Tag Archives: Louis-Philippe @ WPL

What’s New in the Local History Room?

This fall, the Winnipeg Public Library is proud to be a partnering with The World Remembers organization by hosting an electronic display of names in the Local History Room. This is part of a nation-wide act of remembrance and commemoration of the men and women who died a century ago during the First World War.

The World Remembers is a non-profit company based in Toronto whose sole purpose is to build and facilitate The World Remembers project.

The ongoing project began in 2014 by displaying, for one minute starting on October 15th and ending on November 11th, the names of everyone killed in the conflict in 1914, and repeating the process the following years.  The World Remembers organization displays the names of those soldiers who died in World War 1 so that people not only remember these fallen soldiers but honor these shared histories.   The monitor screen set up in the Local History Room shows a continuous loop of the names of soldiers killed in war in 1917. This display will end on November 11th and will display more than 661,800 names of soldiers who lost their lives from UK, Canada, France, Germany, the US, Turkey, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia, China and the former British Indian Army.  This display will also be running simultaneously at other organizations (libraries, schools, and universities).

Here are the locations of the schools, cities, libraries, museums and other groups that are presenting The World Remembers names display.

If you are interested in finding a specific individual whose name will be displayed, you can search the TWR database here and find out at the exact day and time it will come up.

There is also a book display set up near The World Remembers display for those interested in learning more about the First World War.  Come and have a look.

-Louis-Philippe

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What’s New in the Local History Room?

It’s time to take a look at some of the recent arrivals in the Local History Room.

 

Cover image for Riel's defence : perspectives on his speeches

 

 

Though the great waves of unidentified flying objects sightings is behind us, the phenomenon still intrigues to this day. Fifty years ago this year, Winnipegger Stefan Michalak claimed to have had an encounter with a mysterious aircraft that left him seriously injured.  When They appeared: Falcon Lake, 1967, The Inside Story of a Close Encounter was written by his son Stan and UFO researcher Chris Rutkowski. It includes Stefan’s original account of the encounter and relates how him and his family dealt with the government investigation and the extensive media coverage that followed. The book reviews the evidence left at the site, includes copies of transcripts of interviews and reports made at the time by the RCMP and other agencies, as well as tell Stan’s personal experiences and how the incident shaped his youth.

 

Cover image for From the outside in : Jewish Post & News columns, 2015-2016

From the Outside in: Jewish Post & News Columns, 2015-2016 is a collection of columns written by Joanne Seiff for Winnipeg’s Jewish Post and News. These cover a wide range of topics of interest from raising children, social justice to the keeping of religious practices.  The author also includes anecdotes about her personal experiences, notably about moving to unfamiliar Winnipeg from the States and how they adapted.

 

Cover image for The Seven Oaks reader
On June 19th, 1816 an event occurred that had a pivotal impact on the history of what would become Manitoba (even if it has somewhat receded from our collective memory). This was the of Battle of Seven Oaks that broke out between rival hunting parties of the fur trade companies (the Hudson Bay and North West) that were vying for control of the territory.  The Seven Oaks Reader by Myrna Kostash offers a comprehensive retelling of the Fur Trade Wars. The book incorporates period accounts and journals, histories, memoirs, songs and fictional retellings, from a wide range of sources.

 

And to conclude, in The Forks, a Meeting Place Transformed by Sheila Grover you can learn about the early history of The Forks, the fur trade and railway eras, and the transformation from an industrial site into one of Winnipeg’s most popular gathering places. The book also includes a self-guided tour of the historic and contemporary buildings and landscapes. This is an ideal title to learn about how much the Forks have changed, especially in the last decades.

 
Come to the Local History Room and check it out!
 
– Louis-Philippe

The Business of War: The Canadian Home Front in the First World War

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The Winnipeg Public Library is hosting a new traveling exhibit created by the Canadian Centre for the Great War open to the general public at the Millennium Library.  The exhibit “The Business of War: Canadian Businesses and the First World War” is located on the 4th floor and is about Canada’s wartime mobilization on the home front. Its panels explore how Canadian businesses large and small aided the war effort by supplying goods and helping to lift people’s spirits and raise money in order to keep support our troops and the overall Allied cause.  While warfare throughout the ages always required soldiers fighting on battlefields, the First World War also came to require of Canadians an unprecedented mobilization of all their resources and that is where the term “home front” was coined.  Library materials related to the exhibit are displayed as well so you can further your knowledge about this topic.

Image result for The Great War and Canadian Society: An Oral History  Cover image for Hometown horizons : local responses to Canada's Great War

One of the library’s older (published in 1978) but valuable title that is filled with personal accounts of this time period is The Great War and Canadian Society: An Oral History.  The book was written when Canadians who had lived through that time were still able to provide a living link to our history and the testimonies included come from people from all walks of life, ages, and locations.  I definitely recommend it for those interested in reading about men and women’s experiences in wartime Canada.
In Hometown Horizons: Local Responses to Canada’s Great War, historian Robert Rutherdale has chosen three Canadian towns (Lethbridge, Alberta, Guelph, Ontario, and Trois-Rivières, Quebec) in order to explore the local social history of the war, and how it affected these communities in different ways.  The demonizing of potential “enemy aliens” and other subversive forces is explored in Lethbridge as one internment camp was built there, as well as local citizens’ reactions to its presence.  The Conscription Crisis where efforts of Canadians to avoid being drafted resulted in aggressive raids to collect draft dodgers is explored in Guelph.  The rift that developed between returning veterans’ experiences on the front versus the second-hand and heavily censored portrayal made available on the home front is also explored, as well as the break with the past the war had on many aspects of life, notably on the role of women in the work force.
Cover image for Fight or pay : soldiers' families in the Great War
Desmond Morton’s book Fight or pay : soldiers’ families in the Great War is about those who were left to carry on when sons and husbands were sent overseas to fight and how the government’s early efforts to create a safety net were spurred by war’s traumatic impact on the home front. It’s often overlooked that the conflict ended up costing lives at home as well as the front as numerous families lost their main provider and had to rely on charity (such as the Patriotic Fund) and limited military pensions from Ottawa at a time where attitudes toward such support was quite negative.  It also heralded a new reality where both the state and private philanthropists were managing family decisions that had never been their business before.   This book will be of interest to those wanting to increase their understanding of the issues that faced the families and the fighting men in 1914-1918.

Cover image for Firing lines : three Canadian women write the First World War

Firing lines : three Canadian women write the First World War by Debbie Marshall is the story of three Canadian journalists who were present in both France and England during the pivotal events of the conflict and reported their personal observations in letters, articles and books.  Mary MacLeod Moore, a writer for Saturday Night magazine , covered the war’s impact on women, from the munitions factories to the kitchens of London’s tenements. Beatrice Nasmyth, a writer for the Vancouver Province, managed the successful wartime political campaign of Canadian Roberta MacAdams and attended the Versailles Peace Conference as Premier Arthur Sifton’s press secretary. Elizabeth Montizambert was in France during the war and witnessed the suffering of its people first-hand. She was often near the fighting, serving as a canteen worker and writing about her experiences for the Montreal Gazette.

Cover image for No free man : Canada, the Great War, and the enemy alien experience
About 8,000 Canadian civilians were imprisoned during the First World War because of their ethnic ties to Germany, Austria-Hungary, and other enemy nations. Although not as well-known as the later internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, these incarcerations played a crucial role in shaping debates about Canadian citizenship, diversity, and loyalty and this is what No free man : Canada, the Great War, and the enemy alien experience by Bohdan Kordan aims to demonstrate.  Re-settled in a network of government-run camps throughout Canada, they were forcibly mobilized in the war effort, most often in agriculture or lumber industries.  This is a valuable book about the dark side of our country’s war effort that remains as pertinent to our present world as then.
Come and check it out.
Louis-Philippe

1917: Remembering the Events that shaped Our Century

The year 1917 was filled with events that both shook and defined the world. Though our library has many books about years “that changed everything”, one can argue this year was one that can legitimately be called one of the most seminal for the world we currently live in. Many of these events have been or are going to be officially remembered through ceremonies and events, but if you are interested in learning more, the library has material that can help you explore their history.

Vimy: The Battle and the Legend by Tim Cook

We have just celebrated the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, on April 9th. This tactical victory did not in itself change the course of the war but it started to change how Canadians saw themselves in relation to Great Britain and the rest of the world. This victory was notable because of its meticulous planning and execution. It was achieved by Canadians from all over the country who were fighting together as the Canadian Corps for the first time and succeeded where other attempts had failed. This feat of arms came at a high cost (over 10,000 casualties) but helped cement the reputation of the Canadian Corps as an elite formation distinct from the British army – a fact that would be reflected in Canada signing the Versailles Treaty separately from Great Britain in 1919. Whether this constituted the “birth of a nation” can be debated, but it was certainly a step away from being a colony toward full-fledged nationhood.

 

This wasn’t the only event that was important in Canadian history that year. 1917 was a federal election year, and the first where Canadian women were able to vote. The stakes of these wartime elections were high. The conscription crisis to replenish the manpower of the Canadian Expeditionary Force drove a wedge between the mainly French-Canadians opponents who resisted volunteering for a war that they did not see as theirs to fight and the supporters of Britain and her allies. Tensions between the two factions rose to such a level that violent riots erupted in the city of Quebec on Easter, leaving 4 dead and 150 wounded, and created a chasm between Quebecers and the rest of the country that would be felt for generations.

 

The Curse of the Narrows by Laura MacDonald

The first World War’s effects were felt by entire societies in direct and indirect ways. In countries like Canada, which was far from the front, it left scars in every community, but none more than in Halifax. The port city was already a central hub for men and supplies being sent overseas when tragedy struck on December 6, 1917.  Two ships filled with explosive material collided, resulting in a blaze that spread out of control. This resulted in the largest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded, devastating the city and killing or wounding 11,000 inhabitants. In addition to the immediate death toll, a colossal rescue effort by both Canadians and Americans was necessary to tend those left wounded and homeless in the middle of a blizzard.

 

March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution by Will Englund

On the world stage, 1917 saw the fall of the Romanov dynasty, that had ruled Russia for centuries, by the Russian Revolution, which would see the rise of the first communist regime in history. This revolution (traditionally marked on October 25th) saw Russia withdraw from the war and radically shifted the balance in Germany’s favor.  As the German Empire successfully dealt with its enemy in the east, it unwittingly gained another when the United States of America declared war on April 6th. The country had remained neutral until unrestricted submarine warfare and an intercepted telegram revealed a German plan to goad Mexico to invade them with promises of winning back part of its former empire. Though a relative late-comer on the Allied side, the U.S. influx of men and supplies was decisive in the war ending in their favour. Both events were the first steps that would see the rise of the two superpowers that would dominate international politics of the 20th century.

 

The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Jonathan Schneer
A less well-known but equally far-reaching event, a letter issued by Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour on November 2, 1917, led to the creation of Israel and conflicts that persist today. The widely-published letter was addressed to a Zionist organization and was interpreted as promising the creation of a Jewish homeland in the territory known as Palestine, occupied by the Ottoman Empire. However, this was in apparent contradiction with promises made to Arab leaders who were also revolting against the Ottomans for their independence. What became known as the Balfour Declaration left plenty of ambiguity about where and how this Jewish homeland would be established, with British diplomats initially hoping that a peaceful compromise could be made with all parties. This proved unworkable in the decades following the war, with terrible consequences for the Middle-East.

 

Finally, this year will also mark two important but overlooked landmarks: 100th anniversary of the Canadian income tax (imposed as a “temporary” war measure) as well as the founding of the National Hockey League (November 26th).

~ Louis-Philippe

What’s New In the Local History Room?

We have a few new reasons for you to come and visit the Local History Room.  A new display about the history of the railway system and how it shaped Manitoba is ready to explore, with artifacts and information generously loaned to us by the Manitoba Railway Museum  –  come and check it out! It’s also time to have a look at what’s new in the room’s collection, as it keeps growing with new additions.

Retired Winnipeg lawyer Norm Larsen is back with a new legal read: Notable People from Manitoba’s Legal History, in which he describes 32 “notables” connected to Manitoba and its legal system in quotations and anecdotes. The notables include Nellie McClung, Hugh John Macdonald son of the first PM and briefly Premier of Manitoba, Sam Freedman, Thomas Douglas (Lord Selkirk) who suffered “death by litigation”, Chief Peguis and Sister Geraldine MacNamara “the activist nun with a law degree”.  This is an easy and informative read.

 

Firmin Wyndels : the Belgian builder by James B. Wyndels tells of the man who came from Europe at the head of Wyndels Construction Company in 1909 as part of the growing Belgian community in the St. Boniface area and built colleges, churches and homes in Manitoba, some that still stand today, including the Fort Garry Church and the Sacred Heart College in Swan Lake.

 

For 15 years, Karen Toole wrote a spiritual advice column on the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press, dealing with the role of religion and faith in everyday issues and how it could help guide us in our real-life struggles and overcome human suffering in all its forms. Reflections : a selection of columns written for the Faith Page of the Winnipeg Free Press 1994-2001 was compiled in response to many of her readers’ requests to offer a selection of her writings in a more permanent form. I noted a quotation from one of her column from 1998 that best sums up her humanistic view: “Religious coercion can kill faith.”

 

27885_the_hot_line_cover_HR
 Hot Line : how the legendary trio of Hull, Hedberg and Nilsson transformed hockey and led the Winnipeg Jets to greatness chronicles how Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson came together to form a dynamic line that saw the Winnipeg Jets win two World Hockey Association championships (which rivaled the NHL until 1979). On January 5, 1978 they helped beat the Soviet Red Army Squad in front of a packed Winnipeg Arena crowd, the first time a North American club team ever managed to achieve this. Their chemistry on the ice and impact on the game is explored as well as the resulting influx of new European players into the NHL in the years following.

 

Cover image for Stay, breathe with me : the gift of compassionate medicine

Stay, breathe with me : the gift of compassionate medicine shares Helen Allison’s insights into the need to stop seeing patients simply as diseases needing cures and technologies but as living beings with symptoms and suffering that need to be addressed as a whole, with nonjudgmental medicine delivered with compassion. Several intimate stories tell of her experiences with her own patients in palliative care and the lessons she learned from them as they struggled with various, often fatal, ailments and how everyone, physicians or relatives, can contribute to improve their quality of life.

Finally, a title not in the Local History Room collection yet but which I would like to recommend for local fiction and horror fans is The Shadow Over Portage and Main: Weird Fictions, an anthology of short stories from authors who were influenced by their stay in Winnipeg. Whether it’s the extremes in our weather, our reputation for crime and murder, or our unique mix of cultures and ethnicities, authors like David Annandale, Eric Bradshaw and Keith Cadieux among others have written tales about the dark and gothic side of the city. My personal favourite is the story of a woman who discovers a book about superstition that has troubling effects on people who come in contact with it. Most of the stories are meant to inspire unease and fear, some of them have ghosts (predictably) and other supernatural threats, some don’t even mention Winnipeg but we are meant to recognize its “vibes”, which leads to the conclusion that our city can be quite a dark place!

Drop by and have a look in person, or feel free to explore the Local History and Genealogy Subject Guide for more of our recommended online resources to explore Manitoba’s past.

Louis-Philippe

What’s new in Alternate History Fiction?

It has been a while since I blogged about alternate history novels and there have been quite a few great new additions to the library’s collection, challenging the reader to imagine our world if it taken divergent paths in its history.

 

Cover image for JudenstaatIn Judenstaatauthor Simone Zelitch imagines the consequences for the Jewish people and the rest of the world if a Jewish state had been created in central Europe, in the region of Saxony, instead of in Palestine in 1948. The story begins forty years later with a historian preparing a documentary celebrating the anniversary of Judenstaat given new evidence about the death of one if its founding fathers. Her investigation brings to light uncomfortable truths about the nation’s past. The change in the timeline brings a different Cold War, with Judenstaat building its own version of the Berlin Wall (to keep out potential “fascists”), and tackles national myths and their place in countries’ identities.

 

Cover image for Hystopia : a novel

Hystopia gives us a totally different 1960’s where John F. Kennedy not only survived multiple assassination attempts but is now in his third term as United States President. The Vietnam War is still ongoing but a new “Psych Corps” has been created by the government to take charge of traumatized veterans and clean their memories with drugs and therapy. One of these returned soldiers is an author trying to write the novel that will honour his brothers-in-arms (the story is told as a novel within the novel), even as some of the more psychologically-scarred ones are roaming the U.S. countryside and recreating the atrocities they lived through. This is a challenging read as it does not shy from scenes of strong violence, but it also tries the challenge of recreating the unease and paranoid feeling of being in the US in the troubled 1970’s.

 

bombs-awayThe ever-prolific Harry Turtledove is working on his newest trilogy – the Hot War trilogy. The first two volumes are already available: Bombs Away and Fallout. The first one is called Bombs Away. This is a tale told from multiple point of views (a characteristic of Turtledove’s storytelling) and tells of how the world became embroiled in nuclear warfare in 1951, after General Douglas MacArthur escalated the Korean War. In an age before missiles and jet bombers, the war between the Western and Eastern blocks slowly escalates and risks spinning out of anyone’s control to stop it before humanity faces extinction. Ordinary people from nations around the globe, both civilians and combatants, are shown trying to cope with unprecedented nuclear destruction in a chilling but all-too plausible scenario.

 

ink-and-boneThis next trilogy, The Great Library, written by Rachel Caine, includes elements of fantasy in addition to its alternate history setting.  In Ink and Bone we discover a world in the near-future where the great Library of Alexandria (the largest library in the ancient world, containing works by the greatest thinkers and writers of antiquity) was not destroyed. The Library has grown into the greatest depository of human knowledge in the world, becoming the all-powerful ruler of society through its control of access to knowledge.  Thanks to alchemy, the knowledge of its books can be transmitted to everyone instantaneously (like ebooks today), but private ownership of books is a capital offence, with a black market booming in illegal books. The main protagonist is from a family of book smugglers who joins the Library’s ranks as a spy but how will coming into contact with people worshipping knowledge over human life and their immense power change him?

 

Cover image for Clash of eaglesClash of Eagles, the first volume of the Esperian trilogy by Alan Smale, tells the story of a Roman general captured by Cahokians after his legion is massacred while attempting the conquest of North America. Having been spared and gradually accepted by them, he must decide if he still fits in the empire’s plans of expansion or join his adopted people whose culture he has grown to admire. It’s a story of a clash of two cultures who never met in our history but realistically imagines how such an event might have unfolded and transformed our world. This series is recommended for action/adventure fans as well as history buffs.

 

clockworkFinally, closer to home, Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction by Dominik Parisien is a collection of 15 stories about how steam technology might have reshaped the history of our country. You’ll read of mythical clockwork creatures that roam the landscapes of New France terrorizing the settlers in “Clochemard” and Mounties pursuing steam-powered buffalo-girl hybrids and solve a string of murders in “Buffalo Gals” (a Canadian superweapon that could change history). Many stories deal with real issues about our history like colonization, racism, and industrialisation’s impact on human society and the environment. It is quite a good read if you are in the mood for something local.

 

– Louis-Philippe

New Perspectives on the First World War (and its memory)

 

Cover image for Canada's Great War album : our memories of the First World War

The direct living links to the First World War are no longer with us, but we are still living in the world that it helped shape perhaps more than any other event in the 20th century.  Popular interest in the conflict has seen a resurgence worldwide because of the Centennial commemorations, and this also led to the re-examining of what we really “know” and how we choose to remember the “War to End All Wars”.  Winnipeg has monuments  and plaques to commemorate the sacrifices of a generation, regimental museums preserve artifacts and records of past members of their units, and libraries (both ours and others) have many titles of both fiction and non-fiction works that helps preserve the history of the war for the living.
Though there are plenty to recommend from, two recent additions are personal favourites I would like to share.  The first is Canada’s Great War album : our memories of the First World War ,  which is an excellent source of information for anyone, no matter how knowledgeable you are on the subject.  It’s seventeen chapters are written by different authors, including historian Tim Cook and Peter Mansbridge who writes about how Canadians have chosen to remember.  This particular title covers a variety of topics and is filled with gorgeous photography, memorabilia, and personal stories from veterans or their relatives.  You will learn about the use of  animals on the frontline, innovations in battlefield medicine, and the Conscription Crisis.  The authors also discuss the nascent Canadian Navy and Air Force, how the mobilization of the home front permanently changed Canadian society, and much more.

 

Cover image for Band of brigands : the first men in tanks

Another book I discovered recently is Band of brigands : the first men in tanks by Christy Campbell, which uses diaries, letters, and personal accounts to tell the story of what was at the time a new breed of soldiers: the British Tank Corps.  This is actually not a very well covered part of military history, which might sound strange since Great Britain was the first nation to develop and field tanks in large numbers (which is why I found this book fascinating).  You can read about how tanks were developed specifically as a breakthrough weapon to overcome the network of trenches and barbwires of the Western Front, clearing the way for the infantry in an effort to end the bloody stalemate.  The men who trained and fought in those unfamiliar and unreliable machines faced miserable living conditions inside overheated metal boxes surrounded by fuel and explosives (such were the infernal conditions of being in an early tank that it required 36 hours recuperation for each day fighting in one).  However, their appearances in battle had a dramatic effect in France and Belgium, while changing the face of warfare forever.

 

Cover image for Capturing Hill 70 : Canada's forgotten battle of the First World War Cover image for The greatest victory : Canada's one hundred days, 1918

In Winnipeg, as in Canada, the First World War is part of the collective identity because we have linked our success to not only the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, but also our sense of Canada as an emerging fully-independent nation.  At the time, the Canadian Corps gained a reputation as an elite attack force and the victory raised the morale of allied forces in what had been a dismal year of bloody stalemate with no end in sight.  But what is forgotten was that Vimy Ridge was only a small part of a much larger Allied offensive, one in which Canadians continued to successfully contribute with a high cost of casualties.  This is why Serge Durflinger’s newly released book Capturing Hill 70 : Canada’s forgotten battle of the First World War is useful in highlighting an overlooked chapter in our military history.  In the early morning of August 15, 1917, the Canadian Corps successfully seized the high ground  near the French City of Lens and repelled twenty German counterattacks at a cost of 9,000 dead and wounded.
When we think of the First World War, we associate it with static trench warfare, because that was what the majority of combatants on the Western Front experienced for years.   This changed dramatically in 1918, as that was the year where soldiers on both sides exited the trenches and the war became mobile again.  Ironically this is also where the Canadian Corps took a central role in the final offensive that forced Germany to sue for peace.   The greatest victory : Canada’s one hundred days, 1918  by J.L. Granatstein is a well-researched and well-illustrated book that I recommend for anyone interested in learning more about Canada’s role in ending the war, as well as the innovation in training and tactics it helped invent.

 

Cover image for The long shadow : the legacies of the Great War in the twentieth century  Cover image for Antiques roadshow : World War One in 100 family treasures

In Antiques roadshow : World War One in 100 family treasures by Paul Atterbury, we have the opportunity to learn about the personal histories of the people who lived and fought through the war via the various mementos they left to their descendants.  When the famed television program launched an appeal for artifacts related to the Battle of the Somme in 2011, hundreds of families answered by bringing objects like postcards, keepsakes, artwork, photographs, military documents and decorations, from which  100 were selected for the book.  The personal stories of courtships, close brushes with death, and painful loss are quite poignant, helping  us relate to the world back then through the experiences of various individuals.  Some of the objects featured are quite unusual – a violin that was used as a diary, an egg that was used to communicate messages between two lovers, and a football that used to signal the start of an offensive.
The long shadow : the legacies of the Great War in the twentieth century by David Reynolds is an original book to read because it focuses on how American society was directly affected by the war.  As well, Reynolds discusses how the war has been commemorated but forgotten and mis-remembered over  the ensuing decades, largely fading from collective memory.  This is a dense read less suitable for the casual reader but it’s focus is quite relevant as we are in the middle of celebrating the war’s centennial.  We have seen a constant evolution over the decades of it’s mythology, choosing to emphasize lessons in addition to whose voices were heard.  Because the Second World War and the Cold War overshadowed the lives of the generations that came after, conflicting mythologies that had been created to justify the outcomes of the First World War were further distorted and changed to fit new narratives, a process that is still happening today.

 

Cover image for The great class war, 1914-1918

A case in point is the continuing debate of what we see as the root causes that caused the outbreak of the First World War.  In his new book The great class war, 1914-1918 , Canadian author Jacques Pauwels has challenged what he sees as the old widely held belief the European heads of state blundered into the war with reluctance and little idea of how things would escalate into an industrialised slaughter.  He takes the long view instead, noting many of the upper classes of the warring nations saw the war as a way to curb what they perceived as the rise of the lower-class that reversed the trends of liberalism and democracy that were challenging a century-long status quo – one that had benefitted them through nationalism and crushing “un-patriotic” dissent against a war fought mostly by the working classes of the warring nations.  Ironically, the war ended merely accelerating many of these popular movements, and lead to the birth of radical parties that would hasten the fall of the old order and gave birth to fascism and communism, and later the post-colonial movement.

 

Cover image for Testament of youth [DVD videorecording]
Vera Brittain was a young British woman planning to begin her studies at Oxford University.  She decided to enlist as a nurse when the war was declared at the same time as both her brother and fiancé fought in France and Italy.  They would all live through hellish events, and some would pay with their lives.  Vera published Testament of youth, a memoir of that period of her life, and it has now been adapted as a film under the same title with Alicia Vikander in the starring role.  This is a great example of how the film medium can help expose real historical accounts to a new generation.   While the film shines by the excellent acting and historical reconstruction, the real record of her experiences that are dramatized near the front, and the changing role of women in society (many countries saw the achievement of female suffrage as a direct result of wartime mobilization, including Canada) has long been considered a classic, and it is great that it is given this chance to keep the memory alive.
Louis-Philippe

 

 

Celebrating 50 years of Star Trek

Cover image for The fifty-year mission : the complete, uncensored, unauthorized oral history of Star trek : the first 25 years

September 8th, marked the 50th anniversary of the first broadcasting of Star Trek, and the beginning of an enduring cultural phenomenon.  I chose to mark the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise in this post not only because I was a big time trekker in my teens, who was inspired by its optimistic vision of the future,  but also because I owe a big debt to the television series and paperback novels for helping me learn English as a second language.  Fans can rejoice that a new series is on the horizon but we can also take comfort in the fact that the library has a lot of material in its collections covering its diverse crews and eras for us to keep on trekking.

Cover image for Star trek, the next generation. Season 1 [DVD videorecording].  Cover image for Star trek voyager. Season 1 [DVD videorecording].  Cover image for Star trek enterprise. Season: four [Blu-ray videorecording]  Cover image for [DVD videorecording]. : Star trek.

There are of course the television series (five up to now) and motion pictures, starting with the classic from the 1960’s that started it all to the most recent prequel  series Enterprise with Captain Archer at the helm.  The library has also all the feature films available on DVD or Blu-Ray, which means you can re-discover old favourites or discover them for the first time.

Cover image for The crimson shadow  Cover image for A ceremony of losses

Despite the enduring impact of the shows and movies, the Star Trek universe owes a big debt to the novels that sustained its fanbase and help build its universe to the extent that it did.  Not only do these stories have helped flesh out characters and worlds beyond what was on-screen, they also serve to this day to continue the lives and careers of the different crews after their shows ended, extending the longevity of the series and their casts.  A recent release is the Next Generation/Deep Space Nine crossover novel The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack which tells the story of Captain Picard and his crew’s effort to rebuild the Cardassian homeworld with the help of Ambassador Garak (promoted at the end of the DS9 TV series), despite efforts from factions hostile to a peaceful future with the Federation.  In A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack, both crew feverishly work to avert the slow extinction of an entire species, fighting not only on the scientific front, but also the political one as different governments maneuver to use the crisis to their respective gains.

 

Cover image for The Star trek encyclopedia : a reference guide to the future  Cover image for Star Trek, the official guide to our universe : the true science behind the starship voyages  Cover image for The Star Trek book

As much as we loved the action, humor and camaraderie of the shows, the Star Trek universe has also garnered respect for its attempt to create a coherent vision of the future mostly based on solid science that more often than not correctly anticipated present societal and technological trends and is credited for directly inspiring technological innovations (notably cell phones and portable tablet computers).  This in turn created literature exploring the mythology and fictional universe of the show, like the Star Trek Encyclopedia, while other non-fiction works like Star Trek: the Official Guide to Our Universe or The Star Trek Book set out describing the real science behind the fiction.  Sure, technobabble used as plot devices that didn’t always made sense was often used, but such books reflect how the shows’ writers tried to plausibly address real scientific concepts as well, making it what science fiction at its best is all about.

 

Cover image for Leonard

But what if you are interested in the lives of actors themselves?  Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his portrayal of Commander Spock past away recently, and like some of his fellow “crew member”, he struggled with the challenges of newfound fame and of being typecasted into this one role.  His friend and colleague William Shatner relates in his newest book Leonard how they met on the set of another television show before their lives became irrevocably linked Cover image for Born with teeth : a memoirfor over five decades, and shares stories from the people who knew him best to celebrate his
life.  Kate Mulgrew also gained international fame as Captain  Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager,  but in her memoir Born With Teeth, she tells of her struggles to establish herself as an actress despite many challenges, including difficult family issues, and her ongoing career in television.

 

Cover image for Gene Roddenberry : the last conversationFinally we must not forget to include the man who started it all with his revolutionary concept of “a wagon train to the stars”: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.  In addition to an authorized biography, the library has Gene Roddenberry : the last conversation Portraits of American genius by Yvonne Fern and deals with the author’s interactions with Gene during the last year of his life, presenting through their discussion his views on humanity and its future that shaped his vision of the show.

 

Whether you are a diehard fan of Kirk’s original 5-year mission or prefer the adventures that followed in the next following decades, there is ample trek treasures available at the library.  May there be 50 more years of trekking through the stars.

-Louis-Philippe

 

What’s New in the Local History Room

Electric display LH

It’s time to have a look at what is new in the Local History Room.

First, come and learn about the history of electric power in Manitoba. The new display set up in the room, through collaboration with the Manitoba Electrical Museum which has loaned artifacts and historical photographs, illustrates this fascinating aspect of our history.

While there, take some time to browse and explore some of the new titles in our collection:

Cover image for Andy De Jarlis : the life and music of an old-time fiddler

Andy De Jarlis: The Life and Music of an Old-time Fiddler by Joe Mackintosh is the story of Andy de Jarlis (1914 – 1975), a successful Métis fiddler and composer who came from a long line of fiddlers and musicians. Though his name may not be familiar to many today, he is credited as having kept Métis fiddling music alive just in time to see a resurgence in today’s music scene. The book also describes the hot spots for live folk music and dancing in Winnipeg from the mid-1950s onward where Andy played on his way to national fame.

Cover image for The ballad of Danny Wolfe : life of a modern outlaw
The Ballad of Danny Wolfe: Life of a Modern Outlaw by Joe Friesen is a much tougher read, which starts with one of the most famous prison breakouts in recent Canadian history, perpetrated by a man some would come to see as a living symbol of a sad legacy. Through 24 chronological chapters, the author traces the early years of Daniel Wolfe’s life: from his birth in Regina to his mother Susan Creeley, a First Nations woman marked by the residential school system; to his first brush with the law at the age of four and then his subsequent arrests; to the birth of the Indian Posse in 1989 – the Aboriginal street gang in Canada that would eventually claim the title of the largest street gang in North America with over 12,000 members (from BC to Ontario, and even Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona) and Danny at the helm; to Danny’s death in 2010.


Diagnosed with a rare cancer in 1994, Tefs spent the next 20 years coping with this new reality while raising a family, writing acclaimed works of fictions, battling cancer, and cycling. Wayne Tefs is the “Dead Man on a Bike,” his posthumous follow-up memoir to Rollercoaster: A Cancer Journey. Riding throughout Manitoba and parts of Europe was the author’s way of dealing with “the wound,” and provided space and  time for reflections that he shares with the reader.

Cover image for Solving poverty : innovative strategies from Winnipeg's inner city
In Solving Poverty: Innovative Strategies from Winnipeg’s Inner City, Jim Silver, a scholar actively engaged in anti-poverty efforts in Winnipeg’s inner city for decades, offers an on-the-ground analysis of complex and racialized poverty. Silver focuses particularly on the urban Aboriginal experience, and describes a variety of creative and effective urban Aboriginal community development initiatives, as well as other anti-poverty initiatives that have been successful in Winnipeg’s inner city, especially in regards with subsidised housing.


Often under-valued, under-recognized and under-appreciated, support units are seen as less “glamorous” than infantry or armoured units when it comes to military reading, and yet their role is no less essential. Bruce Tascona’s book United in Effort: Manitoba Combat Service Support History, 1870 to 2015 is the first publication to undertake a study of the integral role of logistics and training support in military operations with a specific focus on Manitoba service support units domestically and overseas. These include transporting troops and supplies as well as medical, dental, pay, postal, provost and veterinary services. The book follows the history of these units in Manitoba from the Riel Rebellion to Afghanistan tracing the development and growing importance of logistics in modern warfare.


He has dangled by his toes over a hundred hungry alligators in Florida, been buried alive in India, and jumped from a plane wearing a straightjacket in Japan; escape artist Dean Gunnarson doesn’t shy away from a challenge. The book Dean Gunnarson: The Making of an Escape Artist by Carolyn Gray explores the Winnipeg-born entertainer’s career from its beginning. It describes how after surviving leukemia as a child, his friendship with fellow cancer patient Philip Hornan inspired him to attempt a series of stunts culminating in a near-fatal submerged coffin act on the banks of the Red River that propelled Gunnarson to stardom.

Come and check it out!

  • Louis-Philippe

Lives in Images: Graphic Novel Biographies

 

The graphic novel format is not only about telling fantasies with superheroes, zombies and dark anti-heroes.  It can also be used to effectively portray the lives of real people and make their stories accessible and quite entertaining, which is why I chose this theme as the topic of this post.

Cover image for Marzi : a memoir

I came upon this first example totally by chance but it inspired me to research the whole genre of graphic novel memoirs.  Marzi: A Memoir is the true story of Marzena Sowa’s childhood growing up during Poland’s last decade under Communism.  Born in 1979, we see her, her family, and the rest of the adult world’s daily struggles (shortages of everything, political censorship and repression) under a stifling dictatorship and the rise of the Solidarity movement that would eventually topple it.  But at the same time we also experience the self-discovery of an ordinary girl, going through experiences that almost all of us can relate to at school and at home.  The balance between a human story and the bigger “History” is what makes this entertaining and enriching.  Readers who enjoyed Persepolis will want to check this title out as it shares common themes, and the artwork is excellent.

Cover image for Feynman
Despite being an avid history reader, I suprisingly had never heard of Richard Feynman (the Noble Prize winner and one of the great geniuses of the 20th century) until I discovered the graphic memoir about his life.  This is a great format to learn about his fascinating life, as Feynman was involved in the Manhattan project, wrote books and lectures still being used today, uncovered the cause of the Challenger shuttle explosion and had a knack for cracking safes.  It effectively explains many of the concepts in the fields of mathematics and physics he created. For someone like me who does not have a background in quantum physics, this book was more accessible than a “classical” biography and I learned why he really is kind of a big deal.

Cover image for The imitation game : Alan Turing decoded

After decades in obscurity, the vital work made by mathematician Alan Turing has finally been receiving it’s due in recent years. Benedict Cumberbach gave a good performance in the starring role in the movie Imitation Game, but the movie ended up suffering from many historical and factual inaccuracies. In addition to telling us about his life, the graphic novel The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded corrects many misconceptions from the movie about Turing (one notable example is that his homosexuality was not a secret to his co-workers at Bletchley Park and he was never blackmailed by a Communist spy) .  The novel also describes in detail the monumental task he and others faced in trying to break the German Enigma Code, which lead to the creation of Turing machines, ancestors to our computers.

Cover image for The adventures of Hergé
It seems fitting that writers and illustrators of graphic novels would end up having memoirs made about them in that format as well. Giants of the comic industry like Stan Lee and Will Eisner are obvious examples but I would like to mention two less-well known but worthy candidates. I was pleasantly surprised to find during my research the graphic memoir of Georges Prosper Remi, better known to generations of avid readers as Herge, author of the Adventures of Tintin series. In  The Adventures of Hergé , illustrated to resemble a Tintin comic, we learn of the life and career of one of the great European comic illustrators, from his humble beginnings in Belgium, to worldwide fame. It’s a fun quick read where we learn about the inspirations behind many of his ideas, famous characters as well as his personal life.

Cover image for Showa : a history of Japan, 1926-1939

For fans of comics, Shigeru Mizuki may not be a household name in North America like Jack Kirby, but in Japan he is still one the greats. Shigeru wrote an excellent memoir about his life which roughly spans the Showa period, named after the reign of Japan’s emperor Hirohito from 1924 to 1989. The 4-volume Showa: a History of Japan is a much denser read than the titles above, and it weaves the personal experiences of the author during this tumultuous period in his country’s history. Before he made his fame and fortune writing numerous mangas and  books, Shigeru experienced the rise of militarism in his country and fought in the Second World War (he was wounded and lost an arm while stationed in the Pacific though he never met an enemy soldier face to face). Like his defeated country, he had to redefine himself and lived in poverty for many years before he found his calling as an illustrator in times of peace. Again we see a mix of the personal and national history skillfully weaved and beautifully illustrated. It should be noted that the volumes are read from right to left, just like the original Japanese prints.

This is but a small sample of personalities, both famous and less-famous that have had their life stories told in the graphic novel format, and we have plenty more titles to discover.
Louis-Philippe