Highways of courage

Once upon a time a man in a wheelchair travelled 40,000 kilometres through 34 countries in 18 months. His Rick Hansen Foundation has since raised $326 million for those with spinal chord injuries. REVIEW

Who’s Who

A is for Appleseed
Poet Joshua Whitehead debut novel, Jonny Appleseed (Arsenal $17.95), is the first B.C.-published fiction in many a year—since David Chariandy’s Arsenal-published Soucouyant in 2007 and Claire Mulligan’s The Reckoning of Boston Jim in 2008—to make it onto the Giller Prize longlist. It’s the tale of a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living in the big city. Jonny has one week before he must return to the “rez”–and his former life–to attend the funeral of his stepfather. Now Arsenal has partnered with VS Books for a new imprint to boost young writers who are Indigenous, Black of people of colour. 9781551527253

B is for Bantock
Nick Bantock’s Dubious Documents (Chronicle Books $26.95) is an epistolary puzzle featuring cryptic anagrams, number puzzles, picturegrams and wordplay scattered within sixteen envelopes. A character named Magnus Berlin needs help solving a puzzle. By studying his introductory note, and decoding his list of clues and letters, readers can engage with this analog puzzle, revealing the answer to his riddle one word at a time. Bantock is a former Bowen Islander who has joined the exodus to Victoria. 978-1-452166032

Dennis Currie

C is for Currie
For many of the adventures he encountered while flying as a bush pilot back in the day, including spotting for the B.C. herring fleet, retired Air Canada Captain Dennis Currie wrote a poem; and he continued that habit while flying much bigger airplanes. Whether in a Hercules tracking the great circle route to the UK or hauling diamonds for a mining company in Africa, Currie has composed his thoughts and impressions in prose-like iambic pentameter. His collection of seventy poetic memoirs is Half a Mile in Rain: Word Images from a Life in Flight (Mayne Island: Coast Dog Press $29). 978-0-9950292-5-5

D is for Dobbie
Holly Dobbie’s first Young Adult novel, Fifteen Point Nine (Toronto: DCB Books $14.95) is not just about the bullying of teenagers in school. That’s just the cruelty we see on the surface. We meet 15-year-old Agatha “Aggie” Murphy and her fellow victims of bullying–overweight Susan, tiny Carson, brainiac Travis and sweaty Nicole. Aggie is picked on because she’s dirty and smells. She tries to defend herself and maintain her dignity with caustic wit, but it’s a weak defence. In desperation, she initiates the Warriors Video Club whereby she and her cohorts use a camcorder to document the perpetrators of bullying. Such self-empowerment can only go so far. Aggie’s greatest burden is unseen, at home, where her mother — a hoarder — is oblivious to her needs. Paranoid alcholics can be that way. In her most secretive despair, Aggie self-harms. If Fifteen Point Nine sounds bleak, well, we haven’t got around to mentioning a classmate’s suicide that leads up to the big Winter Solstice Carnival dance to which Aggie has received an invitation from an anonymous admirer… There’s kindness from a school janitor and several moms, but basically we are shown to the extent to which high school can be a hellish experience and home can be even worse. Never mind getting a B in math. Or maybe a C+. In Fifteen Point Nine we’re just hoping that Aggie can make it to 16. Holly Dobbie is a former high school teacher in Port Moody and Langley who has taught English, journalism, women’s studies and stage-craft. Born in Vancouver on January 5, 1961, she lives with her family in Langley, B.C. She attended Lord Byng Secondary — before the age of camcorders — and has an Education degree from UBC. 978-1-77086-523-5

Gord and Ann Baird

E is for Eco-sense
Gord and Ann Baird co-created an Eco-Sense home in Victoria when greywater, rain water harvesting, compost toilets and earthen architecture were still on the fringes of cultural acceptance, not yet supported by local regulations. By challenging the codes and regulations in a logical, informed and respectful manner, they created the first legal, seismically-engineered, two-storey load bearing cob home in North America. It became the first Eco-Sense home audited within the Living Building Challenge (LBC) project. The LBC is the most challenging green building rating system globally, and the Baird’s home was the first to achieve petal recognition leading to the status of “World’s Greenest Modern House” for a number of years. From wastestream to mainstream, the Bairds have flushed forth their knowledge in Essential Composting Toilets: A Guide to Options, Design, Installation, and Use (New Society $39.99). Gord Baird is the Water Commissioner for the Victoria Capital Regional District’s regional Water Supply Commission and Juan de Fuca Water Distribution Commission. He was a technical editor for the BC Ministry of Health’s Manual of Composting Toilets and Greywater Standard Practices (2016). Ann Baird works on regional climate action initiatives involving water, food, and energy resiliency in climate adaptation and risk management. 9780865718722

F is for Foster
Rarely, beyond the world of grants and galleries, can an artist generate a body of work in which roughness triumphs over sophistication. Replete with reflections of street life that are undeniably vital from the margins, Sean Nosek’s Ken Foster’s Vancouver: Life, Art and Alleyways (Granville Island $49.95) elevates the art of a former addict from the Downtown Eastside, Ken Foster, who was once in Tri Cities Adult Community Corrections under evaluation and rehab (but has no criminal record). Foster now lives in North Delta. The book reveals the coherency of Foster’s heart-wrenching oevre. Nosek is a former English teacher who became an assistant superintendant of the Vancouver School District. 978-1-9269919-1-7

Chris Gainor

G is for Gainor
In The Bomb and America’s Missile Age (Johns Hopkins $49.95), Christopher Gainor examines the US Air Force’s (USAF) decision, in March 1954, to build the Atlas, America’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) designed to quickly deliver thermonuclear weapons to distant targets, generating a crucial threat to Russia during the Cold War. ICBMs also carried the first astronauts and cosmonauts into orbit. Gainor first recalls how guided missiles were created before and during World War II, then follows the evolution of both Soviet and American rocket programs. 978-1-4214-2603-7

H is for Hale
Amanda Hale’s Angela of the Stones (Thistledown $19.95) is her second collection of stories linked to the Cuban village of Baracoa, sometimes described as the second European settlement in the Americas where Christopher Columbus reputedly erected a cross. Hale continues to document the social and political changes as seen in eastern Cuba. One story concerns a right-wing Miami ex-pat, based on an interview she conducted in 2014 at the time when Raul Castro and President Obama shook hands and exchanged prisoners. “All of Cuba is a museum now. We live off our old Revolution,” laments Gertrudis, one in a cast of characters. Godofredo, born in January 1959 as a victorious Fidel marched into Havana, now limps along the streets of Baracoa where he encounters tourists and townspeople while maintaining his anonymity as the peanut vendor. In the Embrace of the Alligator, a first collection of linked fictions set in Cuba, was published in 2011. 978-1-77187-165-5

Ian Weir

I is for Ian Weir
Even though, by 2018, Ian Weir has won two Geminis, four Leos, a Jessie and a Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award, there was still time for a third adult novel, this one dubbed a deadpan revisionist Western. In The Death and Life of Strother Purcell (Goose Lane $22.95), we follow lawman Strother Purcell into the mountains of B.C. in 1876 as he tracks his outlaw half-brother. He resurfaces some sixteen years later in a San Francisco jail cell. Just as an opportunistic journalist came along and inflated the reputation of Jesse James with tales of biographical hokum, a ne’er-do-well scribe named Barrington Weaver proceeds to make hay with Purcell’s life story of obsession, lost love, treachery and revenge. The journalist only requires his protagonist to produce a bang-up ending… 978-1773100296

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 2018

K is for Kaszas
Before the arrival of Europeans to what is now British Columbia, First Nations tattooed their bodies with clan crests and symbols of identity. Missionaries discouraged this practice and in some areas, carved metal bracelets were used to cover the tattoos. Eventually, bracelets were carved with clan crests and took the place of crest tattoos. In the past few years, a revival of cultural tattooing has been underway as described in Body Language: Reawakening Cultural Tattooing of the Northwest (Bill Reid $28.57), that accompanies the exhibition of the same title at the Bill Reid Gallery, on until January 13, 2019. “The revival of Indigenous tattooing is a process of re-indigenization,” writes co-curator Dion Kaszas, a self-described Hungarian, Métis and Nlaka’pamux cultural tattoo practitioner, scholar, and visual artist. “We are using our traditional tattoo practices in a way that communicates who we are at the core of our beings. When we take on our traditional markings we are resisting colonialism and affirming who we are in a way that makes us visible as Indigenous people to ourselves and to the world.” 978-0-9812341-7-5

L is for Lerner
Soon schoolchildren will not be taught how to write beyond their signature. As we increasingly render control of our lives to machines, the world of graphic art made by human hands becomes more precious and engaging. Emily Carr art history prof Jillian Lerner has therefore explored the culture of graphic art that blossomed in 19th century Paris in her Graphic Culture: Illustration and Artistic Enterprise in Paris, 1830-1848 (McGill-Queen’s $49.95). Whether it’s a portrait of Victor Hugo, a political cartoon or an advertising poster, the richness of talent is undeniable and alluring. 978-0-7735-5455-9

Renisa Mawani

M is for Mawani
As a sociology professor at the University of British Columbia, Renisa Mawani researched racial tensions in Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871-1921 (UBC Press 2009), revealing how Chinese settlers, indigenous people and settler Canadians were systematically oppressed by “the making of the settler regime” particular in the context of B.C. salmon canneries. It is now followed by Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction in the Time of Empire (Duke University Press 2018). Through close readings of the ship, the manifest, the trial, and anti-colonialist writings of the era, Mawani argues that the Komagata Maru‘s landing raised urgent questions regarding the jurisdictional tensions between the common law and admiralty law, and, ultimately, the legal status of the sea. hc $104.95 U.S. / pb $27.95 U.S. hc 978-0-8223-7027-7 / pb 978-0-8223-7035-2

Joyce Nelson

N is for Nelson
In her follow-up to Beyond Bankers in 2016, social critic Joyce Nelson not only exposes the fallacies of the neoliberal  economy, she highlights the inspirational efforts of those who are rallying against it–such as the ongoing Citizens’ Revolution enacted in 2007 by Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno. In Bypassing Dystopia: Hope-Filled Challenges to Corporate Rule (Watershed Sentinel $20),  she cites analyst Wendy Holm who decries how NAFTA has already erased sovereignty issues around water exports. “With respect to trans-boundary movement of water, there are no real ‘decisions’ to be made.” says Holm. “The ship has already sailed.” In essence, if Canada tried to stop bulk water export, it would be subject an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) lawsuit.  Both Holm and Maude Barlow are urging that water “as a good, service or investment” be removed from both NAFTA and the FTA. 978-0-9953286-3-1

onjana yawnghwe

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

Paula Pryce

P is for Pryce
Paula Pryce was raised in an inter-religious contemplative household and grew up with a fascination for the wisdom and myth of diverse cultures. She subsequently became a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at UBC. Her first book, Keeping the Lakes’ Way: Reburial and the Re-creation of a Moral World among an Invisible People, has been followed by The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity (Oxford University Press $74), based on nearly four years of research among semi-cloistered Christian monastics and a dispersed network of non-monastic Christian contemplatives across the United States and around the globe. 9780190680589

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. I have one director who has bailed, mostly cuz she lives out of town. But that is easily remedied when a first meeting is held. There is zero urgency at present. 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

Graham Riches

R is for Riches
Graham Riches’ Food Banks Nations. Poverty, Corporate Charity and the Right to Food (Earthscan/Routledge $39.95) has been described as a critique of domestic hunger in the rich (OECD) world. Riches outlines the moral vacuum at the centre of neoliberalism “driven by the corporate capture (Big Food/Big Ag) of food charity (US style food banking with Canada’s support) and its false promises of solidarity with the poor.” He presents a human rights counter-narrative to the feeding of ‘left-over’ food to ‘left behind’ people and explores the role of civil society to hold indifferent governments to account. 9781138739758

S is for Scott
Prairie-raised ex-fisherman and yacht salesman Joel Scott of Chemainus has crafted his second contemporary, sea-faring, adventure novel, Arrow’s Fall (ECW $18.95), as a follow-up to his 2018 debut with Arrow’s Flight set off the coast of Mexico. Next spring his contemporary hero Jared Kane — orphaned at a young age, raised by strict Christian grandparents on a farm, spent two years in jail on a trumped-up assault charge, father to a half-Haida son – will set sail for the dangerous waters of the Great Sea Reef of Fiji, lured by a sunken 18th century ship laded with gold. A life-and-death sailing battle ensues with ex-marine Lord Barclay and his crew of mercenaries about the 240-foot Golden Dragon. 978-1-77041-427-3

Rob Taylor

T is for Taylor
Rob Taylor’s “evidence-based poems” for “Oh Not So Great”: Poems from the Depression Project (Leaf Press $16.95) are derived from his collaborations with two doctors and five patients with a past or current diagnosis of depression. Their focus group discussions incorporated the nine major symptoms of depression — sadness, poor sleep, loss of interest, guilt, low energy, poor concentration, abnormal appetite, psychomotor retardation/agitation and suicidality. Taylor’s goal was to produce a poetry book as an “empathy-enhancing” tool that could help medical trainees develop more empathy and assist loved ones and other caregivers to better understand depression. Patients shared their stories for each symptom; conversations were transcribed. Nine other volunteers with depression read Taylor’s resulting poems and provided feedback. 978-1-988811-02-4 / Born in Port Moody, Rob Taylor co-founded Simon Fraser University’s student poetry zine High Altitude Poetry and in 2007 he co-founded an on-line poetry magazine in Ghana, One Ghana, One Voice,  He was the poetry editor at Red Fez from 2007 – 2010, and the poetry editor at PRISM international in 2014-15. He has run a blog devoted to Canadian (especially Vancouver) poetry, Roll of Nickels, since 2006, and in 2011 Rob was part of the team that “resurrected” Vancouver’s Dead Poets Reading Series. He won the 2010 Alfred G. Bailey Prize for best unpublished poetry manuscript, giving rise to his debut collection, The Other Side of Ourselves (Cormorant $18 2011). He was also shortlisted for the 2017 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize for The News (Gaspereau Press 2016). In 2014, he was named one of the inaugural writers-in-residence at the Al Purdy A-frame and in 2015 he received the City of Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Literary Arts, as an emerging artist.

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

Peyman Vahabzadeh and picture of himself in the Iranian army.

V is for Vahabzadeh
There is a tendency to think of violence and non-violence as polar opposites, particularly when it comes to revolutionary change and social movements. U of Vic’s Dr. Peyman Vahabzadeh describes these concepts as in a much different way in his new book, Violence and Nonviolence: Conceptual Excursions into Phantom Opposites (U of Toronto Press $37.95). Regarding the way the terms violence and nonviolence are commonly used in discourses today, Vahabzadey quotes Gandhi that one might as well, “try to extract breeze from the hurricane.” Rather than viewing the two concepts as mutually exclusive, Vahabzadeh proposes understanding the relationship between them as concentric, not opposites. Born and raised in Iran, Peyman Vahabzadeh immigrated to Canada in 1989. He earned his PhD in Sociology from Simon Fraser University (2000) and he has taught sociology, political science, CSPT, and humanities at SFU, UVic and Brock University (Ontario). Dr. Vahabzadeh’s lifelong interest is in human (collective) action and social movements. In addition his academic, non-fiction books , Dr. Vahabzadeh has also authored eight books in Persian in poetry, fiction, literary criticism, and memoirs. He has been a regular commentator on Iranian affairs in Canadian media and is an advocate of democratic movements and human rights in Iran and a defender of non-violence and alternative social organizations. His essays, poems, short stories, memoirs, literary criticisms, and interviews have appeared in English, Persian, German, and Kurdish.

W is for Wilcox
Having volunteered in a Victoria hospice, Merrie-Ellen Wilcox frequently heard there was a need for a book about death for young readers. Each chapter of her After Life: Ways We Think About Death (Orca $24.95) includes a brief telling of a death legend, myth or historical summation from a different culture. Rivers play a role in the afterlife of many cultures. “The souls of the dead often have to cross a river before they enter the other realm of the afterlife… In Greek mythology, five rivers surrounded the underworld: Acheron (the river of woe). Cocytus (the river of lamentation). Phlegethon (the river of fire). Styx (the river of hatefulness) and Lethe (the river of forgetfulness). The souls of the dead drank from the River Lethe in order to forget their lives on earth.”  9781459813908

X is for Xinhuixian
The story of how Wah Lee and his wife, Mon Ho, travelled from Xinhuixian (formerly Sun-wui County) in China to British Columbia in 1917, via the Sun Ning Railway corridor and Hong Kong, begins the family memoir, From Wah Lee to Chew Keen: The Story of a Pioneer Chinese Family in North Cariboo (Friesen Press $17.49), by relative Liping Wong Yip. The couple settled in Quesnel where Wah Lee became known as Chew Keen, and the couple had six children. This important work of B.C. history has been reviewed by Tzu-I Chung in The Ormsby Review. 9781460294307

Kunio Yamagishi

Y is for Yamagishi
Kunio Yamagishi did not experience the Japanese-Canadian internment camp himself. He was born in Fukushima, Japan and educated in Tokyo. When he immigrated to Canada, he did so without knowledge of the internment camps. He was devastated when he found out about it and has suffered from ambivalence towards Canada since. Writing a novel was one of the ways he was able to reconcile that dilemma, together with the Canadian Government’s official apology. The Return of a Shadow (London, Austin Macauley, $21.95), is based on historical facts, but his protagonist, Eizo Osada, is fictitious. In 1930s, Eizo leaves his wife and three young sons, one of them only two years old, to come to Canada to earn money for the family back in Japan. Then Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and he is sent to an internment camp. Eizo returns to his family after 43 years in Canada, but will his family accept him?  9781786937155

Mark Zuehlke

Z is for Zuehlke
As the twelfth installment in Mark Zuehlke’s military history series, The Cinderella Campaign: First Canadian Army and the Battles for the Channel Ports (Douglas & McIntyre $37.95) describes First Canadian Army’s urgent and thankless mission of opening the Channel ports to Allied victory in World War II. They thought of themselves as the “Cinderella Army” and international correspondents agreed. This was because First Canadian Army had been relegated to the left flank of the Allied advance toward Germany from the Normany beaches and given the tough and thankless task of opening the Channel ports from Le Havre to Ostend in Belgium. Then suddenly in September 1944, securing these ports became an Allied priority that would allow Field Marshal Montgomery to drive to the Rhine with Operation Market Garden and win the war before Christmas. Over the month of September, the Canadians set about fighting for control of each port–a terrific undertaking fought against brutal German resistance–and scrambling for supplies while under constant military pressure to get those ports open now. For Canada this was the Cinderella Campaign, the battle for the Channel ports. For those who fought it, the sacrifice of comrades dead and wounded would never be forgotten. The Cinderella Campaign: First Canadian Army and the Battles for the Channel Ports ($37.95) is one of five shortlisted titles for the 2018 John W. Dafoe Book Prize, a $10,000 prize in memory of Canadian editor John Wesley Dafoe. 978-1-77162-089-5

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