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Books. Inordinately valuable.

The staff of the University of Alberta Press had a treat on Monday: a visit to the Bruce Peel Special Collections!

Linda Quirk, Assistant Special Collections Librarian, and Kevin Zak, Exhibitions & Collections Assistant, spent an hour showing us a range of treasures and telling us about the general operations of the Bruce Peel Special Collections that houses and archives rare books on campus. No food and drink are allowed inside the locked doors, but we didn’t need white gloves either—just a thorough hand-washing was enough to allow us to touch some books Linda pulled out of the massive collection.

Among the treasures we saw were:

  • a 4000-year old clay cuneiform tablet
  • a book written in Tamil, inscribed on palm leaves—apparently rare copies of these can still be found in little markets in the Caribbean if you are lucky
  • a triple-decker first edition of Pride and Prejudice by “the author of Sense and Sensibility”
  • one of the 15 copies of Margaret Atwood and Charles Pachter’s Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein
  • an atlas from 1587 that had the first-ever map of North America, in full colour

But the most well-known book we viewed—and a lot more valuable than the above mentioned items—was a book by Johannes Tinctor, known as Invectives Against the Sect of Waldensians, from 1465. This “foul treatise” is the first known book that deals with how to identify and persecute witches. Its three sister manuscripts are held in Paris, Brussels, and Oxford. No wonder that it has garnered much media attention.

There are countless treasures and fascinating stories to go with them at the Bruce Peel Special Collections. Check out their website for more information and to browse their digital exhibitions. Be sure to mark your calendar for future exhibits, which continue to become ever more extensive and interactive. We promise you will be fascinated!




The Department of History and Classic sponsored the first event to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.The event showcases the work of undergraduate students through a range of historical displays and exhibits as part of the observance of the  quasquicentennial, ensuring that it addresses a wide range of Canadian history, including the history and culture of Indigenous people.

Co-ordinator Professor Susan L. Smith invited us to join and display our books on the subject in the Old Arts Building Foyer on January 18. The event begen at 2:00 with a few words by the Dean of Arts, Lesley Cormack, and the Chair of the Dept of History and Classics, David Marples, with introductions by Professor Smith. You can read more about the event in The Gateway.

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Thank you all who helped to make this event such as success, with over 100 people attending!

Memories of Home: Beit Daras

Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0036-(2)In this post, our Palestianian author, Ghada Ageel, describes the emotional impact of never being able to return to your home. Her family has lived in the Khan Younis camp in Gaza for three generations now. Ghada Ageel is the editor of Apartheid in Palestine: Hard Laws and Harder Experiences.

In the 1980s, my grandmother visited Beit Daras. In great shock at the level of destruction and unable to locate her home, Khadija asked her son Abdlehakeem to leave her alone for some time. She started to walk around the beautiful village that had completely vanished.

Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0043-(3)She first found the old quarry, overrun with sand and overgrown with grasses. Then she recognized a small part of the mosque’s foundation. Finally, she located her home. A part of the wall from her house remained. She hugged the wall and rubble and sobbed over her sweet home with all its memories, which had become a pile of small stones.

She alsoVillage only stnading wall wept where the sycamore tree no longer grew—a place where she used to rest every day. After returning to Khan Younis from Beit Daras, she was sick for a month, and she then understood the reason why her father did not visit his village after the expulsion.

When my grandmother speaks about her home and village, there is always a magic flash in her eyes—something that I didn’t understand for years. In 2004, I began to comprehend the connection. That year, the home of my closest friend, Sahar, was demolished.

Ghada on the ruins of her best friend's home

To stand in the rubble of this home—a place that had witnessed the best days of my childhood—was devastating. In her home, which was just a few streets from my own, I had learned the meaning of love, care, and true friendship. It vanished in an instant under a Caterpillar bulldozer. As her family moved out of the camp in search of a new home, we were separated from each other. All that remains are memories—some good, some bad. Among the latter, is my memory of Sahar’s home vanishing in an instant. How many Palestinians have died in defence of their homes?

In summer 2014, similar to 2012 and 2008 aggressions on Gaza, Israel repeatedly systematically targeted the Palestinian infrastructure. The goal was to make the loss and the punishment a collective one. The Israeli forces shelled clinics, schools, homes, offices, factories, mosques, hospitals, shelters, bridges, orphanages, power stations, water wells, and stadiums. In this aggression, I wept for the ninety-six thousand homes that were bombed—for the homes that I knew and for other homes that I did not know.

I wept for bridges. Yes, I wept especially for the bridge that used to connect Gaza City and the Nusairat camp. I travelled over that bridge hundreds of times. My tears were seemingly endless. I wondered whether my weeping would ever cease. My grandmother said her tears were the same when Beit Daras was destroyed in 1948.

Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0027-(2)In the 1970s, a few years after Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, refugees were allowed to visit their villages. When my great-grandfather was asked why he had not done so, he told my grandmother that he would prefer to die rather than walk on the ruins of his home and village. My house, he said in a choked voice, “is my flesh, my sweat, my blood and my bone. It’s me, the broken human being you see now. How do you expect to walk on your body?” He then turned his back on my grandmother to hide the tears that she could still feel. Nothing in this life is harder than walking on the rubble of one’s own home. It is one of the harshest and most painful things that can happen in life. Home is a sense of belonging, safety, and comfort, and a place of life’s memories, whether sweet or bitter. When the Israeli occupiers began to carry out their policy of house demolition, they knew this operation was going to be one of the most painful punishments for the Palestinians. They knew it would hit them in the heart. Palestin,-March-2015_2015_03_03_0035-(2)

When I saw my grandmother following the Israeli attacks on Gaza in August 2014, she was unusually happy. She looked at me and my children—Tarek, who was fourteen, and Aziz, six—and, to my surprise, she said that she was no longer worried about Beit Daras. Neither was she worried about the water well, the land, the farms, and the sycamore trees, nor about the passage of time and the future that she’s wanted for so long.

Then she said, “For many years, I felt as if I were walking alone. And as you know walking alone is not a pleasant way to make a journey. Now, because of my age, I cannot walk, but I’m not alone anymore. I can now rest in peace even if I am not yet in Beit Daras. I now know that Beit Daras is in your heart, and I also know that you are not alone in your journey. Don’t be discouraged. We are getting there.

UAP Publishes Scientist’s Book about Historic Canadian Wildfire

The Chinchaga Firestorm was the biggest forest fire event documented in North American history. It was so large that it affected and changed forest fire management from that point on. Cordy Tymstra is the author of a new book, The Chinchaga Firestorm: When the Moon and Sun Turned Blue. Tymstra is a Wildfire Science Co-ordinator with Agriculture and Forestry at the Government of Alberta.

Director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science, Mike Flannigan, describes the book: “This is a story about an incredible wildfire complex in western Canada during the summer and early autumn of 1950. This wildfire cluster had over 100 fires that burned two million hectares—that’s about half the size of Nova Scotia. The smoke from these fires was so thick, it plunged the cities and countryside of parts of eastern North America into daytime darkness. Streetlights came on, chickens returned to their roost, and people thought the end of the world was nigh.”

This firestorm generated the world’s largest smoke layer which traveled half way around the northern hemisphere, and caused the moon and sun to appear blue in colour.  Cordy Tymstra tells the stories of communities and individuals as their lives intersected with the path of the Chinchaga River Fire—stories that demonstrate people’s spirit, resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and their persistence in the struggle against nature’s immense power.


Tymstra notes, “Fire is an important ecological process in Canada’s northern forest. The boreal forest was designed by nature to burn. No other ecosystem holds and nurtures fire as a natural process like the boreal forest: we must learn to live with fire.”

From 1990 to 2010, an average of 2.2 million hectares of forest burned each year in Canada from approximately 8 000 fires. Some of these are extreme fires; they are bigger, hotter, faster, and exceed control efforts until the weather or fuel changes. The estimated $742 million in damages from the Slave Lake Fires in 2011 activated the second-highest natural disaster insurance claim in Canada. These mega fires are a concern because of climate change.

Whether from the 1950 Chinchaga Firestorm or the 2011 Slave Lake Fires, learning from the past can help fire management agen­cies manage uncertainty in a changing climate. There is a need to embrace fire and shift from response to prevention and preparedness. We also need leaders who can take wild­fire management to a future where people, forests, and fire coexist, and where fire science and technology help light the path forward.

About the Press

The University of Alberta Press publishes in the areas of biography, history, language, literature, natural history, regional interest, travel narratives and reference books. With hundreds of scholarly and trade books, UAP contributes to the intellectual and cultural life of Alberta and Canada. http://www.uap.ualberta.ca


Cathie Crooks, Sales/Marketing Manager, University of Alberta Press: ccrooks@ualberta.ca, (780) 492-5820

Cordy Tymstra is a Wildfire Science Co-ordinator with Agriculture and Forestry at the Government of Alberta. He is currently pursing PhD studies at the University of Alberta and can be contacted at: tymstra@ualberta.ca, (780) 910-1004





New UAP Website

June 8, 2015 saw the launch of the University of Alberta Press’s new website. We are delighted with its dynamic new look, organization, searchability, and functionality.

The new website is a major improvement over the old site (launched way back in 2002). The home page is dynamic rather than static, showcasing new titles and pulling in entries from our blog. The website also incorporates a more streamlined online store.

Social media and sign-up options are front-and-centre. The website is also mobile-friendly, a key consideration.

Each book page offers general information about the book, tidily combining all of the available editions. Tabs offer loads of additional information, eliminating much of the need for scrolling.

Lara Minja of Lime Design did the look and feel. Our colleagues and friends at Headfast did the programming and their database, BooksoniX, powers the backend. Our Sales/Marketing Manager, Cathie Crooks, mapped out the site, rewrote the text, and oversaw all stages of its production. The rest of the UAP team made suggestions, offered support, and cheered her on.

Sincere appreciation also goes to University of Alberta colleagues who helped along the way: Kenton Good, Gordie Mah, Diane Alguire, Ian Page, and particularly Natasha Nunn.

Comments should be sent to Cathie Crooks at ccrooks@ualberta.ca.

Disinherited Generations Launch at the Provincial Archives

A very special event took place on April 12, 2013 at the Provincial Archives of Alberta. About 150 people celebrated the publication of Disinherited Generations: Our Struggle to Reclaim Treaty Rights for First Nations Women and their Descendants, by Nellie Carlson and Kathleen Steinhauer, and the donation of the Indian Rights for Indian Women Collection to the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

From the opening Blessing to the closing words by Nellie Carlson, and with the participation of friends and family, the program had the perfect combination of tears and laughter, showing us all – some who were well aware of the battle and some who knew very little about it – what these remarkable women had to endure to regain rights for themselves and their children.

Special guests at the event were: Chief Bruneau, who welcomed us to his territory; Jim Robb, a lawyer who worked with Nellie Carlson and Kathleen Steinhauer for this historic cause; The Hon. Anne McLellan; Muriel Stanley Venne and other leaders in the native community, and many members of Nellie and Kathleen’s families. Gillian Rutherford of CBC Radio ensured that the event was recorded for posterity. It aired on Mother’s Day on The Sunday Edition (at the end of the program: 1:55).

The families of the authors gifted Linda Goyette with a Pendleton Blanket to honour her contributions to the publication of this important oral history book.

The staff at the Archives were key to the success of the celebration, and special thanks go out to Provincial Archivist Leslie Latta-Guthrie and Jaclyn Landry for their support and hard work. The Archives’ acceptance of Jenny Margetts’ collection means that the materials recording the struggle of the women of the Indian Rights for Indian Women organization will be cared for and available to the public.

We are all proud to be part of something so important and that records the difference Nellie, Kathleen, and their colleagues made through decades of activism. Thank you all who made this evening so memorable and such a success!

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Heavy Burdens on Small Shoulders Shortlisted for CAA Award

Congratulations to UAP author Sandra Rollings-Magnusson for being shortlisted for the 2010 CAA Literary Awards for her book, Heavy Burdens on Small Shoulders.

Here is the complete media release from the CAA.


Canadian Authors Association Announces Literary Awards Shortlists

June 8, 2010 – The Canadian Authors Association is pleased to announce the Canadian Authors Association Literary Awards shortlist for 2010. The winners will be announced at the CAA Literary Awards banquet on Saturday, June 26, 2010, at the Harbour Towers Hotel in Victoria, BC during the association’s 2010 CanWrite! Conference.

The shortlisted authors will be invited to read from their work on Friday, June 25 at Harbour Towers. Open to the public, this free event – featuring acclaimed native author and storyteller Richard Wagamese as keynote speaker – promises to be one of the many highlights of this annual writers’ conference.

The 2010 CAA Literary Awards shortlists are as follows:

MOSAID Technologies, Inc. Award for Fiction

• Ian Weir for Daniel O’Thunder, published by Douglas & McIntyre
• Michael Crummy for Galore, published by Doubleday Canada
• Annabel Lyon for The Golden Mean, published by Random House Canada

Lela Common Award for Canadian History

• Jonathan F. Vance for A History of Canadian Culture, published by Oxford University Press
• Sandra Rollings-Magnusson for Heavy Burdens on Small Shoulders: The Labour of Pioneer Children on the Canadian Prairies, published by University of Alberta Press
• Jason Schneider for Whispering Pines, published by ECW Press

Carol Bolt Award for Drama

• Joan MacLeod for Another Home Invasion, published by Talonbooks Ltd.
• Hannah Moscovitch for East of Berlin, published by Playwrights Canada Press
• Michael Nathanson for Talk, published by Playwrights Canada Press

CAA Award for Poetry

• Susan Musgrave for Obituary of Light: the Sangan River Meditations, published by Leaf Press
• Joan Crate for subUrban Legends, published by Freehand Books (an imprint of Broadview Press)
• Tom Dawe for Where Genesis Begins, published by Breakwater Books

BookLand Press Emerging Writer Award

• Chad Pelley for Away from Everywhere, a novel published by Breakwater Books
• Jesse Patrick Ferguson for Harmonic, a collection of poems published by Freehand Books
• Rachelle Delaney for The Ship of Lost Souls, a novel published by HarperCollins Publishing

Introduced in 1975, the CAA Literary Awards continue the association’s long tradition of honouring Canadian writers who achieve excellence without sacrificing popular appeal. The above fifteen finalists were selected from approximately 300 nominations.

Sponsors for the CAA Literary Awards include MOSAID Technologies, Inc., the estate of Lela Florence Common, Playwrights Canada Press and Playwrights Guild of Canada, and BookLand Press.

Founded by Stephen Leacock and several other prominent Canadian writers in 1921, the Canadian Authors Association has continued to maintain a focus on “writers helping writers” since its inception. Some 25,000 writers have been members of the CAA in its 89-year history, including Bliss Carman, Nellie McClung, and Robert W. Service.

Media Contacts

Anita Purcell
Interim Executive Director
TF 866 216 6222
Cell 705 955 0716
E anita@canauthors.org

r.l. stephenson-read
Chair, Awards Committee
T 905 342 5570
E awards@canauthors.org

For tickets to the CAA Literary Awards Banquet or to register for the 2010 CanWrite! conference:

Jean Kay
T 604 943 9247
E JKay@canauthorsvancouver.org

Canadian Authors Association
74 Mississaga Street East, Orillia ON L3V 1V5 TF 866 216 6222 F 866 393 1401