As summer sets in, perhaps too, the lure to pick up a book.
Western News suggests the following works by authors from across campus ─ and across genres ─ touching on family ties, fantasy, the environment, true crime, tourism and Canada’s complex history.
Nightlight by David Barrick, professor, writing studies, department of English and writing studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities
“Where else could an amateur fossil hunt become a primeval experience, or a lawn mower, a cow and newlyweds float together in midair?”
Patterned on a series of dream states, Barrick’s Nightlight delves into the surreal nature of the human imagination, even at its most unconscious. Whether Barrick’s poems explore the sensory world of a classic horror film, an Alex Colville painting or an afterhours jazz gig, his inquisitiveness leads to invention, and invention to discovery.
A word from the writer:
“Nightlight dips in and out of dreams, blurring the lines between waking and sleeping, but always focusing on images and stories that are rooted in the real world (and particularly my experiences of Southwestern Ontario). My poems offer readers a journey into the fantastical, transformative, and sometimes unnerving possibilities of the human imagination.”
Life Sentence: How My Father Defended Two Murderers and Lost Himself by Amy Bell, professor and chair, department of history, Huron University College
“A riveting work that fuses personal and criminal justice history to tell the story of horrific crime and examine its terrible costs.”
On Dec. 15, 1974, when Amy Bell was one year old, the city of Moncton, NB., was consumed with the search for two missing police officers ─ Corporal Aurèle Bourgeois and Constable Michael O’Leary. They had been abducted by petty criminals Richard Ambrose and James Hutchison after a kidnapping scored the latter $15,000. The search would lead to a clearing in the woods where the officers were found — murdered and buried in shallow graves.
Amy’s father, Ed Bell, stepped up to defend the killers. His unpopular stance ─ “every person accused of a crime deserves a defence” ─ eventually led to the ruin of his career and his marriage, leaving Amy and her brother to live with the aftereffects: poverty and isolation. Ed Bell never spoke of his involvement in this case. It wasn’t until forty-two years later, when he lay dying, that Amy, now a crime historian, stumbled upon a Polaroid photograph of one of the killers among her father’s things. That discovery led her on a search for answers.
A word from the writer:
“This book is unlike any academic history I’ve published before, since the story is so deeply personal. I was nervous about making myself vulnerable by sharing some of the details of my own life. But the response has been so positive, even from strangers; it’s a reminder that we as readers often empathize more with stories of loss, pain and grief, and it’s our failures that connect us as much as our victories.”
Kill Your Starlings by Tom Cull, professor, writing studies, department of English and writing studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities and King’s University College
Cull dedicates the entire book to his parents, but a number of poems in the collection acknowledge London heroes, including Western PhD candidate Brendon Samuels and Western biology professor and curator of Western’s Zoological Collections, Nina Zitani
Playing on an old piece of writing and editing advice, ‘kill your darlings,’ Cull’s latest book explores ecology, art, activism and historiography. He writes of his relationships with family and place, recollecting and reconstructing the idea of ‘home’ while resisting nostalgia. With humour and sincerity, the poems chronicle the writer’s vulnerability as a son and as a father.
A word from the writer:
“Many of the poems in the book are about the ways we individually and collectively tell and edit stories of home: the parts we leave in and the parts we leave out, cover up, repress (and the role nostalgia plays in the cover up). The title points to writing, and to larger question of editing/selecting. The play on darlings/starlings maps these questions onto ecological concerns.
The starling is an introduced species to North America/Turtle Island, brought here by settlers as part of the larger colonial project. It has thrived. Now considered an “invasive species,” it’s killed in the millions each year. I wonder to what extent the demonizing of this bird externalizes an ongoing colonial misunderstanding of ecology. The bird itself is brilliant and interesting. It has amazing vocal dexterity and dazzling plumage. Their murmurations are a wonder.
My own father, who was a lover of nature and birds (and taught me to love nature and birds), hated the starling! He thought they were bullies. He would destroy their nests if he found them (he killed his starlings). The title poem, Kill Your Starlings, is dedicated to Brendon Samuels, a dynamo in environmental movements and communities on and off campus. He regularly leads my nature writing students on bird tours of campus—we often help him collect birds that have died by window strikes. Brendon gives students perspectives on how birds navigate their world and on how humans are decimating world bird populations.”
The Summer Trade: A History of Tourism on Prince Edward Island, by Alan MacEachern, professor, department of history, Faculty of Social Science
Winner of the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation’s Publication of the Year award and the City of Charlottetown Heritage Award
Spanning from the Victorian era to the present day, The Summer Trade: A History of Tourism on Prince Edward Island is the first comprehensive history of tourism in any Canadian province. The book tracks the cultural, economic, political and environmental developments and tensions around tourism. Built on a firm historical foundation, it speaks to contemporary public policy as well, discussing the many challenges that the provincial tourism industry faces today ─ related both to “demand” (as evident during the recent COVID summers) and “supply” (including the threat of climate change causing coastal erosion). Lavishly illustrated with postcards, tourist guides, and memorabilia, The Summer Trade also served in 2022 as the basis for a major gallery exhibit at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.
The Slow Rush of Colonization: Spaces of Power in the Maritime Peninsula, 1680-1790, by Thomas Peace, professor, department of history, Huron University College
“Essential reading for those who want to understand the roots of settler colonialism in Canada and the U.S., and the tools France and England used to occupy and settle Indigenous Homelands during the eighteenth century.”
In The Slow Rush of Colonization, Peace traces the 100-year context that underpins the widespread Euro-American/Euro-Canadian settlement of the Maritime Peninsula.
Peace uses the concept of spaces of power to provide a history of settler colonialism in eastern North America that demonstrates the continuity of Indigenous sovereignties while also calling attention to the diverse – and often unaligned – strategies both the French and English Empires used in their attempt to dispossess First Peoples.
By analyzing deeds, censuses, treaties and imperial correspondence, he demonstrates how Mi’kmaw, Wabanaki, Peskotomuhkati, Wolastoqiyik, and Wendat nations persistently resisted these incursions. At the same time, with each renewed conflict and treaty that followed, a British culture of settler conquest developed, allowing them to ignore this history of resistance once imperial warfare came to an end.
Secondhand Moccasins, by Melissa Schnarr, instructor and PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, researching land education practices within local First Nation communities
In Schnarr’s first collection of poetry, Secondhand Moccasins, the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee writer, artist and scholar reflects on the warmth and power of her mother, the history of a moccasin found in an attic and ‘glass castles’ rising up along the 401.
Reflecting on the past and present, the collection is a thank-you letter to the poet’s mother, grandmothers and all of the generations of women who came before her.
Schnarr is chair of Western’s Indigenous Writers’ Circle.
A word from the writer:
“Deeply inspired by my mum, this little collection explores the pain and pride of being Indigenous through personal and ancestral memory.”
Supply Chain by Aaron Schneider, professor, writing studies, department of English and writing studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities
“Masterful in its use of form and style, and a fearless literary foray into the banality of evil.”
For decades, companies have used London, Ont., to test market their products because it is a quintessentially average North American city, and Matt Nowak is as average as the city in which he lives: He watches hockey on Saturday nights and football on Sundays. He has a job he doesn’t like but was lucky to get. He has a house in a suburb he can only barely afford, and a newborn son who he struggles to love because of his own cold and distant upbringing. But one part of Matt’s life is far from average: the company he works for manufactures the armored vehicles Saudi Arabia is using in the war in Yemen, and that conflict, whose chief victims are children no different than his son, forms the backdrop to everything Matt does.
While Schneider’s opening line reads, ‘London, Ontario is a very ugly city,’ in his acknowledgements he purposefully reminds the reader, “We hold the things that we wrestle with close, and they hold us in turn.”
A word from the writer:
“Although I’m critical of this place, it is very much home, and I hope people can understand that being critical of a place is one way I’m engaging with it and belonging to it. This book is not to simply run the city down for the purpose of running it down, but if anything, it is a call for London to be a little bit more accountable.
It’s a book about arms manufacturing in London, but it’s not a straightforward condemnation. More than anything, it’s an exploration of the problem. Hopefully, people can read it and instead of being told what to think, are prompted to think in a fuller, broader, nuanced way.”