Category Archives: Books

The Displaced

Sometimes when my parents thought we were sleeping upstairs they would talk in the kitchen about some of the  things that had happened to our family in Ukraine. I could hear their voices through the stove pipe, because it ran from the kitchen up into our bedroom.  The terrible things I heard my parents talking about frightened me.” 

My mother-in-law told me that story once. She was just a little girl when she came to Canada from Ukraine but that didn’t mean she wasn’t affected by her family’s refugee experience.

the enns family

My mother-in-law is the little girl on her mother’s lap in this photo taken just before her family left Ukraine.

I thought of my mother-in-law Anne and her family often as I read the book The Displaced.  It is a series of essays by refugee writers describing their families’ experiences finding a new home in North America. The book was just published in 2018 so it includes references to how Trump’s America is changing the lives of refugees and making them scarier and more difficult. The theme that resonated for me in the essays was how the refugee experience impacted multiple generations of families.  the displacedThe stories in The Displaced are well written, many a riveting read and they are as diverse as the writers who penned them. The refugee writers have come from Chile, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Iran, Ethiopia, Mexico, Hungary and like my mother-in-law Ukraine. They offer an illuminating window into the lives of refugees and make the reader aware of how vital it is for countries to welcome and offer a home to people who find themselves in untenable circumstances due to no fault of their own. 

Other posts…..

Legacy

I Could Cry I Am So Happy To Be a Canadian 

Cambodia Revisited

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The Lady With A Book

On Monday I was waiting to meet a friend at Assiniboine Park for a walk when I discovered this intriguing statue of a woman sitting on a bench reading a book. She was dressed as someone might have been in the 1950s.lady with a book statue The sign on her park bench said her statue had resided for many years at a home on Wellington Crescent owned by Israel and Babs Asper. Israel or “Izzy” Asper was the founder of Can West Global Communications. He was also the former leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba and was instrumental in the establishment of the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg.  “Babs” or Ruth was the co-founder and chair of the Asper Foundation which supported philanthropic activities in the areas of health, education, culture and human rights.  Now that both Izzy and Babs have died their statue of a reading lady has been donated to Assiniboine Park in their memory.  It sits just inside the gate to the English Gardens. The quote beside the reading woman is from Cicero. “If you have a library and a garden you have everything you need.”

Other posts……..

Readers

Hopeful Families in South Korea

Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

 

 

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Filed under Art, Books, Winnipeg

Going Off On Tangents

The beauty of the writing in Lisa Moore’s novel February leaves one breathless. She describes events and people in such intriguing and detailed ways they literally spring to life off the page. The title of the book relates to the sinking of the oil rig Ocean Ranger in February of 1982.  Helen the protagonist of the novel loses her husband Cal that day to the icy waters just off the coast of Newfoundland.  She is a young mother about to give birth to her fourth child.  The novel is set in 2008 as Helen reflects back on her life.  She has never really gotten over her husband’s tragic death.

Although I throughly enjoyed the vivid writing in Lisa Moore’s book I have to say that it did go off on tangents.  I am in the process of editing a novel and am ruthlessly cutting scenes from the first chapters that provide too much detail about characters and events that aren’t absolutely crucial to the story’s plot line.  

Lisa Moore has not done that kind of cutting in her novel February.  At one point, for example,Moore is describing a woman named Sophie who is a former girlfriend of Helen’s son John. The description goes on for nearly three pages and has marvelous phrases like……..”she set the table with tarnished candelabra, a hand-woven Mexican tablecloth with a stripe of outrageous pink down the middle.  She went in for novelty drinks and the sort of gamey meat that was full of tiny bones and covered in pastry.” Sophie is not a main character.  We never meet her again in the novel and yet we get three pages of this kind of detailed description. 

February  won the 2013 Canada Reads contest.  It defeated Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese.  Indian Horse in my opinion had writing that was just as evocative and strong as Moore’s if not more so, a much more defined storyline AND did not go off on so many interesting but unecessary tangents.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I liked the book February. I wish I had read it before I visited Newfoundland but……….. 

Other posts……..

The Water Beetles

You Have to Hear Their Stories

The Cube

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Filed under Books, Newfoundland

Tantalizing Tidbits

Claude Monet in His Studio Boat- painted by Edouard Manet – 1874

Did you know that before the impressionist artist Edouard Manet got to know Claude Monet he would become extremely upset and irritated when art critics reviewing both of their work got the two artists mixed up because their last names sounded so similar?

The Monet Family in The Garden at Argenteuil -by Edouard Manet- 1874

Later Manet and Monet became friends and Manet even painted a family portrait of Monet, his wife Camille and their son Jean. 

Camille Pissarro and his wife Julie Vellay at Pontoise in 1877. Julie was once Pissarro’s mother’s maid. 

Did you know that Paul Cezanne, Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Camille Pissarro all had long-term romantic relationships that their parents highly disapproved of ? Some of them had to keep their relationships a secret in order to continue receiving money from their families. 

Madame Rene D’ Gas by Edgar Degas- 1873

Did you know the artist Edgar Degas visited his brother in New Orleans and while there painted a beautiful portrait of his blind sister-in-law?  

Berthe Morisot Reclining- by Edouard Manet- 1873

Did you know that impressionist artist Berthe Morisot was a frequent model for fellow artist Edouard Manet and some of his paintings of her are very suggestive and sensual? Later Berthe would marry Edouard’s brother Eugene. 

Camille Pissarro Self Portrait- 1873

Did you know that during the Franco-Prussian war nearly 1,500 paintings of Pissarro’s were destroyed? 

Those are just a few of the tantalizing tidbits I have already discovered while reading The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe.  I will be leading a discussion of the book on August 7th at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  You still have time to buy the book at McNally Robinson and join me. You can register here.  I was at McNally’s last Thursday and there were still plenty copies of the book available. 

Other posts………

Without Him We Might Not Have Heard of Monet

A Tale of Two Portraits

Who is She? 

 

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Filed under Art, Books, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Books and Brushes

Circle August 7th on your calendar and join me at the Winnipeg Art Gallery at 11:30 am for the latest installment in the gallery’s Books and Brushes program. We will be discussing the book The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Susan Roe. I’m already a few chapters in and I’m learning lots of intriguing stuff about the creators of all the wonderful paintings in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s French Moderns Show.  We will talk about the book and wander through the galleries to see the work by the fascinating men and women whose lives and relationships are detailed in its chapters. McNally Robinson Booksellers has copies of the book in stock.  I bought mine at their lovely new little shop at The Forks but they are at the Grant Park store as well. You still have plenty of time to buy one and read it before August 7th.  You can register for the book club by sending an e-mail to education@wag.ca

I’d love to have you join me!

Other posts……..

Impressionist? 

A Tale of Two Portraits

Who is She? 

 

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Filed under Art, Books, WInnipeg Art Gallery

The Water Beetles

the water beetlesI could not put this book down.  I read it in one fell swoop neglecting everything else I was supposed to be doing. Now I am trying to figure out why I was so engrossed. Maybe it was because…………hong kong landscape

  1. Some of the story takes place in Hong Kong and so the places were familiar to me because I lived there and worked there for six years. The story felt so real because images of  streets I’d walked and areas of the city I’d frequented came to mind as I read. 
  2. The story is about the brutal Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II.  An assignment I gave my high school journalism students in Hong Kong was to interview one of their grandparents about an incident from their past. I vividly remember the stories students wrote about their grandparents’ experiences during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. 

    biking with guide in yangshou china

    Rong our wonderful biking guide in Yangshou, China

  3. Some of the story in The Water Beetles takes place in the Chinese countryside. I traveled through many rural areas of China.  I rode bicycle for days through rice fields, across ancient bridges and into tiny villages like the ones described in the book. I felt like I was back there as I read The Water Beetles. michael-kaan
  4. I was fascinated because the writer of the book Michael Kaan is from Winnipeg and has never written a novel before. He holds degrees in social work and business administration from the University of Manitoba and runs a clinic for veterans suffering from PTSD.  But he had always wanted to write a book and so he did. He was inspired by letters his Hong Kong born father had written detailing his experiences during World War II.  Lo and behold Michael’s book won the prestigious and lucrative Amazon 2018 prize for best first novel. This is the kind of dream come true fairy tale that all unpublished and novice novel writers like me want to believe can happen to them. 
  5. The story is well written and suspenseful.  There were many times I didn’t want to turn the page because I was too scared to find out what was going to happen to the characters next.  
  6. At a time when the world’s attention is being focused on the trauma faced by young children separated from their parents this book makes that trauma all too real because The Water Beetles main character Chung-Man and his brother Leuk and their little sister Wei-Ming must leave their mother in Hong Kong to go into hiding in the Chinese countryside. 
  7. This book won two awards at the recent Manitoba Book Awards and perhaps part of my engagement with the book was trying to find out if it deserved those awards.  It did. 

Other posts……….

Hong Kong Inspiration

Hong Kong Frogs That Sound Like Cows Bellowing

A New Book Set Right Here in Winnipeg

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She Persisted

she persistedI’ve just added She Persisted Around the World to our church library.  The book written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger tells the stories of thirteen women from around the world who persisted despite all kinds of barriers placed in their way.  marie curieSome of the women are familiar like Marie Curie twice awarded the Noble Prize for her discovery of two new scientific elements. She persisted despite the fact she had to leave her home country to study.  j.k. rowlingAnother familiar woman is English author J.K. Rowling who persisted in writing her award winning series of Harry Potter books despite being rejected by dozens of publishers.  caroline hershelOther women featured in the book are not so familiar like Caroline Hershel an astronomer who discovered two planets.  She persisted in studying astronomy even though her parents thought she should try to get a job as a servant.  Sissi lima do amorAnother woman I hadn’t heard about before was Sissi Luna do Amor one of the first women to play soccer professionally in Brazil.  She persisted even though she got in trouble for wanting to play because she was a girl.  viola desmondThere is even a section in the book about Canada’s own Viola Desmond who persisted in retaining her seat in the “white” section of a movie theater even though she was black. 

Elizabeth_Warren_2016“She Persisted”  is the famous phrase directed at American Senator Elizabeth Warren when she insisted on reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to the Senate as a way to defend her objection to the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.  Sessions had an abysmal record on civil rights which had previously prevented him from being appointed as a federal court judge.  The Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell called for a vote to silence Senator Warren. He said he had no choice because she wouldn’t listen to him. “She persisted” he said and kept reading the letter. The phrase “she persisted” has quickly come to refer to women’s persistence in breaking barriers despite being silenced or ignored. 

kate sheppard

Kate Sheppard who persisted in getting the vote for women in New Zealand.

There are so many interesting women profiled in She Persisted Around the World and they come from every continent and every area of endeavor.  I think the book will be an inspiration for everyone who reads it and not just children, but adult as well.

Other posts……….. 

 

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Filed under Books, Childhood, History