1 S u m m e r T H E N E W S L E T T E R O F B L O O R S T R E E T U N I T E D C H U R C H AN INCLUSIVE C O N G R E G A T I O N MINISTERING TO M U L T I C U L T U R A L T O R O N T O I NSI DE Return to China page 4 Spring photos page 5 Film Reviews page 6 Reflections back cover View from narthex of stairwell & doors to Huron St. Photo taken at Doors Open by visiting photographer Mark Trusz Moving Forward on Redevelopment by Mary Louise Work At the May congregational meeting, Council Chair Mary Louise Work provided an update on our redevelopment initiative. The Redevelopment Committee, chaired by Michael Hilliard, continues to negotiate the Agreement with Northrop, our developers. The Quantity Survey (QS) which estimates construction costs will likely be finalized for Council s review at the end of June. Council hopes that QS information sessions and the Agreement will be presented to the Congregation early this fall. The Congregation must direct our Trustees to approve the Agreement, and then it must be forwarded to Toronto Southeast Presbytery for its approval to proceed with the project. Approximately three years (end of ) will be required to secure rezoning and various City permits, preselling condos and working with our Design Advisory Committee (DAC), chaired by Ellen Schwartzel, to refine the design of our new worship and non-worship spaces. If all goes well, Council anticipates that the congregation will move to its temporary home in 2016 for three years, and will move back to our new church home in Mary Louise also announced the imminent hiring of a Project Monitor who would provide detailed oversight of the implementation of the Agreement and advise both DAC and the Redevelopment Committee throughout the whole project. Lastly, Doug Welwood, co-ordinator of the Relocation Task Group, indicated that significant progress has been made in identifying a very suitable temporary location in the chapel at Victoria College. This site met all the criteria applied by members of the Task Group. While discussions with the University and developers are still underway on this front, Doug indicated that Victoria University officials are responding very positively to the possibility of Bloor Street renting their space. Church doors at Huron & Bloor open to visitors for Doors Open on May 25. About 300 visitors came to view our lovely sanctuary. Some enjoyed the homemade cookies while others just quietly sat in a pew. David Passmore answered questions and demonstrated at the organ with several groups of interested people. Many thanks to Robert Thoen, the event organizer and all who contributed to the success of the day. Photo by Don Payne
2 B LOOR PEOP LE Many, many thank yous to Evangeline Albuerne who has been a dedicated and loving teacher in our Sunday School for four years. She speaks of her plans. I will enter my third year at York University in the fall and hope to complete my Masters upon receiving my Bachelors of Social Work degree. I am currently working with seniors at Sunshine Centres for Seniors as a summer student at Ward's Island, and hope to continue my practice as a Social Worker working with either children or isolated seniors on a clinical or organizational level. Although my time as a Sunday School teacher has ended, I still hope to play a role as a member of the Refugee Outreach Committee, and remain an active member of the Bloor Street congregation. Welcome to Sung Ran Kim, a new member who is a student in the Doctoral program in Homiletics (Preaching) at Emmanuel College. She is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea who studied theology in Seoul, South Korea and then in the Philippines. She worked for 10 years as an assistant pastor in Seoul. After studying in the United States she came to Canada to study preaching. She lives with her 7 year old son Jin who is an enthusiastic member of our Sunday School. Her husband, who is writing his Ph.D. dissertation in religious studies in Seoul, plans to visit Toronto this summer and will attend worship services at Bloor St. because I have told him it is always great, she says. Welcome to Lisa Pfau who also joins our congregation as a new member. Lisa left her small hometown of Rimbey, Alberta to do her undergrad degree in Political Science and History at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She's travelled, worked and studied in China, Japan, Italy, France, California and across Canada. Eventually, she landed in Toronto to do her MA in Chinese Politics. After a year of both personal and career challenges, Lisa decided to settle permanently in Toronto, teaching academic writing and ESL, as well as editing. Lisa met with Martha ter Kuile regularly to discuss faith and after a very meaningful journey to Europe decided to be baptized at our church. As 2012 was a year of letting go, 2013 has been a year of renewal. Congratulations to Amy Rand, our organ scholar for the past four years. Amy successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis in environmental chemistry this spring. She s now searching for a post-doctoral studies position. Bon Voyage to Damien Villeneuve, our tenor soloist for the past three years. Damien also has enhanced many services and special events at our church with his skillful drumming. He has completed his B.Ed. degree and will soon be teaching in a town called Hawalli in Kuwait. I will be teaching both kindergarten and Damien Villeneuve & Amy Rand after a spring service grade 5 music. I will be there for two years and back in Canada for Christmas and summer holidays. The Villeneuve family has really become an international family. My father works in Ezinkan, Turkey for Copler Gold, and my brother works for Severstal gold in Burkina Faso, Africa. Although I may not be a miner like some family members, my thrill for adventure and travelling is upon me, and I hope to further myself as a valuable educator around the world. But don't worry, I will be back in a couple years to relieve David of his duties as music co-ordinator, LOL! Greg Powell has completed his second year at Emmanuel College and will continue as Youth on Bloor Coordinator next year. Evan Smith has finished her time as part of our ministerial team in the role of Community Builder. She has begun her internship on Christian Island, a First Nations reserve (the Beausoleil First Nation), on Georgian Bay. Evan was there last summer leading the Vacation Bible School, working with Rev. Teresa Burnett-Cole, the minister at the United Church who will be her supervisor for the internship. Amy at the Bloor St. organ Photos by Harold Durnford Correction: The spring issue of Good News on Bloor said that Greg and Evan would be ordained this spring. This information was incorrect. Both are still Emmanuel College students. 2
3 Why Consider Joining the Congregation Before September? by Mary Louise work As one member of Council reminded me recently, just like a certain credit card, membership has its privileges. Are you an official member of Bloor Street Church? Maybe you re not sure. After all, you ve been attending for quite some time, you use envelopes for your offering and occasionally you re a greeter. Doesn t that make you a member entitled to all church privileges? No, it doesn t. Very likely early this fall Church Council will ask the congregation to vote to direct our Trustees to approve the Redevelopment Agreement currently under negotiation with the developers. Once the Trustees sign the Agreement, Presbytery must approve it. You must be a member of the Bloor Street congregation to vote on the Redevelopment Agreement. Check your membership status by contacting Susan Jennings in the office, or check the membership list at the Information Table after a service. If you re not yet a member, I strongly encourage you to speak with Rev. Martha ter Kuile about becoming a member before the fall congregational meeting. People participate in congregational life as either members or adherents. The Manual (our rule book) defines adherents as people who regularly participate in the life of the congregation while not being a member. With the consent of the members, adherents who contribute regularly to the life to the congregation may vote on many matters of congregational life 1 except property matters requiring Presbytery consent like our Redevelopment Agreement. Only members of the Bloor Street congregation will be allowed to vote on moving the Redevelopment Agreement forward. You could play an important role in the future of our congregation and its ministry. You could shape our future legacy by adding your voice to the chorus of current members and contribute to a transformational and courageous initiative. But you must be a member to exercise your vote on this matter. Now that s a real privilege of membership. 1 United Church of Canada: Congregational Handbook, Section 3, Organization of a Pastoral Charge, pg New Pall for BSUC by Irene Hunter For many years Minister Emeritus Rev. David Allan had requested that the quilters make a pall that would be available for funerals in our church. Since death and funerals are topics which most of us prefer to avoid, we quilters kept disregarding David's appeals. Pall with red scripture embroidery Photo by Harold Durnford roll to cut another piece. We always had a new antependium to design or a stole to David asked for an all white pall but relented when we whip up for an ordination. Catherine Elsdon received the latest quilters stole at her May ordination. Last year when we made a quilt for Ethel Moore, using her student nursing uniforms, David reminded me that his request was still being ignored. How had Ethel gotten in ahead of him? We decided that it was time to create the pall. After some research at funeral homes and churches, we obtained the measurements. Fabric sellers usually ask you what you are going to make when you buy material. When your reply is "a pall", it has a rather dampening affect on the conversation. 3 The first piece of white fabric we selected was so appealing that someone walked off with it from the cash area while we were choosing thread and braid. The staff were more indignant than we. Fortunately there was still enough on the protested that would look too boring. Some red borders would be allowed. He also suggested that we embroider I am the Resurrection and the Life. Oh, oh, embroidery takes forever. Many hours later the assignment was completed just after Christmas. Thanks to Dawn Lee who designed the lettering, to Velma Davis who helped with the assembly and the embroidery, to Marilyn and David Allan who paid for the fabric and to Harold Durnford for the photography. I hope that no one is too anxious to give our new pall its first outing.
4 Return to China by Bob Hilliard with Jean Hilliard Ni hao In 1944 my parents (medical missionaries with the United Church of Canada in West China), my older sister and I left China to avoid the fighting between the Nationalist Chinese (Kuomintang), the Japanese and Mao s Red Army. Interestingly, Art and Bessie Dayfoot (Nancy Gordon s parents) moved into our house in Fuling and later Cathy (Müller) came along. Despite many experiences in Africa, I had never been back to China. So, when we read a Craig Travel advertisement for a tour of China with a Yangtze River cruise, we jumped at the opportunity. The highlight for me was cruising by Fuling on a misty, smoggy afternoon, not at all like the black and white pictures my parents had of a missionary house in a rural area. Fuling is well over a million people and there are many skyscraper apartments, one after the other, with factories and smog. It is a busy port on the Yangtze River, a major transport route between Shanghai and Chongqing. Our guide told us a little about the religious groups in China. When Mao Zedong established the People s Republic of China in 1949 and the Cultural Revolution ( ), all religious practices were forbidden. Most Christian missionaries had left China by the 1950s. But this later changed and many Chinese have returned to their traditional worship, primarily Buddhism but also Taoism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity. We visited several Buddhist temples and a mosque that has the architecture of a traditional Chinese pagoda. About 4% of the population are Christian but that is 40 million Chinese Christians. I saw churches in Beijing and Shanghai but didn t get a good picture of a church until we landed in Fengjie. Our tour didn t include any Christian churches. Our 18-day trip was extremely busy and well organized. We saw all the important places: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City; the Temple of Heaven; the modern architecture of Shanghai and the Great Wall; a bat cruise through the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River; five giant panda bears in Chongqing; the terra cotta warriors of Xi an; the Li River and caves near Guilin. Cultural events included the traditional Peking Opera, Shanghai acrobats and traditional music of the Tang Dynasty. We were so impressed with the extensive development of modern China. There are many people, many cars, electric scooters and bicycles. The most interesting was walking through the park of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and seeing people doing Tai Chi, exercises, small group sports, dancing and practising music. The Chinese can retire at 55 years and it seems like everyone then goes off to the parks. The cities are clean, modern and very crowded Beijing 22 million; Shanghai 23 million modern architecture, elevated expressways and extensive subway systems. But there are many contrasts. It is clean because there are many people who are paid very little to clean up the streets. Despite the modern skyscraper apartments, there are some small crowded homes which are not too different from what we had seen in Africa. And the big cities are all very smoggy. There is a growing Chinese middle class. We met many Chinese touring their own country. I was surprised with all the smartphones, digital SLR cameras and their enjoyment of posing and being photographed. Our wonderful tour guides were very proud of their modern county, proud of the development with capitalism and government-private partnerships, and the start of democracy. We didn t talk about human rights but it was clear from our guides that the good of the nation and of the government comes ahead of any individual rights, so different from the importance of individual rights in North America. China with 1.3 billion people is an immense, fascinating and more modern country than I expected and will be an economic powerhouse in the future. We all need to get to know China better, learn Mandarin and visit this fascinating and beautiful country. Xièxie 4
5 Spring Events Event organizer Robert Thoen with visitors Photo by Don Payne Welcome Cake: Val Carson Kilpatrick, Francis Agbaka who s a new convention refugee, Ted Myers, Emre Yurga & Sue Kaiser Photo by Harold Durnford Doors Open at Bloor St. Church May 25 Don Nicol & Velma Davis Photo by Harold Durnford Visitors in sanctuary Photo by Don Payne In the Middle of Nowhere by Mary Sandersson Greetings from Eastend, Sask where I've been living for May and June. Eastend population 450 is in the southwest corner of Saskatchewan 5 hours from Regina or Saskatoon or Calgary! It bills itself as being in the middle of nowhere. It is called Eastend because it was the most eastern point of the NWMP Cypress Hills patrol in the late 1800s. Eastend is famous for two things the American writer Wallace Stegner lived here in the early 1900s as a boy. And, The T-Rex Discovery Centre houses the remains of Canada s most complete tyrannosaurus rex discovered in 1991 outside town by the school principal. Eastend is 70 gravel kilometers south of The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge - the medium security federal penitentiary for native women that I have been visiting for several years. During these two months I spend every other week there. Thanks to many of you I had 142 greeting cards for the women! I am living in the little house that Wallace Stegner s father built in When I am not at OOHL, I am using this time as a retreat; it is a wonderful place of undisturbed quiet and a marvelous place to reflect, read and pray. Life here is quite a change from my life in Toronto! It takes me 7 minutes to walk downtown to the Co-Op if I walk slowly! It is wonderfully quiet no traffic noise, no loud voices or shouting, no blaring music just the sound of the wind in the trees and the singing of the birds. I m pleased there is a United Church in town. About 20 people attend, most over 80. It is definitely not Bloor Street, but it is certainly worship. I miss Bloor Street. 5
6 Films Reviews by Bill Davis This year Toronto celebrated the 20th there, he visited a care centre for women and children living anniversary of its annual Hot Docs with HIV and AIDS which proved to be a life-transforming Festival. Also this year the Bloor Cinema, encounter. Despite never really liking children, Braat returns west on Bloor Street, began a full time to Pittsburgh announcing he ll be moving to India to work at documentary program offering opportunities the centre. Bewildered by Braat s decision, director and best to see outstanding documentaries. friend Steve Hoover decides to follow him on his journey. Some of the best films of the year have a Expecting to find him making all the wrong decisions, documentary feel about them. Hoover discovers a very different story, and both men find SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN. This film rediscovered their lives and those of the children are changed forever. a little known singer in Detroit known as Rodriguez. He (Excerpted from the flyer) sang in local bars, developing an audience, but slipped out MUSCLE SHOALS. The #1 audience choice is the of public favour and more or less vanished. Curiously his remarkable story of a recording studio in a small town which music was played extensively in South Africa as part of became a world centre for recording. The group of backup the anti-apartheid movement. The film makers learned musicians known as the swampers, assembled by Rick of enthusiasts in South Africa and searched for the man Hall, the manager of the studio, recorded with a who s who decades later. They wove a fascinating concoction featuring of prominent musicians, paying tribute to the town and its footage of his early career, set against the deterioration of ambiance. Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Detroit as a city, searching to uncover who acted as agents Gregg Allman, Bono and more share how the tiny backwater and promoters during his popularity in South Africa and town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, made them stars in one of the loss of the royalties for his widely sold records. The man the greatest untold American music stories. today was a labourer, still living in Detroit, totally unaware of FIFTEEN REASONS TO LIVE. After running into his popularity, content in his modest home, surrounded by a neighbourhood acquaintance at the local used record family, unassuming and a person to be respected. The film led store who shared his list of 15 reasons to live, Alan Zweig to a return to South Africa, the launch of a new career and a felt a strong compulsion to make a film on the subject. film that played locally for months. From this inspiration begins a series of episodic chapters THE GATEKEEPERS also ran in Toronto theatres. The adapted to the themes of Ray Robertson s collection of filmmaker interviewed six insiders in Israeli politics, all former essays. The participants are as eclectic as the list, sharing heads of Shin Bet, Israel s Security Agency. Their testimonies personal anecdotes related to (among other themes) work, covered tactics, morality, collateral damage, pragmatism and love, intoxication, humour, solitude, duty, home and death. the future. All felt there is a failure of leadership in Israel with Humorous and sometimes heartbreaking, Zweig s compassion so many alliances needed to obtain a majority. Politics turns for his subjects and their stories, expressed through his shades of grey into black and white and these men had little conversational and candid interview faith in politics. One concluded, summing up their views, style, ties these vignettes together Israel can win every battle and still lose the war. Another in a visual essay that strikes described his most terrifying experience as dealing with the deeper chords about finding settlers. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the best meaning in our existence. foreign film category, but did not win to the relief of the Amongst his subjects present government. reasons to live Zweig finds At the Hot Docs Festival we were fortunate to see the two most a couple of his own in popular films by audience choice. his touching, honest and BLOOD BROTHER was the #2 audience choice. Rocky endearing way. The majority of this film was shot in Toronto. Braat s first trip to India was a journey of self-discovery. While (Review by Alexander Rogalski) 6
7 Quick Sketches Interested in sound technology? Our church needs a new audio volunteer to operate the sound system one Sunday per month. It s easier than it looks, and you ll make a significant contribution to our worship services. Everyone appreciates good sound quality! Contact Harold Durnford for more details: Toronto Christian Resource Centre. The renaissance of TCRC in Regent Park is a major success story for Toronto and for the role played by United Church institutions and individuals. The new facility at 40 Oak Street was opened early in 2012 and includes 87 units of affordable housing, a kitchen which provides daily meals to hundreds of people from a diverse neighbourhood, community meeting spaces and worship space. Community gardens are being developed. Several United Church congregations have contributed financially and many individuals from those congregations volunteer at TCRC. Volunteers from BSUC include Tom McCauley, Ann and Don Cooper. Volunteer opportunities are many. The Community Meal Program needs volunteers for lunch Monday to Friday. The Clothing Program needs volunteers to assist with selecting and organizing clothing donations and the Knitting Club is seeking volunteers to teach knitting and crocheting on Wednesdays. It s rewarding to meet the great variety of individuals from other United Church congregations, other denominations and from the four corners of the world. If you are interested in volunteering or visiting the site for a tour please contact Don Cooper: sympatico.ca. (Don Cooper) Book sale news. This Spring's Coffee Hour book sale was held on April 21. People enjoyed seeing what others in the congregation are reading, comparing notes and making Artur Sokol choosing books at the April sale Photo by Harold Durnford recommendations as well as finding some real bargains! The sale raised $282. The proceeds from our book sales support the work of the Social Justice Committee. A small book sale was held as part of Bloor St. s Doors Open event on May 25. Visitors were pleased to purchase 70 books. Then, on June 8, 180 books were sold at a successful street sale in front of the church. The Giant Book Sale was held in conjunction with the church s big rummage sale on June 22. Watch the bulletin for financial results. Book lovers at the April sale: Jim Hunter, Stephen Milton & Nikhil Joshi Photo by Don Payne Camping is a practical demonstration of God's love. Fundraising to support moms and kids at summer camp is one way Bloor Street members demonstrate practical support for refugee and newcomer families who have been marginalized by violence, discrimination and injustices in their home countries. The healing power of time at the UCC Lake Scugog Camp is being offered to 15 new moms and kids this season. Your contributions (small and large!) will help us reach our annual goal of $7, to pay camp registration fees. For more information, contact Sue Kaiser at hotmail.com. Cheques can be made out to BSUC with "summer camp" in the memo field. (Sue Kaiser) Nurse s Corner by Nancy Gordon Well, summer s here! For most people this means a time where we can slow down a little, maybe even take some time off. With the warmer weather we can dress lightly and run out and play in the sun, right? Well yeah the warmth and freedom make us feel happy, don t they? But really we should only run out and play in the sun if we take precautions first. Sunshine exposes us to ultra violet rays of two kinds: UVA and UVB. UVB causes sunburns, but UVA damages deeper layers of skin, which can lead to skin changes, including cancer. This is true regardless of skin tone. So let s protect our skin. There are several ways to do this: Do not go out in the direct sun for any length of time especially between 10 am and 2 pm; wear a broad brimmed hat and long sleeved shirt, or a shirt made of material that screens the UV rays; and use sunscreen. Be sure to select sunscreen that screens for both UVA and UVB, sometimes called broad spectrum. Also use one with a high SPF rating at least 30 and, if you burn quickly, go for something higher 45 or even 60. Apply the first layer 30 minutes before going out, and remember to reapply your sunscreen. 7
8 Reflections by Evangeline Albuerne Matthew 19:14 says, Let the children come to me. Don t stop them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like the children. Being part of the Sunday School Ministry during the past four years has truly enlightened my mind and spirit with the many Sundays full of cheer, laughter and admirable levels of intellect that have come from our children. Going through years of Sunday School as a young child myself, words cannot express how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to watch many of the children in our congregation grow and flourish as they begin their journeys through faith in Christ. Teaching in our Sunday School for so many years not only reminded me of the importance of sometimes understanding our faith from a childlike perspective, but of the importance in allowing individuals to explore their faith from a young age. It is during these few years that one truly begins to understand the love of Christ that we collectively admire as members of the congregation, in hopes of our children grasping the same values that we cherish as a greater community. As I am very sad to end my time as a leader in the children s ministry, I wish the children of Bloor Street Church and the future Sunday School Leaders in the years to come all the best in their ministry, and remind them to keep their eyes, ears and hearts open to the questions filled with unbelievable awe-like wonder that may arise. These types of questions are the exact same ones that have helped me grow in my own journey of faith during my time as a Sunday School Leader. Randi Helmers & Rob Clutton will be performing in The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw: A Bluegrass Opera at the Toronto Summerworks Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille. In this new version of the opera, Randi will play a Hellhound as well as another character, Helen Back, whom she portrayed in the 2011 version at the Festival Players of Prince Edward County. It is an entertaining, comedic and wonderfully musical Randi Helmers & Nancy Gordon retelling of the Faust story. Photo by Harold Durnford There will be banjos. Performances are August COMING EVENTS Saturday, June 22 Giant Rummage Sale & Book Sale Monday, June 24 6:00 pm Tour of Evergreen Brick Works, organized by Design Advisory Cttee Summer Services JULY Joint services with Trinity St. Paul s congregation. Leadership from TSP ministerial team. Services at Bloor St. Church AUGUST Joint services with Trinity St. Paul s congregation. Leadership from Bloor St. ministerial team. Services at Bloor St. Church Fall Services & Events Sunday, September 1 Regular services resume Tuesday, September 3 Book Club resumes Thursday, September 5 Choir rehearsal resumes Sunday, September 8 Kids Club resumes Congregational lunch following the service Saturday, October 19 Concert: Linnea Good & David Jonsson is edited and published 4 times a year by the Communications Committee of Bloor St. United Church. All articles and photos are copyright and may not be used without permission of the author/photographer. 250 words is the standard length for unsolicited articles. Articles should be single spaced, in 12 point type, without paragraph indentations or special headings. All articles may be edited. Photos will only be used if space permits and if suitable for publication. Editor: Isabel Ward: Ministers and Staff may be reached by contacting the Church Office at (416) Deadline for the Fall Issue: Sunday, October 13 Layout: JANICEKRANGLE (416) Visit our website at:
9 Summer Reading Suggestions EMILY GORON SUGGESTS: I am always excited when a book is partially set in Toronto, in this case Parkdale. In When I Was Young & In My Prime, Alayna Munce explores relationships within and between generations and the effects of dementia, in an interesting and poignant book. Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan is a difficult book to describe funny, revelatory, prophetic, sad... We meet N, who has been a patient at a day hospital in North London, and Poppy Shakespeare who arrives insisting that she is not mentally ill. Not always easy to read, it is a book that makes you think, at the same time that you fall for a world, and the characters that live there, that is both crazy and real. I was given Anne Fadiman s Ex Libris by a colleague who told me that I just needed to have it and he was right. This slim volume is a delightful set of personal essays on books and language. For any book lover, this is the book to read. The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean is a book about the periodic table. And yet it is harder to put down than most novels. Read it and you will learn where the story of Midas s touch probably originated, along with all sorts of other ways the elements affect history, finance, art, war, and medicine. IRENE HUNTER RECOMMENDS: The Submission, a wonderful first novel by New York Times journalist, Amy Waldman, developed from the idea of what would happen if a competition to design the memorial for the World Trade Centre was won by an American Moslem. There is a full cast of characters, most notably, Claire Burwell, the only juror representing the bereaved families, and the ambitious young architect, Mohammed Khan. His design, the garden, draws controversy from the press and the governor as to whether it secretly depicts a martyr s paradise. I was reading this book during the Boston marathon bombings investigation. The reality of continuing racial, religious and political tensions in America underscored the timeliness fiction can bring to our understanding of a complex history. Highly recommended. Ru by Kim Thuy originally won the Governor General s award for French language fiction. Now beautifully translated into English by Sheila Fischman, it was short listed this year for the Giller Prize. A slim poetic tale, Ru is based on composite experiences of her own Vietnamese family and many other refugees. It includes the communist takeover, the harrowing escape by boat, the squalor of refugee camps and then the safety of coming to a winter Montreal. The title means a small stream in old French and a lullaby in Vietnamese. Kim Thuy writes convincingly of the dichotomy of living in two cultures whether in Canada, Vietnam or one of the twenty some languages into which her book has been translated. In YouTube interviews she expresses great surprise that her story resonates with refugees everywhere and each reader finds different meanings in her poetic text. Murder on a Kibbutz For mystery buffs, look for the work of Batya Gur, an Israeli mystery writer who died in Her detective, Michael Ohayon, is a very complex character. I especially enjoyed Murder on a Kibbutz which offers a cast of intriguing characters, a complicated plot and many details about living on a kibbutz. Non Fiction Titles The Zookeeper s Wife by Diane Ackerman relates a fascinating story of Jan and Antonia Zabrinski, Polish, Christian zookeepers in Warsaw, who successfully hid over 300 Jews during World War II. Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie tells the story, in the third person, of his trials during the ten years when he was in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced a Fatwa against him for blaspheming Islam by writing the novel The Satanic Verses. He kept a journal during those years and thus was able to reconstruct all the twists and turns of his time as Joseph (Conrad) Anton (Checkov). There was much bitter controversy because people thought he was wasting taxpayers money by having round the clock protection. However, much of the expense was borne by the author for all the sudden changes of houses when security feared that his cover had been
10 ... m o re s u m m e r re a d i n g s u g g e s t i o n s blown or there were increasing threats of assassins on a mission. Certainly those years were of great stress to his health and to his successive marriages. There is gossip about politicians and celebrities and some petty griping about reviewers and other authors who did not always support him, but that is offset by the sheer suspense of the story and some wonderful background of his early life with his Indian family, his difficult education as a teenager in Britain and his desperate attempts to bring up his own son during the Fatwa years. An amazing number of friends came through for him, even vacating their houses for long periods so that he could move to a safe place. He wrote the novel The Moor s Last Sigh and the story collection, Haroun and the Sea Stories for his son during those years in captivity. Rushdie appears as a curious mixture of charm, arrogance and ambition. Sometimes he readily admits that he was terrified and at the same time he was longing for the limelight that should have been his, as well as feeling lonesome for his friends and family. Towards the end of the ordeal, he took incognito holidays in the United States where he delighted in simple pleasures like a picnic or being able to drive a car again. You can understand why he eventually settled in America. Again, you can find many interviews with Rushdie on YouTube which will give you a good feeling for the charm of the author if you do not want to wade through a long book. VAL LEM RECOMMENDS: What were your ancestors reading a century ago? Can popular novels of the early 20th century offer satisfaction to readers today? I have been studying Nellie L. McClung s first novel Sowing Seeds in Danny published in It was a Canadian bestseller in 1909, alongside Ralph Connor s The Foreigner, L. M. Montgomery s Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, and Robert W. Service s Ballads of a Cheechako. Some other writers who were very popular around this time were Gilbert Parker, Marie Corelli, Edith Wharton and Mrs. Humphrey Ward. Since most works from this era are out of copyright and therefore in the public domain, you can search for digitized versions at a number of internet sites. The Internet Archive ( contains digitized versions of thousands of titles published before In addition to searching for textual material, the archive has film and audio clips. You can view the books online or you can download the complete work in pdf or other formats. Scholars Portal Books ( info/home.html) includes a Public Collection of about 30,000 books that are out of copyright including several titles by McClung, Service, Montgomery and Connor. Most of the works in the portal are only available to the academic library communities. Finally, the Hathi Trust ( org/) contains thousands of digitized books. Unfortunately, internet searchers outside of the United States cannot access all of the public domain titles found in the database. Also, unless you are searching from one of the partner institutions, you can only view pages one at a time rather than downloading an entire pdf. Search tip: when searching for Montgomery s works, use her initials L.M. rather than full name Lucy Maud as she used these initials on the title pages. DON NICOL SUGGESTS: These are some of the books I found interesting this year and recommend. Bernini: His Life & His Rome by Franco Mormando. The great baroque sculptor & architect. True North a Memoir by Jill Ker Conway. An Illustrated History of Quebec: Traditions & Modernity by Peter Gossage & J. I. Little. What Disturbs Our Blood by Jas. Fitzgerald, Toronto history. Outliers the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, a bestseller. A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny, a Québec police mystery. Deep Things out of Darkness a History of Natural History by John G. T. Anderson, Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, another mystery, and The Age of Insight the Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind & Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present by Eric R. Kandel.