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Southern Alberta Prairie Perspectives: Theory and Practice

"For those willing to put in the work, this is a treasure," writes Publisher's Weekly of Darcy Tamayose's Ezra's Ghosts, a collection of stories set in a quiet prairie town. 

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Book Cover It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken

It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, by Seth

My first introduction to cartoonist, Seth (a pen name for Gregory Gallant) was in the winter of 2014 when the exhibit, Seth: Dominion was presented at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery. I was captivated by the sprawling Canadian cardboard-box town that included over 70 buildings along with related cultural, social, and political art pieces that collectively produced imagined urban space. This experience led to Seth’s graphic novels. It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken: A Picture Novella follows the main character who is in search of an obscure cartoonist from the 1940s timeframe while struggling with the meaning of his simple life. At the end of the book: Seth’s Kalo collection and a wonderful glossary.

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Book Cover Autobiograph of Red

Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson

Autobiography of Red is a favourite Anne Carson book. The migration of classic Greek into the contemporary world captures imagination from a different lens. There is a visceral place that main character, Geryon connects with—he struggles with the aching task of conforming and seeking some sort of solace from the performative world. The book experience of Autobiography of Red for me begins with the title and the concept of the colour red having an autobiography. Throws off the designer logistics. But the story…elegantly decenters.

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Book Cover Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone But Not Forgotten, by Elizabeth McLachlan

Elizabeth McLachlan’s collective works focus on the prairies. In Gone But Not Forgotten: by the 1933-34 crop year almost six thousand elevators dotted the prairie landscape. In this book the firmly established prairie landmark, the grain elevator, is recognized as the symbol of progress and prosperity. McLachlan presents its history from the lens of those on the ground. Much of her work is conducted in the oral history methodology—giving the iconic prairie fixture presence through voices immersed in agriculture. McLachlan’s skillful interview technique and her frontline interviewees yield a valuable contribution to the prairie historiography.

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Book Cover The Perfect Circle

The Perfect Circle, by Pascale Quiviger

Pascale Quiviger is an artist and a writer—perhaps partially why A Perfect Circle is so comfortable to me. Quite simply a joy to read such beautiful literature. I trust Quiviger’s words, sentences, visual storyline, and where the narrative is leading me. Her style of writing is a great compliment to my academic world which sometimes feels (to the artist part of me, anyways) a form of colonization—this book was a cleanse and allowed refocus. Everything about this book from the cover, image, colour palette, and the story within gives sense of en plen air freedom.

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Book Cover Arctic Smoke

Arctic Smoke, by Randy Nikkel Schroeder

In Randy Nikkel Schroeder’s Arctic Smoke an eclectic cast of characters and a magpie guitar float in and out of Lor Kowalski’s altered-state of a northern expedition. This is a creatively layered work where words are used in ways they probably weren’t designed for—twisting here and there in unusual but effective configurations. Arctic Smoke takes me back to the punk/new wave Alberta College of Art experimental days as a student; growing up as a “north-sider” in Lethbridge; and reminds of the struggling beauty of a southern Alberta blizzard (Winter had it. The exquisite cinematography of the world …). On the surface, Kowalski’s chaotic punk rocker journey with two CSIS agents on his trail dovetailing between the scenes. An intricate framework and storytelling methodology.

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Book Cover Curry

Curry: Eating, Reading and Race, by Naben Ruthnum

Naben Ruthnum suggests that food and literature are part of the vehicle used to look at how we eat, read, and think of ourselves as a miniature mass-culture within the greater West and—just as fake and as real as a great novel, as a sense of identity. Food as identity. Food as metaphor. As a sansei (third-generation Japanese Canadian) raised enjoying Okinawan and Japanese dishes at potlucks, picnics, annual keirokai (celebrations that honour the elderly), gaji card games that went throughout the night—this slim book spoke volumes. Impeccably written. The intersection of the Canadian immigrant journey through talk of food struck a nostalgic chord.

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"Nōkhom Medicine Bear" from the book, Bear Bones & Feathers, by Louise Halfe

A reading that impacted. In her poem, Nōhkom, Medicine Bear, Louise Halfe weaves the natural world with human experience, resulting in the anthropomorphizing of bear and medicine woman. Nōhkom in the Cree language refers to the word, grandmother, or perhaps in this poem my grandmother. Halfe portrays the grandmother/bear as a mythical creature who in one moment human, and the next bear. In Indigenous cultures the bear may be affiliated with medicine and important part of ritual—often symbols of healing. Halfe conveys respect for the struggles, humility, and transcendent powers embodied in the Cree women who came before her, those that surround her, and those seven generations into the future.

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Learn more about Ezra's Ghosts:

Award-winning author Darcy Tamayose returns with Ezra's Ghosts, a collection of fantastical stories linked by a complex mingling of language and culture, as well as a deep understanding of grief and what it makes of us. Within these pages a scholar writes home from the Ryukyu islands, not knowing that his hometown will soon face a deadly calamity of its own. Another seeker of truth is trapped in Ezra after her violent death, and must watch how her family—and her killer—alter in her absence. The oldest man in town, an immigrant who came to Canada to escape imperial hardships, sprouts wings, and a wounded journalist bears witness to his transformation. Finally, past and present collide as a researcher reflects on the recent skinwars that have completely altered the world's topography. Binding the stories together is an intersection of arrival and departure—in a quiet prairie town called Ezra.

May 12, 2022
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