Category Archives: Books

Books and Brushes Update

treasure palacesYou can still come to Books and Brushes. I am leading the book clubs at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this month. Since McNally Robinson no longer has copies of the book we will discuss Treasure Palaces: Great Writers Visit Great Museums and Winnipeg library copies are also all out, I’d suggest you read the two essays that will be the main focus of our discussion online and come and join us anyway! We’d love to have you. Here are the links to the two essays.

You can register for Books and Brushes at

 My first post about the book club is here


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Filed under Art, Books, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Born A Crime

Every morning my husband Dave hand grinds beans to make our coffee.  This takes him ten minutes or so. While he grinds he sits in the livingroom and starts watching The Daily Show with Trevor Noah which he has PVR’d from the night before.  He presses the pause button while he goes to the kitchen to aero press our coffee into our mugs and then once I have my yogurt ready and he has his toast ready we watch some more of Trevor Noah while we eat our breakfast.

Trevor is intelligent, funny and an advocate of social justice. He provides a ray of hope in the current darkness that is the American political scene.  I know Trevor’s voice well and I could hear it on every page of his autobiography Born a Crime

The reason Trevor Noah was born a crime was because he was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother during apartheid in South Africa when his parents’ relationship was a punishable offence.  

Trevor’s life was very hard in South Africa.  He was prevented from having a close relationship with his Dad, had a very violent step father and he and his mother often lived just one step away from poverty.  The fact that he has become the first black comedian to host a major comedy show in the United States is so impressive considering the difficulties he faced during his childhood and teens. He credits his mother who taught him to fight and ignore ‘the system’, to pursue his dreams and be tough.  She always made sure he had lots of books to read and that he had all kinds of rich experiences that helped him develop an open mind. Trevor speaks at least a half a dozen languages. 

Born a Crime is divided into essays and you don’t necessarily need to read them all in order.  For example I read the three essays about the girlfriends of his youth one right after the other.  

 I admired Trevor’s mother very much and he has dedicated the book to her, but she made some decisions I find hard to understand.  I felt a little sorry for his father who I think really loved him, but some of his Mom’s choices even after apartheid made their relationship impossible. 

One thing the book does not do is trace Trevor’s career as a comedian and his rise to fame.  That is just mentioned tangentially as it relates to his personal and family story. 

Even though the subject matter of the book is fairly dire Trevor Noah is a comedian and his sense of humour is definitely inherited from his Mom. Between the two of them they see the humour in even the darkest of situations.   This book will make you cry but it will also make you laugh. 

Other posts………..

Hunger by Roxane Gay

The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moody by Cecily Ross

A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai



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Filed under Books, Media

You Are Invited to Books and Brushes!

I am leading the book club sessions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in November and this is your invitation to join me!  Books and Brushes is a new venture. It’s designed for people who love books or love art or love both. The book we will discuss on on Tuesday November 21 from 11:30 am to 1 pm. and again on Friday November 24 from 7:30-9 pm is a perfect fit for Books and Brushes because it contains short essays by famous authors who describe their favorite art gallery or museum in the world. The book is called Treasure Palaces: Great Writers Visit Great Museums. It is edited by Maggie Fergusson.   McNally Robinson book store in the Grant Park Mall has stocked up on copies and they are available in their art writing section. The nice thing about a book of essays is you can read them one at a time whenever you have a few minutes and even if you don’t read them all you can still come and enjoy talking about the ones you have read with the other book club attendees. We will look at some of the artwork mentioned by the various essay writers and then we’ll go out into the galleries at the WAG.  I am excited about the ways I think we will be able to make connections between the artwork referred to in the book and the artwork in our current exhibits.  

You have to sign up to attend Books and Brushes and you can do so by e-mailing

I’d love to see you there!

Other posts…………

Art Tours Inspired by Books- What a Great Idea!

A Bottomless Vortex of Books

Is It Art?


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Filed under Art, Books, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Bleaker House

There’s a penguin on the front cover of the book Bleaker House. That’s because the memoir was written on Bleaker Island in the Falklands. The island is home to three different species of penguins who live there by the thousands. 

bleaker houseNell Stevens the British author of Bleaker House was awarded a writing grant while studying in Boston and decided to use it to secure lodging in the most isolated spot she could find. She picked Bleaker Island. Nell planned to write a novel during her stay there.  But then she decided what she REALLY wanted to write was………. an account of her  time on Bleaker Island, and a reflection on various incidents and relationships in her life before her Bleaker Island stay, and an exploration of the ideas in Charles Dickens’ book Bleak House, and excerpts from her planned novel about a young man looking for his father and a short story about a drug user  and ruminations on the writing process. 

To say this book is a hodge-podge is to put it mildly.  The book was somewhat confusing but it left me wanting to ……… read Dickens’ Bleak House, know how the novel Nell didn’t complete would have ended, and visit Bleaker Island which sounds like a fascinating place.  

Other posts………..

A Book That Was Easy and Not So Easy to Read

Where I Live Now

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?



Filed under Books

Reading My Way Through Germany, Switzerland and Austria

Before we left on our cycling trip in Europe I downloaded three books on my Kindle, one for each of the countries we would travel through.

My German book was Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. Trudy is a Minneapolis history professor searching for the truth about her childhood. She won’t learn anything from her mother Anna who stubbornly refuses to talk about the past. We find out Trudy’s father was a Jewish doctor captured by the Nazis. Anna becomes the mistress of a German military man in order to save Trudy’s life. After the war an American serviceman marries Anna and brings her and Trudy to the United States. Trudy believes she is the daughter of the SS officer, who she can vaguely remember. This knowledge colors her whole life. Things change when Trudy undertakes a history project interviewing German war survivors living in America. I chose the classic Heidi by Johanna Spyri for my Switzerland book. I had not read it since my childhood. Heidi was written in the 1880s and I wondered if Heidi was the inspiration for female heroines of the early 1900s like Pollyanna in America, Anne of Green Gables in Canada, and Mary Lennox in England’s The Secret Garden. These are plucky, independent young girls who have had difficult lives and yet remain hopeful and are a positive influence on those around them. One thing I had forgotten about the book Heidi was how religious it was and how faith plays such a key role in the lives of Heidi and her embittered grandfather.

In A Whole Life by Robert Seehalter we are provided with a spare, simple, unemotional and honest look at the entire life of an ordinary Austrian man named Egger. He has a horrific childhood, a varied work career where he labours incredibly hard but is always a dedicated employee, a brief time of quiet married joy, a stint in the army that leaves him a prisoner of war, and then a retirement where he guides tourists on treks in the Austrian Alps. Outwardly there would seem to be little that is remarkable about Egger’s life but the fact that he is able to find inner calm amidst the difficulties of day-to-day living and accept his lot in life is remarkable.

From Those Who Save Us I gained an interesting perspective on the holocaust in Germany. From Heidi I enjoyed absolutely beautiful descriptions of the Swiss countryside and In A Whole Life I saw Austrian history and geography through the eyes of an ordinary man.

Other posts about books and travels……….
Eat Pray Love
Images From Ru

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Filed under Bike Trip Boden See, Books

A Book That Was Easy and Not So Easy To Read

Hunger by Roxanne Gay is formatted in a way that makes the book easy to read.  Roxanne has divided her memoir into short chapters, some less than a page.  Although these chapters can be read in chronological order each is a kind of essay or story unto itself.  I found myself skipping around reading only one chapter at a time, because the content of Hunger is not easy to read at all and sometimes one chapter was all I could process before I had to put the book down and take a break.  Roxanne is in her own words morbidly obese and in her book she tells us how that happened.  She was gang raped at age 12 and she hid the assault from her parents who she realizes in hindsight would have come to her defense and supported her. By eating obsessively she was able to create a body form that she thought would repel men and thus protect her from further sexual assault. 

hungerToday Roxanne is a university professor and well-respected author and journalist. She describes in detail just how difficult it is to manuever through family life, a career, romances and day-to-day to living when you are morbidly obese.  She tells us in the first sentence of this book that hers is not a tale of triumph.  This is not one of those stories where a person changes their life by losing lots of weight.  This is a story of a woman who wants to try to accept who she is, understand who she is, and have a future.  But……. this does not stop her from still imagining on some of the last pages of the book what it would be like to be slim and to feel comfortable in her own body.  

This is not a book with easy answers.  It relates a very troubling story. But you have to admire Roxanne for having the courage to tell it.  And if you look at the comments for reviews of her book you realize Roxanne speaks for plenty of other people who live with some of the same realities she does.  After reading the book I was left feeling very sorry for Roxane, while at the same time realizing that’s the last thing she would want. 

Other posts……….

Pray Naked In Front of the Mirror and Say This is my Soul’s Address

Healthy Environments?  Not Gyms or Arenas

Weighty Matters


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Filed under Books, Health

Things That Are True

At our last meeting my writers’ group discussed a recent Ted Talk given by writer Anne Lamott entitled Twelve Things I Know To Be True. I could really resonate with many of them.  Here are three I particularly liked. flat-iron-sunset

1.  Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes.  That includes you.  

When I am really stuck on a writing project or work assignment the best thing to do is just leave it for a while and go for a hike, take a nap, have a shower, read a book or go to a movie. Invariably while I am doing something completely different the solution to my writing or work dilemma reveals itself. Everyone needs to take a break sometimes and we shouldn’t feel guilty about just unplugging and giving ourselves down time. 

february baby 19792. Family life is both astonishing and hard.  

Welcoming a new child is astonishing.  Saying goodbye to a parent who has died is incredibly hard.  Watching your child accomplish something and knowing that in that moment they are truly and utterly happy is astonishing.  Watching your child go through illness, or disappointment, or loss is heartbreakingly hard. Having a family member affirm and support you is astonishing.  Accepting the criticism, silence and correction of a family member can be humbling and hard. 

hiking akaka falls state park hawaii trees

3.  God means goodness. God is a loving, animating intelligence.  Emerson said…… We learn from nature the lessons of worship. Go outside often and look up when you need to find God. 

I too think of God as good.  Bad things don’t come from God but God does send people to help us when we human beings mess up and bad things happen.  And I do feel the most worshipful and close to God when I am outside, looking at stars, walking in a forest, wading in the ocean, or tracking a bird in flight. 

In her Ted Talk Anne Lamott talks about nine other things she knows to be true.  You can hear about the other six on the Ted Talk site.

Other posts……….

Hawaii Inspiration

Thoughts on Hope

And That Led Me


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Filed under Books, Family, Reflections