THE BOOK SHELF: Inspiring new books to start the new year

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Happy new year readers! I hope 2022 brings you happiness and enough quiet time to read, reflect and spend time outdoors.

We shouldn’t underestimate the restorative power of nature, especially during these unstable times. Being outside is good not only for our minds and bodies but something deeper. Standing on the edge of the cliffs of Cape Split, looking out at the vast Bay of Fundy after a long hike, or watching the rising sun turn the dark morning sky into a palate of beautiful blues, pinks and purples, inspires feelings of awe and wonder. We can use more of these feelings in our lives, especially at times when the pandemic seems endless.

Poet Brian Bartlett is hopeful that his new book will inspire readers to step outside more often, specifically early in the morning, in the quiet hours just before sunrise. In Daystart Songflight: A Morning Journal (Pottersfield Press), Bartlett draws from journal entries he drafted outdoors in various locations, from Petite Rivière in Lunenburg County to Crystal Crescent Beach in Sambro Creek, between April 2018 and November 2019.

“Daystart Songflight: A Morning Journal is propelled by a curiosity about the natural world—light, sky colours, bird voices, flowers, trees, floods, human strangers (the list could easily be tripled or quadrupled)—as well as by thoughts on ageing, retirement, obsession, names, journal-writing, family, mortality, poetry, Maritime Provinces history, political anxieties and climate change,” he writes in the author’s note of the book. “In place of Monet’s haystacks and water lilies, I’ve joked, the journal attends to Song Sparrows and mosquitoes. The pace is leisurely and unrushed. Questions are asked but not always answered. Digressions, memories and associations surface freely.”

Muinji’j Asks Why

Shanika MacEachern, a Mi’kmaw woman and native student advisor with the Annapolis Valley Centre for Education, wrote a new children’s book that is a great resource for teachers and parents looking for sensitive ways to explore reconciliation, residential schooling and the impact the schools have had on Canada. Muinji’j Asks Why: The Story of the Mi’kmaq and the Shubenacadie Residential School (Nimbus Publishing) is illustrated by Zeta Paul. The book follows a Mi’kmaw girl named Muinji’j as she learns from her grandparents the story of her ancestors and the story of residential schools.

“I want to learn Mi’kmaq, Papa. Why don’t I know Mi’kmaq? You have to teach me,” Muinji’j says to her grandfather.

“I only know a few words, Tu’s. I need to learn Mi’kmaq just like you, but here is an important word I know: L’nu. It means ‘the people,’ which is what we call ourselves.

“And another important word is kitpu, it means eagle. Eagles are sacred to our people: they fly the highest in the sky and are the closest to the Creator.”

After learning that the Shubenacadie residential school closed in 1967, Muinji’j wants her grandmother to tell her that everyone is OK now. Her grandmother cannot.

“Our communities still suffer today because of those schools and the terrible things that happened there. It is hard to heal from suffering that lasts lifetimes. It is hard to heal when so much was taken away and so much harm was done. But our people work together to heal and to be well. It is time now for all of Canada to help us heal.”

“Well, they can’t hurt me!”

“You are right, Muinji’j; those schools are all closed now. No one will ever have to go to a residential school again.”

“Are you sure I will never have to go to a residential school?”

“Yes,” said Nana. “Because of the suffering of our people, no one will ever have to go to a residential school again.”

It’s Not So Simple Now

Poet Christopher Heide was born on P.E.I. but has lived for years in Mahone Bay. The poems in his latest collection, It’s Not So Simple Now (Pottersfield Press) were written not only near his home on the province’s South Shore but in different places across Nova Scotia, as well as further away: Ottawa, Banff, Baffin Island and even Indonesia.

“Most frequently, the poems collected here are my half of a dialogue to someone who spoke to me: a friend, a lover, a child, a parent and others who I have listened to, closely, with affection,” writes Heide.

From his poem “When We are Fragile (From Iqaluit)” Heide tells readers:

Forgive everything.

Gather it all quickly

In one hand

And throw it up

Into that gale,

Watch it blow

Across the night sky.

We’ll stand at the open door

And watch it becoming

White curtains of light

And we’ll feel

Our strength returning.

“Heide has always been and still is a stunning poet, a hard-working artist, and one we in Atlantic Canada are fortunate to have in our midst. This poet in this poetry collection writes love letters to us all, on every page. With every word,” author Sheree Fitch writes in the book’s foreword.

It’s Tracy and Martina, Hun!

Justine Williamson and Greg Vardy, two best friends from Cape Breton, who formed the comedy duo Tracy and Martina, take readers on a crazy journey around the island in their new colourful book, It’s Tracy & Martina, Hun!: A Guide to Cape Breton Livin’ (Nimbus Publishing).

Williamson, better known as Tracy, grew up in Glace Bay, and Vardy, best known as Martina, hails from New Waterford. He is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The friends met in a local bingo hall when they were kids and have been close ever since. In 2017, the pair partnered with CBC Comedy and their comedy duo gained national attention.

It’s Tracy & Martina, Hun! is filled with colour photos showing the two friends heavily made-up enjoying cigarettes, drinks, and local activities.

The mission of their book they claim is to introduce readers to life as they know it on the island, everything from meat darts to shootin’ the drag to their comprehensive Cape Breton Food Guide. The guide includes double-doubles, combination pizza, tea biscuits with molasses and the Cape Breton shiner shot: one oz. moonshine and the juice from one lobster claw.

The book also offers a Cape Breton dictionary of words and sayings such as, “b’y”, which they explain is short for buddy or “balls on a priest. The phrase refers to someone or something with no use or purpose and they give an example of how it can be used in a sentence: That guy from out west was useless as balls on a priest.

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