Book Review: They Called Me Number One

…Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School. A memoir by Chief Bev Sellars

Canada, like every country on earth, has its share of dirty secrets and there’s no dirtier secret than its maltreatment of First Nations peoples for several hundred years. Just like the family with the proverbial elephant in the room, without an understanding of historical, colonialist oppression, our nation will remain dysfunctional and our maturity will be blocked. It’s shameful that even today, in 2015, so many Canadians have a racist view of Aboriginals. This shouldn’t be a surprise, I suppose, given that we still live in a world dominated by white guys doing it by themselves. Nevertheless, there’s a growing sense that it’s time to cease our collective ignorance and Bev Sellar’s extraordinary memoir, They Called Me Number One, would be an effective way to begin that process.

Continue reading

Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

non-fiction by Jon Ronson

A timely subject given the unmediated power of social media, a survey of some of the ways the shame monster breathes its foul breath upon our lives. The book is a quickie tour, though, so readers looking for a deep-end analysis are likely to be disappointed. Ronson’s reportage can be amusing, as in his description of himself as the “tweedy and owl-like” observer in a San Francisco Kink factory. I know that writing a book entails too much solitude and a lot of ass-numbing work so I guess it’s hard to blame the guy for slipping some kink tourism into the research budget. For all the good it did him, though, the sexual atmosphere must have overwhelmed because the tweedy owl’s observations about shame fell short of relevant.

Continue reading

The Writing Life

You’ve been working hard at mastering the craft since you won second place in a grade six spelling bee. When you find an award-winning novel you consider a masterpiece, after reading the last page you begin again. You read until the artistry is revealed. Awe is followed by angst: can I really pull off something as good? Still, you keep writing. Finally, after years of study and practice, you feel you know a bit, your narrative tool box is stuffed full of tools and tricks, you’re edging closer to the prize. You listen to talks given by literary agents about the state of publishing today and are somewhat deflated but not at all surprised to hear that blogs are good, chat rooms are important, also tweeting; artful prose isn’t necessarily enough, these days one needs personal digital currency.

Continue reading