Sierra Club member wins Ryga Award

Diane Pinch penned an appreciation of West Coast environmental organization, the Sierra Club in its fiftieth year, which predates Greenpeace. FULL STORY

Who’s Who

Gary Allan with his wolf dog, Tundra.

A is for Allan
The owner of SWELL Wolf Education Centre in Nanaimo, Gary R. Allan has penned a book about his wolf dog, Tundra – A Gift from the Creator (self-published $20). Allan adopted Tundra, estimated to be 90 per cent wolf, when she was a few weeks old. That was 13 years ago. Inspired by his love for Tundra, Allan founded SWELL and began educating school children and adults about the importance of wolves in maintaining healthy ecosystems. He has traveled to more than 200 schools, showing Tundra to students to give them a first-hand look at the animal. He learned how important wolves are to aboriginal people and tells of the many First Nation people who have interacted with Tundra and later say that she could be their grandmother or grandfather. The renowned chimpanzee and environmental activist, Dr. Jane Goodall has also met Tundra. Allan’s book is a collection of such stories about Tundra and the people who have encountered her. “I hope readers learn about a completely different side of the wolf from our book,” he says. “Because we as humans can learn so much good from wolves.” He pointedly does not recommend wolf dogs as pets, “because they are not pets.” 9781771368377

Darci Bysouth

B is for Bysouth
Darci Bysouth has published a debut collection of short stories, Lost Boys (Thistledown $20). Each of the 18 tales depict a crumbling world and characters who face losing what they most hold dear. They include, The Heartbreaks about a teenage girl whose naive pride in a brother is ruined after a road trip to a rock concert goes awry; Sacrifice in which a violent incident reveals the treachery within a lonely woman’s relationships; and Hold about a grieving widow who thinks she has found a glimpse of hope in the dark waters of a childhood lake. Raised in the ranchlands of B.C., Darci Bysouth studied literature at UBC and creative writing at the University of Edinburgh. 978-1-77187-175-4

C is for Cassie
Winner of the 2019 Victoria Children’s Book Prize for her debut picture book, Sterling, Best Dog Ever (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23.50) Aidan Cassie studied animation and earned a media arts degree at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design as well as Edinburgh College of Art. “Winning the Victoria Children’s Book Prize was a fantastic shock,” she says. “I’m so lucky the jurors connected with Sterling’s story; I love thinking that as an ‘award-winner’ it may be placed in more libraries where more kids can meet this over-anxious wiener-dog comically struggling with self-acceptance.” Cassie is also the author-illustrator of Little Juniper Makes It Big (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019) and The Word for Friend (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), to be released in 2020. She lives on a small island in the Salish Sea with her tiny family and giant dog. 978-0374306144

D is for Dueck
Dora Dueck’s All That Belongs (Turnstone $19) follows a recently-retired archivist who turns her attention to the difficult stories in her own family history including a problematic uncle and a troubled brother. Dueck combines prosaic detail – for example, the archivist’s uncle was nicknamed ‘Uncle Must’ but his real name was Gerhard, that he came from Russia and his English name was George — with a poet’s turn of phrase such as when describing a woman wearing a caftan saying goodbye to the archivist, “the hem of her dress undulating around her legs like a wave goodbye.” Publicity for the book describes it as, “an elegant and moving portrayal of ephemeral histories and the startling consequences of familial ties, silences, and shame.” Dueck’s previous novel, This Hidden Thing, won the 2010 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, and What You Get At Home (Turnstone Press, 2012) won the High Plains Award for Short Stories. Dueck’s novella, Mask, was also the winning entry for the 2014 Malahat Review novella contest. She grew up in a Mennonite community in Alberta, lived for many years in Winnipeg, and eventually moved to Delta. 978-0-8880-1681-2

Mercedes Eng

E is for Eng
The winner of the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, Mercedes Eng’s third collection of poems, my yt mama (Talonbooks $16.95) is about growing up with a white settler mother and a Chinese Canadian father in Medicine Hat. Eng describes watching the TV miniseries Roots and seeing a young black woman being whipped: “electric with fear I asked why / because she’s black / my mom said, and this uncontextualized response is true but I don’t / think she understood what that meant to not-yt-me.” 978-1-77201-255-2

F is for Fee
Although natural historians began writing about the polar bear as early as the mid-eighteenth century, it wasn’t until 1971 that it’s official Latin name, Ursus Maritimus (sea bear) was fixed. It’s one of the many tidbits of information in UBC Emerita Professor of English, Margery Fee’s new book, Polar Bear (Univ. of Chicago $19.99). She merges natural and cultural history about this iconic animal, the largest land-dwelling carnivore on Earth. Polar bears symbolize climate change; sell soda pop; feature in children’s books and on merry-go-rounds; decorate buildings; and once were prized by hunters and zoos. Fee’s last book was Literary Land Claims: The “Indian Land Question” from Pontiac’s War to Attawapiskat (Wilfrid Laurier University, 2015). 978-1-78914-146-7

Chantal Gibson. Photo Dale Northey

G is for Gibson
Chantal Gibson’s debut book of poetry, How She Read (Caitlin, $20) has been nominated for three Canadian poetry awards: the Pat Lowther Memorial Award; the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award (which recognizes a first book of poetry published by a Canadian writer); and the Raymond Souster Award (presented annually for a book of poetry by a Canadian League of Poets member). The collection represents the voices of Black women, past and present, highlighting the colonial ideas embedded in everyday things such as storybooks, coloured pencils, paintings and postage stamps. Her work has been published in Room magazine and Making Room: 40 years of Room Magazine (Caitlin Press, 2017), and she was shortlisted for PRISM magazine’s 2017 Poetry Prize. Gibson is an artist-educator living in Vancouver with ancestral roots in Nova Scotia. She teaches writing and visual communication in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University. 978-19879-1596-9

Monica Hibbs

H is for Hibbs
Monica Hibbs of Vancouver is described as a “popular blogger” and a “lifestyle influencer.” Her collection of recipes and do-it-yourself projects are contained in a hardcover called Gather at Home: Over 100 Simple Recipes, DIYs and Inspiration for a Year of Occasions (Penguin $35 2020), dedicated to her mother. “My husband, Troy, and I believe in fostering a strong sense of love, connection and belonging in our home.” They have three young children, Liam, Lillya and Blake. She and her husband have launched a home decor and furniture store. You can take a tour of their home on her website and buy many, many things. 9780735236288

I is for Imagining Violet
Mary E. Hughes’ first work of historical fiction, Imagining Violet (self-published) uses letters to tell the story of a 16-year-old Anglo-Irish girl who went to Germany in 1891 to study violin on her own. Violet is based on a few jottings that Hughes’ grandmother made in her Bible. Published by the author and First Choice Books in 2018, the book is available at Salt Spring Books, the Salt Spring Library and via Hughes previously published The Life and Times of the Floathouse Zastrozzi (2011) and Frank Welsman, Canadian Conductor (2006).

Dan Jason

J is for Jason
Dan Jason, known for popularizing beans as an important North American diet choice has written a new guide, Saving Seeds: A Home Gardener’s Guide to Preserving Plant Biodiversity (Harbour $14.95). It promotes the household production of seeds as a way to regain power over biodiversity from big industrial companies that have replaced heirloom varieties with genetic engineering and expensive trademarks. This corporate attack on biodiversity can be challenged by returning to the centuries-old tradition of farmers and communities saving seed stocks. Over half of Canadian households grow fruits, herbs, vegetables or flowers for personal use according to Stats Can. Each of these home gardens has the potential to become seed savers. But they have to let some of the plants go to seed, and harvest and preserve them. Saving Seeds is a call to help ensure a more secure future for seeds and our food security. Jason lives on Salt Spring Island where he founded a mail-order seed company. He has written many popular books including The Power of Pulses (D&M 2016). 978-1-55017-900-2 Saving Seeds
978-1-77162-102-1 The Power of Pulses

Gary Karlsen

K is for Karlsen
Fresh out of high school in 1965, Vancouver’s Gary Karlsen was expected to go to university. He had other ideas. Growing up in Vancouver’s West End, he had frequently gazed at the deep-sea freighters in English Bay and wondered, “What would it be like to be on one? Where did they come from? Where were they going?” he writes in No Ordinary Seaman: A Memoir (Self-published, $22.95). With a little ‘truth-stretching’ he managed to sweet talk his way on board the M/S Havkatt in September 1965 to work as a deckhand. The journey took the 17 year-old to Tokyo, back to Vancouver for a few days, then off again through the Panama Canal to New York City where he disembarked the following December. Shortly after, Karlsen took a passenger ship to Norway, his father’s ancestral home. But by August 1966, he had signed a six-month contract to work aboard a new tanker, M/T Polycastle. His book, “compresses a lot of LIFE – more than 38,000 nautical miles of it, into little over a year,” says Roger Elmes, a retired officer of the Royal Canadian Navy in the book’s foreword. Eventually, Karlsen returned to Vancouver, got a couple of university degrees and remained a landlubber. As for the Havkatt and Polycastle, both continued as working ships, although sold off several times and renamed until being too old to be profitable. Then, they were sold to scrapyards to be broken up. “Kind of sad,” writes Karlsen. “These ships took us safely between ports, and they thrummed with human energy, my own included. I was fortunate to have sailed on them.”  978-1-7752669-0-7

Jack Little

L is for Little
Before the days of powerful environmental groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, there were individuals and local community groups working to protect important natural areas. These unheralded citizens nurtured the roots of a sustainable environmental mentality that paved the way for today’s big green organizations running sophisticated programs. SFU history professor emeritus, Jack I. Little gives the early activists their due in: At the Wilderness Edge: The Rise of the Anti-Development Movement on British Columbia’s Southwest Coast (McGill-Queen’s University Press $29.95). Little focuses on five anti-development campaigns in and around Vancouver that were successful at protecting threatened green spaces on Coal Harbour, Hollyburn Ridge, Bowen Island, Gambier Island, and the Squamish estuary. Important British Columbia landmarks were saved from becoming a high-rise development project, a downhill ski resort, a suburban housing tract, an open-pit copper mine, and a major coal port, respectively. Surprisingly, the citizens who initiated these protests were not the usual suspects – radicals and anti-establishment youths. Rather, the protestors in Little’s case studies were primarily middle-aged, middle-class, and often women. 9780773556409

M is for MacLeod
Doug MacLeod published the memoir, On The Edge of Wilderness: Tales From Hazelton and the Kispiox Valley (self-published $15.70) about leaving Vancouver in 1976 with his wife (both young teachers) to work in Hazelton. The MacLeods built their dream log home in the nearby Kispiox Valley, bought horses and enjoyed the rhythm of the seasons. Local ranchers taught the greenhorns how to (safely) fell trees, keep lambs alive, and what rules to ignore. Doug’s sense of awe, adventure and humility comes through in the writing. He eventually faced hearing loss and trained to teach Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. The MacLeods left the north in 1987. He and his wife Mariette now live in North Vancouver where Doug is active in the North Shore Writers’ Association and the Gulf Yacht Club, splitting time between his passion for sailing and writing. 978-1092844321

Mahtab Narsimhan

N is for Narsimhan
Eight-year-old Kiara’s grandmother left her a genie in a garam masala bottle. She enlists the genie to help her with a bully at school, but the genie is on vacation after working for ten thousand years. The genie wants Kiara to do his bidding. The battle of wills that follows is the latest kidlit story from Mahtab Narsimhan, Genie Meanie (Orca $7.95), the author of Embrace the Chicken (Orca), Mission Mumbai (Scholastic), The Tiffin (DCB) and The Third Eye (Dundurn), which won the Silver Birch Award. 978-1-45982-398-3

O is for Olajide
A member of the Saga Collectif, Thomas Antony Olajide co-wrote the play Black Boys (Playwrights Canada $18.95) about the complex dynamics of the queer black male experience. His co-writers include two other black men, a black woman and a white man. The play examines three very different black men seeking to understand themselves in a society that both vilifies and sexualizes the black male body. Each role does a deep dive into the interplay between gender, sexuality and race. Olajide is a Dora Mavor Moore Award-nominated Toronto-based actor from Vancouver. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. The Saga Collectif was founded in 2012 to bring under-represented bodies and voices to the stage in a way that is honest, risky and new.

Jivesh Parasram

P is for Parasram
The protagonist of Vancouver Playwright Jivesh Parasram’s comedic take on the identity play format, Take d Milk, Nah? (Playwrights Canada $17.95), Jiv, is Canadian. And Indian. And Hindu. And West Indian. Trinidadian, too. Or maybe he’s just colonized. He’s not the “white boy” he was teased as in his immigrant household. Especially since his Nova Scotian neighbours seemed to think he was Black. Except for the Black people — they were pretty sure he wasn’t. He’s not an Arab, and allegedly not a Muslim — at least that’s what he started claiming after 9/11. In the end, it’s all about trying to find your place in this world. 978-0-36910-098-1

Q is for Quartermain
Historical writer, novelist, poet and chapbook publisher Meredith Quartermain’s new collection of poems, Lullabies in the Real World (Newest $18.95) puts colonization under the literary microscope. She employs a train journey  from the West Coast to the East Coast as a poetic device to probe Canada’s impact as a colonial nation. As the train travels from west to east, the poems invoke regions, voices and histories. Quartermain also uses imaginary conversations with other Canadian poets such as Robin Blaser and bpNichol to reflect on Canada from different angles as well as to examine the place of a poet in relation to the voices of other poets. At times playful, at other times confrontational, Quartermain ends by imagining a time before or outside colonization. 978-1-988732-78-7

Rowena Rae

R is for Rae
Rowena Rae rote the kidlit book, Chemical World: Science in Our Daily Lives (Orca $19.95 ) that explores some of the chemicals people use or come into contact with in their daily lives. It invites young readers to notice what’s around them and to ask questions about how they use things and what they eat every day that can affect their health. Rae worked as a biologist before becoming a freelance writer, editor and children’s author. Rae also co-authored with Elspeth Rae, Meg and Greg: a Duck in a Sock (Orca $14.95) the first book in a series designed for shared reading between a child learning to read and an experienced reader. The stories have special features that help a child with dyslexia (or another language-based learning difficulty) find reading success. She lives in Victoria. 978-1-45982-157-6 Chemical World/978-1-45982-490-4 Meg and Greg

Traci Skuce

S is for Skuce
Traci Skuce has published her debut short story collection, Hunger Moon (NeWest $19.95) about characters at turning points in their lives. She graduated from Pacific University’s low residency MFA program in 2015. Her short stories and non-fiction have been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and two Journey prizes. Her short story Because the Fall is in Two Weeks was long-listed for the 2019 CBC Short Fiction competition, and she was runner-up for PRISM International’s 2019 Grouse Grind Very Short Forms contest. She lives in Cumberland. 978-1-988732-80-0

T is for Taylor
Robert Ratcliffe Taylor’s The Birdcages: British Columbia’s First Legislative Buildings (Friesen 2019) tells the little-known history of the Birdcages, built between 1859 – 1864 during the tumultuous times of the gold rushes. According to the book’s publicity, the Birdcages “were build amid controversy and derided for their style. The brainchild of Governor James Douglas, they resembled, according to journalist/politician Amor de Cosmos, ‘something between a Dutch toy and a Chinese pagoda.'” Taylor describes each of the five structures, including the Court house and the Hall of Assembly. He shows how civil servants and politicians of the time regarded the Birdcages as a workplace and the public regarded them as civic architecture. The career of their designer, the mysterious Hermann Otto Tiedemann, one of Victoria’s early ‘characters’ is recounted as are the contributions of local contractors and tradesmen. The Birdcages was demolished in 1898. Taylor is professor emeritus in the history department of Brock University. He was born and raised in Victoria, where he lives,  serving as a volunteer docent at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. He has self-published several books about Victoria.

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

NWT Commissioner Stuart Hodgson, aka Umingmak. Circa 1967

V is for Vaira
The Federation of BC Writers has announced Ursula Vaira is the new editor of their magazine WordWorks distributed to more than 700 writers around B.C. After working for Oolichan Books in the 1990s, Vaira founded Leaf Press in 2000. She has written several chapbooks as well as And See What Happens: The Journey Poems (Caitlin 2011), containing an account of her thirty-day, 1000-mile paddle from Hazelton to Victoria in a First Nations canoe to raise awareness of addictions on the coast and to raise money to build a healing centre open to all people.

W is for Warrior
With endorsements by Tom  Wayman, Kate  Braid and Howard White, M.C. Warrior’s Disappearing Minglewood Blues (Mother Tongue $19.95), according to White, is a reminder of “a whole world of experience out there that seldom makes it into books, a vivid world of whipping cables, bleeding alders, physical exhaustion and the blessed relief of a quitting time whistle.” Born (in 1952) and educated in England, Mark Warrior first wrote a chapbook entitled Quitting Time (Vancouver: MacLeod Books 1978) published by antiquarian bookseller Don Stewart. 978-1-896949-78-9

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.

Rande Cook and Linda Rogers

Y if for Yo! Wik’sas?
Yo! Wik’sas? Hello! How Are You?: An Illustrated Conversation with the Invisible Girl Siri (Exile 2019) is a collaborative kids’ book in English and Kwak’wala based on the paintings of Kwakwaka’wakw artist Chief Rande Cook. It takes the form of a conversation between Siri (an enigmatic creator) and Rande’s two real-life kids, Isla and Ethan, who wonder about friendship, the future of the planet and what besides coffee motivates Dads. Cook’s work is in a natural environment, not in front of a computer screen. When Linda Rogers suggested a book, he replied, “Good, go right ahead.” So, Rogers proceeded to produce the book under Cook’s supervision. The story is followed by some guidance for conversations to be led by teachers or parents. There is also a short glossary to introduce a few Kwak’wala words, the most important of which is Gilakas’la, thank you! 978-1-5509-682-8-6

Y is for Yellowhead Blues
R.E. Donald has released a fifth book, Yellowhead Blues (Proud Horse, 2019) in her murder mystery series set on the highways of North America. The story opens with former RCMP investigator Hunter Rayne on the road in his eighteen-wheeler when he’s flagged down to help calm a horse with a bloodied saddle and no rider. The RCMP arrest a man for the murder of the horse’s owner but Hunter believes they’ve got the wrong man and sets out to uncover who stood to gain from the death of the wealthy ranch owner. Rayne’s beliefs are shared by a rookie female RCMP constable who joins him in the search for the truth. She befriends the dead man’s young fiance in an effort to get answers, and discovers that the vulnerable Texas beauty is not who the victim believed her to be. R.E. Donald was introduced to mystery fiction while reading books at her Uncle John’s family cabin on Shuswap Lake, “everything from Agatha Christie to Dick Francis to John D. MacDonald,” she says. “I started writing a novel when I was twelve, then wrote numerous business and horse-related articles over the years, but didn’t get serious about writing fiction until 1994. At that time, I was very active on the Compuserve Mystery Forum, attended Surrey Writers’ Conferences and Bouchercons, joined Crime Writers of Canada (we used to meet at Bunny Wright’s house) and Sisters in Crime.” Donald’s Proud Horse imprint is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association. 978-0-9940-7625-0

Zazie Todd

Z is for Zazie
Founder of the blog, Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about training methods and the human-dog relationship, Zazie Todd has written Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy (Greystone $26.95). Combining the latest canine research with recommendations from leading veterinarians, researchers and trainers, Todd demystifies the inner lives of dogs and provides advice for cultivating a rewarding relationship with your pet. For example, not many know that seemingly noiseless electronics may be upsetting their dog. And if you really want to give your pooch a gift that it will appreciate, one of the best things is let your dog sniff the breeze. Zazie Todd is a social psychologist, certified dog trainer and author. She writes a regular column for Psychology Today magazine and won the Captain Haggerty Award for ‘Best Training Article’ in 2017. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology (University of Nottingham) and an MFA Creative Writing (UBC).

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