News / Reviews
By Andrew Bennett
I've just returned from an incredible trip to Cuba, one that leaves me reeling at the improbability of the rebel island: its beauty, its tragedy, its generosity, its contradictions, and its success against damning odds.
Above all, I am reassured by Cuba's unreasonable hope for a better future, a future it genuinely pursues—if not always successfully—one characterized by the humanitarian, egalitarian, and sharing values that were the rallying cry of its revolution a half century ago.
The trip played out entirely in my mind's eye, abetted by compulsive page-turning through Rosa Jordan's anecdotes in Cuba Unspun, the culmination of the Rossland-based author's experiences over 15 years.
Rosa’s heart was won in the 1950s when, as a pre-teen growing up poor in the Florida Everglades, she fell head-over-heels in unrequited infatuation for a handsome Cuban sign painter. But that's another story. She first set foot in the country in 1996, and it's clear her love for it has only grown deeper and more complex with every visit she's made since.
There are stories of cycling the country's entire coast, joined by friends and hosted (often impromptu) by locals. There are stories of camping on beaches, desolate one minute and packed the next, seething expanses of colourful crabs, catching trains and picking up hitch-hikers, holding hands with Fidel himself, learning lessons from old revolutionaries, and facing her own assumptions and those of other tourists. Above all, time and time again, Jordan serves unpretentious real-life stories of the generosity and selflessness that seem second nature to so many Cubans.
Derek Choukalos, Jordan's partner and frequent cycling pal on her exploits, supplies two quotes to the book, both memorable. Here's one: "Cuba seems to have the lowest ratio of assholes to humans of any place I've been."...
By Liisa Hannus
Last night at the Roundhouse Community Centre the City of Vancouver Book Award was announced along with the presentation of the 2012 Mayor’s Arts Awards.
YVR (Oolichan Books) is W.H. New’s tenth book of poetry. A collection of imagery that conveys the past and the present of life in Vancouver, it covers the gamut of the Vancouver experience: running the Seawall through Stanley Park, trying to spy the Shaughnessy mansions through their impenetrable shrubs, the ubiquitousness of moss, the rain. Woven throughout the book are twelve poems each called “Main Street” and in these New takes us through the history and geography of this road that slices through our city, from north to south, past to present.
The independent jury of former People’s Co-op bookseller Jane Bouey, author and educator David Chariandy, and retired Vancouver Sun books editor Rebecca Wigod selected YVR for “its maturity of concept and language, its musicality, rhythm and poetry of Vancouver place names, and the many political, geographic and community voices.”
W.H. New was also the recipient last night of a 2012 Mayor’s Arts Awards for Literary Arts.
YVR is the first collection of poetry chosen since 1999, when Bud Osborn won for his book Keys to Kingdoms.
By Val Rossi
Putting the pen down was never an option for Rossland writer Rosa Jordan, especially once the Monashee Mountains further crept into her creativity over three decades ago.
“What Rossland did do was give me the stability of a place that finally felt like home and also felt free,” said Jordan. “It was that stability that allowed me to sit still (and enjoy it) enough to write books.”
The 71-year-old began her career as a journalist and travel writer before moving to Canada from Florida and finding her home in 1974. One drive through Rossland – a town she’d never heard of – and Jordan bought a house the next morning.
By Teri Vlassopoulos
A few weeks ago a copy of Lisa McGonigle’s Snowdrift came in the mail. It’s her memoir of trading a full scholarship to Oxford for the ski bum life in the Kootenays in British Columbia. While I was reading her descriptions of skiing and snowboarding, I got it. Even her descriptions of the injuries sustained on the hill sound purposeful or at least hilarious.
By Valerie Sklarvesky
Rosa Jordan, who for 20 years lived in an artists' colony on Malibu's Budwood Ranch, has recently seen her first novel, “Far From Botany Bay,” published in Canada. Based on the story of Mary Board, an Englishwoman sent to the penal colony in Australia in 1789, this is a compelling historical novel that, once begun, is hard to put down.
Lisa McGonigle's Snowdrift is reviewed in February's Fernie Fix. Angie Abdou has this to say about this humourous memoir about escaping it all to live as a ski-bum in the mountains of British Columbia.
"Whether you’re a ski bum who sees yourself in these pages or a 9-5 worker who gets a voyeuristic thrill from the inside peek at an alternative existence, Snowdrift is guaranteed to delight. Why? Because, miraculously, Lisa manages to be just as charming and engaging on the page as she is in person. You’re going to love this book."