed the variety of philosophical musings on the place of gardens in urban spaces, gender in the garden and the basic drive to garden. In “A Plea for Weeds,” Brunhilde Bross-Burkhardt makes the case for letting Creeping Charlie, well, creep. She questions the identity of a weed and how and why we make those judgments. “I feel that my slightly weedy garden also reflects who I am as a person: I welcome anything new and unplanned, and have no taste for anything strictly regulated and angular,” she writes. “I like letting nature take its course.” That style may not be for every gardener, but it does pose the question of whether we should be more relaxed about wild plants in our living spaces. They feed the bees and other wildlife, and many are also edible. Finding space to garden is typically far easier for people in rural areas than for those who live in cities. I love walking around Halifax and spotting the many ways gardeners are creating green spaces for food or ornamental plants. It could be raised beds in a tiny front yard, a collection of buckets planted with tomatoes or a community garden where everyone comes together to grow and share food. In The Philosophy of Gardening, there are several essays that focus on urban gardening and re-purposing spaces like a former freeway in San Francisco or planting roadside strips in London. These lessons are universal and can be applied to any city or town. Another trend in gardening, especially during the pandemic, is the desire to grow heritage vegetables, varieties from the past. The benefits of these plants is featured in the essay “Planting,
Saving and Propagating Heritage Vegetables” by Annette Hollander. Heirloom varieties are grown for their rich flavours, diversity and open-pollinated seeds that can be saved from year to year. I love growing them for their history, the stories that connect us to the past and for the generation of future gardeners who will enjoy them in the years to come. ■ NIKI JABBOUR is an award-winning public speaker, broadcaster (The Weekend Gardener on News 95.7 in Halifax) and author of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, Groundbreaking Food Gardens and Niki Jabbour's Veggie Garden Remix. She also writes for magazines like Fine Gardening, Horticulture and Birds & Blooms.
Follow Your Narrative Arc To Beautiful Prince Edward Island
Join us physically or virtually!
August 26-29, 2021 Presenters Include: • El Jones • Cynthia Good • Lynn Henry • David Huebert • Patti Larsen • Deirdre Kessler
• Shaun Bradley • Tara MacLean • Trevor Corkum
For the complete list of presenters, more information and to register, visit: www.wildthreadsliteraryfestival.com
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
021 23:01 Page 1
Spring into adventure with Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides!
A rich and resonant tall tale that celebrates imagination even as it underscores enduring truths. * Kirkus, starred review
Bill Richardson and Bill Pechet bring you a tale of love, self-reliance and innkeeping, as heartwarming as it is hilarious. 9781927917381 / $22.95
9781927917398 / $12.95 Running the Goat’s books are distributed in Canada by Nimbus Publishing. www.runningthegoat.com
YOUNG READERS Atlantic Books Today
Young reader reviews by Jo-Anne Elder and Lisa Doucet
LE RETOUR DU CAPITAINE BABOUNE
LA PROMESSE DU BOUT DU MONDE
Michel Ouellette Bouton d’or Acadie (Ages 7-11)
When Loïc decides to take a break from trying to learn how to ride his bike—or perhaps abandoning what seems to be a near-impossible task—he does not get the rest he expected. As he lies on the grass reading, he is taken away on an imaginative adventure. He meets Portagne the dragon, who leads him away to the park. There they discover the Étoile noire, the ship that belongs to Capt. Baboune (Captain Crankypants in English), perched in the upper branches of a tree. At the sight of this old, abandoned boat, with its sails patched together, and strange noises coming from it, Loïc and Portagne decide to walk away. But a talking crow, Mélisse, grabs their attention. She convinces the friends to help the children aboard. Loïc is familiar with the captain, and ready to save the world from his latest nasty tricks. This time, Capt. Baboune has been kidnapping children during the night and locking them up in his ship. While the boy and his new-found friend hide in a closet, the ship is carried off by dark storm clouds. The adventure has just begun and it already feels like a nightmare! When will they wake up? Will Loïc learn to ride his bike? This book is lively, exciting and invites children to imagine their own adventures. I recommend it for children eight years and above. The book is short; the story is easy to follow and amusing. This is the third in a series of books featuring Loïc, his brother Arnaud, Portagne and Captain Crankypants, and children may want to read the previous books in order to understand the references. This is a good choice for French Immersion students in Grade 4 and up, as well as francophone elementary students.
Danielle S Marcotte Bouton d’or Acadie (Ages 12-18)
In 1786, Alexis is working hard on a sailing ship that has left England for North America. He is 15 years old. His father and brother have crossed the Atlantic, and his mother and sister have died. Despite the harsh conditions and equally harsh attitudes of the adult crew members, Alexis and his friend Hugh appreciate their jobs: they have food to eat, are learning a trade and can travel the world. While Hugh seeks freedom, Alexis also hopes he will be able to keep his promise of returning to Acadie, his family’s homeland before the Expulsion. The journey results in more adventure and more struggle than he expected. At one stop, he and Hugh are given tasks to do on land. Alexis becomes lost in the forest, has to hide from the cougar that has attacked his friend and misses the ship’s departure. An Indigenous girl who is the sole survivor of smallpox in her village cares for him. Together, Alexis and the girl bury her dead, find local foods and plant remedies and communicate in an invented language. After several months, Alexis’ youth and strength and the girl’s knowledge of botany earn them a place on another ship. When he and the girl land in California, he is reunited with Hugh. The three friends live and work with a mixed Spanish and Indigenous family. But eventually, Alexis has to make the hard decision to leave the others and continue his travels. His perilous voyages are reminiscent of the fate many Acadians encountered in the second half of the 18th century. This book combines a captivating historical tale with welldrawn characters. It will capture the interest of high school immersion students and francophones aged 12 and up.
JO-ANNE ELDER has translated more than 20 works of poetry, theatre, film, fiction and non-fiction from French to English and has been shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award for translation three times. She and her husband, Aboriginal artist Carlos Gomes, live with their large family in Fredericton. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today YOUNG READERS
Briana Corr Scott Nimbus Publishing (Ages 3-7)
A woman who lives in a house by the sea longs for a child. When she finds and plants a wish-granting seed, this dearest hope of her heart comes to pass and a wee tiny child emerges, her own beautiful wildflower. As the baby grows, so does the mother’s love for her. But eventually this flower child yearns to follow the wind and the birds, to be free and “live like a wildflower.” So she sets off into the world where she revels in nature’s glory … until winter comes. A mouse and a mole provide her with shelter from the cold, but the mole can’t accept that she is a wildflower and needs to be free. Her own dear mother knows this to be true and when her beloved wildflower eventually finds her way home, her mother is waiting for her with love and a very special gift. A touching and tender retelling of Thumbelina, this book features exquisite illustrations, lovely and lilting poetry and a heartwarming message. The images are varied, alternating between dark backgrounds with interesting shadows and bursts of light, and magnificent spreads of soft and inviting floral abundance. Corr Scott fills these pages with wildflower images that are light-infused and saturated with bright colours. Each page is a visual treat that captures the beauty of the natural world in all its untamed glory. The repeated refrain of “you cannot own a wildflower” is a haunting and poignant reminder: that nature’s gifts are to be shared (not owned) by all, and that loving someone often means letting go. NO MORE PLASTIC
Alma Fullerton Pajama Press (Ages 4-7)
Alma Fullerton makes a poignant plea in No More Plastic, the story of a girl who takes a firm stand against pollution. When Isley wakes up one morning to sounds of distress, she races to the shore where a beached right whale has died, the victim of the plastic that filled its stomach.
Deeply saddened by the senseless loss, Isley is also angry and becomes determined to help keep the ocean that she loves clean and safe for all the creatures that live there. She convinces her family to say no to plastic. She makes signs and writes letters. And when the people around her start to forget about how important these efforts are, Isley makes a dramatic statement that reminds her family, friends and neighbours that they must keep working diligently towards the goal of a world without plastic. In prose that is precise and measured, Fullerton conveys Isley’s anguish, frustration and resolve. She also points out how quickly people can forget about something when the original sense of urgency dissipates. But Isley doesn’t forget. She remains committed to making the necessary changes to protect the ocean and its denizens, and her striking visual reminder inspires her community to take action. The vibrant, richly coloured illustrations are lush and beautifully textured, and the fact that Fullerton used repurposed plastic to create them increases their impact. Set on Prince Edward Island, this vivid and inspiring book is a compelling call to action and a powerful reminder that we can— and must!—all make a difference. DISASTER AT THE HIGHLAND GAMES
Riel Nason, Illustrated by Nathasha Pilotte Chocolate River Publishing (Ages 4-10)
Kate loves learning to “turn out and point/high cut and leap/assemble change, change/and hop, brush, beat, beat” at her weekly highland dance class. When her teacher suggests that she compete in the upcoming Highland Games, she is thrilled. Kate promises to practice so she will be ready for the competition, but soon discovers that practicing by herself at home isn’t nearly as much fun. She assures her mother that she’s “good enough already.” When she gets to the Games, all is well, at first. But then comes the sword dance. Soon Kate’s lack of practice becomes readily apparent … and sets off a riotous chain of events that will make these Highland Games truly unforgettable. This high-spirited and rollicking tale captures the festive energy of the traditional Highland Games, noting the various elements from the caber toss to the wool-spinning demonstrations, and from the Celtic music to the kiltmakers. All of these and more become part of the merry mayhem as the errant sword that Kate accidentally kicks leads to complete chaos.
YOUNG READERS Atlantic Books Today
The story is light and humorous and features lively, expressive watercolour illustrations that cheerfully depict the havoc that Kate wreaks. Loose lines and sketchy outlines, along with exaggerated facial expressions and cartoony characters lend a further air of whimsy. The rhyming text suits the playful tone of the tale but doesn’t always flow smoothly and feels forced at times. Yet words and images combine to create a frolicsome tale of hilarity and hijinks, one where the main character learns her lesson, but isn’t too fazed by it all. HARE B&B
Bill Richardson, illustrated by Bill Pechet Running the Goat Books & Broadsides (Ages 6-8)
Harriet (who is best known as Harry) proves to be a truly wonderful big sister when her mother has septuplets. Seven is a lot, as Harry’s father proclaims, but Harry loves her identical brothers and sisters and happily helps with their care. However, their familial bliss comes to an abrupt end when the children come home from a walk one day to discover that their parents have been the victims of a coyote disguised as an encyclopedia salesperson. Harry is heartbroken but pragmatic. She knows that she and her siblings will have to fend for themselves. So they decide to rent out their parents’ room and become the Hare B&B. Harry et al put their assorted talents to good use and their B&B becomes a huge success. But when a homely rabbit comes knocking, Harry suspects trouble and the Hare siblings soon must come up with a plan to thwart their devious guest’s evil intentions. In this latest offering from highly acclaimed author Bill Richardson, sly humour and subtle whimsy result in an offbeat tale of family love, hotel hijinks and crises averted (with molasses and feathers, no less!). The text is economical and understated (with droll references such as the Hares advertising via twitter aka their bird friends) and the sketchy, stylized illustrations are detailed and busy. It is a tale of sibling resourcefulness that offers up positive messages about overcoming fear, for as Harry wisely reminds her nownervous brothers and sisters, “There is nothing that a smart hare with a good plan cannot accomplish.” Not unlike Grimm’s Fairy Tales, it is surprisingly dark for its intended audience, but provides a progressive approach to justice for the Hares’ ill-meaning guest.
LM Nicodemo, illustrated by Graham Ross Formac Publishing (Ages 6-10)
Maximus Todd can’t understand why his mother has woken him up at 5:00 am, until he remembers what day it is. Today is the day that he and his family will embark on their annual camping trip to Camp Friendly Pines! This year’s trip promises to be better than ever since Max’s best friend Shiv will be coming too. If only Mary Beth Bokely wasn’t coming with her parents. Max is determined not to let Mary Beth get him down. But when he gets stung by a bee and caught in a sudden rainstorm, he finds himself facing an attack of his infamous super fidgets. Max knows that the best way to calm the super fidgets is to come up with a game to occupy his mind. This time he sets himself an adding challenge. Will this game help Max overcome his super fidgets? Or will it end up costing him his nightly helping of s‘mores? This new entry in The Secret Games of Maximus Todd series evokes all the joys (and challenges) of family holidays and summer camping trips. With short sentences, plenty of white space on each page and lively black and white illustrations, it is a perfect book for emergent readers who will be equally drawn in by the briskly paced plot and engaging, relatable characters. The series is also noteworthy for its dyslexia-friendly features (including font and paper stock) and its thoughtful depiction of Max and his ADHD, which he calls his super fidgets. Max’s ability to recognize when he is struggling and his strategy for coping provide a positive role model, and the fact that his friends are ready and willing to support him is heartwarming. But ultimately it is the camping adventure itself, with all its ups and downs, that make this book a definite hit for its intended audience.
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today YOUNG READERS
ONCE UPON AN ICEBERG: ERROL’S TWILLINGATE ADVENTURE
Sheilah Lukins, illustrated by Laurel Keating Breakwater Books (Ages 7-12)
When Errol (an adventure-loving mouse) finds himself cornered by a large, black dog he fears the worst. But much to his surprise, it turns out that he has actually made a new friend. Gus lives down the lane and when he invites Errol to go to Twillingate for the weekend with him and his family, Errol is ecstatic. He convinces his parents to let him go, buries himself in the fur above Gus’ collar and heads off! As he learns more about his new canine friend, Errol discovers that Gus’ father, whom he has never met, was from Twillingate. Gus longs to find his father but is never given the chance to explore. Errol vows to help. While he searches high and low for a dog that matches Gus’ description of his father, he encounters icebergs and rogue waves, hitches a ride in a pizza box and climbs to the very top of a great lighthouse. Finally, just before they head home to Beachy Cove Drung, Errol helps Gus get his wish at last. In this latest entry in Sheilah Lukins’ early chapter book series about Errol’s ongoing exploits, our feisty and kindhearted hero is as intrepid as ever. The chapters are short and action-packed, perfect for holding the attention of young readers. Errol is plucky and determined but also caring and thoughtful (he brings a treasure from the sea home to his mother). The plot is brisk and fast-paced with just the right amount of danger mixed in for good measure. Laurel Keating’s soft and lively illustrations are richly coloured and jewel-toned, featuring bold outlines and vivid facial expressions. Together, the text and illustrations tell a delightful tale that emergent readers will savour. MY YEAR AS A SPACE CADET
Hope Dalvay Acorn Press (Ages 8-12)
After her successful summer as a babysitter/camp counsellor, Page is now ready to face her next adventure … in SPACE (sort of!). Shale Pit Academy of Creativity & Excellence (not-so-affectionately known as SPACE) is the new school she will be attending as she spends her first full year on PEI. 32
It is an action-packed year for sure as she learns to skate and attends her first semi-formal dance, repeatedly demonstrates her ineptitude at sports, earns the nickname of “Hulk” for her eyecatching green snowsuit, tries to solve her Secret Santa mystery and becomes the reluctant captain of her class’s trivia team. As she muddles her way through these and other events, she manages to make new friends, learn a few things about herself and accomplish a major victory: changing the name of the school. Page’s exploits in this followup to Welcome to Camp Fill-in-theBlank are fun-filled and highly entertaining. As she comes to terms with the fact that she is “not cool,” she gamely rises to each new challenge (and experiences more success with some than others). Author Hope Dalvay depicts junior high in a small town with humour and authenticity, and has filled her book with a delightful assortment of characters. Page is a quirky and goodnatured protagonist who is also adapting to her first Canadian winter (hence the snowsuit) along with the usual uncertainties associated with being the “new kid,” especially in a community where it seems like everyone knows everyone else. Page’s relationship with her young cousins is delightful and whether or not readers have read the previous book, they will enjoy this witty and warmhearted tale. THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE
Chad Lucas Amulet Books (Ages 10-14)
While Brian doesn’t have any big plans for his 13th birthday, the universe has other ideas. He wakes up to find his father gone (fleeing from the police) and his mother having overdosed on her medications. By the day’s end, he and his brother Richie are in a foster home and he is reeling and uncertain who to trust and where to turn. Ezra figures that the key to surviving junior high is finding friends who can make you laugh but will also have your back. He’s
YOUNG READERS Atlantic Books Today
grateful for his pals and the good times they have together. But things haven’t seemed the same lately between he and his best friend Colby. Now more than ever, he wants to be able to talk to Colby. Brian and Ezra have been basketball teammates and sort-of friends all year. Ezra realizes that he might like Brian as more than just a friend. But when he discovers the enormity of what Brian is going through, he does his best to provide friendship and support, in a variety of ways. As both boys wrestle with their own uncertainties and fears, they each discover hope and help in unexpected places … as well as from the people they love. In lucid prose and alternating chapters, Brian and Ezra relate their stories … and firmly weave their way into readers’ hearts. Chad Lucas has created a magnificent cast of authentic and endearing characters. The adults (including Brian’s parents) are realistically flawed but also genuinely doing their best to help in difficult circumstances. Lucas brilliantly captures the insecurities and drama of junior high: how it can be such a time of change and growth and sometimes growing apart. Yet he also depicts the power and beauty of friendship and of family. Brian’s social anxiety is vividly rendered as is his complicated but unwavering love for his family. His desire to show Sergeant States that, while his father may be going to prison, he is still a great dad, is deeply touching and speaks volumes about how messy and imperfect all families can be. While there is genuine pain and suffering in this book, the love and kindness shines most brightly. Ezra and Brian are unforgettable and their story is truly heartwarming and uplifting. THE LAST TIME I SAW HER
Alexandra Harrington Nimbus Publishing (Ages 12-16)
When Charlotte returns to her home in River John after a year away at a posh boarding school, she knows there won’t be any warm welcomes waiting for her. Having left without saying a word to anyone, she knows that her best friend Sophie likely hates her now. Not only did Charlotte vanish without a trace, she did so just weeks after the car accident that left Sophie in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. And given that Charlotte can’t even tell Sophie why she left, the chances of them rebuilding their now-shattered friendship are slim, which Sophie makes abundantly clear. At least Charlotte still has her older brother, Sean, the only family she has left, and she also reconnects with Max, Sophie’s
ex who also seems to be in need of a friend. As Charlotte tries to figure out how to fix things with Sophie, how to help Sean pay the bills and how to deal with the reason she left River John in the first place, Max’s support is the one thing she can depend on. But the two of them start to question the events surrounding Sophie’s accident and things quickly spiral out of control. The myriad of revelations that follow will leave none of them unscathed. Chock-full of secrets and betrayals and tragic consequences, Alexandra Harrington’s debut novel is a finely tuned family drama with multiple layers of mystery. The various relationships are realistically complex and nuanced, from Charlotte’s relationship with her brother to her burgeoning relationship with Max and her now-broken relationship with Sophie. There are numerous shocking reveals throughout the book as readers slowly learn the various twists at play and as Charlotte and Max begin to piece together how so many seemingly disconnected events may actually be deeply intertwined. While the large number of dramatic revelations may stretch credulity at times, everything ultimately comes together in a tense and sensational climax. ■ 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.
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NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
THESE BOOKS WERE REVIEWED FROM ADVANCED GALLEYS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHERS.
Munju Ravindra reviews a work of contemporary eastern gothic
jumped at the chance to review this book, a contemporary gothic fiction inspired by the true story of Nova Scotia’s notorious Goler clan. The Golers!? I took on the review with a train-wreck curiosity. I was 13 when the Goler story broke, and like many Nova Scotian teens of the time, was morbidly fascinated with the tales of incest, crime and poverty emanating from the Annapolis Valley—land of fresh corn and the Apple Blossom Festival. Bogeymen? Here? It seemed impossible. Becca Babcock’s debut novel, One Who Has Been Here Before, tells the tale of nerdy Emma G Weaver, an Edmonton-based Master’s student doing a historical auto-ethnography of the Gaugin clan, Babcock’s stand-in for the Golers of history. It doesn’t take long to realize that Emma’s middle initial G stands for Gaugin, and that she had been adopted out after local authorities broke up the clan, putting the children into foster homes. Emma travels to Nova Scotia, where most of the novel takes place as she searches through archives, newspaper clippings, local genealogical society resources and her own hazy memory to try to piece together the story of the Gaugin clan. As a plotline, this research process should be boring, but Babcock handles it deftly, sewing pieces of archival research (a newspaper article, a first-person account, a diary entry) into the story as she peels off the layers of the onion, revealing Emma’s history as the protagonist herself uncovers it. It is not dramatic, but it is compelling. The Weavers foster and later adopt Emma, eventually moving her to Alberta. The Gaugin compound is abandoned when the clan is raided and falls into disrepair. Emma has siblings, but the only one she seems to remember is her sister, who was first fostered with her by the Weavers then taken away by social workers, and lost to Emma. Babcock makes it clear to the reader that, in addition to trying to please her thesis supervisors, Emma is trying to find her sister. But Emma herself seems oblivious to her deeper quest. She battles her own self-loathing with sporadic bursts of yoga, phone calls home to her ever-reassuring adoptive family and what she calls her “swagger”—a brassy cover-up of her inner squashed bug, showing up as when she dismissively tells the local archivist that her research project is “just some boring local history. Kind of bullshit.” I confess I didn’t fall for Emma, as I do with many protagonists. She reminded me of an early Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones fame, carrying a dark past that could have made her strong if she had confronted it, but spending an awful lot of her story waiting for someone else to make the first move. Emma annoyed me, but Babcock’s writing did not.
ONE WHO HAS BEEN HERE BEFORE
Becca Babcock Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press
Babcock perfectly nails Emma’s anxiety, casting her as fuzzy, untethered, uncertain of her feelings, as if clouded in a haze of the Lorazepam she keeps in her purse and tries not to take. Emma’s anxiety was so well-crafted, I found myself holding my breath along with her throughout much of the novel, wondering when the dark secret implied in the title would finally be revealed. It turns out it’s not that dark. Despite ominous chapter titles like “The Woodsman and the Wolf ” and “The Bread Crumb Trail,” there is no wolf or witch lurking in Emma’s past. Save for a single 100-year-old allusion to two “cousins”—suspected to in fact be siblings—marrying, there is not even the expected incest. What Emma does find is precisely what she pretends she isn’t looking for—her sister, Heather: older, tight-lipped, defensive and brave. It is Heather who facilitates Emma’s personal and family discovery, opening the door not only to the latter’s memories, but also to a reunion with their long-lost mother. It is Heather who forces Emma to rethink whether it is bogeymen she is actually searching for, or herself. The pleasure of Babcock’s novel is her writing. The story is peppered with delightful detail, revealing Babcock’s careful observation of life. She digs into the particulars of birdsong in one place, and of sugary cereal in another. These details don’t move the story forward, but they add focus and colour to the otherwise hazy world Emma occupies. Babcock’s characters are real and skillfully crafted, foibles and all. They are people you know, and probably love, even if you wish you didn’t. ■ MUNJU RAVINDRA lives by the sea outside Halifax. She works as a conservation biologist; but reads (and occasionally writes), in her spare time.
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Evelyn C White reviews a powerful biography from the father of Rehteah Parsons
ehtaeh—It’s a name rooted in whimsy that would give rise to global headlines. As a child, Leah Parsons, with crayons in hand, made a card for her cousin Heather. Project finished, she happily affixed the name Rehtaeh to the vibrant art piece. “Everyone laughed, but not Leah,” writes Glen Canning in his powerful book My Daughter Rehtaeh Parsons. “[She] said that when she had a little girl, the child would be called Rehtaeh.” Translation: Heather spelled backwards. In a riveting narrative co-authored with journalist Susan McClelland, Canning chronicles the catastrophic events that led to the attempted suicide of his child, on April 4, 2013. Taken off life-support, the aspiring marine biologist, age 17, died three days later. Several of Rehtaeh’s organs were donated to patients then in urgent need of transplant surgery. “Thank you for your letter,” Canning writes, in the volume, to the youth who received Rehtaeh’s heart. “Go far, enjoy your life to the fullest, and dance as often as you can.” Respectively employed as a Navy diver and an animal rights advocate, Canning and Leah Parsons welcomed the arrival of their daughter (nicknamed Rae) in December 1995. “We both wanted Rae, and we believed we were meant to come together, not romantically, but for a child,” Canning writes, noting that the couple, “better friends than partners,” maintained a tight bond after Rae’s birth. In mid-November 2011, Canning received news that Rehtaeh, then age 15, and a student at Cole Harbour High School, had been sexually assaulted by several local boys while at a party. One of the alleged perpetrators then posted on social media a photo of Rae, half-naked and inebriated. The cellphone image also revealed a grinning boy with his pelvis thrust against the teen’s exposed backside and giving a thumbs up to the camera. The film Promising Young Woman (2020), starring Carey Mulligan turns on a similar incident. “Most of that evening was a blackout for Rae,” Canning writes. “She knew she woke up the next morning on a bed … between two boys she didn’t know. … Her clothes were on backwards. … Rae told Leah, then later on me, and eventually the police, that she didn’t know what exactly had happened.” The lurid photo of Rehtaeh Parsons soon went viral. “Rae had learned that the boys were sending the picture around and boasting how they got lucky,” Canning writes. “But it was the girls, including friends Rae had believed she could trust, who were relentless in their attacks over text and social media, calling her a slut. Rae [wanted] the picture confiscated and the cyber harassment to stop so she could return to school.” The image continued to gain traction as Rehtaeh, increasingly distraught, transferred from one Halifax area high school
MY DAUGHTER REHTAEH PARSONS
Glen Canning with Susan McClelland Goose Lane Editions
to another. Claiming their inability to lay sexual assault charges against the boys, the police effectively threw up their hands. “Leah and I tried to console [Rae], but she was almost catatonic, murmuring over and over again, ‘This will follow me everywhere,’” writes Canning in a saga that takes unexpected turns. He continues: “The medical report had come back stating that there was anal tearing. … Nonetheless, a different narrative had emerged around Rae. … She had gone to that house to have sex with those boys and couldn’t handle the shaming that came afterward. She wasn’t raped, other parents started messaging us; she was conniving and manipulative.” In a bold move, Canning offers a sampling of the odious messages that drove his once ebullient child to hang herself. “Loser, whore,” stated one. “…Good for only one thing: a gangbang,” declared another. He also recounts, to equally damning effect, her failed treatment at a Halifax mental health facility for adolescents. The death of Rehtaeh Parsons garnered worldwide media attention and prompted changes in Canadian laws related to child pornography, cyberbullying and sexual violence. Canning notes that his daughter’s remains were interred at a Dartmouth cemetery. Her gleaming black marble tombstone features the words “Forever Loved.” Now in their mid to late twenties, Rehtaeh’s alleged assailants were never prosecuted for sexual assault. Among others, the author pays tribute to the late RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who supported the Canning/Parsons families throughout their ordeal. A mother of two, Stevenson was slain, in the line of duty, during the April 2020 mass killing in rural Nova Scotia. ■ EVELYN C WHITE is a journalist and author whose books include Chain, Chain, Change: For Black Women in Abusive Relationships (Seal Press, 1985), and the biography Alice Walker: A Life (W. W. Norton & Company, 2004). A former reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, she lives in Halifax. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
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Ray Fernandes reviews a celebration of African Nova Scotian culture “Mrs. Viola L. Parsons did a great thing in writing My Grandmother’s Days in 1987. She became one of the few Scotians—African-Nova Scotians or Africadians—to tell younger people how our culture developed and of what it once consisted.” —George Elliott Clarke, foreword to the 2020 edition
iola Parsons’ book My Grandmother’s Days was originally published in 1988. Her account of being raised by her grandmother at her home in Lucasville, Nova Scotia, could be considered essential reading in helping to build a better understanding of the history of our province, and of the African Nova Scotian experience of the early 1900s. Viola Parsons moved with her sister to Lucasville, just outside of Halifax, in 1929, a couple of years after the death of her parents, to live with her grandmother. She provides vivid and detailed descriptions of life on her grandmother’s farm, describing rural life and community. She recounts milking cows, making cream, churning butter, picking apples and berries, bailing hay, feeding and watering the cows and horses. Life was a series of activities following nature’s seasons. She writes, “We learned to knit, sew, patch, darn and cook,” and dozens of other essential agricultural skills required to be self-sufficient. Despite the poverty of the time, the agricultural base of her home and community always put plenty of food on the table. These were her “happy days,” cherished years living with her grandmother. “It was a close-knit family, caring and sharing,” she writes. “Grandmother was a loving, kind and a hard worker. She was the mother of thirteen. Now she was taking on the responsibility of mothering her grandchildren. God had blessed and spared her to take care of us until we were on our own.” She learned the pride of home, devotion to family and respect for church and community. Her book chronicles the customary “Africadian lifestyle,” writes Nova Scotian poet George Elliott Clarke in the forward to this new edition, published by the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute. It describes a time when many African Nova Scotians lived in multi-generational self-built homes with small farms or gardens and animals on small, rural plots around a church. They relied on community, creativity, resourcefulness and faith in God. It is hard not to be charmed by Viola Parsons’ downhome sensibilities and her warm and relaxed writing. To read her words is like sitting down in your grandmother’s home with a cup of tea, as she recounts stories about the beauty and simplicity of the old days. In so many ways that life was hard, but you can’t help but long for that innocence and simplicity. Few copies of the original edition of the book exist in schools and public libraries in Nova Scotia. It was released at a time when 36
MY GRANDMOTHER’S DAYS
Viola L Parsons Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute
there were few books being published by African Nova Scotian or BIPOC writers, a trend that continues to this day. The book holds special significance during this time of pandemic, as people are forced to remain close to home, and the meaning of community, family, thrift and self-reliance take on new value. There seems to be a newfound love of the old ways and a focus on re-learning traditional skills like sewing, gardening, carpentry or cooking from scratch. In his forward, George Elliot Clarke highlights that racism is not mentioned, that “one must read between the lines” to get a sense of the discrimination that existed. This sentiment is especially important in the face of Black Lives Matters’ struggles against police brutality and the erasure and invisibility of African Nova Scotian history. As a “come from away” from Ontario, I did not learn in school, nor was I exposed to the history of African Nova Scotians, a history that goes back generations to the founding of this province. As an East-Indian kid growing up in the suburbs of Toronto in the 80s, racism and being told to “go back to your own country” was a daily part of life. Arriving in Nova Scotia and learning African Nova Scotia history was inspiring and empowering, armour against a racist sentiment that had informed me for much of my life that my brown skin did not belong. I immediately felt an affinity and was grateful to the self-affirmation African Nova Scotia history provided. Viola Parsons’ book chronicles an important part of African Nova Scotian history, but it is all our history; one of simplicity and survival, living off the land, our early rural life, that would appeal to both children and adults. ■ RAY FERNANDES is a youth services librarian who lives in Halifax.
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Gloria Ann Wesley reviews what was lost beyond bricks and mortar
manda Carvery-Taylor has used her talents as a photographer to capture the images of former Africville residents, placing faces on a collage of joyful recollections. The positivity former residents express reveals how treasured their memories have become. A Love Letter to Africville informs readers of how parents allowed their children freedom to explore their environment, the love of neighbours who looked after each other without feeling inconvenienced and the fun of swimming, fishing, building bonfires, playing baseball or belonging to organized groups such as Girl Guides, cubs, scouts or cadets. In this book we discover the hospitality of people towards family, acquaintances and strangers. We learn of adults who were hard working, resourceful, looking inward and searching for ways to get by. Who enjoyed a good party. And who highly valued the safety within the confines of Bedford Basin.
Most importantly, we learn of the investitures of the holy spirit found at Sunday church services and baptisms, guiding their steps and lifting them out of despair. Forget all the dismal negative images of Africville and the prejudices that fed the neglect that led to its demise. CarveryTaylor has found a light in the hidden recesses of the hearts of descendants and former residents. What she achieves with her stories and photos is an illumination of how much more Africville was. It was the pillar stone for good mental health and the stability of people who were hard put upon. More than a love letter, this book is a record of what was lost, beyond bricks and mortar, beyond the tangible. The lightness of the telling of everyday life satisfies our curiosity, our need to know what city officials missed. Beyond the community of broken wooden structures, muddy roads and a familial church.
Africville, the place where love blossomed, as wondrously as the tall red gladiolas that have become symbols of the residents’ care and appreciation for what they had. Homes can be rebuilt, but a community that evolved over time can never be restored. Hence, the importance of recording the truth tellers and keepers of what was so profoundly important. ■ GLORIA ANN WESLEY is the author of three books of poetry, two historical novels for young adults (Chasing Freedom was shortlisted for the Ann Connor Brimer Award and If This Is Freedom was selected for One Book Nova Scotia), a children’ s book, and Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Africville, a middle-grade nonfiction book.
Ray Cronin reviews multitudinous voices of art history
he title Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador uses “an” with deliberation. The book’s editor, Mireille Eagan, is clear about that: “the cultural histories of Newfoundland and Labrador should be told in many voices.” And it is, with 18 contributors telling many histories from many perspectives. How did Newfoundland’s only university art school end up in Corner Brook rather than St. John’s? This book tells you that. Why were Labrador’s Inuit excluded from the federal programs and support that made Inuit art such a vital economic driver for the other Inuit nations in Canada? That’s covered as well. As are stories of colonization, the slave trade, genocide, economic oppression, crushing poverty, artist-run initiatives, cultural aspirations, collections and more.
This book is weighty—literally and metaphorically. It’s also a pleasure to read and leaf through. With over 180 images of works spanning almost the entire history of human occupation of Newfoundland and Labrador (the oldest work illustrated is from the Dorset culture, about a thousand years old, the newest date from 2019) this is a resource like no other. I can’t think of a book on Canadian art anything like it. One would be forgiven for expecting this to be a chronological listing of events, the conventional type of history we are all familiar with from school days. But Future Possible is anything but that. After a foreword and three introductions (including the Andy Jones monologue that provided the book’s title), the first “art historical text” is Heather Igloliorte’s fascinating account of how Nunatsiavut (Labrador
Inuit) art was ignored for decades by the art establishment but nonetheless thrived. Bushra Junaid looks at the links between the slave trade and Newfoundland, and later on Craig Francis Power celebrates the contrariness and criticality of artist-run culture. These stories are told by curators, historians, writers, artists and performers. Many voices may not make a light book, but this multivalent web of histories will certainly stand the test of time. ■ RAY CRONIN is a Nova Scotia-based writer, curator and editor. He is the author of nine books, including Maud Lewis: Creating an Icon and Mary Pratt: Life & Work. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
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Vashti Campbell reviews transcendent connected collection
essi MacEachern’s debut work, A Number of Stunning Attacks, transcends the bounds of a collection of poetry. It is a collection of interconnecting stories, enjambed within sparse poetic verse. The writing itself—the crafting of story-within-poem—is its own series of stunning attacks; imagery jumps off the page, stark and beautiful and insistent: “Eventual moonlight collides with the wall” and “Bridal dresses chlorinate the night.” Language dances across the page, playful yet never prosaic. Filled with spaciousness and enveloped within dropped lines, her work builds upon itself and is simultaneously deconstructed by itself. It is Meta, self-referential in the most unpretentious ways. Like light refracting within a prism, it is an interplay of its own existence. These poems are “shards” (a metaphor
MacEachern returns to repeatedly) of the reflected whole within which they exist, fractured fragments not unlike a shattered mirror still in its frame, broken pieces that are connected but with sharp edges. Images are in turn obscured by and obscuring the structure of the story. Contradictions and confrontations of text are formed through the writer’s multifaceted juxtapositions. Her themes transgress— step through and into—Oneness, duality and collectivity; light, dark and colour; Beingness, non-being and consciousness; dream, subjective realness and the concrete; the inner, the outer and the liminal. This is a sensual sensory journey and MacEachern writes with a rhythm that brings the reader into the felt-sense of her world, and holds us captive there in the stillness of her spaces. MacEachern explores the page—spatially—and themes of sexuality, gender and desire. She presents relationships to
self and others as if they are aromatic notions caught in the breeze, drawing the reader’s attention curiously toward them. A nameless protagonist dreams. She comes more fully into Being, experiencing agency and intimacy. Hers is the story—a truth—of Being women. In MacEachern’s text, the spaces between words are as important as the words themselves. And this, I believe, is the point. Attacks is worth reading a second time—once as introduction to a new environment and the second for the sake of wonder at her immersive world. ■ VASHTI CAMPBELL is a non-binary, queer Newfoundlander completing their PhD at the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial University studying intersectionality, social justice and psychiatry.
Guyleigh Johnson reviews a book that debunks old stereotypes “
hese communities nurtured midwives, politicians, lawyers, artists, doctors, educators, firefighters, police and correctional officers, administrators, crafts people, clergy, entrepreneurs, writers, world class boxers and hockey players, and a senator.” That was a powerful paragraph for me to read in the first couple of pages. Our whole lives we navigated through educational systems where we were only told that Black people were slaves, or that slavery in Canada never existed. Which results in self-hate for us, and this notion that Canada served as a saviour for Black people. And it creates a lie around our experience in this country. It also made me think of the importance of diversity and inclusion in media, and how narrative and perspective matter and for so long have shaped the very stereotypes/stigmas Black people in this province face daily. For all of the times that Preston was mentioned
in the media, which conveyed only negative messages, this book to me served as a reset in authentic material that reflected the generation of ancestors we come from. They were resilient, courageous, hardworking, creative and determined to pave a way. While reading this book, all I could imagine was how I would’ve felt receiving this as a history book in school. Rich in knowledge, educational material, heritage and pride, I smiled while learning so many new things that I could not wait to share with others. I believe all Canadians could gain something from reading this book. Just as we were only told one perspective about our experience, those same stereotypes/stigmas deceived the view of so many other people. They too internalized those beliefs about us, which have shaped the way we all interact. For Canadians who read this material, it can provide a sense of understanding,
cultural competence to a degree and empathy. Showcasing the significance of African Nova Scotians and our contributions to this province, and why we deserve to be seen and heard. This book was a reminder of the importance of collective work, community-led initiatives where our voice is centred, and that we have so many untold stories and experiences that need to be shared with the next generation, to continue building legacy. As I read this book, I felt like I was on a journey through time, a tour where I could envision where we are from, and the possibilities of where we can go. ■ GUYLEIGH JOHNSON is a poet/ spoken-word artist from North-end Dartmouth. She is the author of Afraid of the Dark and Expect the Unexpected: Stories from the North End.
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Stephanie Domet reviews a wealth of tidbits and anecdotes on arts in the Maritimes
he adage goes that if you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t there. But Clary Croft had a very different experience of the era, and he remembers it all—and more—in this gentle, affectionate memoir of his life in folk. Among the stories he tells early in this memoir is a quick remembrance of watching some friends hold down someone in the grip of a bad LSD trip, which was all he needed to see to steer clear of drugs himself. And anyway, Croft was on his own trip, front row and centre stage as folk music and folk tales grew into defining industries in Nova Scotia. Croft writes lovingly of his beginnings in music, messing around with friends, name-dropping those he worked with along the way, in the Privateers, The Musical Friends, and of course, on CBCTV’s Singalong Jubilee. You won’t find much dirt dished in these pages—though
Croft has some stern words for execs at CBC who “went in a different direction” with both the Jubilee and the Halifax-based radio program Mainstreet, cutting Croft loose from fun, well-paying gigs in the process. In the main, Croft’s stories are sweet and upbeat, and they give the reader glimpses into some of the most revered figures and institutions in the Maritimes, from Anne Murray to the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, from Helen Creighton to Sherbrooke Village. Generous, humble and very real about what a life in the music industry looks like in Nova Scotia—and for artists generally, as Croft is also a visual and textile artist, a writer and a stage and screen performer—Croft is good company in these pages. His interest in every kind of art, and his open approach, have stood him in good stead, with the happy result that Croft
has stories to tell about folk festival stages, radio, TV and recording studios, theatre productions and cultural events of all kinds. His curiosity and try-anything ethos bring him into contact with a who’s-who of musicians, actors, politicians and producers over more than five decades, and this book, arranged in chapters that focus on festivals, arts and crafts, writing and more, delivers a wealth of tidbits and anecdotes sure to please readers interested in Maritime life. ■ STEPHANIE DOMET is the author of the novels Homing and Fallsy Downsies, and the former host of CBC's Atlantic Airwaves and Mainstreet.
Annick MacAskill reviews Bren Simmers work of labour and inheritance “I know how hard it is to break a pattern, that we carry the unfinished work of our ancestors forward.” —“Inheritance” If, When is Prince Edward Island author Bren Simmers’ fourth book, her second with Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Press. A collection of poetry, If, When is deeply preoccupied with its speaker’s connection to her ancestors, and with connections in general. The book examines the labour within the different industries (mining, tourism and recreation) in and around Squamish, British Columbia, drawing on Simmers’ own experiences, as well as the stories of her great-grandparents, who immigrated to the mining town of Britannia in the early 20th century. Almost all the book’s poems are narrative lyrics, a standard mode for contemporary English-language Canadian poetry, though a few structural and stylistic choices set them apart. Most notably, the table of contents presents the poems in four categories—“Industry,” “Groundskeepers,” “Ancestors” and “Returns.” These categories
are not ordered linearly, but instead crisscross and overlap: the first poem “Accident, Lions Bay” appears in the grouping “Returns,” while the second, “Half-Life of a Company Town,” falls under “Industry,” and so on. In addition to their unconventional organization, the poems make frequent use of direct discourse, with quotations from speakers, signs, slogans and other text set off in italics, creating a sense of polyphony. Similarly, Simmers includes a surprising number of contrapuntal poems, in which columns or lines of text can be read in succession or together, lending themselves to multiple readings. All these choices serve to reinforce the overall themes of connections and interdependence. In its exploration of labour in a rural setting, If, When reminded me of another recent Gaspereau Press title, Boom Time by Newfoundland writer Lindsay Bird, as well as BC poet Kate Braid’s superb Turning Left to the Ladies, published by Palimpsest Press in
2009. Much like those collections, which depict their authors’ experiences working construction, Simmers centres the social ecosystems of the industries she represents. The emotional trajectory of If, When is perhaps its most complex trait. While the author communicates sympathy and even admiration for her ancestors, the book ends on a certain ambivalence (as suggested in its title) towards her settler heritage, leaving the reader to consider the long-lasting effects of capitalism and colonization. ■ ANNICK MacASKILL is a writer, poet and critic based in Halifax. Her poems have appeared in literary journals across Canada and abroad, and have been longlisted for the CBC’s Canada Writes Poetry Prize and The Fiddlehead’s Ralph Gustafson Prize, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of Murmurations and No Meeting Without Body. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
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y life has revolved around Halifax harbour, Mahone Bay, and my father, Frank Manual Leaman. We ran seven business together and that meant a lot of juggling. Often, I started my day in Dartmouth, across the harbour from Halifax, and ended it an hour’s drive away in the village of Chester on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. My father was a larger-than-life figure. He was a visionary. In the North End of Dartmouth, where he and I were both born, there is a street called Leaman Drive. We built that street. It almost broke us, but we built it. It was around 1953 or 1954 when my father bought about 225 acres of land in the area from the prominent Stairs family, made up of merchants and shippers. Believing that the area was going to grow, my father envisioned turning the land, home to Big Albro Lake and Little Albro Lake, into subdivisions. By selling two of these lots of land to a developer he got enough money to buy a hunting and fishing lodge in Chester in the late 1950s and enter the province’s adventure tourism business. It was a bright, sunny day at the courthouse in Chester when the sheriff’s hammer came down on the final bid that made my father the new owner of Owl’s Head Lodge and Tuna Camps in East Chester. We later changed the name to the Buccaneer Motel and Cottages, or as we liked to call it, the Buccaneer Lodge. —Excerpted from Tales from the Buccaneer Lodge by Frank Leaman. © by Frank Leaman. Published by Boulder Books. boulderbooks.ca
he next milestone for women came in 1980, when Alexa McDonough became the first female leader of a major party. She won a seat in the legislature a year later, and kept it until she resigned in 1995 to take a successful run at the federal NDP leadership. McDonough was a smart and energetic champion for social justice and a tireless thorn in the side of the Buchanan, Cameron and Savage governments. McDonough never achieved electoral success – the largest caucus she led was three – but she was a household name. Helen MacDonald was the second female party leader; she resigned less than a year later. The Liberals and Conservatives have never had a permanent female leader. The Conservatives have twice had a female interim leader: Karen Casey in 2009–2010 between Rodney MacDonald and Jamie Baillie, and Karla MacFarlane in 2018 between Baillie and Tim Houston. Casey later joined the Liberals and served in senior roles in the McNeil cabinet, including deputy premier. MacFarlane had the distinction of being the first female leader of the opposition. Maureen MacDonald was interim leader of the NDP after Darrell Dexter resigned in 2013, until Gary Burrill assumed the leadership in 2016. The Liberals have never had a female leader, whether permanent or interim. Diana Whalen came closest in 2007, losing the 2007 Liberal leadership to Stephen McNeil by only 68 votes on the final ballot. McNeil, of course, went on to the premiership. Whalen was named deputy premier in McNeil’s government, and carried the finance and justice portfolios. She did not reoffer in the 2017 election. —Excerpted from Nova Scotia Politics 1945-2020 by Graham Steele. Published by Pottersfield Press. pottersfieldpress.com
d, Ed Stefanovich, would be taking him up. Steady Eddie. He knew all the pilots; he’d been flying in these mountains for longer than he wanted to remember. –You got one of the Vulcan crews this time, eh? Ed said as they walked across the tarmac. –Skookum bunch of kids. Dave took em up last week. They’d told Ty that when they called him out; all the Wildfire Service crews were on other jobs. Since his back injury the year before, when he’d been off for four long months, he’d become an itinerant crew boss, flown in on relief or wherever they needed to cobble a crew together. Vulcan had a great rep; he’d heard only good things. –For pity’s sake, Parveen said after he’d sprained his back. –Last year your shoulder, this year your lumbar. You’ve been doing this half your life, sweetie. You’re getting too old. But thirty-seven wasn’t old. Some of the men he worked with were in their forties, even NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
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fifties, now they were calling out the retired veterans as well. The contract crews like Vulcan’s were younger, mostly college kids, though fighting fires year-round meant there was more of a mix. Every year was worse than the year before. He’d still been in college, back in 2017, when the province had the worst season in its history: 1,064 fires scorching over a million hectares of forest. That twenty-year-old record had long receded, along with his plans to teach anthropology. Firefighting paid better and meant steady work. —Excerpted from Hour of the Crab by Patricia Robertson. Published by Goose Lane Editions. gooselane.com
n Japanese baseball culture, preparation is key. There are some who believe that the more strenuous the training, the better. ‘The purpose of training,’ wrote Suisha Tobita, ‘is the forging of the soul. If the players do not try so hard as to vomit blood in practice, they cannot hope to win games. One must suffer to be good.’ Ichiro’s father agreed, and gave his son a glove when the boy was three. Daily workouts began when he was in the third grade. When the elder Suzuki handed his son off to high school coaches, he instructed them to be tough. ‘No matter how good Ichiro is, don’t ever praise him,’ he said. ‘We have to make him spiritually strong.’ The father-son relationship, Ichiro has said, ‘bordered on hazing.’ ‘Child abuse’ is another term he’s used. The son eventually cast off the father, and now the two do not speak. —Excerpted from The Only Way is the Steady Way: Essays on Baseball, Ichiro, and How We Watch the Game by Andrew Forbes. Published by Invisible Publishing. invisiblepublishing.com
y the time the company sold in 2007, Diagnostic Chemicals Limited had created more than 300 compounds and produced more than 200 diagnostic products and reagents. Combined with offshoot BioVectra, it boasted more than $37 million in sales. Founder Regis Duffy, known by those in the industry as 'the godfather of biotech,' ran his company with compassion and care. He also guided employees with the gentle direction of a teacher, not a CEO, encouraging them to become their own innovators, follow their own research interests, and build a case for the development of a product from research to manufacture. Regis always believed Prince Edward Island had the brainpower to do anything, and the province should not export its biggest asset—namely, Islanders—to Alberta, Quebec, or Ontario to work. In 1970, he never dreamed of the economic impact the biotech industry would have on PEI, but thanks in part to his companies, DCL and BioVectra, PEI has become an attractive place for biotech investors and entrepreneurs to launch start-ups and create innovative technologies. To Regis, his team was everything. They were the creators, the innovators, the people who put in the research hours and spent hot summers in the lab, the people who went out to markets and won the business. It was the environment and “the spirit of DCL,” as Joan Duffy calls it, that propelled the company forward. So when DCL sold, Regis and Joan did what they thought was right—they shared the proceeds. —Excerpted from The Chemistry of Innovation: Regis Duffy and the Story of DCL by Mo Duffy Cobb and Lori Mayne. Published by Island Studies Press. projects.upei.ca/isp.
mery looked around the room, moving only her eyes while keeping her head still, as a Keeper led her into the grand hall. She had never been in the Elite dining hall. She’d heard accounts from some of the others. It was usually the Olders, in the last division, who were put at the table to be tested, and as far as she could calculate, she was not yet considered an Older. But perhaps she had lost count of her years, or been too young to keep track, the fall of the first snow her only way of calculating the beginning of a new year. She also knew that sometimes the cover kept the first snow out. Emery had definitely not spoken to the Keeper who was now leading her through the Elite dining hall. She’d been finishing her morning chores and was looking forward to joining Dixon and Sadie on the walk to the eating house. After four days of heavy rain, Emery was anxious to feel the warm sun as she walked across the compound. The weather didn’t often matter as the Keepers just closed the cover when it rained after letting enough rainfall
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in to fill the water cisterns. Sometimes it would be days before they peeled back the cover. Those days left Emery craving a glimpse of the sky above. As long as she could remember, that gaze toward the sky had filled her with a happiness like no other.” —Excerpted from Skyward, by Susan White. Published by Acorn Press. acornpresscanada.com
he individual and systemic racism faced by Indigenous people in Canada is alarming. And it does not appear to be getting better, even in an era of reconciliation and the “real systemic change” called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). We repeatedly hear the call for radical change in Indigenous relations in Canada echoed; from almost a decade ago by the Idle No More movement to more recently, when Indigenous people in Canada were marching in the streets for Tina Fontaine, Colten Boushie, and Cindy Gladue. Hearts continue to break with recent events. Dreams of nation-to-nation politics in Canada continue to fade. At the heart of this is the denial of basic human rights, the violations of sacred treaty relationships and the disregard for constitutionally protected rights, all marked by institutionally accepted violence. This is an assault on the stated values of Canada as an international human rights defender. Outrage has been met with inaction, which in turn, sparks further indignation. Who amongst Canadians is prepared to sacrifice to protect human rights to the point of being arrested, criminalized, or ostracized for their stances against the violence done to the land and the people? This book takes up one of the most challenging questions that Canadian society faces today: how to navigate the ongoing relationship between Indigenous people and settler Canada, and particularly the role of non-Indigenous settlers in redefining that relationship. There is no singular answer to this question and while the challenge remains daunting, this book beautifully weaves theory and scholarship with first-person narrative to provide an embodied response towards Indigenous sovereignty.” —Excerpted from the Foreword (by Aimée Craft, Leona Star and Dawnis Kennedy) to Living in Indigenous Sovereignty by Elizabeth Carlson-Manathara with Gladys Rowe. Published by Fernwood Publishing. fernwoodpublishing.ca Imagining the People of Skmaqn – Port-la-Joye – Fort Amherst Vignette — 1758 There is no name for what I feel. It is beyond words. At least, any words I have ever heard, and I’ve been seventy years on this earth. Once, I thought I had lived through my share of sorrows. One of my children died in childbirth, back in Cobequid many years ago. And again, that day eleven years later when my husband fell through the ice and was lost. But these past four years have been worse. Much worse. It began in 1755. Every single person I knew and loved, and thousands of other Acadians I had never met, were uprooted. Most, including my children and grandchildren, who were living near Fort Beauséjour when the enemy soldats herded them onto ships. Others, lucky ones like me, we ran before any soldiers arrived. Lucky ones? I’m no longer sure about that. That escape was dreadful. We were always looking over our shoulders to see who followed, and with no possessions other than what we could carry. Over to Île-Saint-Jean we fled. It was un grand dérangement. Me and hundreds of others. Thousands in all. Life here has been hardship and despair, living in rough shelters with barely enough to eat. And now this: Louisbourg has fallen, and the ships and soldiers have come. They’ve come for every Acadian on Île-Saint-Jean. It feels like an enormous weight, like an anchor plunging to watery depths. And that anchor is centred in me. In my chest. Then it invades my head, and fills my arms and my legs.” —Excerpted from Ancient Land, New Land by AJB Johnston and Jesse Francis. Published by Acorn Press. acornpresscanada.com
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today AFTERWORD
Staff picks DRAMA CRIPPLED
Andrew DuBois Goose Lane Editions
M Travis Lane Gordon Hill Press
There remains a dearth of disability literature in our region. Thankfully, there is Paul David Power’s Crippled, an award-winning play based on his experiences living with a disability. The story is honest, dark but hopeful. It is deeply personal, yet likely to find universal resonance on the level of Power’s inner struggles.
Wordplay at its fractured and fluttering finest, tearing down and differently putting back together forms of conversation with sharp, insightful wit, exploring divergent traces of time. This kind of poetry keeps the brain fresh and gets the heart pumping.
A prolific and prophetic bard, this is M Travis Lane’s astonishing 18th collection. Despite its economy, it covers vast ground, with fantastic personifications of nature (“the water seemed almost subdued”) and reflections on the grand cycle of life and death (“running in a tight circle, nose to tail.”)
THIS IS HOW IT IS
Sharon King-Campbell Breakwater Books
Raw as split fish, these peripatetic poems prowl the globe like a stealthy snowball, picking up and subverting myth and history en route, amplifying historically quietened voices in the process. WAKING GROUND
shalan joudry Gaspereau Press
Like modern society, these poems are heavy with the burden of colonial history at the precipice of environmental destruction. Yet they manage to play, with language and awe at the bounty of the land and ancient Mi’kmaw culture, and the resilience of the spirit and healing after generations of trauma. 44
ALL THE PEOPLE ARE PREGNANT
Paul David Power Breakwater Books
THE TROUBLE WITH EVERYTHING
Lesley Choyce and Doug Barron Pottersfield Press
Rebecca Salazar McClelland & Stewart
Two original members of the SurfPoets have struck up the band again, with poetry from Lesley Choyce and original music from Doug Barron. The tunes are groovy and the poetry positive. Shake off the bad vibes.
Salazar, who edits for The Fiddlehead from Wolastoqiyik territory, has written poems for a shifting age, recognizing both Indigeneity and the importance of migration, how cultures are resilient yet changing, creating the need for new ways of being, and new meanings to old human emotions.
SIMONA: A CELEBRATION OF THE SPCA
Chad Norman cyberwit.net
Norma’s perspective shift from man to cat is a delight for animal lovers. Much more than that, it is an empathetic reminder that humanity’s place is not above, but with, other living things. An important lesson if we are to save ourselves.
Gabriella Cristiani Nimbus Publishing
A re-release of a classic from 2000, this cookbook is actually a charming collection of not only fine recipes from her restaurant in Corfu, but also of patchwork images of her Venetian villa, and stories of the celebrities she fed over 30 years. A delightful taste of the Mediterranean.
AFTERWORD Atlantic Books Today
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL SCIENCE STAMPEDE
BORDER & RULE
Kimberly A Williams Fernwood Publishing
Harsha Walia Fernwood Publishing
An intersectional feminist analysis of components of the Stampede including its parade, First Nations Village and Princess, and chuckwagon races, using varied forms including memoir, poetry, social media, political theory, history, photography, found ads, with a consistent dose of humour. Williams examines who is being left out of the ole Stampede narrative.
Harsha Walia is a foremost thinker and organizer on immigrant rights and has written a comprehensive analysis of the complex global issues affecting human migration. She connects issues that have been artificially siloed in too many other texts, such as climate change, unchecked capitalism, colonialism and white supremacy.
Kazim Ali Goose Lane Editions
A poetic meditation on home, finding our place in the world when so many of us live far from where our ancestors trod. Perhaps even more deeply, Ali tells the story of a brutalized Indigenous community from an immigrant’s perspective and concludes with practical suggestions on responsibility and generosity. AFRICENTRIC SOCIAL WORK
RHYTHMS & SERIES
Ben Woolfitt Goose Lane Editions
Woolfitt, who is perhaps best known for large-format paintings, showcases his process here, working with bamboo or graphite, silver or metal leaf to create a reinterpreted image on the page. A stunning collection of more than 65 reproductions of the artist’s distinctive drawings. ANYTHING BUT A STILL LIFE
THE LOST SKETCHBOOKS: A YOUNG ARTIST IN THE GREAT WAR
Rex Passion, drawings by Edward Shenton Komatik Press
These sketches—pen and pencil & ink and watercolour— were in storage more than 90 years. They were drawn during the First World War by Corporal Edward Shenton. Rex Passion skillfully weaves in Shenton’s personal story. A NURTURING DARKNESS
Carol Bajen-Gahm Komatik Press
Komatik Press has produced something unique, a paperback elevating the visual. It works beautifully, with Torbay-based artist BajenGahm as our mixed-media muse. She in turn celebrates a staple of Newfoundland practical architecture, the root cellar, in abstract and somewhat Rorschach renditions. A visual exultation of place. IMAGES OF THE KEJI COUNTRY
Delores V Mullings Fernwood Publishing
Nathan Greenfield Goose Lane Editions
Don Pentz SSP Publications
The intended audience is social work students, but this comprehensive text is also a useful refresher for anyone wishing to provide racially and culturally relevant services. Contributing writers are African Canadian social work practitioners, students and educators, addressing issues that African Canadians confront daily.
Greenfield offers new insight into Fredericton-based Second World War artists Bruno and Molly Lamb Bobak. The most fascinating aspect of this biography may be the development of their works as the Group of Seven’s influence declined and abstract works became the vogue.
Don Pentz has a long history—60 years—as a naturalist, woodsman, park interpreter and artist in the Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia. In this collection, gorgeous watercolours illuminate the pristine beauty of “Keji” and pay homage to sacred Mi’kmaq territory.
NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Atlantic Books Today AFTERWORD
LITERARY CRITICISM HONORARIUM
Nathaniel G Moore Palimpsest Press
Moore writes like he’s allergic to convention. His love of literature is apparent in these pages, as is his gratitude for working in it. “… over the years I’ve been allowed to live in multiple provinces, work with countless authors, publishers, and magazines…” His experiences elucidate many insights.
FICTION FISHNETS & FANTASIES
Jane Doucet Nimbus Publishing
The premise—retired elder couple start a sex shop in a small town—is excellent. The delivery is uproarious, because Doucet’s characters, while fitting useful tropes, are fully drawn and multifaceted. A fast-paced and lighthearted read but one that gives overdue attention to a resonant subject: sex among the venerable. POOR FARM
children on the autism spectrum in drastically different circumstances. A unique fictionalized history of autism. LIFE IS LIKE CANADIAN FOOTBALL
Henry Adam Svec Invisible Publishing
This is a mashup of genre, a sort-of fictionalized archivist’s journal—hard to tell fact from fiction, they blend together. More disjointing is the collision of sport and music, academics and high tech. But the result is comically entertaining, presented with “performative verve,” as novelist Jacob Wren puts it. THE SPEED OF MERCY
Christy Ann Conlin Anansi Press
Conlin, a master of the language craft, weaves this tense, gothic tale together intricately from multiple perspectives and generations. Balancing divergent perspectives is a difficult trick, and Conlin balances the viewpoints expertly, maintaining interest throughout. The result is a gripping story of trauma and its long-term resonance. THE RETREAT
Ronan O’Driscoll Moose House Press
Elisabeth De Mariaffi HarperCollins
Walking Nova Scotia’s Cole Harbour Heritage Trail with his autistic son, Martin, Ronan O’Driscoll came across 20 unmarked graves from the “Poor House for the Harmlessly Insane,” established in 1887; inspiration for Poor Farm, featuring two
In a classic setup, seven guests are snowed into an isolated mountain resort by an avalanche when, one by one, they mysteriously, and horribly, start dropping dead. Nature becomes antagonist here, scaring the hell out of
protagonist and reader alike. Mariaffi displays her usual mastery of tense, atmospheric thriller writing. TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE
Robert John Schwarzman Nova Productions
Schwarzmann’s stories play at the edge of reality so that the reader feels the tension of nothing being as it seems. His surrealist alternate realities show us how precarious any norm can be, and that mundane staples like safety and security can be rearranged completely in an instant.
HISTORY OAK ISLAND
John Bell Formac Publishing
Captain Kidd. Vikings. Aztecs. Spanish conquistadors. Shadowy royal British mercenaries. All theories associated with the treasure presumed buried in Oak Island. John Bell analyzes the evidence and points out strengths and shortcomings of each theory with archival visuals and new illustrations, bringing the mystery to life on the page. THE GAFF TOPSAIL ENCOUNTERS
Floyd Spracklin DRC Publishing
A collection of loving profiles of railway workers, cabin owners and international travellers to The Gaff, a former railway settlement in the Central Newfoundland interior. Spracklin and his wife have owned a cabin
there for decades, raising two daughters and falling in love with the wildlands and the characters.
laird’s pond—are more engrossing than any Netflix serial.
Emily Taylor Smith Pottersfield Press
THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY
Taylor-Smith walked 45 kilometres daily for two months, up the New Brunswick coast to Quebec City. She made mistakes along the way but was heartened by support from strangers providing massages, ice cream and more. And she developed an even deeper spiritual bond with the land.
Ian Roy Nevermore Press
An ancient spell book, superpowers, a nefarious villain, a Second World War mystery, an international (Iceland and Canada) adventure featuring a brave young heroine—what’s not to love? The stakes and tensions are high, helped by the fact that Olive is an easy protagonist to cheer for. HMMM—M THE HUMDINGER
destructiveness, worn by birds seeking food in golf balls and fishes trapped in plastic.
NO THANKS, I WANT TO WALK
SENIOR MOMENT: NAVIGATING THE CHALLENGES OF CARING FOR MOM
Jackie Muise Acorn Press
The subtitle belies the extraordinary life story of Mary Elizabeth Leblanc, an orphan who stayed with lightkeepers in Souris then farmers in St. Georges, became a military wife, at one point afflicted with tuberculosis, later having to confront her husband’s alcoholism while nurturing children in Germany and New Brunswick. SENIOR MANAGEMENT: PARENTING MY PARENTS
Dorothy Lander HARP
Monica Graham Nimbus Publishing
Martha Vowles Nevermore Press
Wildly multimedia, a tender and beautiful story about a girl, M, who hums a perpetual ode to the interconnectedness of all living things. The art is made from pressed flowers, leaves, moss and mycelium. It comes in hardcover or as an online audio hum-along flipbook.
On a visit with her 89-year-old mother in Corner Brook, Monica Graham got worried when she saw her coat the chicken breasts with dish soap instead of cooking oil. This book is a touching memoir filled with practical advice on transitioning a parent into continuing care.
Freedom 55 wasn’t as expected for Martha Vowles, who became caregiver to her parents, who both developed dementia. Her memoir is told with humour and grace, perhaps more than she felt navigating calls to the police, trips to the hospital and one misplaced stepmother.
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
25 FAMILY ADVENTURES IN NOVA SCOTIA
MEMOIR THE PERFECT DAY
Harry Bruce Pottersfield Press
Bob Chaulk Pottersfield Press
Harry Bruce is one of Canada’s finest essayists. These are some of his best. His essays—ranging through diverse topics like dangerous natural pests and joyful wild fauna, first heartaches, and curling on a Scottish
It’s remarkable how unfamiliar we remain with our planet’s oceans. Through scuba diving, Bob Chaulk has discovered worlds in Halifax Harbour, including historical objects discarded, which he researches and documents. He also witnesses our
LOCAL TRAVEL Helen Earley Formac Publishing
Earley travelled across Nova Scotia seeking kidfriendly adventures, year-round, on a budget and first class, off the beaten path and at popular tourism locations. Just a few of the 25 adventures are McNabs Island, the Salt Marsh Trail and the Shearwater Aviation Museum. NUMBER 93 | SPRING 2021
Find your path
Bernardo Lorena Ponte, Unsplash