After Pearl Harbor – authors talk at Kogawa House

August 26, 2017

“After Pearl Harbour” and The 1942 Hughes Gang Murder of Yoshi Uno

The January 1942 slaying of Yoshiyuki Uno was largely forgotten until writer and historian Stewart Muir brought this tragic story back to life with new findings, published in a Vancouver Sun series in 2013 titled Merciful Injustice. Janet Nicol subsequently provided another perspective in her article “After Pearl Harbor” (BC History, 2014). Join Stewart and Janet as they discuss their research with author Susan Aihoshi, as she embarks on a book-length treatment of the Uno story. This event is for people interested in the city’s hidden histories as well as those who may have additional perspectives that could aid Susan in developing her project.

Please join us!

Thursday, September 14, 7:30 to 9:00pm
RSVP at info@kogawahouse.com

About the Kogawa House, according to the website: Located in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, Historic Joy Kogawa House was once the childhood home of acclaimed author Joy Kogawa and her family. Today, the property is a unique live/work space for writers, a space for public events, and an ongoing symbol of the racial discrimination experienced by Japanese Canadians as a consequence of the Second World War.

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BC Ghosts and Mysteries – book reviews

August 22, 2017

Victoria’s Most Haunted: Ghost Stories from BC’s Historic Capital City, by Ian Gibbs. Touchwood Editions, Victoria, 2017.

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Prepare to be thoroughly entertained and perhaps even frightened by this collection of ghost stories set in Victoria, BC. Few Canadian cities provide such a haunting atmosphere as the island capital, with its rich history and “Victorian gothic” buildings. Ian Gibbs, a resident and “Ghostly Walks” tour guide, has gathered new and well-worn tales for this book, spinning concise, lively and well-written ghost stories.

The full book review is in BC History magazine, Fall, 2017.

Blood, Sweat and Fear: The Story of Inspector Vance, Vancouver’s First Forensic Investigator, by Eve Lazarus. Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, 2017.

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Following Eve Lazarus’ last true crime book, Cold Case Vancouver, the author once again delivers a riveting account, this time featuring the criminal cases of an unheralded pioneer in police forensics. Inspector John F.C.B. Vance began his career as an ‘analyst’ with the Vancouver police department in 1907 and over the ensuing years, established a reputation as Canada’s “Sherlock Holmes.” Newspapers and magazines applauded his scientifically-based work, but when Vance retired in 1949, he faded from public view. That is until Lazarus came across old newspaper articles about this intriguing man. With the co-operation of Vance’s heirs, the author gained access to files he kept after retirement, along with photographs and pieces of evidence.

The full book review is in BC History magazine, Fall, 2017..

Pnina’s three lives – book review

June 30, 2017

Light Within the Shadows: An Artist’s Memoir, by Pnina Granirer
Vancouver: Granville Island Publishing, 2017.

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Pnina Granirer was creative from an early age, but she didn’t come in to her own artistically until the “third act” of her life journey. This memoir reveals why this is so as the author recounts her beginnings in Romania, followed by immigration to Israel when she was fifteen and then to North America in 1962.

When Granirer eventually settled on Vancouver’s west side with her husband Edmond (“Eddy”) Granirer, a University of British Columbia math professor, she began exhibiting art and building an international reputation while raising two sons.

Granirer has spent most of her life in Canada, yet it is her “back story” — her life in Romania and Israel — which informs these later experiences and consumes two-thirds of Light Within the Shadows.

The full review is available at The Ormsby Review, an on-line journal –

http://bcbooklook.com/2017/06/29/pninas-three-lives/

How Deep is the Lake – a book review

June 7, 2017

How Deep is the Lake: A Century at Chilliwack Lake, by Shelley O’Callaghan (Halfmoon Bay: Caitlin Press, 2017).

Author Shelley O’Callaghan shares stories about four generations of family life at her summer cottage on Chilliwack Lake, a two-hour drive east of Vancouver–but she also delivers much more. A retired environmental lawyer and first time author, her descriptions of summers spent fishing, swimming, and hiking at the turquoise-colored lake set among mountains, include profiles of other settlers and Indigenous people who have populated the area over time. Researching many hours at the Chilliwack archives, reading extensively about local First Nations people and reaching out to interview others with ties to the lake, she achieves a multi-layered memoir.

So begins my review of this book, published in the Summer 2017 issue of BC History.

Women’s Union Video, Fight For $15 & Retail Action Network

May 27, 2017

by Janet Nicol

Watch for my labour notes in the upcoming spring issue of Our Times magazine on…..

a short history video about women’s participation in the BC Government Employees’ Union. The video is available on youtube and has been energizing female members to become more involved in their union.

Also in the notes is an update on the ‘fight for $15’ – an initiative by the BC Federation of Labour to raise the minimum wage so non-union workers can cope with the high cost of living.

Tied with this campaign is the advocacy work of the Retail Action Network on behalf of non-union workers in Victoria.

If anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Canada…..

May 5, 2017

How can we fight it?

by Janet Nicol

With the rise of anti-immigration attitudes in the United States and Europe, where does Canada stand? It’s an important question, given recent polls showing Canadians are less tolerant than we like to think.

A survey by VanCity Credit Union revealed 82 per cent of visible minorities in Vancouver said they have experienced some form of discrimination. And 11 per cent said these experiences were traumatic enough to prompt thoughts of moving to a new location.

To read the full article, which includes a look at anti-racism campaigns in Surrey, BC and Ontario, check on the print issue of Canadian Immigrant magazine, available at no cost at public places around Vancouver. The article is also on line at –

http://canadianimmigrant.ca/community/integration/if-anti-immigrant-sentiment-is-on-the-rise-in-canada-too-how-can-we-fight-it

Feminism needs mentioning

April 28, 2017

by Janet Nicol

In this opinion piece for the April 27 2017 issue of the Jewish Independent newspaper, I critique the state of the world through a feminist lens, inspired by a lively panel discussion April 9 at Vancouver’s Peretz Centre entitled “Israel, Canada and Me in the Age of Trump.”

Print copies of the issue are available at certain cafes and public spaces around Vancouver and by subscription and on-line at – http://www.jewishindependent.ca/feminism-needs-mentioning/

BC Schools Project: Day of Mourning

April 27, 2017

By Janet Nicol

Teaching the next generation of workers how to be safe on the job is becoming an annual event in BC high schools, through the Day of Mourning BC Schools Project. Launched last year, the safety campaign aimed at young people originated with John Decaire, a social studies teacher at Cariboo Hill Secondary, in Burnaby.

“I was struck by the number of people who die or are injured on the job in Canada,” Decaire says, referring to the more than 1,000 work-related deaths in Canada each year. He was also struck by how it is workers under 25 who make up one-third of those who sustain workplace injuries.

Decaire realized many students work at part-time, precarious, non-union jobs, and so receive inadequate training, supervision, or instruction about their rights — including the right to refuse unsafe work. “Our society places much importance on Remembrance Day,” Decaire says, “but more people die on the job in Canada.”

To see the full article on line at “Our Times” magazine. The link is
http://ourtimes.ca/Talking/article_529.php

Fire Walkers – a review

April 25, 2017

by Janet Nicol

Fire Walkers, a memoir by Bethlehem Terrefe Gebreyohannes. Mawenzi House Publishers, Toronto, 2016.

Fire Walkers, a memoir by Bethlehem (“Beth”) Gebreyohannes, provides a valuable female viewpoint of an Ethiopian-Canadian’s refugee experience. The author recounts fifteen months of her life in vivid and heart-felt detail, beginning in 1980 when she was 14 years old. Beth’s father and step-mother reluctantly organized their family’s secret escape out of war-ridden Addis Ababa and across the Ethiopian border to the port city of Djibouti. Realizing they were not on a family holiday, Beth and her two older brothers, Yared and Asrat expressed shock, confusion and anger at their parents. Still, the family remained united as they endured several days traversing the Danakil Desert on foot, wary of roving soldiers, scattered land mines and unpredictable terrain.

Dangers and hardships also included long days enduring the hottest desert in the world. Beth’s step-mother Meskeram, especially agonized over temporarily leaving her baby daughter behind in the care of others. The family encountered strangers who were both unscrupulous and amazingly generous. They coped with theft, sickness, sexual predators and separation, underscoring their vulnerability—and stoicism.

The landscape and people of the east African region are otherworldly, as the author depicts: “The camels’ gurgling sound woke me up from the sheet of sand I slept on,” and on another morning: “….I saw that everything blended together in the desert—the camels, the shrubs, and even the sky.”

Beth’s family were Christians, descended from Ethiopian royalty but encountered diverse peoples, including Somalians, nomadic Afar tribesmen and Djiboutians who spoke French, Afar, Somali and Arabic. Men chewed the stimulant known as qat, one of the author’s many fascinating observations. She shares many other cultural experiences ranging from dining on sweet tea and goat stew in the desert to the joy of swimming in Djibouti’s Red Sea.

When Beth and her brother initially arrived at a refugee camp in Dikhil ahead of other family members, the reader glimpses the harsh life and prejudices refugees experience. Beth’s family however, found sanctuary for several months in a home offered by a woman who worked in the home a wealthy man. As the author noted: “The kindness we received from strangers had made all the troubles, wars, homelessness, statelessness, and hunger more bearable.”

Family bonds were valued above all else. When Beth is reunited with her father—for whom she dedicates this memoir—she writes, “I fell into his arms, smelt the scent of his cigarette on his white shirt. If only I could be around my father all the time.”

In the afterward and acknowledgements the reader learns the fate of Beth and other family members since re-settlement in Canada. Many individuals and writers’ classes inspired the author to tell her powerful story, resulting in this vividly written and insightful contribution to memoir literature.

Canadian fiction reviews – short stories & a psychological thriller

April 4, 2017

The Old World and Other Stories by Cary Fagan

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Inspired by discarded photographs from the past, prolific Toronto-based author Cary Fagan has crafted a remarkable collection of “snapshots,”—that is to say, very short stories. Prepare for a roller coaster ride of intuitively grasped portraits and unpredictable plots ranging from the sublime to the grotesque, based on 35 “orphaned” images.

The full review is available on-line at the Canadian Maple Tree Literary Supplement.

The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan

An intriguing sixth novel from Toronto-based writer Nicole Lundrigan, this psychological thriller will resonate with readers long after the last page is read. Two plot lines unfold in alternating chapters, one told by an anonymous narrator, the other from the point of view of substitute teacher Warren Botts. The reader can safely assume the unnamed narrator is an adolescent, otherwise the identity and connection to Warren’s story is unknown until the final chapter.

The full review is available on line at the Canadian Maple Tree Literary Supplement.

Link at – http://www.mtls.ca/issue22/fiction-and-nonfiction-reviews-janet-nicol/