Winnipeg is known as a cultural capital – we have a great arts scene, including a solid literary core. While the pursuits of fiction writers in Winnipeg have been looked at before, I am going to take a look at the great non-fiction books that were put out in 2013 about Winnipeg by Winnipeggers.
What I have always enjoyed about Winnipeg is that we’re good at taking a long, hard look at ourselves. It might not always be pleasant and it might not always make us look good. It might uncover major issues going on in the city. But it makes our city better.
One of the best books I read about Winnipeg in 2013 was “Indians wear Red”: colonialism, resistance, and aboriginal street gangs by Elizabeth Cormack, Jim Sliver, Larry Morrissette, and Lawrence Deane. It is a critical look at the gang culture in Winnipeg, but it looks at it in a way not to vilify the gang members but to contextualize the life they live in. It looks at effects that colonialism, neo-liberalism and economics have had on the proliferation of gangs. (Side note: I would recommend the other books by both Elizabeth Cormack and Jim Silver, too). It is essential that we take a hard look at these issues instead of sweeping them under the rug, acting like they do not exist or hoping they take care of themselves.
One member of the Winnipeg family that exposed Winnipeggers to issues in their city, even if they didn’t want to look, was Nick Ternette. Sadly, Nick died in 2013 but what came out of that was a great autobiography that he finished before he died. It is called Rebel Without a Pause and outlines Nick’s fights to get the issues of the poor and the disabled into the mainstream Winnipeg thought and his constant fight to make Winnipeg a better city.
Another great story put out this year about Winnipeg by a Winnipegger was Wolseley Stories by Laina Hughes. Unlike the other books, it doesn’t provide a critique of Winnipeg, but instead looks at the history of Wolseley and the stories of the people who live in it. Hughes said she wanted to write the book to get to know the people who lived in her house 100 years ago.
I think this is the best way to learn the history of the area you live in is to find out the history of your house or the street you live on (note: This doesn’t work if you live in a new development). I used the Winnipeg Free Press archive, available in every library, to search my house. Warning: don’t do this if you’re not ready for the consequences. I found out that a previous owner of my house died in the house – luckily of natural causes.
In 2014, why not make it a resolution to read Winnipeg books by Winnipeggers in Winnipeg – there are sure to be more great titles on the way!