Q & A: Jónína Kirton

“Poet and author, Jónína Kirton talks about her latest book that merges memoir and poetry to tell of the effects of colonization on her Metis family and her path to healing. Read the interview here.FULL STORY

 

 

Who’s Who

Alan Dennis

A is for Alan Dennis
Born in Malta to a British family, the son of a Royal Navy officer, Alan Dennis didn’t plan a career in the field of avalanche safety, he fell into it by chance. Snow Nomad: An Avalanche Memoir (FriesenPress $25.99) chronicles the fifty seasons Dennis worked in the “avalanche patch,” travelling between Canada, Alaska, New Zealand, Scotland and Argentina. He went to ski resorts, mining areas, film sets and beyond, whether in Canada’s remote reaches, scrambling up a summit in the Scottish Highlands or bunking at a mining camp in Argentina’s Andes. Dennis shares how avalanche work has changed over the last 40-50 years, from almost 80% intuition to a greater use of analytical skills; but always, “a lot of luck.” The book focuses on Dennis’ personal stories rather than technical detail and includes photographs he took while on the job. A testimonial blurb on the book’s jacket from Bruce Jamieson, avalanche researcher and professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, states: “Alan Dennis is not the only maverick working with avalanches, but he may be the only one to have forecast avalanches for 50 winters on four continents. This is a wonderful, quirky romp through his amazing career with avalanches, people and tales that should not be forgotten.” Alan Dennis is retired and lives in Revelstoke. 9781039107984

Ian Boothby

B is for Boothby
North Delta-raised Ian Boothby, an award-winning comedy writer best known for his work on The Simpsons comics (based on the American animated television series of the same name) as well as cartoons for The New Yorker and MAD magazine, co-created the graphic novel series Sparks! (Scholastic, 2018) with artist Nina Matsumoto. That book received the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Book Award in 2019 at the BC Book Prizes. Sparks, a super hero that saves lives is actually two cats, Charlie and August who dress up in a mechanical dog suit. In the third title in the series, Sparks! Future Purrfect: A Graphic Novel (Graphix/Scholastic $36.99), Charlie and August try to take a break on a tropical island. But when weird things start to happen and they discover that the island holds a surprising secret, they’re blasted off on another crazy adventure. This time they have to save themselves. 9781338339932

Lincoln Clarkes

C is for Clarkes
Lincoln Clarkes had made his name as a fashion and celebrity photographer before he began photographing drug-addicted women working in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) between 1996 – 2002. He published some of the images in his book, Heroines: Photographs (Anvil, 2002), held an exhibition at a DTES art gallery and had an award-winning documentary about the book produced in 2002. A furor ensued about Clarkes’ ethics for focusing on drug addicts. Heroines Revisited (Anvil $48) is a follow-up volume featuring another 200 portraits, many not shown before, along with three new critical essays about the controversial body of work and an interview with the artist. The arguments against Clarkes’ photos says Melora Koepke, one of the essay contributors “in some way negated the subjects’ agency and contributed to an ongoing cultural tug-of-war over women’s bodies and the choices they make about them… By its very existence, Heroines asks whether those who are scandalized by what the photographs show should instead save their indignation for the conditions of life in the DTES.” 978-1-77214-071-2

Phyllis Dyson

D is for Dyson
In 1970, Phyllis Dyson was an infant when she moved from Ottawa to Burnaby with her brother and single parent mother. Twenty years later, her family made headlines when her mother was shot and killed by a police officer at a lower mainland sky train station. Although Dyson knew her mother had paranoid schizophrenia it wasn’t until twenty-five years later, compelled by her young daughter’s questions, that she researched the tragedy. It compelled Dyson to write a book about her family history, Among Silent Echoes: A Memoir of Trauma and Resilience (Caitlin Press, October $24.95). Through anecdotes of family life, Dyson recalls many happy memories as well as devastating experiences both while living with her mother and within the BC foster care system. Her heartbreaking yet joyful social justice story offers a unique perspective as the child of a parent struggling to cope with a psychotic disorder. Now an elementary school teacher, Dyson holds a bachelor of arts in music and a graduate diploma in special education. She is a member of the BC Schizophrenia Society and has promoted mental health awareness in her West Coast community through a program called Partnership. 978-1-77386-064-0

Ann Eriksson. Photo by Gary Geddes.

E is for Eriksson
In her third non-fiction title for younger readers ages 12 and older, Urgent Message from a Hot Planet: Navigating the Climate Crisis (Orca $24.95), Ann Eriksson looks at the science behind global warming and its impact on the environment as well as sharing easy actions we can all take to ameliorate the damaging effects. “Do something NOW!” is her clear message. With many photographs and illustrations by Vancouver-based Belle Wuthrich, this colourful book also highlights young people who are “climate heroes,” adult activists who are making a difference, and other role models from around the world working to fix the problems of climate change. “I encourage any interested youth – and their parents – to read this book,” says Elizabeth May, MP and former leader of the Green Party of Canada. “It is an amazing achievement – comprehensive and informative, stretching from climate science to the intersecting issues of inequality and racism. Ultimately, it is a toolbox for hope.” Ann Eriksson is a director of the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy and works for the SeaChange Marine Conservation Society restoring nearshore marine ecosystems. 978-1459826328

Jill Frayne

F is for Frayne
It’s 1995, Whitehorse, Yukon and family counsellor Helen Cotillard is seeing her reluctant client, fifteen-year-old Gale who has been having anxiety attacks. In the northern town, unlike big southern cities such as Toronto or Montreal, seeing a therapist “meant you were failing in school, or you still wet the bed” writes Jill Frayne in her novel Why I’m Here (NeWest $21.95). Gale’s problems stem from being separated from the person she cares most about – her younger half sister, Buddie who lives with their violent, sadistic mother and stepfather in Ontario. When her stepfather made Gale go live with her father and his wife in Whitehorse (for Gale’s safety), Buddie told her, “Go, okay. And when I’m big, come back and get me.” All Gale can think about is getting back home to Buddie. Jill Frayne’s first book, the travel memoir Starting Out in the Afternoon (Vintage, 2003) was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. She divides her time between the mountains in Atlin and a maple woods in Ontario. 978-1-77439-049-8

Tamara Glouberman

G is for Glouberman
A passion for whitewater kayaking led Tamar Glouberman to work as a raft and outdoor guide. Soon, she had opportunities to work and travel in places like Ivvavik Park at the northern tip of the Yukon, Ecuador’s Galapagos Island, Peru and Zambia. But one of her favourite areas is the coast of BC where she works as a bear-viewing guide in the Great Bear Rainforest near Clayoquot Sound. She tells her story in Chasing Rivers: A Whitewater Life (Harbour $26.95). From publicity: “Chasing Rivers is a powerful story of the grit and resilience needed to be a whitewater guide on some of the most dangerous rivers on this continent. It is also a moving meditation on grief and will appeal to readers of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Its candid, inspiring narrative of overcoming despair will interest not just readers of adventure writing but also those grappling with depression, grief, self-doubt, and anyone looking for an uplifting read.” Glouberman earned an MFA in creative writing at UBC and splits her time between Whistler, Montreal and Vancouver Island. 9781771623414

H is for Holdstock
In Pauline Holdstock’s ninth novel, Confessions with Keith: From the Journals of Vita Glass (Biblioasis $22.95) a mother and writer goes through a mid-life crisis at the same time as her husband, as told through her journal. The story has its roots in Holdstock’s life. “I did actually keep a journal through some of the rocky years of raising a family and this voice began to creep in,” says Holdstock. “It was Vita’s voice, this sort of pretense of being in control. Rather than sitting down at a desk to open a journal and bursting into tears, which I could have done at times, I had this persona of Vita who would look at things as if it was all perfectly manageable. And so, I got quite fond of Vita and used to make a point of writing in her voice and that would entertain me.” Years later, Holdstock re-read some of her journals and realized she had the framework for a novel. “Vita could have all sorts of adventures and misadventures within this framework. So, I started working on that.” The novel is due out in September. 9781771964975

Roy Innes

I is for Innes
In his 5th title, the novella Elderville (World Castle $9.99) Roy Innes’ latest crime story is about a road-trip-turned-nightmare. David Radcliffe, an eye surgeon, and his wife, Kathy, returning from a medical convention in San Francisco bypass a highway accident by turning off onto a country road which winds through farm country near Eugene, Oregon. Totally lost when their car’s GPS fails from what appears to be a cyber black out, they come upon Elderville, a town nowhere noted on their highway map and with a population they soon discover is made up entirely of old people. What begins as relief turns to terror as the couple are entrapped by a bizarre scheme to prevent them from leaving. 978-1956788303

Carrie Jenkins

J is for Jenkins
Backed by some pretty serious academic credentials (Canada Research Chair in Philosophy at UBC, PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC), Carrie Jenkins’ has released her debut novel Victoria Sees It (Strange Light/Penguin $24.95), which is a mix of queer psychological thriller and gothic mystery. Raised by an aunt and uncle, Victoria is able to leave her English working-class background by getting into Cambridge. Amidst all the rich toffs, Victoria is an outsider. Then, her one friend on campus, wealthy Deb, goes missing. In Victoria’s search to find her friend, she is helped by a police officer named Julie with whom Victoria has an affair. They travel the English countryside investigating various crime sites but Deb is not found. Victoria graduates, moves to various places to achieve academic success, eventually ending up in Seattle. Here she starts to suffer mental health issues and migraines. Victoria is only one of the novel’s narrators; her catatonic mother, who suffered a mental melt-down after bearing Victoria, is the other. 9780771049279

K is for Kalla
Following on the heels of his most recent bestseller, Lost Immunity (Simon & Schuster, 2021), which CBC Books named one of the Best Canadian Fiction Books of 2021, Daniel Kalla has written The Darkness in the Light (Simon & Schuster $24.99). In this thriller, a psychiatrist worries about his patients suiciding and flies to the remote Arctic community Utqiagvik, Alaska to check on one of them, Amka Obed only to find she has disappeared. Regional police believe Amka will return but the doctor as well as the town’s social worker aren’t so sure. Is it a missing person inquiry, a pharmaceutical cover-up or the local underground drug trade acting up? The answer will horrify this isolated community. Daniel Kalla works as an emergency physician in Vancouver when not writing novels. 9781982191399

Susan Lundy. Photo Lia Crowe.

L is for Lundy
Born in the 1960s and “fed on feminism in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” Victoria-raised Susan Lundy intended to lead the life of a career woman. “Dress suits were in. I could motor out of the driveway in the morning, delve into engrossing and stimulating work (setting my own hours), bring home a fat cheque,” she writes in Home on the Strange: Chronicles of Motherhood, Mayhem, and Matters of the Heart (Heritage House $22.95). Then, in quick succession while on a summer co-op job in her fourth year at UVic, Lundy fell in love, married, became an instant step-mom and later, gave birth to two girls. Her career became a distant goal when she “looked into their eyes.” Family life became everything, which she wrote about in newspaper and magazine columns. Her book is a humourous story collection of the complete journey from kids to Covid and becoming an empty-nester. 9781772033649

Hannah McGregor

M is for McGregor
What is a good feminist and how is it learned? More particularly, how does one learn – through ideas, feelings and texts – of living in a good way? Hannah McGregor tackles these issues in A Sentimental Education (WLU Press $24.99). Known as the podcaster behind Secret Feminist Agenda and Witch, Please, McGregor writes in her Author’s Note that this book is a “meditation on what it means to care deeply—about justice, about revolution, about changing the world—and to know that caring is necessary and yet utterly insufficient. This work will never be perfected, and it will never be completed.” McGregor works through her own experiences described by her publisher as “a white settler, a fat femme, and a motherless daughter.” Some of her conclusions are that learning is lifelong and “the most practical thing we can do with our knowledge and our passions” is to “Pass it on.” McGregor is an assistant professor at SFU’s publishing program. 978-1-77112-557-4

Manu Nellutla

N is for Nellutla
Since his childhood days in India, Manu Nellutla, who now lives in Surrey, BC has been interested in historical and mythological books. He read as much as he could about them including the two major epics in Sanskrit from Ancient India, the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyana. It led Nellutla to begin his Janya Bharata book series. The first installment is Janya Bharata: The War: A commoner’s historical fiction during Mahābhārata epic (Self-published $14.99). Set in the mythical time of the Mahābhārata epic poem, which was probably compiled between the 7th century BCE and the 3rd century BCE, Janya Bharata is a fictional novel about a tribe called Ustrakarnikas. The protagonist, a common man named Mitrajit, is pulled into a feud between two cousin groups, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. All that Mitrajit ever wanted was to spend his life peacefully with his wife and daughter. But now he has to choose between his dharma and his family. How will this war between the Kuru royalty affect Mitrajit’s life and tribe? This novel presents a unique, never-before written perspective of what the common population across the Indian sub-continent were doing during the epic Mahābhārata’s war. Nellutla is an Indo Canadian who has lived and worked in three different continents. He can speak, read and write fluently in four languages and can speak in two other languages. Outside his professional work, Manu is also a singer, podcast host and an acclaimed public speaker including on the TEDx platform. 979-8430439217 (paperback) and 979-8433361928 (hardback)

Priscilla Omulo

O is for Omulo
Businesses are increasingly confronted by Canada’s complicated relationship with Indigenous peoples. Where some see challenges, others see opportunity and Priscilla Omulo of Tsartlip First Nation shows how to take positive action in her guide: Amplifying Indigenous Voices in Business: Indigenization, Reconciliation, And Entrepreneurship (Self-Counsel Press $26.95). Omulo explains how any organization can make plans to improve the way they do business by creating a more sustainable and inclusive place for all. Her steps include doing the right research, consulting the right people, and formulating a productive Indigenization strategy. Omulo has amassed more than a decade of experience advocating for, and working with Indigenous youth and families. She sits on a variety of anti-racism boards and task forces. In 2019, she was awarded the Indigenous Leadership Award by the Women’s Collaborative Hub. 9781770403406

Hilary Peach

P is for Peach
For more than two decades Hilary Peach worked as a welder and was one of the few women in the Boilermakers’ Union. She kept journals of her experiences and has now published Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood (Anvil $22) about working in this hard-driving field of industrial construction with its coded language and little-known subculture. Her jobs took her from BC’s shipyards and pulp mills to Alberta’s oil sands and Ontario’s rust belt. She even spent time in the huge power generating stations in northeastern US. Peach also took time to become a West Coast performance poet including performances at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. She founded the Poetry Gabriola Festival and was its artistic director for ten years. Her debut collection of poetry, Bolt (Anvil, 2018) references her time as a welder as well tackling topics like snakelore, songs of loss and longing, and those times when a body is overtaken with the impulse to run out of control. Peach continues to work as a welder for the Boilermakers’ Union while maintaining her interdisciplinary art practice on Gabriola Island. 9781772141955

Q is for Quintana
Christine Quintana has written Selfie (Playwrights Canada $17.95) about how sexual assault against minors can happen in any community. “The question I want to pose,” says Quintana, “is how can we talk about consent in a way that prevents this from happening in the first place?” Selfie had a German language premiere in Berlin in January, 2022. Quintana is a Siminovitch Prize Protege winner for playwriting and a founding member of the Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition. Born in Los Angeles to a Mexican American father and a Dutch British Canadian mother, Quintana holds a BFA in Acting from U.B.C. and is currently playwright-in-residence at Vancouver’s Tarragon Theatre. 9780369101259

Harold Rhenisch

R is for Rhenisch
Harold Rhenisch continues his love affair with Iceland (and his ongoing investigation of land and place) in his latest collection of poems, Landings: Poems from Iceland (Burton House $20) in which every poem springs from part of that elemental island and bears its name. For example, Urridafossar, which means Trout Falls, is a popular horse trekking destination in the country’s northern area. It is here, while on a writer’s residence trip that Rhenisch composed The Foal – Urridafossar, a paean to the scope of geological time in comparison to the minute span of a man’s life: “where water once carried off the ice / that ground mountains into sand … Am I, / the you I meet, the man who stepped into the sun, // or the mountain who walked back? / Fate plays these tricks with time // when time gets up on its four foal legs / and plays these tricks with fate.” 9780994866967

Teoni Spathelfer

S is for Spathelfer
Heiltsuk hereditary member Teoni Spathelfer’s first book, Little Wolf (Heritage House, 2021) is about a young Indigenous girl who moves to the big city and learns to find connections to her culture and the land wherever she goes, despite encountering bullies and feelings of isolation along the way. Now released is the second title in the series, White Raven (Heritage House $19.95), the name of Little Wolf’s mother who was one of the 150,000 Indigenous children from across Canada forced to go to residential school. Eventually, White Raven shares her story with her grandchildren and begins to heal. It brings her family closer in this story of survival, healing and family unity. The third book in the series, Abalone Woman (Heritage House $19.95) is due out in May and will continue with Spathelfer’s themes of racism, trauma, and family unity through relatable, age-appropriate narratives. Illustrations in all three books are by Natassia Davies. 9781772033779

Eliana Tobias

T is for Tobias
Having grown up in Chile as the child of Holocaust survivors, Eliana Tobias grew up listening to stories of shattered communities in Europe, losing family in Chile under a military dictatorship, and living in Peru during a time of during an intense civil war. Tobias is attuned to how people caught in devastating circumstances later find ways to rebuild their lives. Her first historical novel, In the Belly of the Horse (Inanna, 2017) is about a family escaping the turmoil of Peru’s political conflict in the 1980s. Otilia and Salvador, a mother and son, are apart during the conflict. Her latest novel When We Return (River Grove Books $22.05) revisits Otilia and Salvador who have been separated for twenty years. It’s 2008 and the Peruvian government is ready to make amends to its citizens following the violent guerilla movement of the last three decades. But Otilia and Salvador are stymied by the government when it denies responsibility in their legal case. Tobias splits her time between BC and California. 978-1632995346

U is for Umingmak
Umingmak is the Inuit word for muskox and a symbol of strength, authority and protectiveness. It was also the nickname the Inuit gave Stuart Hodgson, the first resident commissioner of the Northwest Territories who arrived in 1967. Commissioners and their council were appointed then and Ottawa gave Hodgson the mandate to establish a modern, self-elected government in NWT with Yellowknife as its capital. Hodgson succeeded and did so, as Indigenous leader, James Wah-Shee, chair of the Tlicho National assembly says, through recognizing the importance of governing by consensus, which is “the Aboriginal way – and this is part of his legacy.” The story is told by Jake Ootes in, Umingmak: Stuart Hodgson and the Birth of the Modern Arctic (Tidewater $29.95), due out in May. The book also tells how Hodgson co-founded the Arctic Winter Games, organized three royal visits to the NWT, and united the entire population of about 26,000 people in fifty isolated communities spread over 3,400,000 square kilometers.  9781777010102

Phillip, Autumn and April Vannini

V is for Vannini
After five years, 400 interviews and 250 ferry rides Phillip Vannini released Ferry Tales: Mobility, Place, and Time on Canada’s West Coast (Routledge, 2012) about ferry-dependence on island and coastal communities of the west coast. His upcoming release is co-authored with April and Autumn Vannini, In the Name of Wild: One Family, Five Years, Ten Countries, and a New Vision of Wildness (UBC On Point Press $24.95), due out in October. The Vanninis set out to find what the terms ‘wildness’ and ‘wilderness’ mean to people around the world. Hint: it’s not pristine, untouched nature. Together, the family visited twenty Natural World Heritage sites, including the Galápagos Islands, and discovered that the wilderness is a busy place as many people visit these areas for lots of different reasons. Phillip Vannini and April Vannini are ethnographers and filmmakers who also co-wrote Wilderness (Routledge, 2016) and Inhabited: Wildness and the Vitality of the Land (McGill-Queen’s, 2021) and the film directors of In the Name of Wild and Inhabited. 9780774890403

Katie Welch

W is for Welch
Melissa Makepeace struggles to run the family farm in Mad Honey (Wolsak & Wynn $22), the debut novel of Kamloops-based Katie Welch. At the age of eleven, Melissa’s father had suddenly left the family and then a dozen years later Melissa’s lover, and the man she hired as her beekeeper, disappears too. To get over her grief, Melissa turns her troubled mind to the farm and lists of chores such as: “harvest pears and tomatoes, clear out bean rows, check on the chickens, feed the goats and the donkey, get an oil change on the truck, clean up the outdoor canning kitchen, go over the farm financials, and on, and on.” But her lover returns, suffering from a kind of amnesia and no idea what day it is. Melissa begins to unravel the mystery, which might also reveal what happened to her father. Katie Welch holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Toronto and her short stories have been published in EVENT, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review, The Temz Review, The Quarantine Review and elsewhere. 978-1-989496-52-7

Xiran Jay Zhao

X is for Xiran
They’ve got over 250,000 YouTube subscribers, 65,000 Twitter followers, 25,000 Instagram followers and a website that averages 5,000 unique visitors per month. Now, non-binary Xiran Jay Zhao of Vancouver is publishing their first sci-fi/fantasy novel Iron Widow (Penguin $21.99) for ages 14 and up. Using a blend of Chinese history and futuristic mecha (humanoid mobile robots) science fiction, the book features a heroine inspired by China’s only legitimate female sovereign, Wu Zetian (who is credited with reducing corruption and revitalizing the country’s culture and economy). Xiran is a first-generation Chinese immigrant who lives and works in Vancouver where they are training to become a biochemist. 9780735269934

Terence Young

Y if for Young
Having retired from teaching English and creative writing at St. Michael’s University School, Terence Young has published a spellbinding collection of poems, Smithereens (Nightwood $18.95) in which he finds the extraordinary in everyday things – the last raspberries of summer, a ferry trip that is detoured, watching TV shows from the past, a family car that lasted twenty years, a child’s picture lost in a fire, a bear at the cottage. All are bits of life that Young turns into “shining artifacts of memory,” a phrase he quotes from Leonard Cohen in one of his verses. 9781550179439

Jennifer Zilm

Z is for Zilm
In seeking to answer Pontius Pilate’s trolling question, “What is truth?” Jennifer Zilm turns to a variety of sources and discourses in her upcoming poetry collection First-Time Listener (Guernica Editions $20) due out in October. Her replies are inspired by (but never limited to) God, Gilgamesh, CNN, the Cloud, the Bible, hypochondriac hay fever sufferers, Bob Dylan, YouTube conspiracy tutorials, Proust, marginally-housed meth heads, Benjamin Moore paint swatches, Tarot cards, ancestry.com as well as her own memories and senses. Zilm lives in Greater Surrey Regional District and in Ecuador. She has a BA, and MA in Religious Studies from the University of British Columbia. She was also a PhD candidate in Early Judaism and Early Christianity at McMaster University where she studied the Dead Sea scrolls. 9781771837460

 

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