J. Michael Yates – Obituary

One of Canada’s most determinedly experimental writers, J. Michael Yates, who founded Sono Nis Press and Cacanadadada Press, has died in Vancouver. REVIEW

Who’s Who

A is for Aalborg
G.K. (Gordon) Aalborg has won the 2019 Western Writers of America’s Spur Award for Best Western Historical Fiction with his novel River of Porcupines. Spur Awards have been presented since 1953. Winners have included Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves, Glendon Swarthout for The Shootist and Tony Hillerman for Skinwalker. Aalborg’s winning novel describes the Rocky Mountain fur trade of the early 1800s and the rivalry between the powerful Hudson’s Bay Company and the North-West Company, complicated by the arrival of Ilona Baptiste, a lovely and much-desired Métis maiden who could become the catalyst for a bloody trade war between the companies. Fur trade employee Garth Cameron is given the task of taking her to safety downstream from Rocky Mountain House, but she is shot, seemingly by an enemy Cree, and rescued by a brutal Hudson Bay Company boss Louis Savard, who wants to keep her for himself. Accused of abandoning her, Cameron must rescue her as well as his good name. River of Porcupines is published in hard cover and eBook by Five Star Publishing, an imprint of Gale-Cengage Learning, or available via Amazon.

Brenda Brooks

B is for Brooks
In Brenda Brooks’ first novel, Gotta Find Me An Angel (Raincoast $19.95), a 35-year-old film projectionist at a second-run cinema in Toronto was haunted by the ghost of a friend who died long ago. In a somewhat similar vein, Brenda Brooks’ second novel, Honey (ECW 2019), touted as modern noir, concerns a re-ignited passion for a wild and charismatic childhood friend named Honey who suddenly re-enters the life of 24-year-old Nicole Hewett whose father has just been killed in a car accident. Brooks says this tale of perilous romance – including friendship, seduction and murder – was partially inspired by the return, in 2010, of a scrapbook of poems and photographs that she had sheepishly given to her high school writing teacher on the last day of school. The return to her, some thirty years later, of her youthful writing by the family of the deceased teacher “renewed in me a longing to express something about desire, memory and loss.” The novel is due for release on October 1st. 978-1-77041-497-6

C is for Cadwaladr
With support from the Darts Hill Garden Conservancy Trust Society and the City of Surrey Cultural Grants Program, Margaret Cadwaladr has written and published her second tribute to a major public garden, A Secret Garden: The Story of Darts Hill Garden Park (Darts Hill Garden Conservancy Trust Society 2019 $29.95), in which she recounts the history of Ed and Francisca Darts’ donation of their South Surrey garden–which began as a fruit and nut orchard–to the City of Surrey in 1994 for horticultural education for the next 999 years.  With 200 colour images, the book will be launched at Darts Hill Garden Park, 16th Avenue & 170th Street, in Surrey, on Wednesday, July 31. 978–1-9995465-0-2

Libby Davies with Bruce Eriksen

D is for Davies
Ours is a self-glorifying age in which people chronically persuade themselves they are progressive by merely advertising their moral superiority in tweets—as if that constitutes a social action. Libby Davies is from a different era. Never mind that she can now be viewed as Canada’s first openly lesbian MP. From age nineteen onward, inspired by Harry Rankin and Bruce Eriksen—with whom she later had a son—she has worked tirelessly for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, running for mayor in 1993. As a Vancouver city councillor from 1982 to 1993, and as an NDP MP for Vancouver East from 1997 to 2015, Davies always got out there, rolled up her sleeves, talked to people face-to-face, and did stuff, non-stop. In Outside In: A Political Memoir (Between the Lines $26.95), she says her biggest challenge as an MP, serving as Jack Layton’s House leader, was always maintaining her stalwart activism within her community, working with the likes of Bud Osborn to establish the Insite safe injection site way back in 2003. If there’s a god or goddess who hands out halos for social justice activism, Libby Davies ought to be first in line for her perseverance, integrity and her no-bullshit idealism. She never made herself into the story. 978-1-77113-445-3 (available in May)

Sean Daly in Spain

E is for Erzgebirge
Sean Daly’s From the Erzgebirge to Potosi (Friesen Press 2018) is a B.C. book like no other. As an overview of geology and mining since the 1500s, it considers the relationship between mining, geology and society, including the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, while citing the most important strikes and protests by miners to improve their working conditions. From the Erzgebirge Mountains in Bohemia where underground silver mines were started in the 1500s (now located within eastern Germany and the Czech Republic) to the contemporary silver mines at Potosi in Bolivia, Daly charts the progress of geotechnical thinking with emphasis on the first geologist/engineer, Georgius Agricola who wrote his treatise De Re Metallica during the Renaissance. As the son of West Coast salmon fisherman John Daly, profiled in Edith Iglauer’s Fishing with John, Sean Daly first became fascinated with geology due to the proximity of an old mine near Pender Harbour where he grew up. Having studied geology and mining engineering at university, and having also worked at the Highland Copper Mine for nineteen years, Daly has supplemented his knowledge by visiting famous mines in South America and Europe. 978-1-5255-1759-4 pp $32 / 978-1-5255-1758-7 hc $38.55

F is for Fiona
For six-and-a-half years North Vancouver-born Fiona McQuarrie was a music critic at the Vancouver Sun and The Province. Her lifelong interest in pop music has led to her first book, Song Book: 21 Songs from 10 Years (1964-74) (Walthamstow, UK: New Haven Publishing 2018 / $18 U.S.) which tells the stories of how and why some of her favourite songs were written by the likes of Randy Newman, Beach Boys, Tim Hardin, Donovan and Split Enz. 9781912587155

G is Grindler
Everyone who has ever visited a West Coast beach and held a tiny piece of sea glass in their palm will know the pleasure of wondering where that sea-rubbed-smooth shard of glass might have come from before it reached the tideline. Salt Spring Islander Sarah Grindler has added other tidal pool gems such as sea urchin shells and sand dollars for her wonder-inducing Seaside Treasures: A Guidebook for Little Beachcombers (Nimbus $15.95), due in May and designed as a practical volume for the novice collector of washed-up gems. 9781771087469 [Meta Rose photo]

Bruno Huber

H is for Huber
When asked what he knew about French cooking just as he was about to open a French bistro, Bruno Huber joked, “French fries, French onion soup, French desserts, French wines.” But Huber did actually understand that he was getting into haute cuisine, an “alchemy for the senses.” With a partner named Aldo, Huber believed he was realizing a dream when the two took over a defunct French restaurant in Vancouver’s West End just months before the 2010 Olympics. Huber recounts his hopes and ambitions in Folly Bistro (Granville Island $19.95), including tales of temperamental chefs, wayward love affairs between the staff, difficult patrons, touchy health inspectors and above all, precarious cash flow. “The money that would painstakingly come in the front, left out the back faster than it came,” writes Huber, who had invested all his RRSPs and savings into the venture. Having to sell the bistro at a loss two years later, Huber has no regrets. “It was a fantastic time and we entertained all our friends, and my wife loved the bistro.” Born and raised in Switzerland where he won a literary prize for best short story in German, Huber later published a collection of his short stories. He moved to Canada in the 1970s, eventually settling on the Sunshine Coast. Folly Bistro is currently being adapted for the stage. 978-1-989467-00-8

Isabella Wang

I is for Isabella Wang
Isabella Wang has been making her mark with a series of interviews for Room magazine with the likes of Eden Robinson, Katherena Vermette, Triny Finlay and Arielle Twist. Her own debut poetry chapbook is forthcoming with Baseline Press. At 18, she became a two-time finalist and the youngest writer shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Essay Contest. Her poetry has appeared in Room Magazine, The /tEmz/ Review, Train JournalCanthius, Plenitude, and Looseleaf Magazine, and she holds a Pushcart Prize nomination for poetry. Her essays are published in carte blanche, Invisible Blog, and The New Quarterly. She has been studying English and World Literature at SFU, interning at Room Magazine, serving as the Youth Advocate for the BC Federation of Writers, and co-ordinating the bi-weekly Dead Poets Reading Series.

J is for James
Rick James has provided an authoritative overview of what really happened when B.C. boats ran liquor to the U.S. during Prohibiton Don’t Never Tell Nobody NothinNo How: The Real Story of West Coast Rum Running (Harbour $32.95). “We operated perfectly legal,” said Captain Charles Hudson. “We considered ourselves philanthropists! We supplied good liquor to poor thirsty Americans … and brought prosperity back to the Harbour of Vancouver.” 978-1-55017-841-8 [Author photo by Patrick Lawson]

Sabina Khan

K is for Khan
Seattle teen Rukhsana Ali hides her crop tops and make-up from her conservative Muslim parents and sneaks off to parties without her parent’s knowledge. She looks forward to the day, a few months hence, when she breaks free from her heavily monitored life to attend Caltech and start a new, freer life. All her plans are forsaken when Rukhsana’s parents catch her kissing girlfriend Ariana, and send her to Bangladesh. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali (Scholastic Press $22.99) is Sabina Khan’s first YA novel. Born in Germany, she spent her teens in Bangladesh and lived in Macao, Illinois and Texas before settling in Vancouver with her husband and two daughters. 978-1-338-22701-7

Mark Laba

L is for Laba
After seventeen years, Mark Laba has produced a second collection of poems The Inflatable Life (Anvil $18). According to his publisher, the poems recreate, “the structure of the old variety shows he watched on TV as a child. The reader will find a little singing, a little dancing, a little drama, a little comedy, a little experimentation, all rooted in a veritable grab-bag of far-ranging experiences.” The poems are surreal in nature, similar in style to his first book of poems, Dummy Spit (Mercury 2002). Perhaps better known for his ten years as a restaurant reviewer for the Province newspaper, Laba cites a range of employment in his CV: watchmaker, anatomical model painter, stock and bond messenger, vertical-blind maker, scriptwriter for educational animation, and artist. His The Mack Bolan Poems (Gesture 1985) won the bpNichol Chapbook Award. 978-1-77214-142-9

M is for Mickleburgh
As we go increasingly digital, society barely bats an eye as unionization of the workplace declines, and more and more workers are hired under contract, with no job security and few benefits. Hence judges have selected Rod Mickleburgh’s On the Line: A History of the British Columbia Labour Movement (Harbour $44.95) as this year’s winner of the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness. It reminds British Columbians how integral trade unionism has been for social progress. Mickleburgh, a retired journalist, has documented the broad historical sweep of what has been Canada’s most volatile and progressive provincial labour force. He will receive the 15th Ryga Award on April 27 at 1 pm at the new sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Library branch, 385 Menzies Street, in Victoria. Runners-up were Chelene Knight for Dear Current Occupant and Sarah Cox for Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand Against Big Hydro. Judges for the Ryga Award were professor and author Trevor Carolan, Joe Fortes Library branch manager Jane Curry and Beverly Cramp.

Natalie Meisner

N is for Natalie
Natalie Meisner of Salt Spring Island is a playwright and author of the memoir, Double Pregnant, about two lesbians and their quest to have children. Illustrated with watercolours by Mathilde Cinq-Mars of Quebec, her My Mommy, My Mama, My Brother and Me (Nimbus $22.95) is for children and young teens. It arises from Meisner’s experiences as a mother of two. “When the fog disappears, the path to the beach beckons, with all the treasures it leaves behind: lobster traps, buoys, fused glass, urchins, a note in a bottle.” 9781771087414

O is Onjana Yawnghwe
As her spouse transitions from perceived masculinity towards a new identity, poet onjana yawnghwe bravely records her own sense of wonder and loss in the small way (Caitlin $18), a remarkably compassionate view of a heart-twisting, dwindling friendship, sated with respect. Born in Thailand, yawnghwe is a Shan-Canadian who grew up in B.C. Her poems have been featured in numerous anthologies and journals, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2011, 4 Poets, CV2, Room, Ricepaper, The New Quarterly, Force Field: 77 Women Poets of British Columbia (Mother Tongue) and Poems from Planet Earth (Leaf Press) edited by Yvonne Blomer and Cynthia Woodman Kerkham. Featuring work by Yawnghwe, Daniela Elza, Peter Morin and Al Rempel, 4 poets (Mother Tongue 2009 $18.95) was the first volume in a proposed series from Mother Tongue to highlight emerging poets. It included poetry drafts, interviews, author photographs, poetics and short biographies as well as translations of select poems into French, Thai, Bulgarian and Tahltan. Onjana Yawnghwe has taught English as a second language, and worked in office administration at non-profits for many years. She currently works as a nurse in mental health. Aside from writing, Onjana also hosted a podcast and blog called “The Alaskan Riviera” about the 1990’s television show Northern Exposure. 978-1-987915-77-8

P is for Potter
With the explosion of Kombucha drinks on North American store shelves it was only a matter of time before a guide to brewing the probiotic fermented tea appeared. DIY Kombucha: Sparkling Homebrews Made Easy (New Society $29.99) by Vancouver chef and registered holistic nutritionist Andrea Potter offers practical easy recipes that don’t require expensive equipment or hard-to-find ingredients. Readers will find out what a SCOBY is (basically, it’s the culture used to make Kombucha but there’s a long story behind it), the history and other interesting facts such as how to prevent bottles of fizzy drink from exploding. The book also explores similar health drinks such as Jun, and water Kefir. 978-0-86571-887-6

Q is for Quebec
It was Gordon Campbell’s regime that instructed ICBC to become more litigious when British Columbians try to get compensation as accident victims. Possibly it says something about his popularity, after a decade-long premiership that included the Winter Olympics, that the first critical book to examine his legacy isn’t B.C.-published. From the McGill-Queen’s imprint in Quebec, UNBC professors J.R. Lacharite and Tracy Summerville have gathered 368 pages of critical essays for The Campbell Revolution? Power, Politics and Policy in British Columbia (MQUP $31.46). 9780773551039

PJ Reece

R is for PJ Reece
The late humorist and CBC Radio personality Arthur Black praised PJ Reece’s latest book, Throw Mama from the Boat: And Other Ferry Tales (Rolling West 2018) for being funny and weird. Others simply describe this collection of 13 short stories as whimsical. The author himself says his initial aim was to run with the absurd, and that by staying on this track “soon it develops its own reality.” Reece has been a working writer for 25 years, having scripted documentaries for most of the big networks, published two novels, ghosted a memoir, and self-published two books on story structure. A well-travelled cinematographer, he has has also spent time in East Africa as a hydrometeorologist.

S is for Schwartz
Prior to the internment of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, in 1942, two young friends named Michiko (Michi) and Esther are both hankering to own the most popular dolls on display in a Vancouver storefront window–the Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret dolls, in keeping with the British Empire’s idealization of its royal family as heroic figures. The two friends share a birthday so they are simultaneously hoping their wished-for sister dolls might be able to play together. Esther’s grandmother, who is deeply concerned about the fate of Jewish relatives in Europe, gives the Elizabeth doll to Esther. When Michi doesn’t receive the Margaret doll, jealousy arises and the friendship falters; then it’s almost severed when Michiko’s family must close their corner store and are interned away from the coast. That’s the premise for Ellen Schwartz’s The Princess Dolls (Tradewind $19.95), illustrated by Mariko Ando. For readers aged 9-12. 9781926890081

Leslie Timmins

T is for Leslie Timmins
Covering topics as different as domesticity, sensuality and disease, Leslie Timmins’ debut collection of poems Every Shameless Ray (Inanna, $18.95) has been described as one that “shimmers with a radiant engagement of life.” The poems are arranged in three linked movements ending with a meditation on the visual artist Henri Matisse. Timmins’ poems have been shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize and have won honours in both Canadian and American magazines. Her poems are strongly influenced by the years she spent living in Europe and the Canadian Rockies, as well as by activism and a decades-long Vipassana (insight) meditation practice. Timmins holds an MFA in creative writing and her work includes stints as a waitress, community radio host, housing advocate, freelance writer and creative writing teacher. She currently works as an editor, writes reviews for Event magazine, and is a member of the powerX6 writing collective. For several years she has volunteered with WRAP, the Women Refugees Advocacy Project, petitioning government to provide effective trauma care and family reunification for female Yazidi refugees in Canada. She is also the author of the chapbook The Limits of Windows (The Alfred Gustav Press, 2014). 978-1771335775

U is for Ut’akhgit
Smithers arose from a swamp beneath a mountain. Initially the non-indigenous residents of the town in northwestern B.C. largely excluded the surrounding Witsuwit’en population. As a third-generation native of Smithers, who now works as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Florida State University, Tyler McCreary has orchestrated interviews with more than fifty Witsuwit’en and non-indigenous families for Shared Histories: Witsuwit’en – Settler Relations in Smithers BC 1913 – 1973 (Creekstone $24.95). To celebrate this publication, the community of Witset (formerly Moricetown) and the Liksilyu clan organized a 34 km. Walk to Witset and a feast hosting more than 400 guests (over 50% non-Indigenous). Ut’akhgit Henry Alfred, the last living Witsuwit’en plaintiff in the Delgamuukw – Gisdaywa court case, hosted the feast, attending in spite of illness, and died soon after. “This book is part of a process to acknowledge the historic contributions of Witsuwit’en people to building the town,l” says McCreary, “and the forms of discrimination that they endured.” 978-1-928195-04-7

V is for Varga
With ghost writer Roxanne Davies, Michael G. Varga tells the stories of his 40 years spent as a cameraman in Inside View: The Eye Behind the Lens (Self published, unpriced). Working with the CBC, Varga covered NHL hockey games, Grey Cup games, nine Olympics, four Commonwealth Games, the Pan Am Games, World Track and Field, FIFA World Cup, World Cup Skiing,  figure skating chamionships and more. He was at the Calgary Olympics in 1986 when the world was introduced to Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican bobsledders. He tells his favourite Peter Mansbridge story, which occurred during an interview shoot with computer software magnate Bill Gates, as well as many more inside peeks about working at the “Mother Corp” as CBC is known by those in the business. He came face-to-face with royalty such as Princess Diana in 1983 and noted her vulnerability as well as her beauty. Years later while working on the Molson Indy in Vancouver, he heard the director calling the cameras in his earpiece, “Take camera 1, take camera 2. Diana just died in a car crash. Take camera 3, take camera 4.” While everyone was shocked, they all had to keep recording the car race. Later that evening, Varga heard the rest of the story on the news. All in a day’s work for a TV camerman. 978-1-9994-026-2-4

Edwin Wong

W is for Wong
In 2018, Edwin Wong (1974-) founded the Risk Theatre Modern Tragedy Playwright Competition with Langham Court Theatre to challenge conventional Aristotelian, Hegelian, and Nietzschean interpretations of tragedy. It is touted as the world’s largest competition for the writing of tragedy (visit risktheatre.com). A year later, Wong’s study of the nature and appeal of tragedy, The Risk Theatre Model of Tragedy: Gambling, Drama, and the Unexpected (Friesen 2019 $22.50), asserted his own theories as to why tragedy has been an integral part of storytelling for two millennia. Tragic heroes, he maintains, “by making delirious wagers, trigger catastrophic events. Because they wager human assets, tragedy functions as a valuing mechanism. Because they lose all, audiences ask: how did the perfect bet go wrong?” Wong has a Master’s degree from Brown University, where he concentrated in ancient theatre. His other research interests include epic poetry, having published “a solution to the contradiction between Homeric fate and free will by drawing attention to the peculiar mechanics of chess endgames.” He lives in Victoria, B.C. and blogs at melpomeneswork.com

Cecil Paul and Briony Penn

X is for Xesdu’wäxw
Born in 1931 in the Kitlope, Cecil Paul, also known by his Xenaksiala name, Wa’xaid, is one of the last fluent speakers of his people’s language. At age ten he was placed in a residential school run by the United Church of Canada at Port Alberni where he was abused. After three decades of prolonged alcohol abuse, he returned to the Kitlope where his healing journey began. He has worked tirelessly to protect the Kitlope, described as the largest intact temperate rainforest watershed in the world. In his late 80s, he resides on his ancestors’ traditional territory. He is the co-author of Stories from the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid (Rocky Mountain Books $30) as told to Briony Penn, who is also releasing her own 400-page book, A Year on the Wild Side: A West Coast Naturalist’s Almanac (Touchwood $26). “My name is Wa’xaid,” he says, “given to me by my people. ‘Wa’ is ‘the river’, ‘Xaid’ is ‘good’ – good river. Sometimes the river is not good. I am a Xenaksiala, I am from the Killer Whale Clan. I would like to walk with you in Xenaksiala lands. Where I will take you is the place of my birth. They call it the Kitlope. It is called Xesdu’wäxw (Huschduwaschdu) for ‘blue, milky, glacial water’. Our destination is what I would like to talk about, and a boat—I call it my magic canoe. It is a magical canoe because there is room for everyone who wants to come into it to paddle together. The currents against it are very strong but I believe we can reach that destination and this is the reason for our survival.” Front page photo by Callum Gunn. Colour above, by Greg Shea.

Y is for Yacowar
After a 44-year academic career, including jobs as Dean of Academic Affairs at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and Dean of Fine Arts at The University of Calgary, Maurice Yacowar of Victoria has released Reading Shtisel: A TV Masterpiece from Israel (lulu.com, $20). It’s a detailed, 92-page critique and appreciation of the hit series that first aired in Israel in 2013. Netflix brought it to North America in 2018. Yacowar previously self-published two books evaluating The Sopranos.

Z is for Zuehlke
Following the tumult of early Canada’s war with America in 1812, several decades of peace ensue before the group of British North American colonies take their first steps to becoming a real country. Mark Zuehlke’s first graphic novel, The Loxleys and Confederation (Renegade Arts $19.99) tells the story of this era through the lives of the Loxley family who live in the Niagara peninsula. In a blend of history, education and adventure, the novel begins in 1864, following the Loxley family when the pre-Canada colonies once again face the threat of an American invasion after the cancellation of the Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty. The colonies look to unite for protection and the Loxleys journey to the Charlottetown Conference and witness the events that lead to the formation of the Dominion of Canada. The main storyteller is fifteen year old Lillian Stock, who is the granddaughter of George Loxley and the hero of a previous book The Loxleys and the War of 1812 (Renegade Arts). Zuehlke’s co-writers are Alexander Finbow and Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair; illustrations by Claude St. Aubin and Christopher Chuckry; and lettering designed by Todd Klein.  978-0-99215-089-1

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