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A Woman of Valour

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


A Woman of Valour is the biography of Marie-Louise Bouchard Labelle, a French-Canadian woman who found love with a priest thirty-three years her senior. Against all social convention, they lived, produced three children, and built a life together after fleeing their village.However, after several years together, Bouchard’s husband ultimately chose to return to the priesthood, abandoning his family as a result. Through interviews and documentation, Claire Trépanier tells Bouchard’s story of survival while highlighting the history of women’s stature in Canada, and raising a question about the celibacy of Catholic priests.

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Claire Trépanier lives in Ottawa. Her interest in travel, teaching, and international development led her to participate in the conception and co-creation of the TV series Gens d’ici, Gens d’ailleurs, which aired on TCV Outaouais from September to December 1999. A Woman of Valour is a testimony to her admiration of women's resilience, courage, and dynamic spirit.

 
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A Very Capable Life

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


Written in his mother’s unique voice, John Leigh Walters pushes the boundaries of memoir in A Very Capable Life, the extraordinary journey of a seemingly ordinary woman.Zarah Petri was a child when her family left Hungary to establish a new life in Canada in the 1920s. With courage and innovation, Zarah and her family survived the Depression?even if it meant breaking the law to do so. In celebrating Zarah Petri, A Very Capable Life pays homage to all “ordinary” women of the early twentieth century who challenged society’s conventions for the sake of survival.

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“Walters offers the story of his mother’s journey from Hungary to Canada as a feminine picaresque with the indomitable Zarah in the dual roles of heroine and storyteller. In recreating his mother as a resourceful and often hilarious character, Walters’ sustained act of literary ventriloquism captures the ingenuity and passion of the diasporic narrative in Canadian cultural history.”

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John Leigh Walters spent a lifetime writing, producing, and hosting television programs in both the United States and Canada. Notably, with Metropolitan Opera star Vivienne Della Chiesa, he co-hosted a daily television talk show on WLW-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio. More recently he produced and hosted interview programs on the CTV outlet in the Waterloo, ON. He lives in Kitchener, ON.

 
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Man Proposes, God Disposes

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


In 1910, young Pierre Maturié bid farewell to his comfortable bourgeois existence in rural France and travelled to northern Alberta in search of independence, adventure, and newfound prosperity. Some sixty years later, he wrote of the four years he spent in Canada before he returned to France in 1914 to fight in the First World War. Like that of so many youthful pioneers, his story is one of adventure and hardship—perilous journeys, railroad construction in the Rockies, panning for gold in swift-flowing streams, transporting goods for the Hudson’s Bay Company along the Athabasca River. Blessed with the rare gift of a natural storyteller, Maturié conveys his abiding nostalgia for a country he loved deeply yet ultimately had to abandon.

Maturié’s memoir, Man Proposes, God Disposes, appeared in France in 1972, to a warm reception. Now, in the deft and marvellously empathetic translation of Vivien Bosley, it is at long last available in English. As a portrait of pioneer life in northern Alberta, as a window onto the French experience in Canada, and, above all, as an irresistible story—it will continue to find a place in the hearts of readers for years to come.

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"A delightful translation of Pierre Maturie's recollections of traveling to and settling in rural Alberta before WW1. Written in simple but poignant chapters, the narrative recounts a journey full of warmth, challenges, triumphs and sorrows in which victory over the land comes at a difficult price."

 
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Letters from the Lost

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


On 15 March 1939, Helen Waldstein’s father snatched his stamped exit visa from a distracted clerk to escape from Prague with his wife and child. As the Nazis closed in on a war-torn Czechoslovakia, only letters from their extended family could reach Canada through the barriers of conflict. The Waldstein family received these letters as they made their lives on a southern Ontario farm, where they learned to be Canadian and forget their Jewish roots. Helen Waldstein read these letters as an adult -- this changed everything. As her past refused to keep silent, Helen followed the trail of the letters back to Europe, where she discovered living witnesses who could attest to the letters’ contents. She has here interwoven their stories and her own into a compelling narrative of suffering, survivor guilt, and overcoming intergenerational obstacles when exploring a traumatic past.

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“Strikingly, the post-war correspondence in the collection, a series of five letters written by one of Wilkes’ only surviving relatives, describes life in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, the fates of the individuals whose voices are preserved in the previous correspondence, and his attempts to rebuild his life.”

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“A fascinating collection of letters and assorted photographs, maps and charts woven together by Wilkes' descriptive narrative. ... Anyone who writes this type of book will always wonder if justice was done to the memory of those who perished. Wilkes need not worry on that score.”

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"Reading the letters, we accompany Wilkes on her journey of discovery. We laugh when she laughs, we despair when she despairs ... the courage and dignity of the lost relatives is what remains foremost in the reader's mind. By allowing us access to a dozen specific individuals, Wilkes has managed to put a human face on an almost unfathomable statistic."

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Since receiving her Ph.D in French Literature, Helen Waldstein Wilkes spent 30 years teaching at every level in Canada and in the U.S. Her research interests include cross-cultural understanding, language acquisition, and neurolinguistics. Now retired and living in Vancouver, she is actively examining her own cultural inheritance and its impact.

 
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Xwelíqwiya

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


Xwelíqwiya is the life story of Rena Point Bolton, a Stó:lō matriarch, artist, and craftswoman. Proceeding by way of conversational vignettes, the beginning chapters recount Point Bolton's early years on the banks of the Fraser River during the Depression. While at the time the Stó:lō, or Xwélmexw, as they call themselves today, kept secret their ways of life to avoid persecution by the Canadian government, Point Bolton’s mother and grandmother schooled her in the skills needed for living from what the land provides, as well as in the craftwork and songs of her people, passing on a duty to keep these practices alive. Point Bolton was taken to a residential school for the next several years and would go on to marry and raise ten children, but her childhood training ultimately set the stage for her roles as a teacher and activist. Recognizing the urgent need to forge a sense of cultural continuity among the younger members of her community, Point Bolton visited many communities and worked with federal, provincial, and First Nations politicians to help break the intercultural silence by reviving knowledge of and interest in Aboriginal art. She did so with the deft and heartfelt use of both her voice and her hands.

Over the course of many years, Daly collaborated with Point Bolton to pen her story. At once a memoir, an oral history, and an “insider” ethnography directed and presented by the subject herself, the result attests both to Daly’s relationship with the family and to Point Bolton’s desire to inspire others to use traditional knowledge and experience to build their own distinctive, successful, and creative lives.

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Rena Point Bolton is a Xwélmexw artist and weaver who lives in northern British Columbia.

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Richard Daly is a social anthropologist, translator, editor, and Aboriginal rights consultant. Originally from a fishing and forestry community on the Pacific Coast, Daly now resides in Norway near Oslo.

 
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Mission Life in Cree-Ojibwe Country

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


In May of 1868, Elizabeth Bingham Young and her new husband, Egerton Ryerson Young, began a long journey from Hamilton, Ontario, to the Methodist mission of Rossville. For the next eight years, Elizabeth supported her husband’s work at two mission houses, Norway House and then Berens River. Unprepared for the difficult conditions and the “eight months long” winter, and unimpressed with “eating fish twenty-one times a week,” the young Upper Canada wife rose to the challenge. In these remote outposts, she gave birth to three children, acted as a nurse and doctor, and applied both perseverance and determination to learning Cree, while also coping with poverty and short supplies within her community. Her account of mission life, as seen through the eyes of a woman, is the first of its kind to be archived and now to appear in print.

Accompanying Elizabeth’s memoir, and offering a counterpoint to it, are the reminiscences of her eldest son, “Eddie.” Born at Norway House in 1869 and nursed by a Cree woman from infancy, Eddie was immersed in local Cree and Ojibwe life, culture, and language, in many ways exemplifying the process of reverse acculturation often in evidence among the children of missionaries. Like those of his mother, Eddie’s memories capture the sensory and emotional texture of mission life, providing a portrait that is startling in its immediacy.

Skillfully woven together and meticulously annotated by Jennifer Brown, these two remarkable recollections of mission life are an invaluable addition to the fields of religious, missionary, and Aboriginal history. In their power to resurrect experience, they are also a fascination to read.

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"Her memoirs offer an exceedingly rare portrait of mission life as seen through the eyes of a woman."

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“Brown’s editing and her insightful contextualization of first-hand 19th century historical material serve the reader well and add immeasurably to the joy of reading about these lively and endearing people. The grace with which this has been effected somewhat shields us from the difficulty of the task.”

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Missionary wife of Egerton Ryerson Young.

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Son of Egerton Ryerson Young and Elizabeth Bingham Young.

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Jennifer S. H. Brown is professor emeritus of history at the University of Winnipeg. In addition to her many publications as author, she has edited a number of books, including Memories, Myths, and Dreams of an Ojibwe Leader (2009).

 
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Rocks in the Water, Rocks in the Sun

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


When Joegodson Déralciné was still a small child, his parents left rural Haiti to resettle in the rapidly growing zones of Port-au-Prince. As his family entered the city in 1986, Duvalier and his dictatorship exited. Haitians, once terrorized under Duvalier’s reign, were liberated and emboldened to believe that they could take control of their lives. But how? Joining hundreds of thousands of other peasants trying to adjust to urban life, Joegodson and his family sought work and a means of survival. But all they found was low-waged assembly plant jobs of the sort to which the repressive Duvalier regime had opened Haiti’s doors—the combination of flexible capital and cheap labour too attractive to multinational manufacturers to be overlooked. With the death of his mother, Joegodson was placed in his uncle’s care, and so began a childhood of starvation, endless labour, and abuse.

In honest, reflective prose, Joegodson—now a father himself— allows us to walk in the ditches of Cité Soleil, to hide from the macoutes under the bed, to feel the ache of an empty stomach. But, most importantly, he provides an account of life in Haiti from a perspective that is rarely heard. Free of sentimentality and hackneyed clichés, his narrative explores the spirituality of Vodou, Catholicism, and Protestantism, describes the harrowing day of the 2010 earthquake and its aftermath, and illustrates the inner workings of MINUSTAH. Written with Canadian historian Paul Jackson—Joegodson telling his story in Creole, Jackson translating, the two of them then reviewing and reworking—the memoir is a true collaboration, the struggle of two people from different lands and vastly different circumstances to arrive at a place of mutual understanding. In the process, they have given us an unforgettable account of a country determined to survive, and on its own terms.

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Vilmond Joegodson Déralciné is a furniture maker and writer who lives in Canaan, Haiti.

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Paul Jackson earned his PhD in history from Queen’s University. His published work includes One of the Boys (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004).

 
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The Teacher and the Superintendent

Grigor-Taylor, BarbaraBoulter II, George E. (Hrsg.) | Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


From its inception in 1885, the Alaska School Service was charged with the assimilation of Alaskan Native children into mainstream American values and ways of life. Working in the missions and schools along the Yukon River were George E. Boulter and Alice Green, his future wife. Boulter, a Londoner originally drawn to the Klondike, had begun teaching in 1905 and by 1910 had been promoted to superintendent of schools for the Upper Yukon District. In 1907, Green left a comfortable family life in New Orleans to answer the “call to serve” in the Episcopal mission boarding schools for Native children at Anvik and Nenana, where she occupied the position of government teacher. As school superintendent, Boulter wrote frequently to his superiors in Seattle and Washington, DC, to discuss numerous administrative matters and to report on problems and conditions overall.

From 1906 to 1918, Green kept a personal journal—hitherto in private possession—in which she reflected on her professional duties and her domestic life in Alaska. Collected in The Teacher and the Superintendent are Boulter’s letters and Green’s diary. Together, their vivid, first- hand impressions bespeak the earnest but paternalistic beliefs of those who lived and worked in immensely isolated regions, seeking to bring Christianity and “civilized” values to the Native children in their care. Beyond shedding private light on the missionary spirit, however, Boulter and Green have also left us an invaluable account of the daily conflicts that occurred between church and government and of the many injustices suffered by the Native population in the face of the misguided efforts of both institutions..

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“... a valuable collection of documents related to colonialism and schooling in the Alaskan Interior at the beginning of the twentieth century. [...] Boulter II and Grigor-Taylor have done a good job of editing and annotating important records, which reveal much about the lives of teachers in Native schools of the period, and hopefully their publication will spur new scholarly analysis.”

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“The letters and diary entries of these missionaries are stark windows onto the ordinariness of colonisation and the horrific natural/unnaturalness of the destruction of indigenous ways of life. However, just as life, in even the darkest and most violent of storms, has beauty and joy, these texts are filled with the intricacies of the daily expressions of friendship, love, and commitments to unselfish purposes.”

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Barbara Grigor-Taylor, of Cavendish Rare Books, London, is an antiquarian bookseller. She has presented papers and lectures on topics ranging from Western writings on China to eighteenth-century Russian explorations.

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George E. Boulter II was born in Alaska and later lived in California before embarking in 1942 on a career in the U.S. Merchant Marines.

 
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Leaving Iran

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


In 1976, at the age of twenty-three, Farideh Goldin left Iran in search of her imagined America. She sought an escape from the suffocation she felt under the cultural rules of her country and the future her family had envisioned for her. While she settled uneasily into American life, the political unrest in Iran intensified and in February of 1979, Farideh’s family was forced to flee Iran on the last El-Al flights to Tel Aviv. They arrived in Israel as refugees, having left everything behind including the only home Farideh’s father had ever known.

Baba, as Farideh called her father, was a well-respected son of the chief rabbi and dayan of the Jews of Shiraz. During his last visit to the United States in 2006, he handed Farideh his memoir that chronicled the years of his life after exile: the confiscation of his passport while he attempted to return to Iran for his belongings, the resulting years of loneliness as he struggled against a hostile bureaucracy to return to his wife and family in Israel, and the eventual loss of the poultry farm that had supported his family. Farideh translated her father’s memoir along with other documents she found in a briefcase after his death. Leaving Iran knits together her father’s story of dislocation and loss with her own experience as an Iranian Jew in a newly adopted home. As an intimate portrait of displacement and the construction of identity, as a story of family loyalty and cultural memory, Leaving Iran is an important addition to a growing body of Iranian–American narratives.

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“Self-descried as a work of creative non-fiction, Leaving Iran, draws heavily from the memoirs of Esghel Dayanim (Baba), the author’s father, translated from the Persian and very tastefully molded into a factually accurate narrative. […] Leaving Iran, both physically and psychically, is a gripping work. Supplementing Wedding Song, there is additional catharsis. However, the more mature perspective is reflective of the 13 years between books. In 2003, Farideh Goldin was revealed as a rare talent. We looked forward then to more from her. That hope and expectation is not diminished.”

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“Farideh told her family's story in detail, without cancelling out her father's voice, but letting the reader see the heights she has reached. Her voice combines the worlds she has faced, accepting and rejecting aspects of each and maturing as she finds herself and her impressive means of expression.”

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Born in Shiraz, Iran to a family of dayanim, Farideh Goldin now lives in Virginia and is the director of the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding at Old Dominion University. Goldin is a frequent lecturer and presenter on Iranian culture. Her first memoir, Wedding Song: Memoirs of an Iranian Jewish Woman was published in 2003.

 
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My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell

Athabasca University Press | Our Lives: Diary, Memoir, and Letters


My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell is a simple and outspoken account of the sexual and psychological abuse that Arthur Bear Chief suffered during his time at Old Sun Residential school in Gleichen on the Siksika Nation. In a series of chronological vignettes, Bear Chief depicts the punishment, cruelty, abuse, and injustice that he endured at Old Sun and then later relived in the traumatic process of retelling his story at an examination for discovery in connection with a lawsuit brought against the federal government.

He returned to Gleichen late in life—to the home left to him by his mother—and it was there that he began to reconnect with Blackfoot language and culture and to write his story. Although the terrific adversity Bear Chief faced in his childhood made an indelible mark on his life, his unyielding spirit is evident throughout his story.

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"... a remarkable example of Indigenous storytelling and proof of the lingering psychological damage of residential schools on their survivors. . . . These [the appendixes] push conversations concerning residential schools into several arenas, offering readers a more complete view of the schools' operations and legacy than previously published."

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Arthur Bear Chief left Old Sun Residential School at the age of

seventeen. He worked

at Shingwauk Indian Residential

School as a student counsellor, before embarking on a career

with the government, which

included work with the Public

Service Commission of Canada in

Edmonton and Northern Affairs

in Ottawa. He now lives on

Siksika Nation.

 
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