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Launchpad: Mad Cow, by Alexis Kienlen

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Alexis Kienlen's debut novel Mad Cow, the perfect literary fiction debut for a published poet who spends her days working as an agricultural journalist.

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Mad Cow is a novel about how bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, devastates and nearly destroys a beef ranching family living in rural Alberta in the early 2000s.

Describe your ideal reader.

People who want to le …

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Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead

Habeeb Salloum's award-winning book of recipes and recollections of Syrian cuisine in 1930s' Saskatchewan has just been released in a new revised edition, Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead. We're pleased to feature the book's introduction by historian Sarah Carter, as well as three stew recipes from the book. Enjoy! 

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Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead has long been one of my favourite books, not only because of the delectable recipes, but because it is a unique work of prairie history. It weaves recipes into a beautiful memoir about growing up on a Saskatchewan farm. Written by the son of homesteaders from Syria, it brings to light the experiences of Arab settlers whose contribution to the history of Canada is not well known. As Habeeb Salloum writes,“today people stare in disbelief when they hear that Arabs homesteaded in western Canada.” They were the first to grow lentils and chickpeas, the pulse crops that are today central to the economy of the prairies. Acquiring seeds from relatives, Salloum’s parents drew on the knowledge of their ancestors who had cultivated pulses in semi-arid conditions for centuries.

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As Habeeb Salloum writes,“today people stare in disbelief when they hear that Arabs homesteaded in western Canada.” They were the first …

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Forest Prairie Edge: Place History in Saskatchewan

Book Cover Forest Prairie Edge

In her new book, Forest Prairie Edge, Merle Massie offers readers a rethinking of Saskatchewan, a province whose "prairie" designation simplifies the reality of its geography, history and culture. She examines the space in between the boreal forests of Northern Saskatchewan and the prairies of the south in order to imagine a refreshing new perspective on the province and Canada's West. In this guest piece for 49th Shelf, she tells how her own history influenced the book she would write, and also introduces us to the word "stumpranch." 

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I grew up on a forest fringe stump ranch farm near Paddockwood, Saskatchewan, north of Prince Albert. A stump ranch or stump farm, if you’ve never heard the term, is a farm cut out of the trees: the joke is that you mostly farm stumps instead of crops or animals. Just a few miles from the Northern Provincial Forest in Saskatchewan, our weeds tended to be poplar trees, and our cows would sometimes be found grazing next to a herd of elk or the odd moose or jumper. The farm wasn’t sprawling or prosperous like those on the prairies, but it had wood for the old Valley Comfort stove in the basement, the Garden River running through it for evening canoe rides and trapping, and it nestled in the centre of the northern Lakeland cott …

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