Author Archives: winnipegpublibrary

Summer Road Trippin’

Imagine this: You’re driving down the highway, top down, wind whipping through your hair. A summer road trip.

Road trips are my favourite form of travel. But when you have to decide between a few hours drive to Grand Forks, or a whopping 7 hour drive to Regina, it means choices are pretty sparse in terms of road trip destinations living in Winnipeg. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of hidden gems for day trippers just outside the city. What are your favourite day trips by road from Winnipeg? Come check out our On The Road display on the main floor of Millennium.

Here are some ‘road’ themed material to get you planning your next drive.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s classic novel chronicles his years traveling North America with his friend Neal Cassady, “a sideburned hero of the snowy West.” As ‘Sal Paradise’ and ‘Dean Moriarty’, the pair search the country for self-knowledge and experience, freedom and longing. On the Road was a defining novel of the ‘Beat’ movement; it has and will continue to inspire poets, authors and artists for generations to come.

Drive – a film by Nicolas Winding Refn

The jacket. The soundtrack. The car. This film has countless iconic images. Starring Ryan Gosling and Carrie Mulligan, Drive tells the story of a Hollywood stunt driver moonlighting as a getaway driver who finds himself involved in a heist gone terribly wrong. James Hallis based the screenplay on the 2005 novel. Fun fact: The soundtrack for the movie made Spin’s list for ‘Top 40 Soundtracks That Changed Alternative Music.’

Canada’s Road: A Journey on the Trans-Canada Highway from St.John’s to Victoria by Mark Richardson

“Russia has the Trans-Siberian Highway, Australia has Highway 1, and Canada has the Trans-Canada Highway, an iconic road that stretches almost 8,000 kilometres across six time zones.”

This book tells the story of Mark Richardson, who celebrated his 50th birthday by driving the entire length of the Trans Canada Highway. Stretching 10 weeks in length, Mark’s journey helped him discover the history of the highway and learn what makes it what it is today. Originally published as a blog for, this Canadian-highway-love-letter is not one to be missed.



#IndigenousReads: Celebrating Indigenous writers in June – and all year round

thebreakRecently, federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, marked June as Indigenous Book Club Month (hashtag #IndigenousReads). The Minister’s goal is to get folks reading and talking about books (novels, plays, short stories, graphic novels, poetry!) written by First Nations, Métis, or Inuit peoples. We think this is a great idea of course and we know many Winnipeggers have already found their way to wonderful books written by Indigenous authors.

For example four of the nine On the Same Page titles have been #IndigenousReads.  In 2009, the first On the Same Page title was the Beatrice Mosionier classic April Raintree.  In 2013, Manitobans voted for Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water – an incredible anthology of Indigenous writing all rooted in the land that makes up our province.  Katherena Vermette’s Governor General Award-winning book of poetry, North End Love Songs, was the public’s pick in 2015.  This year Manitobans chose to honour and celebrate The Evolution of Alice by David Robertson.  All of these books are, or are set to become, must-reads for Manitobans for years to come.IndigenousWriters

There’s lots that new – and even more to look forward to – by Indigenous writers from across the country.  I eagerly anticipate âpihtawikosisân (Chelsea Vowel’s) forthcoming Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada. Her blog is packed with commentary, analysis, and explanations of current and historical issues related to Indigenous peoples.



Katherena Vermette’s novel, The Break,  is coming out in September and is already getting a lot of well-deserved attention. On my poetry-to-read list is Marilyn Dumont’s recent title The Pemmican EatersI was so happy to learn that David Alexander Robertson has added to his terrific graphic novel series of biographies – Tales from Big Spirit – with The Chief: Mistahimaskwa.


therighttobecoldFinally, from the North – a place most of us will only ever get to read about – is Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s non-fiction title The Right to Be Cold (what an excellent book title!).

These choices barely scratch the surface of the range of books written by Indigenous writers; I didn’t even get to children’s books! These titles – and many, many more – are available for Winnipeggers to read, enjoy, and learn from this month and all year round.  We look forward to seeing you and helping you make your own #IndigenousReads pick!






Euro 2016 and Armchair Eating

The UEFA Euro 2016 has started! The international men’s football (soccer) championship of Europe is being held in France, and runs from June 10 to July 10. For the first time, Euro is being contested by 24 teams, instead of the usual 16-team format. Many of the countries represented have participated in past tournaments, including FIFA 2014 World Cup winners Germany, Italy, Russia, Euro 2008 and 2012 winners Spain, England, Czech Republic, hosts France, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Romania, Croatia, Switzerland, Turkey, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, and Ukraine. Five teams secured their first-ever visits to the competition: Albania, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Slovakia, and Wales. I’m disappointed that my beloved Flying Dutchmen didn’t quality. (They lost both home and away against Iceland and Czech Republic, and away with Turkey with a resounding 3–0 score. Iceland, people, Iceland. OK, maybe I’m a bit bitter, too.)

During the last Euro competition in 2012, I put together a list of books by authors from each of the 16 countries represented. I considered doing the same thing this year, but frankly that’s boring, so I thought a different focus was warranted. Thanks to a suggestion from my co-worker Phil, I’m going to combine football with another one of my favourite things: food! After poring through many of the library’s cookbooks (note to self: next time I will wait until after lunch to do this), I’ve selected recipes from some of the 24 countries to try out during the competition. I hope you also find them enticing. If you haven’t already done so, check out the happenings of our cook book clubs!

Baked Swiss Dumplings (Switzerland)
Recipe found on page 33 of The Alpine Cookbook: Comfort food from the mountains  by Hans Gerlach
Serves 4 (makes 12 dumplings) – Prep: 35 minutes + 1 hour inactive time + 25 minutes baking time

For the dough:
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
7 tbsp clarified butter
½ cup milk
caraway seeds and Fleur de Sel to sprinkle on top

For the filling:
1lb 2oz (500g) pointed cabbage (or other white cabbage variety)
3½ oz (100g) Salsiz, pancetta or smoked bacon
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup beer
1 bunch parsley
3½ oz (100g) Tomme Vaudoise (a soft Swiss cheese) or Camembert
2 tbsp shredded Alpine cheese (such as Sbrinz, Gruyère, or Allgauer Bergkase)
freshly ground salt and pepper

  1. For the dough, combine flour and one large pinch salt in a bowl. Bring clarified butter, milk, and ½ cup water to a boil and pour over the flour. Stir using a large kitchen spoon until you have smooth dough. Cover and cool for about one hour.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the filing. Quarter the cabbage, remove stalk, and chop into thin slices. Peel and dice the Salsiz. Melt the butter in a pot; add the cabbage, Salsiz, salt, and pepper. Steam for 5 minutes with the lid on, deglaze with beer, and cook for an additional 5 minutes without the lid until the liquid has almost all boiled off. Season to taste and allow to cool. Pick the parsley leaves from the stem and chop; cut the Tomme Vausoise into small cubes, and add to the cabbage mixture along with the parsley and shredded Alpine cheese.
  3. Preheat the oven to 390ºF (200ºC) or 360ºF (180ºC) (convection oven). Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 14 by 19in (36 x 48cm), or until about 1/16in (2mm) thick. Cut into 12 squares (4–4 ¾ in (10–12cm) edge length). Add a heaping tablespoon of filling to each square, brush the edges with water, and form into triangles. Seal the edges using a fork or trim using a serrated pastry wheel.
  4. Transfer the triangles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with water and sprinkle with caraway seeds and Fleur de Sel. Place on the second rack from the bottom of the over and bake for 22–25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Tepsi Böreği (Turkey)
Recipe found on page 204 of Mediterranean Cookbook: Fast, fresh, and easy recipes from Spain, Provence, and Tuscany to North Africa and the Middle East
Serves 6 – Prep: 30 minutes + cooling and standing + 1 hour cooking time

2lb (900g) spinach
7 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 red onions, finely chopped
2oz (60g) dried apricots, chopped
2oz (60g) pine nuts, toasted
6 sheets of phyllo pastry, 16 x 12in (40 x 30cm), thawed if frozen
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10oz (300g) feta cheese, crumbled
flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
lemon zest, to garnish

  1. Rinse the spinach, shake off the excess water, and pack into a large pan. Cover and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 8–10 minutes, until just wilted. Drain well through a sieve, pressing the spinach against the sides to remove as much water as possible. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp butter and cook the spices with the onions over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 7–8 minutes, or until soft but not browned. Stir in the apricots and pine nuts, and then set aside. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Grease and line an 8in (20cm) springform pan.
  3. For the pie, melt the remaining butter. Brush the pan with the melted butter and cover the bottom with a sheet of phyllo, leaving the edges overhanging, and brush with butter. Continue with 5 more sheets, brushing each with butter.
  4. Blot the spinach with paper towels, then chop finely. Stir into the onion mixture and season. Pile half onto the pastry crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the cheese, then cover with the remaining spinach mixture. Fold the overhanging phyllo over the spinach, piece by piece, brushing with butter. Brush the top with any remaining butter and place the pan on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before carefully releasing from the pan. Serve hot or warm, cut into wedges, and garnished with parsley and strips of lemon zest.

Swedish beet and apple salad (Sweden)
Recipe found on page 117 of Mouthful of Stars: A constellation of favorite recipes from my world travels  by Kim Sunee
Serves 6–8

3 large beets
1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
1 (8oz) container crème fraîche or sour cream
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
1 to 2 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, coarsely grated
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tbsp coarsely chopped capers, rinsed of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
  2. Rinse the beets and place in a large piece of aluminum foil. If they are very different in size, cut the larger ones in half so they will take about the same amount of time to cook. Drizzle with the olive oil and wrap tightly. Place on a baking sheet (to catch any leaking beet juice) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender but not mushy when pierced with a fork. Remove the foil and let cool until able to handle. Peel the beets and cut into thin strips (about ¼in (6mm)).
  3. Combine the crème fraîche, dill, horseradish, vinegar, and white pepper to taste in a large bowl. Stir in the roasted beets, apples, onion, and capers. Taste and add more pepper, vinegar, or horseradish as needed. Chill until ready to serve.

Patatas bravas (Fierce potatoes)
Recipe found on page 169 of Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The world’s most delicious food made easy by David Joachim
Serves 8. Hands-on time: 20 minutes. Total time: 3 hours 29 minutes

2lb baking potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ tsp saffron threads, finely crushed
¾ tsp salt, divided
½ cup chopped yellow onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 bottled roasted piquillo peppers of 1 bottled roasted red bell pepper, drained and chopped (1/2 cup)
1½ cups unsalted tomato puree (fresh or canned)
1 tbsp Spanish smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground red pepper
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives

  1. Soak whole potatoes in ice water in refrigerator 2 hours; drain. Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Steam potatoes, covered, 9 minutes or until just tender. Rinse with cold water; drain and pat dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 450ºF (230ºC).
  3. Combine 1½ tbsp olive oil and saffron in centre of a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 450ºF (230ºC) for 3 to 4 minutes to bloom saffron. Scrape oil and saffron into a medium bowl using a rubber spatula. Return pan to oven. Add potatoes and ½ tsp salt to saffron oil, tossing to coat.
  4. Spread potatoes on preheated pan; bake at 450ºF (230ºC) for 45 minutes or until golden brown and crisp, stirring twice.
  5. While potatoes cook, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining 1½ tbsp oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and bay leaf; sauté 1 minute. Add roasted pepper, tomato puree, paprika, and ground red pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf. Place pepper mixture, remaining ¼ tsp salt, and vinegar in blender. Remove centre piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escap); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Spoon sauce onto plates or a platter. Top with potatoes, and sprinkle with chives.

Seafood crêpes (France)
Recipe found on page 167 of International Night: A father and daughter cook their way around the world  by Makr Kurlansky

For the crêpes:
3 eggs
2 tbsp butter, melted
1½ cups buckwheat flour
1½ cups milk

Beat the eggs with the melted butter, buckwheat flour, and milk. The batter should be thin but creamy. If too thick, add more milk. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day: Once you’ve melted some butter in a big pan, pour in a ladle full of the batter. Then, using the round bottom of your ladle spread the batter in a circular motion until it’s pretty thin. Once the centre part is dry, it’s ready to flip. You’ll also see that the batter will darken slightly, and even get a little bubbly. Then you slide a spatula, a big one, under the crêpe. Lift it and turn it on to the other side.

For the filling:
1 tbsp shallots, minced
1 leek, thinly sliced
4 mushrooms, sliced
½ tomato, finely diced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
a large pinch of salt
5 tbsp butter
½lb fillet of sole, cut into strips
½lb bay scallops
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
3 small heads endive
2 tbsp butter

Sauté the shallots, leek, mushrooms, tomato, thyme, and salt in about 2 tbsp of butter. After everything is thoroughly sautéed, add the sole, scallops, and wine. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Lift out the fish and scallops, place some on each crêpe, and wrap. Pour the heavy cream into the skillet with the liquid and cook vigorously until it has reduced its volume by about half. Add the remaining 3 tbsp of butter and stir vigorously until completely incorporated in the sauce. Pour sauce over crêpes. Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.
Serve with endive that is sliced lengthwise and sautéed in butter.

Sweet Ricotta Crostata (Italy)
Recipe found on page 240 of The International Collection: Home-cooked meals from around the world  by Canadian Living
Makes 24 servings

For the filling:
3 cups ricotta cheese (1½ lb/675 g)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
2 eggs
½ tsp cinnamon
1 egg yolk

For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Pastry: In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until in fine crumbs with a few larger pieces. Add eggs; toss with fork until dough starts to clump together, adding 1 tbsp cold water if too dry. Press into disc; wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Whisk together ricotta, sugar, orange zest, lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, and cinnamon.

Cut off one-third of the dough; set aside. On lightly floured surface, roll out remaining dough into 13-inch (33cm) circle. Fit into 10-inch (25cm) round tart pan with removable bottom. Scrape in ricotta mixture, smoothing top. Trim dough to leave ½-inch (1cm) overhang.

On lightly floured surface, roll out reserved dough into 12-inch (30cm) square. Cut into twelve 1-inch (2.5cm) strips. Weave strips, about ½ inch (1cm) apart, over filling to form lattice top. Trim strips even with edge of overhang.

Whisk egg yolk with 1 tsp water; brush some under each strip where it meets bottom pastry edge. Press to seal. Turn overhang inside and flute edge.

Brush remaining egg yolk mixture all over top of tart. Bake in 350ºF (180ºC) oven until pastry is golden, about 55 minutes. Let cool on rack.

Bàbovka (Czech Republic)
Recipe found on page 125 of The World on a plate: 40 cuisines, 100 recipes, and the stories behind them by Mina Holland
Serves 10–12

14 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
1 1/8 cups Czech flour (polohrube mouky) or all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the cake pan
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ tbsp vanilla sugar, or 1 ½ tbsp super fine sugar and 2–3 drops of vanilla essence
4 medium eggs, separated
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
confectioners’ sugar to dust

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter and 9½– to 10-inch ring-shaped cake pan, sprinkle a little flour around the sides and shake out the excess.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter with approximately two thirds of the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla sugar. Slowly beat in the egg yolks and blend thoroughly. Add half the flour and the baking powder and beat well, then stir in the rest of the confectioners’ sugar and the flour. Don’t mix too much from hereon or your mixture will become too sticky.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form peaks, and then gently fold these into the mixture. Be careful not to overmix. The mixture should fall off a spoon in lumps, not drip. Halve the mixture and separate into two bowls. Sift the cocoa into one half and mix well. Keep the other half white.
  4. Spoon the light and dark mixtures into the cake pan in layers, running a fork through the middle in a swirling motion to create a marble effect. The pan should be two thirds full.
  5. Bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before turning out of the pan and sifting some confectioners’ sugar over the top to serve.

T’boftë mire! Smakelijk! Dobar tek! Dobrou chuť! Tuck in! Bon appétit ! Guten Appetit! Jó étvágyat! A ligean ar ithe! Verði þér að góðu! Buon appetito! Smacznego! Bom apetite! Poftă bună! Приятного аппетита! (Prijatnogo appetita)! Dobrú chuť! ¡Buen apetito! Smaklig måltid! Afiyet olsun! Смачного! (Smačnoho) Mwynhewch eich bwyd!

Celebrate comics with us

If you’re a comics/manga/graphica fan, you’ve probably heard of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, or TCAF. This annual two-day exhibition and vendor fair features hundreds of comics creators from around the world. Other TCAF events include readings, interviews, panels, workshops, gallery shows, and much more.

PCFposterOne of the things that makes TCAF unique is that since 2009 it’s been co-sponsored by Toronto Public Library and held at the Toronto Reference Library. While TCAF is now one of the largest and best-known international comic festivals, it started as a much smaller event.

This is what we’re hoping to emulate here in Winnipeg with the first ever Prairie Comics Festival, a free one-day festival celebrating the best in comics creation on the prairies! Join us at the Millennium Library on Saturday, July 30 from 10:30 am – 5 pm.

The brain child of local comics publisher Hope Nicholson, the PCF is your opportunity to meet local comics creators, purchase their books and artwork (many of which will be premiered at this event), and learn from them in a full day of panel presentations. More than just a space to promote the creation of comics and discover new stories, it will also be a community experience where we can share our love of the comics medium.

For a complete list of exhibitors and panels, check out the Festival website.

The PCF is also curating a gallery exhibit of sensational artwork from comic book artists with ties to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Both honouring the legacy and promoting the present and future of comic book storytelling on the prairies, it includes Winnipeg-based comic book creators from the past such as Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), John Simpkins (Jasper), and John Stables (Brok Windsor); artwork from modern names in comics including Richard Comely (Captain Canuck), Todd McFarlane (Spawn), Tom Grummett (Superman); and a bevy of independent and webcomic artists such as Meags Fitzgerald, Nicholas Burns, and Elaine Will.

I’ll be there looking to discover new comic loves, and I hope you will be too!


One Historical Postcard and the Story Behind It

Dearest Girl : –

Mother sent your letter on to me to Winnipeg Canada : – Just got into Seattle Wash. last night. Next week play Portland, week after San Francisco, then Los Angeles.

Love – Fern

Ruth Maycliffe, c/o Charles Cherry, “Bachelor Co.” will reach me

1Deltiology is the study and collection of postcards, the third most popular hobby in the world after collecting stamps and coins/banknotes. Postcards and vintage photographs have been turning up all over the place recently, along with vintage clothing, barbershops and all things hand-made. It’s not hard to understand the appeal of reconnecting with our past.

2.pngThe Winnipeg Public Library recently launched the Martin Berman Postcard Collection on our PastForward website. This is one of the postcards collected by Martin Berman and generously donated to the City of Winnipeg by his family. It was scanned, along with over 5000 other Winnipeg and Manitoba postcards which now reside with the City of Winnipeg Archives and Records Control Branch. I am delighted to help provide digital access to this amazing collection by adding metadata and describing each card.


Image capture: Apr 2015 (c)2016 Google


My first question when I see a new view on a postcard is often, “Where is this?” usually followed by, “Shouldn’t I recognize it? I live here!” Sometimes the buildings have barely changed and I get excited that I can toggle seamlessly back and forth with Google Street View. (We include links to these views whenever possible to save you a bit of detective work!) Other times an entire city block may have disappeared.

Let’s have another look at the postcard image of Main Street above. We’re looking north over Portage and Main; recognize anything? The former Union Bank Tower in the distance on the left (completed in 1904, now the Paterson Globalfoods Institute) is the oldest skyscraper still standing in Canada. The Canadian Northern Building in the foreground and the large McIntyre Block were demolished to make way for 201 Portage (originally TD Centre) and a parking lot. On the right side you’ll notice the ornate Merchants Bank/Lombard Building and the old Post Office which have not survived but the Confederation Building and Union Trust Tower have been added to our current  view.

Also, what were all those people doing on the street? This is what Labour Day crowds looked like in the early 1900’s (this postcard is ca. 1907); everyone came down for the parade. Note the streetcar on the right labelled “Happy Land” (Winnipeg’s amusement park at the time). Main Street had room for two rail lines and two-way traffic at all times. Judging by the comments on the backs of many postcards, visitors were consistently impressed by Winnipeg’s wide streets and intersections.

Now back to the writing on this postcard. What could a quick internet search turn up on the sender  -was it Fern or Ruth? I expected she was a musician or actress but since the best way to reach her was through Charles Cherry I looked him up first. He was a British born actor who appeared in many American plays and even a couple of movies. “The Bachelor” was a Broadway play that featured both Ruth Maycliffe and Charles Cherry.

4An image search led me to more details about Ruth Maycliffe. She was born Fern Krehbiel and lived in Winfield and Coffeyville, Kansas before moving to Kansas City with her mother in about 1906. Fern attended drama school and became a well-known Broadway actress under her stage name, Ruth Maycliffe, after her performance in the play “Girls” in 1908 – the year before this postcard was sent! She even got to meet President Roosevelt who had read that she was a skilled horsewoman and wanted to see for himself if she could rope and tie a steer in three minutes.

I was intrigued by the life this small-town girl had carved out for herself even before I found an article about her time in France where she met Prince Braganza d’Avellar of Portugal. The two were married but unfortunately the new Princess was quickly widowed as her Prince was killed in a revolutionary battle. Having returned to New York to carry on with her acting career, she met and married a French officer who had come to provide expertise on trench warfare During the First World War. In another interesting twist, when he brought her home to meet his family in Brittany, Fern discovered she was now a Countess as her Georges turned out to be Count Georges Benetan du Buat.

5.pngFern’s story goes on but I’m trying not to get too carried away. It’s amazing in how many directions a single postcard can take us. Who knows what a search on the recipient might bring up? Or one of the signs in the photo? If this is the sort of thing that interests you, check out the rest of the Martin Berman Postcard Collection or one of the other collections on our PastForward website: The Rob McInnes Postcard Collection and Public Historic Postcards. Comment below with any stories you uncover!

– Christy

Prairie Pride Indeed!

The first Winnipeg Pride Parade was in 1987. Back then, about 250 people marched, some covering their heads with bags in order to protect their identity. Now, Pride is more than just a parade – it has become a 10 day long festival.

There is a lot the LGBTTQ community can be proud of, including the strides society has made in terms of recognizing LGBTTQ rights. However, there is still work that needs to be done so we can continue to move towards tolerance, acceptance and love. Writers do this kind of work every day – they put art into the world that provides a different point of view, challenges assumptions, and gives a voice to untold stories.

I’ve long been a fan of prairie literature – most of my absolute favourite authors write about western Canada. However, I was embarrassingly unaware of the number of talented LGBTTQ fiction writers the prairies can claim. The four texts below are written by award-winning authors that are not only changing the literary landscape, but have a specific connection to Winnipeg. You can find all of these books at the Winnipeg Public Library.

A Safe Girl to LoveA Safe Girl to Love

Casey Plett’s first short story collection, A Safe Girl to Love, is honest, humorous and heartbreaking. Each piece is a snapshot of life from the perspective of a different transgender woman. These protagonists navigate new and existing relationships, all the while trying to find their place in the world. It’s difficult to provide a more eloquent description of this book than the one on the back cover: “These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad – but never predictable.” The collection won the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction and received an Honour of Distinction from the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for emerging LGBT writers in Canada. Plett currently resides in Winnipeg.

All the Pretty GirlsAll the Pretty Girls

Chandra Mayor’s All the Pretty Girls is another excellent set of short stories and is the 2009 winner of the Lambda Award for Best Lesbian Fiction. The theme of same-sex relationship and desire is certainly present in the collection, but makes up only one aspect of Mayor’s writing – more obvious subject areas include children, poverty, abuse, and hope. As one reader put it, there doesn’t “seem to be enough lesbian books where being a lesbian is part of the story, not the story.” While her prose is simple, Mayor frequently strikes the reader with beautifully crafted lines of poetry, making it quite difficult to put this book down. Mayor is from Winnipeg!

Somewhere ElseSomewhere Else

Somewhere Else is a novel about a sixteen-year-old Mennonite girl, Jess, whose coming out is cut short by her mother’s refusal to listen. Realizing that her family will never accept her sexual orientation, Jess leaves for the big city (Winnipeg!) She meets a cast of characters along her journey, all of whom help her discover her identity outside of the Mennonite community. Originally hailing from our lovely provincial neighbour to the west, Jan Guenther Braun now calls Winnipeg home.


When Everything Feels like the MoviesWhen Everything Feels like the Movies

Raziel Reid currently lives in Vancouver but he spent his childhood growing up throughout Ontario and Manitoba, including Winnipeg. I’m certainly willing to claim this bright, young, award-winning author as one of our city’s own. Reid’s Young Adult novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, won the Governor General’s Award for English-language Children’s Literature and was included in the 2015 edition of Canada Reads. His novel is a coming-of-age story about a flamboyant teenager, Jude, who steals his mother’s high heels, secretly strutting his stuff in the basement. Whether in heels or not, Jude constantly pretends that he’s on the red carpet. But glamour doesn’t mean that life is easy – Jude has to face all the challenges of high school, including homophobia.

It looks like Winnipeg Pride’s tagline, ‘Pride of the Prairies,’ is not only applicable for the festival – Winnipeggers should also be proud of the remarkable LGBTTQ literary contributors coming out of our city. We’re looking forward to talking books with everyone at the Parade on Sunday, June 5 – keep an eye out for the WPL walking group!


#ReadThisGuy: Guy Gavriel Kay

kay childrean

There it is, sitting listlessly on my bedside table, the newest Guy Gavriel Kay novel, Children of Earth and Sky. It is teasing me to open it, silently pleading for me to read it. But, like a fine wine, it must be savoured at leisure, enjoyed with the perfect morsel, on a leisurely night, with absolutely no possibility of interruptions. One doesn’t rush through a book like this. So, I am waiting, anticipating the moment when I can give it my full and complete attention.

 “Writing what I do is an artistic opportunity, and it’s also an opportunity for readers who are bored with what they have been getting, with the diet they’ve been served, who like the idea of moving out of their comfort zones.”

If you haven’t met Guy Kay, he can be found at McNally Robinson whenever a new book of his is published. He grew up in Winnipeg and tells hilarious stories about his days at Grant Park High School. You can find references to his Winnipeg childhood in his book of poems Beyond This Dark House. He is most well known as the author who invented his own genre, what we now refer to as Historical Fantasy. Kay loves to take you on a journey into the past; he uses a recognizable time period but gives it a quarter turn to the fantastic by including elements of mysticism and fantasy.

“My readership is not vast and titanic but they’re loyal and they get what I am trying to do…It makes it easier for me not to do a straightforward historical or a straightforward fantasy. I can live in my hard to categorize space because I’ve had a measure of success there. “

Kay is a master of literary innovations. He loves to leave open spaces in his novels that will leave you wondering. At first, you think he accidentally left out an important bit. Later, you realize, it is a little gift for you, the reader. You can fill in these missing details as you wish. This time, Kay’s innovation is to cut from one person’s point of view to another’s in the middle of the conversation and back it up a bit, so that the reader can see how the characters are interpreting the situation differently.

“The reading process is a dialogue…It’s the reader sitting down and taking from what I can give, whatever they can take – or choose to take”

kay sailingkay lordInterestingly, Children of Earth and Sky is set in the same world as The Lions of Al-Rassan, The Last Light of the Sun and the Sarantine Mosaic (my favorite). But it is 900 years later, and so the world has changed. Kay did not want to write about the “movers and shakers” or use a quest to bring characters together. This novel is about the concerns of ordinary people; it has several protagonists, each with a different trajectory, all moving in different directions and having different goals. Kay’s main inspiration was “how we’re actually not very good at understanding each other” and how “we remember the same moments differently”. Using these ideas, he created complex characters, layered with levels of humanity who will live with you long after you finish the final page.

“We want a book to actually get its hooks into us so much that we’re altered by the interaction with it…If you are writing ambitiously, you are, in fact, hoping to change people.

kay summer

In high school, I was given The Summer Tree to read by a bookish acquaintance. She told me I was going to love it, which I doubted. As it turned out, the very second I finished it, I screamed, jumped up, walked straight out the front door and grabbed the next bus to the library and checked out its sequel, The Wandering Fire. If you are wondering why I didn’t just buy the eBook, it was 1986 and that’s how we rolled.

That acquaintance has been my best friend ever since. I am expecting her to call any time now to check to see if I’ve started IT yet. She’s probably already finished and will be annoyed… we have a strict NO SPOILERS rule. In my defense, I will say to her (in my best Boromir voice), “Tamara, one does not simply READ Children of Earth and Sky, you must SAVOUR it, like the finest, rarest, most exquisite of wines”.

Passages in italics are from the May 2016 issue of LOCUS magazine, “Journeying Guy Gavriel Kay,” by Guy Gavriel Kay, pages 7, 48-49.


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Currently on the Toronto subway

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