Seniors Book Club January Selection

The Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, January 10 in Forsyth Hall to discuss The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

About the book

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them. (Publisher)

About the author

Eowyn (A-o-win) LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. Her mother named her after a character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Eowyn works at the independent bookstore Fireside Books where she plays matchmaker between readers and books. The Snow Child, her debut novel, appeared in 2012; her second, To the Bright Edge of the World, was published in 2016. Her short fiction appears in the anthology Cold Flashes, University of Alaska Press 2010, and the North Pacific Rim literary journal Cirque.

Prior to her career as a bookseller and novelist, Eowyn worked for nearly a decade as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. Her weekly articles about her outdoor adventures earned her the Best Non-Daily Columnist award from the Alaska Press Club. Her articles and photographs have been published in the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Magazine, and other publications.

Eowyn earned her BA in journalism and creative writing through Western Washington University’s honors program and studied creative nonfiction in University of Alaska Anchorage’s graduate program. She is a contributor to the blog 49Writers and a founding member of Alaska’s first statewide writing center.

The Snow Child is informed by Eowyn’s life in Alaska. Her husband is a fishery biologist with the state of Alaska. While they both work outside of the home, they are also raising their daughters in the rural, largely subsistence lifestyle in which they were both raised.

As a family, they harvest salmon and wild berries, keep a vegetable garden, turkeys and chickens, and they hunt caribou, moose, and bear for meat. Because they don’t have a well and live outside any public water system, they haul water each week for their holding tank and gather rainwater for their animals and garden. Their primary source of home heat is a woodstove, and they harvest and cut their own wood.

These activities are important to Eowyn’s day-to-day life as well as the rhythm of her year. (from LitLovers)

Myths and Legends: The Snow Maiden

Homesteading in Alaska

A conversation with Eowyn Ivey

NPR book review

Book review in The Guardian

Book review in The Globe and Mail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seniors Book Club November Selection

Hillbilly ElegyThe Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, November 8 in the “Aquarium” Room to discuss the memoir Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

About the book…

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans.

The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.

J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country. (From the publisher.)

About the author…

An author interview

Discussion questions

Video interviews

A New York Times book review

A salon.com book review

A New Republic book review

A New Yorker commentary

Poverty in the United States (Wikipedia)

Historical background about the Appalachian region

On J.D. Vance moving back to Ohio

J.D. Vance initiative “Our Ohio Renewal”

Seniors Book Club October Selection

Image result for has seen the wind by w o mitchell

The Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, October 11 in the Training Room to discuss Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell.

About the book…

When W.O. Mitchell died in 1998 he was described as “Canada’s best-loved writer.” Every commentator agreed that his best – and his best-loved – book was Who Has Seen the Wind. Since it was first published in 1947, this book has sold almost a million copies in Canada.
As we enter the world of four-year-old Brian O’Connal, his father the druggist, his Uncle Sean, his mother, and his formidable Scotch grandmother (“she belshes…a lot”), it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary book. As we watch Brian grow up, the prairie and its surprising inhabitants like the Ben and Saint Sammy – and the rich variety of small-town characters – become unforgettable. This book will be a delightful surprise for all those who are aware of it, but have never quite got around to reading it, till now. (Publisher)

W.O. Mitchell, the only Canadian author recognizable by initials alone, was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 1914. Educated at the University of Manitoba, he lived most of his life in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Alberta, where for many years he was the most renowned resident in High River.

During a very varied career Bill Mitchell travelled widely and was everything from a Depression hobo to the fiction editor of Macleans. A gifted teacher, he was visiting professor at the University of Windsor for several years, and a creative writing instructor at the Banff Centre for many summers.

His best-loved book was Who Has Seen the Wind. Since its publication in 1947 it has sold over half a million copies in Canada alone, and is hailed as the greatest Canadian book on boyhood. The classic edition, illustrated by William Kurelek, became a bestseller in 1991. Complementing that book is his 1981 best-seller How I Spent My Summer Holidays, hailed by some critics as his finest novel, although Since Daisy Creek (1984) and Ladybug, Ladybug…(1988), Roses Are Difficult Here (1990), For Art’s Sake (1992) and The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon (1993), illustrated by Wesley W. Bates, were also well-received best-sellers. Besides The Kite (1962) and The Vanishing Point (1973), he was also noted for his two collections of short stories, Jake and the Kid (1962) and According to Jake and the Kid (1989). Based on the legendary CBC radio series, both classic story collections won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. (Publisher)

W.O. Mitchell died in Calgary in 1998.

CanLit Canon Review #11 (Toronto Review of Books)

Amy’s Marathon of Books (blog posting)

W.O. Mitchell blows up an outhouse (an interview with Peter Gzowski)

W.O. Mitchell talks Christmas presents, 1976

About W.O. Mitchell

An interview with W.O. Mitchell about his life and Who Has Seen the Wind 

 

Seniors Book Club September Selection

House at the edge of nightThe Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, September 13 in Forsyth Hall to discuss The House at the Edge of Night, a novel by Catherine Banner.

About the book …

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. At the center of the island’s life is a café draped with bougainvillea called the House at the Edge of Night, where the community gathers to gossip and talk. Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, finds his destiny on the island with his beautiful wife, Pina, whose fierce intelligence, grace, and unwavering love guide her every move. An indiscretion tests their marriage, and their children—three sons and an inquisitive daughter—grow up and struggle with both humanity’s cruelty and its capacity for love and mercy.

Spanning nearly a century, through secrets and mysteries, trials and sacrifice, this beautiful and haunting novel follows the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders who live and love on Castellamare: a cruel count and his bewitching wife, a priest who loves scandal, a prisoner of war turned poet, an outcast girl who becomes a pillar of strength, a wounded English soldier who emerges from the sea. The people of Castellamare are transformed by two world wars and a great recession, by the threat of fascism and their deep bonds of passion and friendship, and by bitter rivalries and the power of forgiveness.

Catherine Banner has written an enthralling, character-rich novel, epic in scope but intimate in feeling. At times, the island itself seems alive, a mythical place where the earth heaves with stories—and this magical novel takes you there. (Publisher)

About the author …

Catherine Banner was born in Cambridge, UK, in 1989 and began writing at the age of fourteen. She studied English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, before moving to County Durham where she worked as a secondary school teacher. She has previously published a trilogy of young adult novels, The Last Descendants. She currently lives in Turin, Italy, with her husband.

Her debut adult novel, The House at the Edge of Night, tells the story of the 2008 financial crisis and 95 years of European history through one family and their bar on a tiny Mediterranean island. It has been published in 22 languages, and was listed as a Kirkus Reviews and NPR best book of 2016. Her second novel will be published in the summer of 2018.

Catherine is a member of Italian PEN and PEN Writers’ Circle. She is also the writing consultant for Project VOICE, a not-for-profit creative writing project which aims to provide a platform for development, peace, social care and humanitarian workers to tell the stories of their work in their own countries, in their own words. (author website)

An author interview

A UK publisher’s Q & A

A Penguin Random House Reader’s Guide

National Post book review

NPR book review

“Innocents uncovered” – an essay by Catherine Banner

“What getting published at 16 taught me about becoming a writer” by Catherine Banner

 

 

Seniors Book Club June Selection

kays-lucky-coin-variety-9781501156120_hrThe Seniors Book Club will meet at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, June 14 in the Training Room to discuss Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, a novel by Ann Y.K. Choi.

About the book …

This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence.

A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean-Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family. (Publisher)

 

Ann Y.K. Choi immigrated to Canada from South Korea in 1975. She attended the University of Toronto where she studied English, Sociology, and Education. She is also a graduate of the Humber School for Writers, the Creative Writing Certificate Program at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, and National University’s Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. Published by Simon & Schuster Canada, her debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, was a 2016 Toronto Book Awards finalist and one of CBC Books’ “12 Best Canadian Debut Novels of 2016”.

For over 15 years, Ann has been a teacher with the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) working primarily with English language learners, students in Special Education, and students with academic and social-emotional needs. She has served on many committees and groups that address equity issues and student well-being.

As the current chair of the YRDSB Network of Educators for Korean-Canadian Students (NEKS), Ann is committed to providing support for educators who work with students and parents/guardians of Korean-Canadian heritage, as well as to promote opportunities for community building. Ann also serves as a mentor for Arts & Science students at the University of Toronto interested in connecting with alumni established in the Arts industry and is a speaker with Passages Canada. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter. (https://annykchoi.com/about/)

Author website

An audio interview & print summary (with CBC’s Shelagh Rogers)

A Gnu Journal interview with Ann Y.K. Choi

Publisher’s Discussion Questions

A Toronto Star book review

A Globe and Mail book review

Yu-Rhee versus Mary: does the name matter? by Ann Y.K. Choi

Ann Y.K. Choi’s essay on getting published

A Global News video clip

A Wikipedia article about the Korean War