Category Archives: Creative Non-Fiction

Beyond the Gallery: An Anthology of Visual Encounters, edited by Liuba Gonzàles de Armas and Ana Ruiz Aguirre

In the essay, “The Invisible Museum”, Laury Leite reminds us that “the world is a strange and unknown place, and that knowledge is nothing more than the search for the marvellous hidden in nature.” (117) Beyond the Gallery invites readers to think about the hidden marvels all around us—the artwork within and outside of the art gallery.

Beyond the Gallery’s subtitle is “An Anthology of Visual Encounters” and it delivers on its promise to provide a vast array of perspectives on art beyond the walls of the art gallery, even in a relatively brief collection of eight essays. The essays in this book will appeal to lovers of art and especially lovers of many different time periods of art history. In Beyond the Gallery, editors Liuba Gonzàles de Armas and Ana Ruiz Aguirre curate an interesting and eclectic group of essays written in Spanish and English by Canadian authors from the Spanish-speaking diaspora. The theme that binds the pieces together is not simply art, but the ways in which we might think about art outside of the typical gallery space, which usually seeks to dictate the way a viewer takes in the piece. They ask, what happens when art breaks free from the traditional gallery space? What kinds of unconventional art forms do we experience in the world? The eight essays in this collection offer a variety of perspectives on topics like classical art, political posters of revolution-era Cuba, and even the boom of artistic expression in tattooing in recent years.

“As I was contemplating the essays in this book, I thought of my own experiences of art outside the gallery.”

Each piece is written in its author’s signature style (credit here goes to the translators of each essay), and many essays embrace not only an academic approach but play with perspective as well. One notable essay that does this is “El Telón de Picasso/Picasso’s Curtain: A Visual Encounter”, by Marcelo Donato. Donato begins by describing his first, impactful visual encounter of the curtain Picasso painted for a ballet in 1917. The essay then shifts into a creative-nonfictional retelling of the players and circumstances that influenced the creation of Picasso’s curtain. It ends with a section in which the curtain itself speaks. The switching of perspectives is a recurring theme in the entire collection of essays, which demands an open mind as the perspectives and styles shift from piece to piece, perhaps the way that a multi-artist exhibit might ask the viewer to approach different and unconventional pieces with an open mind.   

As I was contemplating the essays in this book, I thought of my own experiences of art outside the gallery. This collection calls to mind the “Nuit Blanche” art festivals I have attended when artists take over the streets and other non-traditional spaces of a major city as new and exciting venues for their creations. There is something very energizing about seeing art deliberately taking over a space outside of the gallery. It becomes more accessible and interactive, and the authors of these essays seem to agree that great art can reside in many spaces. The spirit of Nuit Blanche is alive in this collection and it encourages readers to look to the classics, but also to the unexpected for inspiration.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ana Ruiz Aguirre is a Cuban-Canadian writer and researcher who writes about art through an interdisciplinary and contextual lens. Ana contributed to and co-edited Beyond the Gallery with the support of the Edmonton Heritage Council and the Alberta Public Interest Research Group, and she is currently working on her first monograph with the support of the Edmonton Arts Council. Ana’s doctoral research examining the strategy and impact of cultural diplomacy in North America was awarded a Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and she was a Mitacs Globalink Research Scholar at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Ana was part of the Public Diplomacy and the Economy of Culture Research Group at Queen’s University, and has worked at Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales, and the Art Gallery of Alberta. She currently serves as Chair of the Fundraising and Advocacy Committee at Latitude 53, one of Canada’s oldest artist-run centres.

Liuba González de Armas is a diasporic Cuban cultural worker. She is both contributor and co-editor to Beyond the Gallery. Liuba holds a Bachelor of Arts in History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture from the University of Alberta and a Master’s degree in Art History from McGill University. Her MA research examined representations of women in Cuban revolutionary posters and was supported by a Canada Graduate Scholarship. Her areas of interest include activist printmaking, public art and propaganda, and cultural policy and diplomacy. Liuba has interned and worked at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of American History, the Art Gallery of Alberta, and various artist-run centres across Canada. Most recently, she served as Halifax’s Young Curator at the art galleries of Mount Saint Vincent, Dalhousie, and Saint Mary’s universities before joining the civil service in Nova Scotia. Liuba approaches visual art of the Americas hemispherically, seeking to foreground spaces of transnational dialogue and solidarity.


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Bill Arnott’s Beat: The Authors’ Lounge Interview

Let me start by thanking The Miramichi Reader and editor-in-chief James M. Fisher for being a great supporter and friend to Bill Arnott’s Beat. Much of the success of the column-series and subsequent book, Bill Arnott’s Beat: Road Stories & Writers’ Tips, can be attributed to TMR. I was privileged to be interviewed recently for a feature at Authors’ Lounge, in a conversation with their contributing editor, Beth. This is from that virtual visit …

Hi Beth. Thanks for inviting me to the Authors’ Lounge. It’s so nice in here; I feel underdressed! To answer your questions about Bill Arnott’s Beat: Road Stories & Writers’ Tips, let me introduce the book with a blurb:

“Join author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott on a journey from the road to the writing room in this #1 Bestseller, featuring the best of his column-series found in publications around the globe. In this book, Bill shares personal stories from a life on the road with insight, humour, and advice for every artist and lover of reading, writing, and wandering.”

Bill Arnott’s Beat was something I initially created to connect people. I’m fortunate to live in a city with great artistry: reading, writing, poetry, music and live events. And as encompassing as it can be, I was surprised by how disjointed it often was. Engaging, yes. Inclusive? Not always.

“Bill Arnott’s Beat itself became a journey, one comprised of interactions, people sharing their stories, each imparting a personal stamp to the whole.”

So I set about to bring people together, finding commonality in the community. I did this by spending a few years taking part in as many events as I could, a diverse range of locales and artistic genres. Then I wrote about it. Bill Arnott’s Beat was the result, a lighthearted column-series which ran in a few blogs then was picked up and commissioned by magazines and literary publications around the world. What began as a simple attempt to dissolve barriers—some real, some imagined—through personal interactions and inclusivity, became a series of personal stories. And those stories—people, experiences, communities—became the backbone of the series, a means of connecting and promoting artists and yes, myself at times as well. And I thank every publication that took a chance on me as a writer. I’m eternally grateful.

What I’ve done is by no means unique. Many people are doing the very same thing, and doing it exceedingly well. This is an excellent example, bringing writers together, featuring their work, and disseminating it to a broader audience, a collaborative win-win.

Regarding audience, what’s surprised me about this particular book is the breadth of readership. The appeal for writers struck me as the most obvious, as I share pointers and recommendations: things I’ve learned from mentors, peers, students, and being privileged to have written a few bestsellers in different genres, published both traditionally and independently. Through this, Bill Arnott’s Beat itself became a journey, one comprised of interactions, people sharing their stories, each imparting a personal stamp to the whole.

In addition to artists and writers, I’ve been delighted by the popularity of Bill Arnott’s Beat across a range of readers. Some people know me from Bill’s Artist Showcase, a fun newsletter featuring artist interviews and a live performance series, while others may be familiar with my travel memoirs, Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries. I suspect because of this, readers expect my work to encompass a trek, wandering and peripatetic pursuits. Which it often does, and I feel this latest book delivers in that regard as well. I was pleased to see Bill Arnott’s Beat (the book) reach #1 on Amazon in Arts and #2 in Short Travel. It’s not particularly easy to categorize, which I like. Yet it’s managed to find its readers, and vice-versa. I believe the book’s balance—a bit of travel, meeting engaging individuals, and a few suggestions for creatives to make the most of their work—is part of the appeal: a blend of armchair escape, introspection, and humour.

If you asked me what my future plans are for this book, to be honest, it’s exceeded my expectations and accomplished what I’d hoped and envisioned. Going forward, I can imagine Bill Arnott’s Beat morphing into something new, finding that space I feel needs examination or a helping hand, in a manner I hope remains engaging and entertaining.

Thanks again Beth, for including me in this shared journey. I look forward to our collaborative paths crossing again, as I know they will, like virtually all of us.

Bill.


“Join author, poet, songwriter, and TMR west coast editor Bill Arnott on a journey from the road to the writing room in this #1 Bestseller, featuring the best of his column-series found around the globe. In this book, Bill shares personal stories from a life on the road with insight, humour, and advice for every artist and lover of reading, writing, and wandering.”

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Twice to the Gallows: Bennie Swim and the Benton Ridge Murders by Dominique Perrin

Billed as “A New Brunswick Non-Fiction Novel” Twice to the Gallows by Fredericton author Dominique Perrin is the perfect type of story that leans more toward the “creative’ side due to the paucity of facts surrounding the unusual case of Bennie Swim, a double-killer (he was only convicted of murder for one of his killings) in the Carleton County area of New Brunswick back in the early 1920s.

Bennie’s story is the timeless one of an angry jilted lover with the mentality “If I can’t have her nobody can” and sets off to visit Olive, the girl who wanted nothing to do with him and her new husband, Harvey. He has a revolver that he traded his worldly belongings to acquire.

What facts are known is that acting in a blind rage Bennie killed both Olive and Harvey Trenholm in their home, and then attempted suicide by shooting himself, at which he failed. He then fled the scene and managed to escape capture for a few hours (it was wintertime, so he wasn’t hard to track on foot). As Mr. Perrin notes in the Afterword:

“Bennie’s behaviour may look pretty stupid to us, but it was driven by his unbearable loss and passionate jealousy.”

More facts are known once Bennie is in jail awaiting trial, his quick conviction (despite the best efforts of his beleaguered lawyer in a losing cause) and his incarceration awaiting his execution by hanging. Bennie attempts to claim insanity, and while he cleverly fools two New Brunswick doctors, an Ontario psychiatrist is brought in and isn’t fooled one bit. Bennie must hang. However, a professional hangman cannot be sourced locally, so two apprentice hangmen are brought in, much to the Sherriff’s chagrin, as one is a total drunk and the other inexperienced in the science of a proper hanging (hence the book’s title). This section is particularly entertaining as Sherriff Foster appears to be the only competent person in Bennie’s solitary life.

Mr. Perrin has done a fine job of recreating the times and mores of an early 20th century rural New Brunswick with its small inter-related communities of simple, hardworking folks. Of necessity, he recreates dialogue where needed and reasonable speculation where possible when all the facts are not known. He has certainly performed careful research through archives, tracing out all the connections to the story down to the present day. If you like books that recreate true historical crimes (such as Debra Komar’s, for instance), then I am sure you will enjoy reading Twice to the Gallows.


Dominique Perrin served in the Canadian Armed Forces for twenty-six years. Since retirement he has become a jazz musician, playing alto saxophone. He regularly plays in jazz clubs of several European cities. He also performs and gives lessons in advanced saxophone in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where he lives.

  • Publisher : Chapel Street Editions (June 11 2019)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 242 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1988299241
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1988299242

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Beyond the Food Court Edited by Luciana Erregue-Sacchi

Luciana Erregue-Sacchi, the editor of Beyond the Food Court, describes this collection of creative non-fiction essays about food as a feast. She is spot-on: each essay is an exquisitely crafted dish; the ingredients of family, culture, nostalgia, and history all in perfect balance. This book will make you hungry. It will also make you think.

In this collection, Sacchi curates a series of creative non-fiction pieces from writers currently living in Alberta who have connections with various countries around the globe. Some are recent immigrants, and some arrived in this country as children. Some remember their immigrant parents or grandparents, and some have Indigenous heritage in Canada. The result is a series of stories that are both familiar and fresh. Whether you’ve never tried a ripe Alphonso mango, or you constantly long for Injera made with proper teff, or you’re forever chasing the flavour of your grandmother’s cabbage rolls, these authors will remind you that food is an incredibly multifaceted, critical part of our lives. Food is political. It is personal, and it is powerful in cementing core memories we carry forever. It is geographical, tied to specific lands and peoples. It can be an expression of love from those closest to us.

“One of the strengths of this collection is its variety of styles and focuses.”

One of the strengths of this collection is its variety of styles and focuses. Asma Sayed puts the reader in her shoes in 1998, when she immigrated to Edmonton from Gujurat, India and struggled to find the ingredients that would help make her feel at home in this new, cold country. In his essay, Yasser Abdellatif gives a detailed historical and geographical account of Egyptian cuisine, reminding the reader that to talk about food, is also to talk about geography, “about location and climate, wind and rain, rivers and seas, crops and fruits, cattle and livestock” (32). Shimelis Gebremichael’s essay highlights his longing for Ethiopian cuisine, featuring descriptions of kaleidoscopic foods and prismatic vegetables that are enough to make your mouth water.

Mila Bongco-Philipzig’s essay is frankly astounding. She writes about the connection between Tim Horton’s and its direct role in recruiting Filipino workers for tenuous contracts as part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This essay is perspective-shifting. At the very least, “Disposable Double Double Lives” will transform the way you think about your morning coffee.

While its essays consider the personal and political history of food, Beyond the Food Court is very much a book of our time. Each author is keenly aware of the COVID19 pandemic; this peculiar time that both encourages many people to reconnect with their kitchens, and makes it so difficult to be close to others with whom we might share food and culture.

Sitting down with this book is truly like pulling up a chair at an international banquet. I truly enjoyed being at the table.  

Beyond the Food Court is available exclusively from www.laberintopress.com 


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Rough and Plenty: a Memorial by Raymond A. Rogers

Sometimes I am such a laggard when it comes to either reading a book I’ve had for some time, or writing it’s review. In the case of Rough and Plenty from WLU Press, it is the former. I originally requested this book back in July of 2019 and I soon had it in my mailbox. However, it has sat on my TBR table until a week ago, when I picked it up and decided to take a further look into it. I was immediately engrossed and finished the book in a few days. I hold that there is a time to read certain books, and they will let you know when they want to be heard.

Author Raymond A. Rogers employed his occupation as a Nova Scotian fisher in the mid-’70s to create a type of memoir/journal that is a fine example of creative non-fiction, much like Sonja Boon’s What the Oceans Remember, which is a WLU Press Life Writing series title as well.

As the fishery collapsed out from under him, he was forced to seek out employment in the west to be able to live out his desire to build a house and a boat in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia. Near his property, there is the weathered gravestone of Donald MacDonald, a native of the Island of Lewis, who was compelled to leave his home in Scotland to find a better life on these shores. Mr. Rogers pondered the idea of their shared experience, the result of which is Rough and Plenty. Subtitled “A Memorial” it is indeed that, to the disposed Highlanders who were crowded out to make room for the laird’s sheep and the stalwart fishers on this side of the Atlantic ocean who were fished out of business by the huge draggers of the Soviets Union and other countries. Canada’s own Department of Fisheries failed to act on their behalf, leading to an exodus of young men and women west to seek, not a fortune, but a living.

There are two frames that organize the work: one connects the stories of Donald McDonald’s life and my own life as our fates were linked in this landscape/seascape in southwest Nova Sco tia. The other is more formal and historical and has to do with the dispossession that is central to entrances into modernity for particular groups; that dispossession is reflected in the way the three sections of the book are set out to convey the increasing enclosure of the commons. For the purposes of this work, fishers and crofters share a broad definition: they are both small-scale artisanal, largely subsistence members of decentralized rural communities. Property rights are informal and largely held in common. In the case of the crofters, they are the descendants of the Scottish clans who had inhabited the Highlands and Islands for generations but who became “redundant populations” standing in the way of large-scale forms of sheep farming and agriculture. Similarly, as small-scale artisanal participants in an increasingly industrialized fishery, the inshore fishers came to be seen as inconsequential and inefficient; when the fish stocks began to collapse there was a consensus that there were “too many boats chasing too few fish,” and inshore quotas were cut This forced the artisanal fishers out of the industry. The privatization of fish quota became an industry-funded downsizing strategy that rewarded those with the deepest pockets.

“I cannot stress enough that Rough and Plenty is a startingly masterful work of creative non-fiction.”

In Rough and Plenty, I read of the plight of Highland Scots, how they were bound to live out a subsistence life, always in debt to the landowner. Emigration was the only way out (other than the army), though understandably many did not want to leave the land of their birth. Mr. Rogers skillfully juxtaposes their labours with his own in a workcamp building a dam in Manitoba. The life was not a comfortable one, the sole upside that of being well-paid.

For the most part, I try to keep to myself, do my job, save my money, and count the days until I can take up my hammer again and work on my house and begin to build a new boat. But that is not the case for everyone there. Long Spruce can knock you sideways and change you in ways that seem irrevocable. If you survive, you are a different person on the other side. This is what worries me above all else. I want to be able to take up a life again that had seemed to have only just begun.

Nevertheless, as the author states in the prologue:

For all its grief, it [Rough and Plenty] is meant to provide ballasted hope for those who might fee) increasingly rudderless and adrift in the powerful currents of the present. It is important to tell yourself a story that makes you strong. Despite all of its grief and suffering, this story a kind of inoculation against the banalities and savagery of modern life-is one that I hope can give you strength.

I cannot stress enough that Rough and Plenty is a startingly masterful work of creative non-fiction. The stories of both the crofters and the Nova Scotian fishers are well-told, based on historical fact and eye-witness accounts, such as the author’s own. Kudos to WLU Press for continuing to publish such excellent titles.


RAYMOND A. ROGERS was a professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University for twenty-five years. He is the author of three previous books: Nature and the Crisis of Modernity, The Oceans Are Emptying: Fish Wars and Sustainability, and Solving History: The Challenge of Environmental Activism. He earned the first Ph.D. in Environmental Studies in Canada.

  • Publisher : Wilfrid Laurier University Press; Illustrated edition (Feb. 15 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 332 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771124369
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771124362

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What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home by Sonja Boon

In an effort to expand the range of titles we review here at The Miramichi Reader, I will often browse the book catalogues of Canadian university presses. These publishers often get overlooked by those of us outside academia, but they truly produce some fascinating non-fiction titles, and Sonja Boon’s What the Oceans Remember from Waterloo, Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University Press is no exception.

A Diverse Background

Ms. Boon’s memoir makes for engaging reading for her background is diverse, to say the least: she was born in Manchester, England to a Dutch father and a Surinamese mother. They soon moved to Venezuela, then to Canada (Windsor, ON), then to Alberta. She then became a Canadian citizen. Currently, she lives and works in Newfoundland. She is, as she calls herself, “a child of the world”. Her search into her past was started by an offhand remark by a colleague in St.John’s regarding a book about women’s sexual cultures in Suriname. Her mother being from Suriname, Ms. Boon was immediately impacted by the fact that her past had found her almost 5,000kms away in Newfoundland.

Educational? Yes!

The thoughtful layout and writing cadence of What the Oceans Remember is something I particularly enjoyed. A mix of creative non-fiction and essay-style writing, Ms. Boon reveals what she discovers to the reader as she herself uncovers them in various archives from Amsterdam to Suriname. Being the educator she is, teaches us the history of the Dutch slave trade, working plantation life on Suriname (Dutch Guyana) and, later, as slavery is abolished, the arrival of indentured servants from such countries as India, which accounts for her Surinamese origins. Her great-great grandmother, in fact.

“Over-the-Shoulder” Reading

To say that What the Oceans Remember is engrossing reading is to do it a disservice. For, here is a topic I have no real investment in. I am not of any of Ms. Boon’s mixed background, I have very little interest in ancestry and no real desire to research it by travelling back and forth across the Atlantic ocean. Yet here I was, looking over Ms. Boon’s shoulder the entire time. I was with her in the archives as she handled papers over a century old. I was with her as she travelled the historic streets in Amsterdam and The Hague, as well as the footpaths and overgrown graveyards in Suriname. Using sights, sounds and smells of the world outside her doors and windows wherever she is living at that particular moment makes for an immersive read. Many memoirists leave such things out of their reminiscences and the resulting story is the poorer for it.

Conclusion

In addition, Wilfred Laurier University Press has done a beautiful job of packaging this book. My review copy was hardbound, with an intriguing cover design by Lime Design Inc. (The same design group responsible for Rachel Bryant’s The Homing Place: Indigenous and Settler Literacy Legacies of the Atlantic) There are maps, a timeline, and black & white photos to round out this exceptional volume. Highly recommended reading for those interested in ancestry research, archives, social science, travel, and history, especially as it relates to emigration and immigration, forced or voluntary.

What the Oceans Remember is breathtaking in scope. Reaching across continents, oceans and histories, it shows us what it means to live in the shadow of freedom while unfree; how the colour of a person’s skin can determine if they are seen or invisible; how the word home can exclude; how the beauty of music can be a balm; how the invaluable quiet of an archive can quake with unearthed voices.”

– Lisa Moore, author of the story collection Something for Everyone

Sonja Boon is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Memorial University. An award-winning researcher, writer, and teacher, Boon is the author of three scholarly monographs, the most recent titled Autoethnography and Feminist Theory at the Water’s Edge: Unsettled Islands (2018). For six years, she was the principal flutist with the Portland Baroque Orchestra in Oregon.

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Sept. 25 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1771124237
  • ISBN-13: 978-1771124232
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 21 cm (5.2 x 1 x 8.2 inches)

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The Dog Who Ate the Vegetable Garden & Helped Save the Planet by Meg Hurley

A book that was written by a dog? A dog who is vegan? An audacious undertaking, to be sure. But does it work? Can this dog write? Let’s see.

“But somebody must speak. For us. The animals. Put our reality in plain sight. From where we stand. and perch. Swim. Cling. Crawl. Fly. Slither and hop. Might as well be a dog.”

Dori the white Boxer

First of all, it should be said that this is definitely not a children’s book. It is a plea from an animal (A white Boxer named Dori) to humans to be kinder and more understanding in the treatment (or rather, mistreatment) of all animals, but especially those raised to be eaten by us. Dori’s human, Meg, has thoroughly instructed her in the ways of humans and the ills of the meat industry, among other ecological concerns. Dori, of course, does not fully understand all of Meg’s tirades because, of course, she’s a dog. The book is a cleverly disguised way to get the message across that living the ethical vegan life is not that difficult once you know all the facts, and this book is full of them. As a vegan, it helped to affirm my choice not to eat “anything with a mother or a face” while informing me of other areas I could be more vigilant in, such as clothing choices and moving earthworms off the pavement back onto the grass so they don’t fry.

Here’s a small excerpt which gives you an idea of the way Dori thinks and writes as well as the content:

Anyhoo after behavior modification. Which comes after the makes-everyone-happy-brand-new-cuddly-puppy stage. When we figure out the love-you lean. And the you-are-the best-best-person-in-the-world wag. And wiggle. It’s downhill. From there. For most dogs. Seems too many humans believe. That if they feed us little hard lumps. Made with GMO corn and soy and wheat and rice with arsenic as the main ingredients. With PUTRID animal parts laced with growth hormones and antibiotics. And who knows what else from rendering plants. Throw a ball a couple of times on weekends and let us out during the day at their convenience (or keep us outside day and night in the cold and heat). Ooph! 1 need to catch my breath. Uhuh uhuh uhuh. And drag us for a few minutes up and down the street roped to them and take us to the vet to have needles stuck into us. Then complain about the cost. (Meg does that! The needle thing. And complain!) Feed us pesticides. That kill fleas and ticks. Then they’ve met their part of the bargain. Ooph! Ooph! Ooph! Sound like that woman. Again! On her soapbox. And that’s TIRESOME.

Believe me! There’s one thing we dogs cannot afford to become. Tiresome. Because then we’ll be ignored. And lead miserable lives. Maybe given away. Dumped! At a shelter to be adopted. By Godonlyknows what sort of human. Or gassed. Yup! 670,000 dogs. Abandoned and gassed, Every year in the U.S. Alone. So we’ve got to keep the make-our-people-laugh factor high. And the ecstatic-to-see you act turned way up! For OPTIMUM treatment. And that takes significant effort! Folks. And craft! And requires HUMILIATING ourselves. Oh I wish Jack would stop me. When I go all preachy. Like you know who. Or is it whom? Humph.

The Dog Who Helped Save the Planet is a cleverly written, cleverly disguised self-proclaimed diatribe against all that is wrong with the way we treat animals, whether they are domesticated pets or livestock processed and consumed for our supposed nutritional benefits. Any change we can make in this area is a helpful one: adopt a pet from the SPCA, or other rescue organizations, cut out meat and dairy, etc. (“a strip of bacon has less saturated fat than an 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk” – but bacon is a Group One carcinogen!) Writing and thinking the ways a dog might serves to entertain as well as inform, more so than if Ms. Hurley were to write down all the same facts in an essay form. The book includes a useful resource section at the end. A fine example of creative writing, The Dog Who Helped Save the Planet is a valid teaching tool that vegans could employ in informing themselves and others of the benefits of the ethical vegan lifestyle. A Miramichi Reader “Pick”!

The Dog Who Ate the Vegetable Garden & Helped Save the Planet by Meg Hurley
Guernica World Editions

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Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion by Tyler LeBlanc

The year 2020 marks 265 years since the Acadian Expulsion (Le Grande Dérangement) in 1755. Unfortunately, the outbreak of Covid-19 will likely not allow Acadians to gather together to observe this milestone year. Annually, on August 15th (the actual day of the start of the deportations), Acadians the world over observe their overcoming of the cultural genocide enacted upon them by the British. Thousands were forcibly separated from their families, lands and possessions, and packed aboard squalid ships and sent to places that did not want them, such as the Thirteen Colonies, England, France and the Caribbean. Thousands perished, most of them en route to their destinations, or while waiting to be disembarked.

Acadian Driftwood is notable for exploring the varied places the Acadians were sent, how they were treated and how they courageously attempted to stay united as families and succeed in whatever circumstances they found themselves in.”

Tyler LeBlanc is a journalist, screenwriter and storyteller. All of this experience has been poured into crafting Acadian Driftwood, his first book*. Mr. LeBlanc, in discovering his Acadian roots, ventures to tell their stories based on what little records remain of the over 15,000 who were dispersed to various parts of the globe in an attempt to remove them as a perceived threat to the British occupation of Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia). He states in the Introduction:

I want to provide a new angle on the tragedy. As a longtime fan of reconstructed historical non-fiction and its ability to take readers to the time and place in question and bring history alive, I try in these pages to give the Expulsion a similar treatment. This book looks at the event from the point of view of those who experienced it. It is not a grand history of the Acadian experience. I’m not a historian, and I have no thesis to advance. This is a personal book about ten siblings, all distant ancestors of mine, who found themselves tossed from their quiet pastoral lives into the turbulent world of eighteenth-century geopolitics. My subject is not the men in power and their motivations, although, in order to properly follow the LeBlancs through the Expulsion, I occasionally shift my focus to the larger and well-documented events. The Expulsion of the Acadians from their homeland had a direct effect on over fifteen thousand people, yet we know very few of their personal stories.
This is a work of creative non-fiction. At times in these stories I tell, I made educated guesses about how the people felt or responded, but I haven’t invented dialogue or characters.

It’s good to know that there is not a lot of speculation or invention contained within the pages of Acadian Driftwood. I have read several books of creative non-fiction where the emphasis is more on the creative than on the non-fiction side of the story. Thankfully, that is not the case here and Acadian Driftwood is notable for exploring the varied places the Acadians were sent, how they were treated and how they courageously attempted to stay united as families and succeed in whatever circumstances they found themselves in. Acadian Driftwood consists of ten chapters and includes a Preface, a genealogy of the principal characters, maps and a list of sources. Recommended for a different perspective of the Acadian Expulsion and its aftermath.

*This review of Acadian Driftwood was based on an Advance Reading Copy provided by the publisher.

Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion by Tyler LeBlanc
Goose Lane Editions

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Two Crows Sorrow: Love and Death on the North Mountain by Laura Churchill Duke

I find true crime books fascinating, particularly historical crime, which is probably why I like Debra Komar’s books so much. But what if there is a paucity of details regarding an actual crime? How does an author bring this event to life, so to speak? The author then cleverly builds a story and dialogue around the actual characters, while maintaining the integrity of the actual occurrence. That is what Laura Churchill Duke has done with a grisly murder committed in Nova Scotia in 1904. Fingerprinting was in its infancy and any type of crime scene investigation in rural areas was amateurish at best, typically carried out by a local coroner. There weren’t sufficient police records to assist Ms. Churchill Duke, but there were court records, newspaper articles and community resources which assisted her in recreating Theresa’s story immensely.

Theresa Balsor McAuley Robinson

Two Crows Sorrow is the story of Theresa McAuley Robinson, a hard-working woman whose well-liked husband, William passes away leaving her the farm to manage. In steps William Robinson (there are a few Williams in this story) a man who is not that well-liked and he has no fondness for Theresa’s grown children. “I haven’t known happiness for many years,” Theresa tells her niece Lucinda. “I thought when I married Mr. Robinson that I would be happy, but alas, no.”

There is an altercation between her son Eustace and his step-father, that if Theresa hadn’t intervened, it would have ended up in Eustace’s death. Once she agrees to testify against her husband at the trial, the atmosphere is set for William Robinson to seek retribution.

“Two Crows Sorrow is creative-non-fiction based on actual people and events on Nova Scotia’s North Mountain in 1904. This story affected and changed the whole community, as one shocking event led to others.”

Laura Churchill Duke

Ms. Churchill Duke does a commendable job of creating both a realistic atmosphere and dialogue of the time. Especially notable are the courtroom scenes with lawyers, judges and juries all well-drawn. The tension in the latter half of the book is palpable, so much so that this reader wanted to reach into the pages and throttle William Robinson himself! My only quibble (and it is a personal one) is the decision by Moose House Publications to print the text in a sans serif typeset which I find “cheapens” the look and feel of a book. Other than that, a fine endeavour on behalf of Ms. Churchill Duke to recreate a historical crime that time has all but forgotten. Recommended, and I am adding it to the 2020 long list for a “The Very Best!” Book Award for Best Historical Fiction.

Two Crows Sorrow by Laura Churchill Duke
Moose House Publications

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This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved