Saturday, July 8, 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th: July

Inspired by our recent discussion of Wenjack by Joseph Boyden, I've decided to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in my own, strange, book-ish way: by reading an indigenous author every month for the year and I thought you all might get a kick out of following along.  I'm purchasing these books to build my collection, so feel free to borrow one if anything along the way tickles your fancy!

So, here's my July title:  
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America 
by Thomas King
Image result for the inconvenient indian
  Book SummaryRich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. 
     This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope--a sometimes inconvenient but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future. - from
My thoughts:  I really enjoyed this nonfiction title.  King has a great sense of humor and a keen eye for the bigger picture and I was surprised how often I found myself laughing out loud... and it was very refreshing to be able to laugh with the author in the midst of this difficult history.

I like how King dealt in a very straightforward way with many of the questions that people ask and comments that people make... like: why can't you just get over it?  And, you were conquered, move on!  And, quit your complaining and move off the reserve already!  And, why should you get all these freebies and handouts?

Using history, logic and personal experience, King exposes many of the misunderstandings of today and shows how racism is still very much alive in North America.

I like how he uses the phrase "Dead Indian" to describe the stereotypical movie image of a half-naked, child-like savage warrior who's brave but needs the guidance of a kindly white leader to succeed.  King shows how we've become attached to that romantic image of and how the very real, alive Indigenous people of today are a disappointment in that they don't fit that mold.  Society enjoys the old-time dress-up "Dead Indian" at a summer time Pow-wow, but doesn't know what to do with young, angry, white-collar Native people living and working in cities, for example.  We like the image of the fur-clad Inuit living in igloos and eating seal blubber (as long as no seals were harmed in the making of this movie!), but can't get our heads around a modern, northern hunting and trapping operation or the idea that Inuit people might want to work in industries other than hunting and trapping!

Overall, King does a terrific job of facing many of the modern issues facing Indigenous peoples by exposing the past and confronting the racism that is still alive today. An excellent tool for building context and a valuable overview for anyone with a deeper interest in the fate of Indigenous people in North American today.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

July 2017: Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Image result for turn right at machu picchu Meeting Details: We're getting together at Tessa's house on Thursday, July 6th at 7:30 pm, with discussion to begin at 8pm. 

- cancelled; possible rescheduling at Chandra's next week

Discussion Questions:

1. Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why  not?
2. Discuss the guide, John Leivers, and his role and how he impacts the author’s trip.
3. Discuss the similarities and differences between Bingham I, II and III.
4. On page 52, John says to Mark regarding hiking and that it will get easier as his body adapts, “ There’s a general law in life. The body and mind only get stronger when they’re traumatized.” Do you agree with this law of John’s? 
5. Discuss the author’s transition from desk editor to adventurer/explorer and how it changes his life.
6. Why does the Inca culture and civilization hold so much fascination for us today?
7. Why was the longer traditional second trip to Machu Picchu more meaningful that the author’s first trip there?
8. Discuss the role and interrelatedness of the different Inca sites and paths.
9. Discuss the Spanish encounters with the Inca civilization and how its effect are evident today.
10. Does this book inspire you to visit Peru? Machu Picchu? If so, why and if not, why?
11. Would you recommend this book to others?  To who and why?

Menu Ideas: "Holiday in Peru"... a cool nibbling menu for a hot summer day!  

- Peruvian Grilled Chicken Skewers - Karen
Causa (peruvian layered potato dish)
Peruvian Pickled Onions
Solterino Salad (quinoa salad) - Sherri
Stuffed Avocados 

- Fruit Espuma (raspberry jello dessert)
- Alfajores (dulce de leche cookies)
- Strawberry Cheescake -- Chandra 

Drinks: lemonade and mango juice - Tessa

(Note: questions and menu may be modified slightly when I finish reading the book!)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Looking Ahead July-Dec 2017

Here's a look ahead at the next 6 month stretch!

July - Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams 
Hostess: Tessa

August - Mystery Night - The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
Hostess: Emily
September - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Hostess: Danielle

October - 
Library Kit - The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Hostess: Chandra
Note: books will be available at the September need and need to be returned by the October meeting so that we can get the whole kit back on time.  If you're unable to make the Sept meeting, please arrange to have someone collect a book for you. 

November - Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
Hostess: Erica

December - Get Cooking - STILL UNDECIDED
Hostess: Karen
  1. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
  2. Sous Chef by Michael Gibney. 
  3. My Paris Kitchen Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz
  4. A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson
  5. The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson
  6. The Farmgirl's Table by Jessica Robinson
  7. other suggestions? We looking for good food with a bit of a "story" to it :-)
February Couple's Meeting 
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice

Red Notice by Bill Browder

Friday, June 2, 2017

June 2017: Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

Image result for wenjack bookWenjack by Joseph Boyden

Meeting at Tamara's place, June 8.  (address and contact coming via email.) Come at 7:30, with discussion starting at 8:00

Wenjack Discussion questions:

1)      Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why not?
2)      Along the way Chanie is followed by Manitous, “spirits of the forest who comment on his plight, cajoling, taunting, and ultimately offering him a type of comfort on his difficult journey back to the place he was so brutally removed from.”  Why did Boyden use the voices of the Manitous to tell part of the story?
3)      Were you angry that the uncle of the other boys wanted Chanie to go away - To go back to school?
4)      This book was written in a very unique way. What did you think of the writing style?
5)      What was the most heart-wrenching part of this book for you?
6)      Since this is a work of historical fiction (although based on a true story) do you feel that Boyden used stereotypes of residential schools to tell his story?
7)      In a CBC interview, Boyden said that “Wenjack is a "little book with a big heart," and he hopes that anyone who picks up the book will be able to feel the sadness, hope and empathy behind the story. "I want the reader to be Chanie."   Did he succeed for you…were you able to “be” Chanie?
8)      What do you think was the ultimate purpose of writing “Wenjack”? If Boyden’s purpose for the novel was to highlight the horror of residential schools…did he succeed?  If his purpose was to tell the story of Charlie Wenjack…did he succeed? Or are the two stories really the same?
9)      Boyden has said that Canada is “a haunted house”.  In what way?  Why is it important for Canadians to know the story of Charlie Wenjack?
10)  Have you read/heard of “Secret Path” the graphic novel/music album/animated film produced by Gord Downie (of the Tragically Hip and a friend of Boyden) and Jeff Lemire? (Also about Charlie Wenjack).  Is the fact that they were published around the same time a coincidence? Was it good/bad for each work?
11)   Had you heard about Chanie Wenjack before this book or Gord Downie’s The Secret Path were published last year?
12)   It seems unbelievable that the last residential school in Canada didn’t close until the mid-90s. When did you first learn about residential schools? Do you remember learning about residential schools in class? Do you feel that it was discussed enough?
13)   With the recent highlighting of residential schools by popular artists like Boyden and Downie, what do you think should be the response of Canadians?
14)   What is the role of the artist (like Boyden or Downie) in making change?

15)   After the success of “Three Day Road”, Boyden received awards for native literature, has been a paid speaker on indigenous topics, and become a “voice” to highlight aboriginal causes (native history, residential schools, missing aboriginal women etc.).  Boyden has claimed to be inspired by his uncle Erl, who “lived a traditional aboriginal” life.  However, in recent months, there has been a lot of controversy over Boyden’s claim to have aboriginal ancestry.  (Lots to find on google)!  Throughout the years, he has claimed heritage in a half-dozen native tribes – none proven.  Many of his claims have been debunked and he himself remains somewhat vague.  And his Uncle Erl was a proven fraud who sold souvenirs from a teepee by Algonquin park in the 50s.
 Many indigenous authorities (like Kim TallBear) would say that Belonging to particular community can (and should) mean sharing beliefs and cultural practices - and even official membership or citizenship. Not just genetic material.  Does this information cast a shadow over his ability to speak for aboriginals; or over the truth of how he writes?  Does it affect how you view him; or how you view the issues he highlights?  If he is actually non-native, does this change how you view the writing of “Wenjack”?

For some further reading on the controversy:

For a readable version of the 1967 MacLean’s article that Ian Adams wrote which brought the story of Chanie Wenjack to light, look to:

"The Secret Path" by Gord Downie is available on youtube or

Woodland Ojibway people ate meat, berries, wild rice, fruits, vegetables, and maple syrup…
Any Native dish, or element of these foods.  Here are some ideas to get started, but feel free to add your own ideas!

Main Dishes:
Anything prepared with maple syrup
 - Baked Brie with Maple Syrup and pecans - Tessa
The one meal that we read about in the book is from the fish, so… a fish dish! 
 - Salmon with maple glaze - Karen
Wild rice and bacon: - Chandra
Mushroom, Ham and Wild Rice Soup - Danielle
Native bread…Indian Fry Bread - Emily (or some bread!)

Anything with maple syrup
Fresh berries - Melissa

Berry cobbler - Erica

Drinks: -  Tamara

Thursday, April 20, 2017

May 2017: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

May Book Club Selection

May Book Club
Theme: Children's literature
Book title: The One and Only Ivan
Date: Thursday May 4th, 7:30pm
Location: Sherrie's home

Harper Collins Discussion Guide

Discussion Questions:
1. Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why not?
2. What does Ivan mean when he says, “In my size humans see a test of themselves” (p. 4), and “I am too much gorilla and not enough human” (p. 7)? Why does the sign for the Big Top Mall show Ivan as angry and fierce?
3. What are the characteristics of Stella and Bob that make Ivan call them his best friends? Why is each of them important to Ivan?  What characteristics do you value when forming close friendships?
4. What does Stella mean when she says, “Old age is a powerful disguise (p. 31)?
5. Discuss the special bond between Julia and Ivan. Why is she different from all the other children who come to see his shows?
6. What is the importance of the television in Ivan’s cage? What does he learn from watching the television (Westerns and nature shows)? What do you learn from television? What would you say is the most important thing television has taught you?
7. Why is Bob so independent? What makes him trust Ivan enough to sleep on Ivan’s stomach? What events in Bob’s life have shaped his personality? How does Bob’s experience with humans compare to Ivan’s?
8. Compare the personalities of Mack and George. How are they alike, and how are they different? What is the meaning of “family” to each of them? What are the contradictions in Mack’s character?
9. What does Stella mean when she says, “A good zoo is how humans make amends” (p. 64)? What is the importance of the story that Stella tells about Jambo (pp. 63-66)? What does it tell us about gorillas?
10. What is Ivan’s initial reaction to the arrival of Ruby? Compare Ruby’s arrival with that of a new baby in a human household. How does her arrival affect all the other animals at the mall? When and why do Ivan’s feelings about Ruby change?
11. Why does Ivan promise Stella that he will take care of Ruby when he knows how hard it will be to keep that promise? How does Ivan know that Stella is gone before anyone else does?  Have you ever made a promise that you knew would be hard to keep?
12. What is the turning point in the story - what events come together to change Ivan's acceptance of the situation and to help him grow into his own strength and wisdom? When does Ivan start to believe that he will be able to help Ruby, and perhaps himself as well?
13. How does Julia convince her father that Ivan’s picture has a very important meaning? Why does George agree to help Julia display Ivan’s art on the billboard, even though he knows it might cost him his job? Discuss the meaning of the word “principle.”  Have you ever stuck to your "principles" even though it would cost you?
14. Why is Ivan reluctant to join the other gorillas when he arrives at the zoo? What does he need to do to be accepted by the others? How do you feel when you are in a situation with others you don’t know?
15. Discuss the theme of belonging in this story, from the point of view of each of the characters. What is the meaning of belonging for each of them? What does the idea of belonging mean to you?
16. Would you recommend the book to others?  Why or why not?

Because the silver-back gorilla is a plant eating animal from Africa, we'll be feasting on a vegetarian-African inspired menu for the evening...with recipe links provided
Baked Plantain Chips
Spicy Bamboo Salad
East African Mango-Cucumber Salad

Coconut rice (note: maggi cubes = bouillon cubes)
African Vegetable Curry

Lightened Monkey Bread (only because of it's name!  A great "light" version recipe that is equally delicious, as I've made this many times)
Mandazi (these sound delicious:  "East African Doughnuts made with grated coconut ,  spiced with cardamon, nutmeg and fried to perfection."  Yum!)

Assorted "fruity" tea/drinks: Sherrie
Yogurt covered raisins: Sherrie

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

April 2017: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Image result for the wonder by emma donoghueMeeting Date: Thursday, April 6th at Shelagh's house; meeting @ 7:30 with plans to start discussion by 8pm.

Discussion Questions

1. Did you like the book? Why or why not?
2. How would you describe Lib Wright (consider the name, perhaps)—especially when we first meet her? How does she approach her move to Ireland, the people, superstitions, the food?  When does it become evident that there is part of Lib's past she is not revealing to us? How reliable of a narrator is she?
3. Describe the Ireland that confronts Lib, the way in which Emma Donoghue presents the country in the 19th Century after the devastation of the infamous potato famine.
4. How does Anna O'Donnell differ from expectations, both yours and Lib's? When Lib first sees her, what is the state of Anna's health—does Lib find her as healthy as everyone claims she is?
5. Is Anna too young to understand her reasons for fasting? What responsibility do the family and the church have for Anna? What about the doctor's role? 
6. As the days pass and Anna's condition deteriorates, Lib begins to feel she may be complicit in girl's demise. Is she?
7. How does Lib change from who she was when she first ventured into Ireland? How would you describe her as you progress through the novel?
8. The novel brings up basic philosophical and religious questions, one of which is what it means to give up the most vital necessity of life in the name of something greater than yourself. Is it admirable, mad, selfish, narcissistic?
9. What is the role of an outsider, like Lib? Does she have the right to intervene or an obligation to do so? What would you say or do to Anna?
10. The novel has a gothic feel to it: spooky, menacing, even harrowing. What makes for the sinister atmosphere that pervades the novel?
11. Do you find interesting the clinical detail regarding the descriptions of Anna's symptoms and the theory and practice of nursing in the 19th century?
12. Discuss the book's title. What are the multiple meanings of "The Wonder"?
13. Would you recommend this book?

Menu Ideas 
Many of the meals which Lib had contained oats, fish or was in the form of a stew. If you wanted to expand on this?  -I will make corned beef and Irish soda bread as well as provide the beverages on Thursday. 

Reminder: next month we'll be choosing books for the next 1/2 year; 
don't forget to look over the choices!