Saturday, August 8, 2015

Book Bingo, Second Card, Fourth Line

Four out of these five books were published in 2015 and I'm pleased that I managed to get two Edmonton authors in this line! (Catch up on previous book bingo posts via this link.)

THAT YOU SAW SOMEONE ELSE READING: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

This square intersects with the first row that I completed on the card. Haven't yet got around to writing a full blog post about this hot title, but the following passage confirmed my realization that there would be no way to untangle my reading of GSAW from my fond memories of hosting a To Kill a Mockingbird costume party to celebrate its 50th anniversary, my knowledge of Harper Lee's life, the story of how GSAW came to print, and my own inclination to tease out lesbian subtext from between the lines.

In the first chapter, Jean Louise (AKA Scout) decides she will not marry her boyfriend. "For the present she would pursue the stony path of spinsterhood." There may be a lot that is autobiography in GSAW. It's a book that made me feel very sad.
Party invite designed by my sweetie. (Click to enlarge.) Everyone came in costume on that memorable evening.

POETRY COLLECTION: The Pemmican Eaters by Marilyn Dumont.

I grew up on an Alberta farm in a francophone community that was originally called St Paul-des-Métis. When I was younger, I thought all Canadians considered Louis Riel to be our greatest national folk hero. And that Gabriel Dumont, Riel's general in the 1885 rebellion, was famous too.

When I began working at Edmonton Public Library in 1989, I signed up a brown-skinned young woman for a library card and made a comment about her historic family name, "Dumont." She looked at me blankly. I said, "Gabriel Dumont." Still nothing. After telling her we had books about him in the collection, I proceeded with the library card. Later, I quizzed new friends and colleagues and discovered that Dumont, and even Riel, were not as well-known as I had assumed.

There are other books about Riel and Dumont, but Marilyn Dumont's latest collection of poetry does something different. With potent, dexterous verse, it connects contemporary lives to Canadian history.

"Upon discovery that our Gabriel, Gabriel Dumont Senior, our great-great-grandfather and uncle of the famous Gabriel, had held the position of leader at Lac Ste. Anne, I finally understood why our family's annual summer visit to the pilgrimage was so important to us."

In Dumont's poems, Louis Riel is sometimes 'Louis' and sometimes 'Riel,' but Gabriel Dumont is either 'Gabriel' or 'Gabe.' Riel is 'Our Prince' - "Louis / the one who gave us Manitoba / brokered pluralism / and language rights."

Women are in these pages too, nurturing other humans and the earth, their needlework like prayers.
Elizabeth Brass Donald. Photo source:

A photo of Elizabeth Brass Donald is referenced in 'The Land She Came From.' She was one of the victims of land swindles in Edmonton's early history: "crow woman dig down / scrape away the layers / of sleeping memory / down to the stake lines of river lots / in Rossdale and beyond / far down to the Métis family names / still breathing there: Donald, Bird, Ward [...]" 'To a Fair Country' is about wholesale land thefts through "official trickery:" "I want to forget the number of Métis / less than one percent / who hold property from that scrip today."

Much hardship is summed up in a few words in 'Letter to Sir John A. MacDonald' - "we were railroaded / by some steel tracks that didn't last / and some settlers who wouldn't settle."

Language is another aspect of Métis culture: "neither Cree, Salteaux nor French exactly, but something else / not less / not half / not lacking" - 'These Are Wintering Words'

The Pemmican Eaters is a history book with so much heart, and it's one I would have loved to suggest to that young library patron back in 1989. I will recommend it widely from now on.

Books On The NightStand BOOK BINGO FREE SQUARE: The Social Life of Ink by Ted Bishop.

Micro-history; memoir; travel writing; nonfiction; local author: if I wasn't using a free square for this, it could have fit into any of these categories (none of which happen to be on my card). The book taught me new things (i.e. Winston Churchill's mother had a snake tattoo) and made me think.

"The work you're reading is simply black marks on a page. The text that derives from it takes shape in the mind. Thus all texts are shaped by experience and context, and are always different, even for the same reader." That's exactly what I was talking about in my comments regarding Go Set a Watchman, above. More quotes and notes are included in my earlier review of Bishop's book.

The Social Life of Ink: Culture, Wonder and Our Relationship with the Written Word is a finalist for the 2015 Alberta Readers' Choice Award. Online voting is open until August 31, 2015.

WRITTEN BEFORE 1700: The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare.
Intersecting square: see previous post.

WITH A HAPPY ENDING: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli.

Set in Atlanta, Georgia, the angst in this up-to-the-minute YA novel derives more from the social politics of high school relationships than from the fear of coming out. It's witty and sweet and includes an ensemble of realistic characters. Suitable for readers in Grade 7 and up.

Readalikes: Boy Meets Boy (David Levithan) and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Benjamin Alire Saenz).

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