Seven Fallen Feathers

I am struggling with what to say about Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death And Hard Truths In A Northern City by Tanya Talaga. It is a raw, deeply moving and horrifying look at how our Indigenous youth continue to be treated in this country, specifically in Thunder Bay in this instance. It takes us through the stories of seven teenagers who came to their deaths living in a city far from home, because education at home was not an option for them. Forced to live in boarding houses with strangers, they were overwhelmed by urban life and while there were many conscientious and heartfelt attempts by kind-hearted souls to try to ease the blow of assimilating, the truth of the matter is that these kids were separated from family and friends during a very difficult transitional period.

It is the story of the families left behind without answers to why their children perished. It is the story of racism and neglect in a 21st century Canadian community. The cover of the book was painted by the father of one of the victims, Christian Morrisseau, son of renowned painter Norval Morrisseau. It is a stunningly beautiful depiction of the fragility of life and the incredible strength of the human spirit.

How is it that in 2018, a large segment of our population continues to be treated as ‘savages’ with no access to clean water, health services and educational opportunities for their youth? What aspect of colonialism is still so embedded into our national psyche that we are not pounding on the doors of every single Member of Parliament to demand action immediately? It is inconceivable that children still need to be flown to ‘residential’ schools hours away from their families and communities. We have the money to bail out Bombardier but we can’t erect schools, water purification systems or hospitals for our Indigenous communities. We pay huge amounts of money to ineffective and inefficient political policies and procedures but don’t have the financial resources to live up to the false promises that have been made over and over and over again.

This book should be essential reading for anyone holding or aspiring to hold political office in this country. This book should be part of the curriculum in every high school across Canada. And, it should be mandatory reading for any and all people involved in our legal, policing and judicial systems.

-Nancy C.

Breaking Free

I think everybody has their weird interest in certain subjects. Or is that just me?


Anyway, one of my “weird” interests is in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). There’s just something about this very patriarchal/hierarchical church and its emphasis on total obedience. And I really can’t wrap my head around their practice of polygamy—the men with multiple wives. It’s also hard to believe that such a group operates right here in North America—mostly in Utah and surrounding states, but also in British Columbia.


I’m currently reading Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs. She’s the daughter of the FLDS Prophet, Warren Jeffs. So the author certainly has a unique perspective from which to look at and comment on the church. Just so you know, Warren Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence + 20 years for sexual assault against children. Despite being in prison, he still heads and directs the church. WTH!


Rachel Jeffs, now a young woman, comes across as strong and feisty in this book. Good thing for her, as her life has been a difficult one. Her father (the Prophet, mind you) repeatedly molested her, beginning at the age of eight. When she was 18, she was married to a man she barely knew, becoming his third wife. Later on, she would share a home with two more “sister wives.”


Warren Jeffs has ruled the church with an iron fist. Rule-breaking, whether real or perceived, is dealt with harshly. Punishment often means a person being sent into isolation, for weeks or months at a time. In one instance, Rachel was sent away without her baby son. When she was allowed to come back, he had forgotten who she was! Becoming ever more angry by these repeated punishments, Rachel left the church.


If you share my “weird” interest, here are some other WPL titles I have enjoyed reading: Becoming Sister Wives by Kody Brown, The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser and Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall.

-Penny D.

Creative Nonfiction is a term that often gets thrown around in literary discussions, but do any of us really know what it means? I sure didn’t. I often described it as nonfiction that was…creative, or if I was feeling really clever, as nonfiction that was experimental. Needless to say, those definitions would not satisfy any vocab teacher.

Luckily, the internet had the definition I was looking for. On the website for a literary journal called Creative Nonfiction, Lee Gutkind describes creative nonfiction like this:

The words “creative” and “nonfiction” describe the form. The word “creative” refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques fiction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonfiction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.

As I learned more about creative nonfiction, I realized how great this genre is. It’s the perfect bridge for dedicated readers of fiction who find nonfiction boring. I’ve met lots of people who want to expand their reading habits, but find it difficult to slough through some of the heavier (both literally and figuratively) nonfiction titles. If you’re looking to venture to the nonfiction side of the library this summer, then some of the creative nonfiction listed below might be for you.

Whether you’re a lover of nonfiction, or someone who just wants to dip their toe in, I hope this list can serve as an introduction to a genre that has a lot to offer. Happy reading!

Five Creative Nonfiction Books that You Should Check Out at WPL:

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris

“David Sedaris tells all in a book that is, literally, a lifetime in the making. For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences. Now, Sedaris shares his private writings with the world.”

Hannus by Rachel Lebowitz

“Hannus is a creative biography of Ida Hannus, a Finnish-Canadian suffragist and socialist living in Vancouver and in the BC Finnish commune Sointula through the turn of the century to the Cold War. Approached from different angles, employing a collage of techniques, Hannus is a constantly shifting – and consistently engaging – narrative that raises questions about the reliability of history and biography.”

Getting out of town by book and bike by Kent Thompson

“Getting Out of Town by Book and Bike is a collection of popular essays which take an often comic look at how reading and bicycling both transport people to places unknown. Thompson introduces the reader to travel writing by the nineteenth-century bicycle adventurer Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg and Canadian rock star Neil Peart, explains why he visits small-town libraries in search of copies of Anna Karenina, and ponders the social significance of the Tim Hortons coffee shops which dot the Canadian landscape. Writing in the spirit of James E. Starrs’ The Literary Cyclist, Thompson also contemplates the role of the bicycle in works by writers from George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells to Elizabeth Bishop and Ernest Buckler. On the whole, it’s an offbeat and entertaining book of curiosity. George Elliott Clarke calls this book “a cool meditation on the Zen of cycling, a zesty memoir about growing up in the rural Maritimes, and an ‘off-duty’ scholar’s energetic studies of a host of writers.”

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion

“This book has two extended excerpts from her never-before-seen notebooks–writings that offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary writer. Joan Didion has always kept notebooks: of overheard dialogue, observations, interviews, drafts of essays and articles–and here is one such draft that traces a road trip she took with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, in June 1970, through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. She interviews prominent local figures, describes motels, diners, a deserted reptile farm, a visit with Walker Percy, a ladies’ brunch at the Mississippi Broadcasters’ Convention. She writes about the stifling heat, the almost viscous pace of life, the sulfurous light, and the preoccupation with race, class, and heritage she finds in the small towns they pass through. And from a different notebook: the “California Notes” that began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial of 1976. Though Didion never wrote the piece, watching the trial and being in San Francisco triggered thoughts about the city, its social hierarchy, the Hearsts, and her own upbringing in Sacramento. Here, too, is the beginning of her thinking about the West, its landscape, the western women who were heroic for her, and her own lineage, all of which would appear later in her acclaimed 2003 book, Where I Was From.”

Small Beneath the Sky: A Prairie Memoir by Lorna Crozier

“A volume of poignant recollections by one of Canada’s most celebrated poets, Small Beneath the Sky is a tender, unsparing portrait of a family and a place. Lorna Crozier vividly depicts her hometown of Swift Current, with its one main street, two high schools, and three beer parlors–where her father spent most of his evenings. She writes unflinchingly about the grief and shame caused by poverty and alcoholism. At the heart of the book is Crozier’s fierce love for her mother, Peggy. The narratives of daily life–sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking–are interspersed with prose poems. Lorna Crozier approaches the past with a tactile sense of discovery, tracing her beginnings with a poet’s precision and an open heart.”

-Jenna H.

*All book synopses were taken from the Encore catalogue.

To Buy or Not to Buy

I very rarely buy books.  Why ever would I? Every book I want to read is here in the library so I just check it out or put it on hold and then check it out.  When my loan period is up I bring it back to the library for safekeeping and I know I can come and get it again when I need it.  It’s just the best system ever.

I am occasionally tempted to buy a book though if it is particularly beautiful to hold in my hands.  For example, just a few weeks ago there was a fantastic book about the history of card catalogues, called The Card Catalog : books, cards and literary treasures, published with a foreword by Carla Hayden (you should really check out her Twitter account – she is @LibnofCongress – it will make your day), and I so enjoyed reading that book and then flipping through the gorgeous pages again that it seemed like it might be worth having to keep.  But, I didn’t buy it.

Once in a while I find a book so charming that I check it out of the library more than once and then I think that it might just be worth it to buy a copy to save myself the trouble of coming in to check it out over and over again.  Then I remember that it isn’t really that much trouble.  It’s fun to come and find it on the shelves again and really, since I am reading it for the second or third time, is it really a rush job anyway?  No.  So I don’t buy that book even though it meant so much to me. This has happened a few times, especially with novels written about books or booksellers.  Like with Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  Really sensational books.

Well, in this summer’s list of Featured Titles I have found a book that is making me think I might change my ways.  This might be the beginning of a whole new me.  Feast: recipes & stories from a Canadian road trip is an outrageously beautiful cookbook that extends beyond that genre into coffee table book-style with photography that will knock your socks off.  Maybe you will put it in your kitchen or maybe you will leave it artfully displayed in your living room to impress visitors?  It is that stunning.  The authors, Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller, decided that they would spend the summer of 2015 traveling across our country to write about Canada’s food, culture and the wonderful people they would meet.  They have done this in a way that includes recipes, of course, but also has a warmth and sense of spirit that you don’t expect in a cookbook.  The idea of ‘road trip’ comes across just as strongly as the food does.  They are in love with our country and they write about it with such passion.

downloadThe recipes in Feast are wonderful, of course, and are broken down into regions and also into sections like “grazing” and “cheers”, and the instructions included with each one are very clear.  I like clear directions with my recipes and they have done so every time.  It’s comforting and encouraging, it’s absolute perfection.  They photograph each recipe and also include images from the places that they visited to source those foods and that is where the true beauty of our country shines.  This is one of the rare cookbooks where you won’t skip a single page.  Say you find that an individual recipe doesn’t suit your family, maybe you are vegetarians and you won’t be interested in the Slow Cooker Moose Stroganoff, but you will want to read all about how they came to meet chef Roary MacPherson, who gave them that recipe.  It’s 304 pages of great reading and it just happens to have beautiful photographs and incredible recipes.

I brought the book home, slowly turned the pages and called out to my family about the things that caught my eye like “bannock!”, “sausage rolls!”, “come look at these chickens!”, “holy cow, they went to Churchill and had apple fritters!”  Generally my kids don’t love it when I do this but I did wear them down and they had to come to see what these two cookbook authors were up to.  It’s beautiful from the first page, from the cover.  You can, by the way, read the whole story of how they got to the final decision on the cover of their book on the website that they maintained as they traveled across the country.  Check it out at

Their adventure began on their blog and they continue to update it with lovely posts about food and travel.  It’s inspiring, vibrant writing and a wonderful way to get to know more about the two women who created this incredible book.  I’ve seen many Canadian-themed cookbooks before, as I am sure so many WPL customers have, but this one stands out because they aren’t just talking about food, they are talking about our country with humour and cheer.  They cover many of the foods that you think that someone might in a typically Canadian cookbook and introduce you to people in bakeries, restaurants and communities across the nation while they do it.  I’m going to buy my copy and return this one for the shelves now.  I hope that this doesn’t start a new personal trend and I just keep buying more books for my home.  Perhaps I should start looking at bookshelf designs? I know that we have some great books on that topic (one nice choice that I’ve found on the shelves is called Bookshelves & Cabinets) if I do.

— Penny M.


The truth about food

One of my favourite ways to find new-to-me books and authors is word of mouth. There’s nothing like finding a book based on a friend’s recommendation. The New Farm by Brent Preston is one of those books that a friend strongly recommended I pick up. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader but I liked that the book is set in our local(ish) area and I was intrigued by a big city couple trying to make their mark on the food industry.

I won’t lie, I went into this book humming the theme song from Green Acres but The New Farm is so much more than a story about a couple leaving the big city to start a farm. Preston’s writing is engaging and humorous and he isn’t afraid to show his missteps or naive notions about what it would take – financially, time-wise or personally – to run a successful, organic farm.

He shares the hard truth about where much of our food comes from, how we can and need to do better for ourselves and our environment and how good quality food should be available for everyone, no matter their socioeconomic standing. Throughout the book he weaves in the social, economic and environmental aspects of the food we eat. He stresses that it’s important to know where our food is coming from and how it has been treated from the very beginning and that we need to insist on better food for our health and the sustainability of our food industry and environment.

This book is well paced and you find yourself learning about sustainable farming, the good food movement, immigrant workers in Canada and so many other important issues all within the framework of a humorous and entertaining read. You don’t have to have an interest in organic farming or know the difference between a rutabaga and a turnip to enjoy this book. This is a story about a family who wanted to do better and did. The Prestons challenged the food industry, small farming, who has access to organic food and much more.

I have a new understanding of our current food industry and a greater expectation for quality, safe food for my family. I now wander the food store and wonder where and how this head of lettuce or potato was grown. I want better food and plan to take better advantage of the local farmer’s markets near me and even inquire about a local Farm Share.

I’m so happy that I picked up this book. It is inspiring, educational, funny, honest, important and has helped to remove the blinders I’ve had about the food that I buy. Even though the issue of successful, sustainable organic farming feels like a huge challenge Preston shows that it is possible.

–Laurie P.

Life in the ER

In his latest book, Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine, celebrated humanitarian Dr. James Maskalyk has provided a fascinating and sometimes discouraging account of life in emergency rooms in Toronto and Ethiopia. Mingled throughout this portrayal are peeks into his relationship with his hunter/trapper grandfather who is in deteriorating health himself since the death of Dr. Maskalyk’s grandmother. The common thread in both of these narratives is the incredible strength of the human spirit in the face of crisis.

He begins with the basics, the “ABC’s of medicine”, and moves through the alphabet of ER necessities. A for Airway, B for Breathing, C for Circulation….if we can’t get those back in working order, there is not much else to do. Interspersed through the book, you’ll pick up interesting facts on how the body operates and how it tries to compensate for lost functions.

But the real story lies in the emergency rooms themselves and the relentless pressure on the medical teams that try to resuscitate, comfort, heal, and repair the broken bodies that flow endlessly through the ER doors. You can feel the frustration, exhaustion and despair whether in the supply starved ER in Addis Ababa or the state-of-the-art trauma centre in Toronto.  

He reveals the irony that in spite of a lack resources, such as modern operating rooms and diagnostic tools, emergency care in impoverished parts of the world may be at times more humane and heartfelt. Some of the most profound healing happens when all one has to offer is one’s kindness and compassion.  

Dr. Maskalyk portrays very well the grinding hopelessness that eventually drives some talented medical personnel from this kind of work. And yet, in spite of it all, he shows us that there are glimpses of hope and that trying again is what really matters.

-Nancy C.

The great Jeffrey Tambor

When I’m working here at the library and someone asks me how I am feeling I almost always answer “great” or “fantastic” because really, it is always a fabulous day when you work in a public library. Still, once in a while, I think about my eventual retirement and those thoughts turn to working in a bookstore. Doesn’t that just sound perfect?  So for research purposes I keep tabs on a few bookstores through their newsletters and social media and was so excited to learn that the actor Jeffrey Tambor is part owner of a wonderful shop in Los Angeles. It’s called Skylight and they have the coziest little spot there with a neighbourhood vibe that comes across in their website and through their promotional material.

Another favourite shop of mine is owned by author Louise Erdrich (the most recent book you will find of hers on our shelves is the fifth book in her series for children called Makoons but if you missed her 2016 novel for adults, LaRose, you should go back and enjoy it right now) and it’s a treat of a bookshop in Minneapolis. Actually, it’s not just a store that sells books. Birchbark Books sells “good books, native arts and jewelry” and is also a community hub. It’s another vibrant website that is worth visiting regularly for their great book vibe and cheerful photographs of the dogs that are connected with staff and visitors to the store.

Several other authors have connections to bookstores and this isn’t surprising at all.  Judy Blume has a splendid community hub in Key West that hosts great author readings that you dream about attending in flip flops while carrying a suitable iced drink ( and the ever delightful Ann Patchett has a crew of amazing booksellers in Nashville at Parnassus Books where you know you would spend hours making friends with books, booksellers and the furry creatures who visit there. I have a special place in my heart for a store in Plainville, Mass. Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney opened his store, called An Unlikely Story, in a town of less than 9,000 by turning an old building into a bookstore, café, gift shop and a large meeting space that is used for yoga classes, community events and some of the best author readings I have ever seen.  It’s almost painful to get their newsletter as you see how many authors make the trip to Jeff Kinney’s store to read – they must all love this guy or just be a part of that wonderful literary feeling they have there. Now that is a reason to take a road trip!

And, speaking of great author visits, Jeffrey Tambor was a guest at his own bookstore when he launched his memoir Are you anybody? in May of this year. That would have been a wonderful, welcoming crowd even though at this point in his career, I think he and his family of young children are living in New York City. Tambor began his career on Broadway but has had small roles in many of the iconic TV shows of the late 70s and early 80s like “Taxi” and “Starsky & Hutch”.  Do you remember him from “The Ropers”?  I absolutely do.  He is still stopped on the street for that part even though most recently he is playing George Sr. & Oscar Bluth in “Arrested Development” and was also the incredible Maura Pfefferman in “Transparent”.  There is no way anyone will forget that part. People will stop him on the street to talk about that show for decades. Just imagine having such an incredible career. Well, you don’t have to imagine this because you can read about it in this outstanding book.

This is a memoir I would have missed if I hadn’t received an e-mail about it from Skylight books and I am so thrilled to have read it. Jeffrey Tambor has been a lifelong presence on the big and small screen (you should have a look at his CV on – you have to keep scrolling and scrolling through it) and so many of the parts he has played have stayed with me. His face and his voice stand out in each production he has done and reading his memories and how grateful he is for each opportunity was quite a treat. He’s an actor, not a writer, so the pacing of the book floats around a bit but you get a real sense of his personality far more than you would if he had used a ghost writer or if this were a celebrity memoir which had been ‘told to’ someone else and had all of the fun massaged out of it. I think this might be a book I’ll choose to buy. I just can’t decide which of my favourite bookstores to order it from.

–Penny M.


Hooked on Trevor Noah

When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show I was bereft. I did so love his witty, honest commentary and I had never heard of this ‘Trevor Noah’ guy who would replace him. But I needn’t have worried. Noah quickly became one of my favourite ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ comedic commentators on current events and I wanted to know more about him.

In his book, through a series of vignettes, Noah shows his readers what life was like for him as a bi-racial child, who never felt like he really fit in, during post-Apartheid South Africa. He shares funny, loving, awkward and negative aspects of his childhood and many of his descriptions of the harsh realities of living in South Africa at that time will hit you like a punch in the gut. He was a self-proclaimed troublemaker as a child and teenager and some of his antics made me want to yell “What were you thinking?!?” He definitely liked to stir things up.


“The names of the kids with detention were announced at every assembly, and I was always one of them. Always. Every single day. It was a running joke. The prefect would say, ‘Detentions for today…’ 

and I would stand up automatically. It was like the Oscars and I was Meryl Streep.” 

I respect his brutal honesty and I love, love, LOVED the special, yet often complicated, bond he had with his mother — the ultra-religious, determined, fierce, rebellious woman who wanted so much more for her son. Though a few of her parenting methods may surprise some, her deep love for her son is indisputable.


She’d say things to me like, “It’s you and me against the world.” I understood even from an early age that we weren’t just mother and son. We were a team.”


Growing up I learned about Apartheid in school but I know I only got the bare gist of it. In stark contrast, Noah brings a human side to the economic and social aspects of segregation, hatred and the blatant violation of human rights and basic decency that one group committed against so many others.


“Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared 

language says ‘We’re the same.’ A language barrier says ‘We’re different.’ The architects of 

apartheid understood this. Part of the effort to divide black people was to make sure 

we were separated not just physically but by language as well…The great thing about 

language is that you can just as easily use it to do the opposite: convince people 

that they are the same. Racism teaches us that we are different because of the color of our skin. 

But because racism is stupid, it’s easily tricked.”  


“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”


Before reading this book, I was already a fan of Trevor Noah. I enjoyed his honest yet humorous approach to current events. He’s obviously a well-informed and funny guy but, after reading this book, I have a better understanding of where he comes from. Trevor Noah will make you laugh, cry and give you much to think about. The hype surrounding this book is duly given. I highly recommend this book. 


–Laurie P.

Mockingbird Songs

I was introduced to Harper Lee by my mother. She was in the habit of handing me books when I was bored and apples when I was hungry. I was the last of five kids and she had parenting down to a science by the time I arrived. She knew exactly what to do when one of us was underfoot – distract us with a book or give us something to eat. She had loved reading To Kill a Mockingbird and thought it was a good way to get me out of the kitchen, probably away from the cookie jar, for a few hours and she was right. Her book suggestions were always good even though I was usually disappointed by her ‘eat an apple’ idea.

Looking back on my first reading of To Kill a Mockingbird now I wonder if I processed everything that was going on in the book when I first read it. I think that I focused more on the adventures of the kids, wished for a tree house, and wondered what it might be like to have someone like Calpurnia in my life. It was a surprise to find out that there weren’t more books by the same author when I went to look on our local library shelves but it wasn’t until my university years that I thought more about the author’s life.

Following the 1960 publication of her novel and the 1962 film based on it she gave several interviews and was photographed for LIFE magazine and several other publications. In many of these interviews Harper Lee suggested that she was writing another novel (which we can now read as Go Set a Watchman, published in 2015) but as she found it increasingly hard to complete this new work the requests for further interviews were declined and she became known as the ‘reclusive’ author.

The pressure to produce a follow up novel is one theory about why she stayed out of the spotlight but it’s hard to say what really was going on in Harper Lee’s mind because she chose to keep her cards close to her chest where personal details were concerned. The success of To Kill a Mockingbird allowed her the means to do exactly as she wished. Just think about it, a New York Times article published after her death said that over 40 million copies of the book had been sold and she lived frugally throughout her life with one small home she shared with her sister Alice in Monroeville and the same small Manhattan apartment she rented first in 1949 and kept until her death in 2016. It’s clear from her writing that she loved her small town and the people who lived there so why would she ever choose to leave it unless absolutely necessary.

Untitled-1When I read that Wayne Flynt, a history professor from Auburn University, was going to publish letters from his years of friendship with the author I had my name on that holds list as soon as I could. I was checking my library account daily when I knew that the book, Mockingbird Songs : my friendship with Harper Lee, would arrive and I couldn’t wait to get the book home.

Wayne Flynt is well known for his previous books about Southern history, religion and politics and was one of the early editors of the online Encyclopedia of Alabama where you can find a wonderful entry about Harper Lee, members of her family, the area where she grew up and the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. You can check it out online.

Flynt and Nelle (as she signed her letters to him) talked about his work and the early days of the Encyclopedia of Alabama in their letters because they shared so much of their lives through their correspondence. He and his wife became friends with Harper Lee’s sister Louise first and then got to know the author better when Flynt was asked to introduce the author’s achievements at an award’s ceremony. In those written conversations a friendship grows and from 1983 to her death. She and Flynt send news about their health, the things that they are reading, how they feel about politics and world events, and tidbits about family. One of Flynt’s grandchildren is named Harper and Lee is delighted to hear about this little girl’s life in each letter.

Flynt and his family visit with Nelle many times throughout their friendship, in Monroeville and in New York, and each time their relationship deepens. In every chapter of the book he prefaces the letters with some information about how they have been connecting, sometimes through formal events and at other times in her home or at restaurants in town. Their correspondence is lengthy and she is enthusiastic about his publishing efforts but always very humble about the legacy of her own. Although she is constantly aware of her advancing age, and discusses visits to the doctor for health concerns relating to her eyes, her letters are consistently upbeat and filled with paragraphs about what she is reading and looking forward to doing next. If Harper Lee were ever a isolated person it does not come across in these letters, she is busy and happy, she just didn’t choose to share her life with the press.

In 2006 Flynt was asked to write a tribute to his friend for an event in Birmingham to celebrate her lifetime of work on behalf of racial reconciliation. He accepted the assignment and read a speech he had written that he called “Atticus’s Vision of Ourselves” that so captivated Nelle she asked him to read it at her eventual memorial service. His eulogy is included in his book just before the author’s acknowledgements and we can read it with the reassurance that it has Harper Lee’s absolute approval.

Now, it’s the late spring of 2017 and we know that Harper Lee died in Monroeville at age 89 in February of 2016 and she had her wish granted with Wayne Flynt’s reading of that tribute at her funeral. As articles about her life and the importance of her writing poured into newspapers, magazines and online worldwide following her death, I spent some time thinking about Scout, Jem and Atticus. If an author is going to leave us with stories of just one family then I think Harper Lee made the right decision in writing about this one. Maybe we can set aside all of the stories of the ‘reclusive author’ and spend some time instead reading Wayne Flynt’s Mockingbird Songs: my friendship with Harper Lee. You just might find yourself buying a nice pen and sending a letter to someone you care about.

— Penny M.

Celebrating Canada’s 150th

How will you celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday?

I’m hoping to visit a national park (free passes!) and maybe take a trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in the fall.

Here’s another idea. You can celebrate by sitting in your own home and reading this book, They Desire a Better Country by Lawrence Scanlan.

This books gives brief sketches of 50 recipients of the Order of Canada, which was created in 1967. Since then, almost 7,000 Canadians, across many different fields, have received it.

Some recipients of the Order (like singer Celine Dion or astronaut Chris Hadfield) are well known to most Canadians, and others (like journalist June Callwood or singer Susan Aglukark) have some name recognition. But probably a third of the people in this book are completely unknown to me (architect James K. M. Cheng or scientist David W. Schindler, for example). The overall impression is “wow, Canadians have done some truly amazing things.”

So yes, we Canadians have much reason to celebrate but perhaps we should also reflect on the mistakes we have made along the way – and see what we can do about fixing them.

–Penny D.

SPECIAL EVENT:  Join us at the Main Library for a special live stream of The Walrus Talks: We Deserve a Better Country on Wednesday, May 31st. This session features Margaret Atwood, live from Toronto. Eight prominent panelists will briefly discuss Canada, its future, identity and so much more. Doors will open at 6:45 and the screening will begin promptly at 7:00pm. The talk will last approximately 1.5 hours. Refreshments will be provided after the live stream so participants can mingle and participate in open discussion. The Walrus Talks are presented by the Walrus Foundation in partnership with the Order Of Canada and Canada 150.