From page to stage

Reviewer Ginny Ratsoy reports a new book touting the merits of Bard on the Beach will please everyone who can’t get enough of artistic director Christopher Gaze FULL STORY

Who’s Who

A is for Alexander
A cow-eyed goddess steals a nymph’s tongue. Steering wheels are taken over by octopi. These are some of the images in Susan Alexander’s book of poems The Dance Floor Tilts (Thistledown $17.95), due for publication this fall. Her wide-ranging imagination is fuelled by eclectic experiences according to the book’s publicity, including: work as a chambermaid, CBC Radio journalist, and associate at a boutique investment firm, as well as being a stay-at-home mom and reflecting on family history and her passions. Alexander is the winner of the 2016 Short Grain poetry prize and the 2015 Vancouver Writers’ Festival Contest. Her poems have been published in SubTerrain, Arc, CV2, Grain, Room, The Antigonish Review, and PRISM international.  978-1-77187-152-5

Lillian Boraks-Nemetz

B is for Borak-Nemetz
Lillian Boraks-Nemetz will launch her latest book at the 33rd annual Cherie Smith Jewish Book Festival in Vancouver at the Jewish Community Centre on November 26, at 2 pm. Born in Warsaw, Poland, she  survived the Holocaust as a child. She escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto and lived in Polish villages under a false identity. She has been best-known for young adult novels that include The Old Brown Suitcase, a fictional account of a 14-year old immigrant girl, Slava, who comes to Canada from Poland after the Second World War. Her suitcase is filled with memories of the Warsaw Ghetto where she left behind her parents and sister. Her problems of adjustment to her new life in Canada as a teen-aged immigrant Jew are juxtaposed with her heart-wrenching memories of her lost childhood in Poland. This book won the Sheila A. Egoff Prize, among others awards. Boraks-Nemetz has now reprised her autobiographical story for Mouth of Truth (Ekstasis $26.95), a novel inspired by her experiences. She is a proud member of the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada. 978-1-77171-211-8

Charles Demers

C is for Charles Demers
Arsenal Pulp Press likes comedian and playwright Charles Demers so much they gave him his own imprint. Starting this fall, Robin’s Egg Books, a collaboration between Demers and Arsenal Pulp, will bring book readers fresh and funny writing on a wide range of topics. The imprint is named for Demers’ late mother Robin. “The first book to leave the nest,” as the publicity so cheerily announces, is What I Think Happened: An Underresearched History of the Western World (Robin’s Egg $17.95) by comedian, writer and actor Evany Rosen. Rosen’s comic essays recast famous historical happenings from her “wickedly funny feminist perspective.” Demers, who will be the editor for Robin’s Egg Books, says of his inspiration to become involved with book publishing: “Two of the things that have always given me the greatest joy in life are books and funny people, and so it only made sense to combine the two (the same kind of synergistic ingenuity that gave us, to take but one example, Kraft Dinner and hot dogs).”  978-1-55152-695-5

D is for Donawa
In her first published collection of poetry, Thin Air of the Knowable (Brick $20), Wendy Donawa writes of the physical landscapes of her life – from the prairies to the Caribbean, and finally to the West Coast. Landscape also functions as metaphor to suggest how historical settings play out in the exigencies of lives. Donawa lives in Victoria. She was formerly a museum curator in Barbados. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, magazines and online publications in Canada. She was a finalist in The Malahat Review’s 2013 Open Season competition, and in 2015 she was a runner-up in the Cedric Literary Awards. She has also published two chapbooks. 978-1-77131-460-26

Elaine Marie Gallagher

E is for Elaine Marie Gallagher
After a career spent in academia, Elaine Marie Gallagher, RN, PhD, began work on a historical novel Sisterships (self published, $19.95), a tale about the Titanic and her forgotten sister the Olympic. The main character is Betsy Oakes, a recently unemployed governess in England’s Midlands in 1912. The governess decides to travel to Canada and books passage on the Titanic’s maiden voyage. As luck would have it, she is forced to rebook on the identical ship, the Olympic on its next sailing. On board, she forms a close friendship with a stewardess and over the course of the passage they unveil their life stories. Gallagher’s close childhood relationship with her grandmother, Betsy Oakes, was the inspiration for the book. Many of the stories included were actually told to Gallagher by Betsy, along with intriguing facts gained from over 40 years of background research. Gallagher lives in Victoria B.C.  978-1-77302-542-1

Cynthia Flood

F is for Flood
Cynthia Flood’s new collection, What Can You Do: Stories (Biblioasis $19.95) contains 12 short stories featuring couples negotiating new terms for connection, travelers revealing old habits in new landscapes, lonely political lefties wondering why they just can’t win, and child-truths colliding with what the grown-ups – for selfish reasons – want to be the facts. These are uneasy but unflinching examinations of the ways adults deceive themselves and why: greed, desire for control, jealousy, fear, and ambition. Flood’s characters portray failures of the human heart with, as the book’s blurb describes, “a marvellous unsentimental brutality” that leaves “many a character unredeemed”. Flood was born and raised in Toronto. She came to British Columbia in 1969 (“one of my best life decisions”). She has been involved in the women’s movement, left-wing organizations, the anti-war movement, environmental projects and writers’ groups. For many years she taught literature and composition at Langara College, where she was also involved with union activity and women’s studies. 978-1-77196-176-9

Daniel Griffin

G is for Griffin
In his latest novel Two Roads Home (Freehand $21.95) Daniel Griffin re-imagines B.C.’s history of environmental activism. What if the peaceful anti-logging protests in the 1990s had gone overboard into violent activity? Griffin’s cautionary tale follows a group of environmental activists who give up their peaceful protests for sabotage. What happens to the activists afterwards is Griffin’s exploration into the matter of civil disobedience gone astray. How far is too far when it comes to protesting injustice? And what happens when that line is crossed?  Griffin’s short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals across North America, have twice been selected for the Journey Prize anthology and were collected in the 2008 edition of Coming Attractions. Griffin currently lives in Victoria with his wife Kimberly and their daughters Evelyn, Tessa and Vivian. 978-988298-21-4

Ernest Hekkanen

H is for Hekkanen
One of the unsung heroes of B.C. literature, Ernest Hekkanen, is calling it quits. The final issue of The New Orphic Review will appear this fall, 2017. With his wife Margrith, Hekkanen began the bi-annual journal of fiction, poetry, reviews and essays in 1998 when they had just turned fifty-one. “To create a product of no obvious practical value,” he writes in the penultimate issue, “and for which there would be an extremely limited market, if any at all, seemed to me an act of defiance worth pouring some hard-earned cash into.” They have kept their Nelson-based publication going for forty issues without financial assistance from any level of government. Hekkanen was born in Seattle in 1947, of Finnish heritage, and came to Vancouver as a war resistor in 1969.

I is for Irani
In July of 2017, when the 13-title longlist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 was announced at the Oxford Bookstore in New Delhi, it included Anosh Irani for his novel, The Parcel (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, India). The prestigious 25,000 ($US) prize is named for its sponsor, the Delhi-based DSC Group infrastructure corporation. A shortlist of five or six books will be announced September 27 at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This winner will be announced at the Dhaka Literary Festival in Bangladesh on November 18.

Julie Paul

J is for Julie
Also a massage therapist and teacher, Ottawa Valley-raised Julie Paul, from Lanark, moved to Victoria and published her first collection of fiction, The Jealousy Bone, in 2008. Now her first poetry collection, The Rules of the Kingdom (McGill-Queens $16.95), has appeared as part of the Hugh MacLennan Poetry Series. Paul recently gained the spotlight when her second collection of twelve unsettling stories, The Pull of the Moon (Brindle & Glass 2014), received the twelfth, $5,000 City of Victoria Butler Prize, presented by City of Victoria acting mayor Chris Coleman and sponsor Brian Butler. The title was selected as a Top 100 Book of the Year by the Globe & Mail. Paul’s stories, poems and essays have been accepted for publication in numerous journals, including The Danforth Review, Little Fiction, The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review, Event, The Fiddlehead, The Dalhousie Review, PRISM International, Qwerty, Geist, Vallum, existere, The Rusty Toque, Boulevard, Canadian Living, and in the anthologies Coming Attractions 07 and Women Behaving Badly. 9780773548992

K is for Katz
Alligators and tigers can be white. Lobsters can be blue. One in twelve people have a rare disease. So what should we do? To raise awareness of rare diseases, “the underdogs of health care,” Deborah Katz, an artist and nursing professor with twenty years of experience in health care, has produced Rare is Everywhere (Miss Bird / Sandhill $19.95) in an attempt to educate children about nature and make them feel better if they have a rare disease or any anomaly that makes them feel different. The overriding message about her assortment of strange animals comes at the end: “So if you ever feel different, like a white spirit bear, you don’t have to worry because, Rare is EVERYWHERE!” Proceeds go to the Rare Disease Foundation, started in Vancouver in 2007. A rare disease is defined as a condition affecting fewer than one in 2,000 people. There are more than 7,000 known rare diseases. 978-0-9958261-0-6

John Lefebvre

L is for Lefebvre
Also a musician, composer, entrepreneur, retired lawyer and philanthropist, John Lefebvre of Saltspring Island is a former director of the David Suzuki Foundation, a founding director of the David Suzuki Institute and a founding supporter of The Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education. Having co-founded DeSmog Blog, he has self-published his autobiography, All’s Well: Where Thou Art Earth and Why (2017), as a platform for his philosophical musings and DIY wisdom. “150 generations out of the caves, we think we know our place in the vastness of the cosmos. Only 100 years ago we hardly knew that our Sun is just another star. Today, we still believe we’re the most intelligent beings to exist. Yet simple arithmetic suggests there are at least 10 trillion thoughtful species elsewhere. We’re not alone in the universe, just lonely: when we sufficiently mature, others may be in touch.” With liberties come responsibilities. $24.95 978-0-9959042-3-1

Barbara MacPherson

M is for MacPherson
As a child, Barbara MacPherson lived for several years in Bridge Lake, a small community located in the Interlakes district of the Southern Cariboo. After much research (over 100 interviews plus extensive archival and newspaper research) she wrote The Land On Which We Live: Life on the Cariboo Plateau: 70 Mile House to Bridge Lake (Caitlin $24.95). The book covers some First Nation but mostly White Settler family stories from the years 1871 to 1959 about people who lived in the area that stretches from North Bonaparte to Bridge Lake. The book jacket blurb notes: “The romantic backwoods landscape known as the North Bonaparte… is full of small remote ranches, hidden abandoned homesteads, and rutted roads leading to graves in forgotten meadows… Those who made it their home had to be tough, resourceful and resilient in order to thrive.” Comments include: “Barbara MacPherson has accomplished something truly rare here: a settler-era history that keeps precariousness at its centre,” from John Belshaw, author and Thompson Rivers University professor. “A treasure trove of early photographs, painstaking research and most of all, marvelous accounts of feckless wanderers and resolute settlers, roadhouse operators and ranchers in the South Cariboo – tough cookies, bad apples and flashy dudes included!” adds author and lighthouse keeper Caroline Woodward about the book. A freelance writer for over 30 years with many published magazine articles to her credit, MacPherson also co-wrote with Milton Parent, Faces of the Past (Arrow Lakes Historical Society 1989). 978-1-987915-36-5

N is for Nishihata
Filmmaker, magazine editor and postumous author Jesse Nishihata was born Hideo Nishihata in 1929 in Vancouver, to immigrant Japanese parents and spent his childhood on Powell Street, the former Japantown, where his father owned a tin metal shop. He was thirteen when all of that was shattered during WWII with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His family was expelled from the BC coast and Jesse survived by working in the sugar beet farms of Alberta. Later, he completed his education in Montreal and attended graduate school in London. By the time Japanese-Canadians received an official apology from the Canadian government in 1988 after more than a decade of struggle for justice, Jesse was a well-established independent filmmaker who had been teaching film and media studies at Ryerson University and had already worked for 12 years as a contract producer for CBC. He brought the Japanese-Canadian internment story into Canadian homes as early as 1974 when he made Watari Dori: A Bird of Passage. After the Canadian government redress to interned Japanese Canadians, Jesse became the first editor of the Nikkei Voice magazine. Before he died, Jesse wrote wrote a diary of his experiences growing up on Vancouver’s Powell Street, in the year before the internment of Japanese-Canadians. His family has self-published Powell Street Diary: A Remembrance of Life Before Internment (Lulu, 2017) after Jesse Nishihate died in 2006 due to a long  battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. $13.98 9781387054060

O is Oghma
After a severe accident caused agnosia—the inability to recognize and identify objects or persons—Emisch Oghma of Victoria began studying and modernizing the ancient Chinese face reading system called siang mien. By being more observant and interested in people’s faces, Emisch was able to reduce the effects of agnosia, giving rise to his book, In Your Face (Agio $19.95), designed to show how anyone can quickly “read” their own face, their friends, family or co-workers. 978-1-927755-54-9

Katja Pantzar

P is for Pantzar
A former Associate Editor of B.C. BookWorld, Helsinki-based writer, editor and broadcast journalist Katja Pantzar was born in Finland and raised and educated in Canada. A freelance member of the Finnish public broadcasting company Yle’s news team, Pantzar is a regular contributor to Blue Wings, the inflight magazine of Finnair, and Helsinki correspondent for Monocle 24. She is the author of three guides to Helsinki: The Hip Guide to Helsinki, Helsinki by Light and 100 Things to Do in Helsinki. Her new book, The Magic of Sisu: In search of courage, strength and happiness the Finnish way (2017), is Pantzar’s personal account and hands-on guide to sisu and how it helped her on her personal journey to physical and psychological wellbeing. Hodder will publish this book in the UK in April of 2018, together with Penguin Random House USA’s non-fiction imprint TarcherPerigee in North America. In 2017, reprint rights for her book The Magic of Sisu were also sold internationally to CHINA, Yeeyan Publishing; CZECH REP., Mladá Fronta; FRANCE, Belfond; GERMANY, Bastei Lübbe; ITALY, Marsilio; NETHERLANDS, Kosmos; POLAND, WUJ; RUSSIA, AST; SPAIN, and Roca Editorial (WS). According to her literary agency, the book arose from her responses to Canada where “the consumerist and materially obsessed culture left her feeling empty and unhappy. When she received treatment for depression in her mid-20s, the medical practitioners treating her simply prescribed medication and sleeping pills, no thought given to her lifestyle. After moving to Finland, Katja discovered sisu: the Finnish approach to well being defined by a special kind of resilience, grit and courage. She embraced this way of living and experienced a dramatic turnaround in her health and happiness. Simple, functional exercise (as simple as riding her bike to work), the Nordic diet,spending time in nature and water together with a more courageous outlook, all served to transform Pantzar’s life: her anxieties, fatigue and pain left behind in the sea.”

Q is for Quartermain
Set in Vancouver, in 1972, U Girl (Talon $19.95) is a coming of age story about Frances Nelson as she arrives in big city for her first year of university, escaping her small-town life. Sexual experimentation, drugs, working at menial jobs, meditating on Wreck Beach and studying at the University of British Columbia during the “free love” era are all incorporated in her struggle to be taken seriously as a woman with a desire for gender equality. 978-1-77201-040-4

Heather Ross

R is for Ross
With the publication of her book The Natural Eclectic: A Design Aesthetic Inspired by Nature (Figure 1 $42.95), Heather Ross added author to the list of her other career accomplishments: artist, photographer and stylist. Ross also owns a décor boutique at 2170 Fir Street in Vancouver, known for its mixture of the new and the found with the natural. Her aesthetic has been called “coastal chic” and her colour palette described as “where the sea meets the shore”. In over 300 of her photographs, readers can glimpse into Ross’s approach to decorating, which is inspired by her West Coast upbringing and two years spent living and antiquing in Paris.  978-1927958469

Pat and Ron Smith

S is for Smith
Ron Smith’s The Defiant Mind: Living Inside a Stroke (Ronsdale $22.95) has won an IPPY Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Group in the United States for the autobiography/memoir category. Founder of Oolican Press, Smith has provided a personal account of what it’s like to have a massive ischemic stroke to the brain stem. Smith recounts struggles with communication, the frustrations of being written off, the role of memory in recovering identity, the value of therapy and, above all, his passion to live. Including suggestions for improvement of care for stroke victims, The Defiant Mind is for stroke survivors, caregivers and medical professionals. [Ron Smith is currently on a book tour through BC, stopping in Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Osoyoos, Nelson, Fernie and on to Calgary to do a Heart and Stroke Foundation annual meeting, and then back via Kamlops, Prince George, Smithers, Terrace and Prince Rupert.]

Jason Turner

T is Turner
Jason Turner of Vancouver is a comic book artist whose first graphic novel, Fir Valley (Cloudscape Comics $25), is seemingly set in North Vancouver. The town of Fir Valley, on the side of a mountain,  is shaken when a man is killed and his son disappears. While the community reacts to these events, the mystery is investigated and dark secrets from the town’s past come to light. And here is something lurking in the woods… Turner has self-published comics since the late 1980s, and has been putting his comics on the internet since the late 1990s. He co-wrote the True Loves trilogy with his wife Manien Bothma. More recent work includes Farm School, The Adulation and Bird Comics. His comics column in comic form, Jason and the Comics, ran in Broken Pencil for five years. 978-1-927742-10-5

U is for Ulrike Narwani
North Saanich’s Ulrike Narwani has published her first book of poems, Collecting Silence (Ronsdale $15.95) covering a life arc through youth, love and loss, to maturation and aging. She shares religious moments in other lands – “We stumble outside./ Hurry past prayer wheels./ Set them turning./ Hands skimming faith./ The letters foreign./” – finding something new to say about the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa – “who does not know you/ iconed/ xrayed on history’s gurney, flesh cold/ measured/ the droop or lift/ of left or right upper lip/ or lower/ cameras on selfie sticks bristle-strut/ send portraits home” – and the loss of a grandmother – “I could not discern the moment you left./ You were just no longer,/ a snowflake melting/it seemed so easy./ I could not discern-/ until a coldness rolled in/a morning mist/ sinking warmth beneath it/ until it drowned.” Narwani’s poems remind us of the power of silence to size-up, reshape and transform. She says when we are silent, our deepest experiences – our memories – talk to us in a language that we know without speaking. Of Baltic-German heritage, Narwani’s family was forced to emigrate from their homeland Latvia at the onset of WWII. She grew up in Edmonton before completing a Ph.D in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto. Her poetry has appeared in Island Writer, CV2, FreeFall, Vallum, two chapbooks edited by Patrick Lane, and the anthology Poems for Planet Earth. 978-1-55380-487-1

Kevin Vallely

V is for Vallely
Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, architect and adventurer Kevin Vallely crossed the treacherous Northwest Passage – in nothing more than a rowboat. Travelling with a team, Vallely faces life-threatening storms and unbelievable weather to reach his goal. He also encounters natural beauty rivalled by few other destinations in the world: graceful belugas, hairy muskoxen, and herds of caribou. All these experiences are captured in Rowing the Northwest Passage: Adventure, Fear, and Awe in a Rising Sea (Greystone $24.95).  Due to climate change in the high Arctic, the Passage is now ice-free for a brief window in summer, which allows Vallely to embark on his trip. But it also draws his attention to the catastrophic impacts of rising temperatures in the high Arctic. Part adventure story, part striking portrayal of Arctic life, Rowing the Northwest Passage casts new light on a place that seems surreal to most southern Canadians. Vallely’s previous adventures include scaling a volcano in Java and trekking across Antarctica. He is a member of the Explorer’s Club and an Explorer’s Club Flag recipient and was named one of Canada’s leading adventurers by the Globe and Mail in 2003. 978-1-77164-134-0

Aaron Williams

W is for Williams
Born on January 5 1986 in Terrace, Aaron Williams grew up in Prince Rupert and attended Memorial University of Newfoundland (2008-2012, English and Poli-Sci) and University of King’s College Halifax (2015-2017 MFA in non-fiction writing). He worked as a forest firefighter based out of Smithers from 2006-2014, which is the subject of his first book, Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir (Harbour Publishing, 2017).

X is for Xinjiang
As a sessional lecturer at UBC, Kim Trainor has released Karyotype (Brick $20), a poetry collection about a woman who lived four thousand years ago. Dubbed Loulan, her body has been preserved in the sands of the Taklamakan Desert—the largest desert in China, in the southwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The word karyotype, we are told, is “the characteristic chromosome complement of a species.” Trainor worked in a biomedical library and for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Previously her poetry won the Ralph Gustafson Prize from The Fiddlehead and the Long Poem Prize from The Malahat Review. 978-1-77131-379-7

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Y is for Yahgulanaas
Artist and author Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas has created another graphic novel that retells an ancient Haida tale in his unique mix of Northwest coast art and Japanese comic style. War of the Blink (Locarno $24.95) is about a fisherman caught in a high-stakes game of kidnap and bluff while trying to save his home village from raiders. In a showdown in which one of the sides must blink first, the villagers find a way to save face and their home. Ultimately, it’s a story about finding the courage to choose peace over war. It follows up his award-winning RED: A Haida Manga. Yahgulanaas, also a sculptor and graphic artist, has work in the collections of the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Vancouver Art Gallery amongst others. He pulls from 20 years of experience in the Council of the Haida Nation and speaks frequently about social justice and community building. 9780995994621

Lillian Zimmerman

Z is for Zimmerman
It’s not easy being an elder in North America and Lillian Zimmerman should know. The 92- year-old writes humorously and knowledgably about the prevalence of ageism in Canada in Did You Just Call Me Old Lady? (Fernwood $18). Recent Statistics Canada information made headline news this year when those over the age of 65 outnumbered the 15-and-younger demographic for the first time since Confederation. Zimmerman’s book makes the case that long-livers can have fulfilling lives and that they make valuable contributions to society. She makes these points while not shying away from the challenges to aging, such as serious illnesses, mental deficiencies, low income and isolation. Zimmerman exposes how prejudice against old people, as seen through media and popular culture depictions like ads for products to alleviate bodily failings, and jokes about memory loss and sexual infirmity fuel negative attitudes towards them. Her analysis shows that many of these problems result from inefficient management and poor policies. Ageism, like sexism and racism, needs to be handled by social justice and anti-oppression actions. Her previous book, Baglady or Powerhouse? A Roadmap for Midlife (Boomer) Women (Detselig 2009) was based on interviews she did while working as an associate with the Simon Fraser University Gerontology Research Centre. She has since established a scholarship at SFU to provide financial support for a graduate student in the Department of Gerontology in their first year of study.  9781552668979

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