A New Book Set Right Here in Winnipeg

One of the reasons I enjoyed Suzanne Costigan’s new young adult novel Empty Cup, is because it is set in Winnipeg and the places its young protagonist Raven frequents are all within walking distance of my home. 

ghandi

Gandhi’s Statue in Winnipeg

Raven works at a coffee shop at the Forks. The statue of Gandhi near Winnipeg’s new Human Rights Museum plays a significant role in the story. Raven often walks along Henderson Highway and Waterfront Drive and has a romantic moment with her boyfriend on the Disraeli Bridge. It was easy for me to visualize many of the scenes in the book because they take place in my neighborhood, in the places where I walk everyday.empty_cover_cover_finalEmpty Cup shouldn’t be a feel good novel, yet strangely it is. Raven is dealing with some big problems. Her mother, who admits to Raven she doesn’t love her,  lives with a sleazy man named Trevor who Raven rightly fears. Raven’s kind biology teacher turns out to be anything but the white knight Raven longs to have ride into her life. Cole, the boy Raven lives with when her mother kicks her out of the house, has emotional problems that only the regular use of marijuana seem to ease.

 Raven makes some poor choices in the novel but also some courageous ones. She graduates from high school, holds onto her part-time job and resists the temptation to become involved with drugs. Given all the things she has going against her how is that possible?

UofW Youth in Care Tuition WaversRecently I heard Kevin Chief speak. He is the representative in the Manitoba Legislature for the constituency where both Raven and I live. Kevin faced some significant challenges in his youth but says he managed to rise above them because he was fortunate to always have at least one adult that cared about him, often a teacher or a coach. He also was a good athlete with a passion for the game of basketball and that was a key to his salvation.

Raven too has one person in her life that genuinely cares about her. Sarah is the mother of Raven’s long time best friend Lyla, and Sarah is there for Raven when she really needs it, offering the affection Raven’s own mother can’t provide. Raven also has a passion that is a key to her salvation. She loves art and she gets into an art class where the instructor helps her realize just how talented she is.

Empty Cup author Suzanne Costigan

Empty Cup author Suzanne Costigan

So although Raven’s life is tough and sometimes almost unbearable to read about, her story is also one of hope, not in an idealistic impossible kind of way, but in a realistic, ‘it can be done’ fashion. Young people who read this novel, and who may feel their own lives are hopeless, will get a real sense that they too can survive and move forward.

emptyful sculpture Winnipeg Millenium LibraryThe theme of the empty and full cup that Costigan weaves beautifully through the novel will especially appeal to readers. It reminded me of another Winnipeg landmark- the emptyful sculpture at the Millenium Library garden.

If I were still a high school English teacher Empty Cup would definitely be on my class reading list. Winnipeg high schools would do well to add a copy of Empty Cup to their libraries. It’s a young adult novel with a positive message and realistic characters set right in our home city.

Other posts about books set in Winnipeg…….

There is Winnipeg Mennonite Fiction

Fox

The Wittenburgs

Categories: Books, Exchange District | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Icy Inspiration

Originally posted on What Next?:

icicles on the Royal Albert Hotel Winnipeg

The city is caught in the grip of ice–
Trees, walls, snow, are as under glass

by Anna Akhmatova

hoar frost winnipeg exchange district

Job 37:10 By the breath of God ice is givencrossing seal river sawatsky statue  winnipeg

Winnipeg has been caught in the grip of ice for the last few days.  It is almost impossible to walk safely on the slippery sidewalks and yesterday we had a minor accident with our car trying not to slide into two other cars that had just collided on an icy street.  I thought it might be inspirational to remember that ice can be beautiful too. 

“Ice contains no future , just the past, sealed away. As if they’re alive, everything in the world is sealed up inside, clear and distinct. Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way- cleanly, clearly. ”
― Haruki Murakami

Other Inspiration posts…….

Thoughts About Children

Wild Flower Inspiration

Eagle Inspiration

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Dali’s Christmas Card

Originally posted on What Next?:

The Holy Family Christmas Card by Dali The Holy Family Christmas Card by Dali

A Christmas card Dali made for the Hallmark card company is part of the Dali exhibit currently running at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.   An article in the St. Petersburg Independent in December of 2011 tells the story of Dali’s Christmas card.  In 1959 an art dealer met with Salvador Dali in his St. Regis hotel suite in New York to explore the possibility of Dali creating designs for various holiday cards .  The dealer placed a few calls to different greeting card companies but only Hallmark would agree to Dali’s terms. He wanted a $15,000 cash advance, no restrictions put on the medium he used or the subjects he depicted, and no deadline for his work. A Hallmark representative arrived shortly with the cash and the contract. 

Dali Christmas Design 1960Dali Christmas Design 1960

Dali retired to the bathroom of his suite where he kept his…

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The Christmas Spirit

Originally posted on What Next?:

A couple of days ago I put up a sign in the lobby of our condo building asking if anyone had an extra parking spot we could rent over the holidays. Our son and his family are coming from out of province for a visit over Christmas and we needed a place for them to park their car. We live in a busy downtown area where there is only metered parking on the street.  Within twenty-four hours we had received lots of calls from people in our building willing to let us use their spot because they would be gone over the holidays or had two spots and were willing to let us use one.    Not a single fellow resident who called was willing to take money for the favor. “You can just use our spot,” they volunteered. Now that’s the Christmas spirit!  I put this sign up in…

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10 Interesting Things About Bessie Smith- The Greatest Blues Singer in the World

Originally posted on What Next?:

Miche Braden plays Bessie in The Devil's MusicMiche Braden plays Bessie in The Devil’s Music

This week we saw The Devil’s Music, a play at the Warehouse Theatre in Winnipeg about the famous 1920’s songstress Bessie Smith.  I learned some interesting things about the Grammy Award winner. 

1. She was born in abject poverty in Tennessee in 1892,  but was so beloved when she died that some ten thousand people walked by her coffin to pay tribute to her.

grave of bessie smith2. 1960’s rock star Janis Joplin once told friends she felt like she was Bessie Smith reincarnated.  It was Joplin who saw to it that a headstone was provided for Bessie Smith’s grave 35 years after she was killed in a 1937 car accident. Joplin chose an epitaph that named Smith- The Greatest Blues Singer in the World. 

3. During an outdoor performance in North Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan surrounded Bessie’s tent. She confronted them angrily…

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Getting to Know Kevin Chief- My MLA

Originally posted on What Next?:

kevin chiefMonday night we got to meet Kevin Chief in person at a Residents of the Exchange meeting. Kevin is our member of the Manitoba legislature and represents the Point Douglas riding. The people who live in the Exchange District were invited to the Across the Board Cafe to meet Kevin, listen to him give a talk and ask him questions. kevin chiefKevin told us his growing up years hadn’t been easy but he succeeded because all along the way he had people who looked at him and saw potential, who made him believe anything was possible.  Kevin played basketball for the University of Winnipeg and he talked about a lesson he learned from his coach Bill Wedlake. The coach told him it was okay to make mistakes as long as he was making mistakes while trying to get something done. kevin chief square dancer

Something interesting I learned about Kevin at our meeting is that…

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Holocaust Memorial- A Broken Star

I was biking past the Manitoba Legislative Buildings and saw a monument I’d never noticed before. It was in the shape of a broken Star of David.holocaust memorial winnipeg legislatureTaking a closer look I discovered it was a monument built in remembrance of victims of the Holocaust. It was dedicated in 1990.  

holocaust memorial winnipeg legilature groundsThe walls were designed to reflect the sunlight since the monument was to be a sign of hope, rebirth and the rebuilding of lives. names on holocaust memorial winnipegThe names of the 3,700 victims, memorialized on the monument’s walls, all had surviving family members living in Manitoba. 

holocaust memorial in winnipegThe legislature of Manitoba was the first in Canada to provide a designated space for a Holocaust Memorial. Philip Weiss, an award-winning Winnipeg furniture maker and craftsman, led the campaign to have the memorial built. Weiss was a Holocaust survivor who was seized from his parents home in Poland by the Nazis when he was just 15 years old and sent to two different concentration camps. holocaust memorial winnipeg legislature groundsThe names of  various concentration camps are engraved at the base of the monument. 

monument to holocaust winnipegThe monument also includes a menorah and the words These we do remember and our hearts are grieved.  Some people had left memory candles in the space below the menorah. 

holocaust memorial winnipegI’ve learned that each year on Yom Hashoah or Holocaust Memorial Day there is a service of remembrance at this monument during which each name inscribed on it is read aloud. 

Other posts about the Holocaust………

Meeting a Holocaust Survivor in Hong Kong

Brundibar- More Than It Seems

Taking Teens to Israel and Palestine

Categories: Historical Events, Politics, Statues | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Living In An Art Gallery

Originally posted on What Next?:

Winnipeg is a breath away from Canada’s heart. I live at the city’s center in The Exchange District. In 1887 when wheat was prairie gold, savvy entrepreneurs organized a grain exchange and turned this area into a thriving business district. We own a condo in a century old warehouse built by hardware merchant and Winnipeg mayor James Ashdown.

Many of the Exchange District’s corporate residents have been devoted art patrons, so our streets are studded with larger than life public art pieces. I see three when I walk out my front door.

caribou crossing portage and mainStraight ahead eleven massive caribou ford a river. A trio scales the steep bank while the others battle for their lives in the rushing water. Their antlers sprawl like bony tree branches in silhouette against the downtown skyscrapers. The sculpture Seal River Crossing by Peter Sawatsky reminds me that my city stands on land that was once home…

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Parfleches For the Last Supper

Originally posted on What Next?:

I interviewed artist Robert Houle when I worked as a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Robert Houle- Photo- University of ManitobaRobert Houle- Photo- University of Manitoba

“Look after this gift which has been given to you”.

Robert Houle’s mother offered her son that advice when she realized he was serious about painting. Houle is an Ojibway artist whose work can be found in many major museums and gallery in Canada. His Parfleches for theLast Supper are part of the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection.       

Jesus- Parfleches for the Last Supper by Robert Houle- Winnipeg Art GalleryJesus- Parfleches for the Last Supper
by Robert Houle- Winnipeg Art Gallery

  A parfleche is a decorated rawhide pouch which was used by people of Plains cultures to carry personal and sacred objects. “A seer or sage came to our family home on the Sandy Bay Reservation for each of my eight younger sisters’ naming ceremonies,” said Houle, speaking to me from Toronto. “I was…

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On the Evening News- Story Train

Originally posted on What Next?:

From CTV Winnipeg 6 o'clock news report- Sunday November 2From CTV Winnipeg 6 o’clock news report- Sunday November 2

I was on TV and didn’t even know it. On Sunday I got to do something I love…….tell stories.  I spent part of my afternoon telling stories to children visiting the Winnipeg Art Gallery for our special Family Sunday program. I had chosen five paintings from the Beaverbrook Collection currently on display and together with the kids acted out, told, or created sound effects for a story connected to each painting. 

From the CTV six o'clock news report Sunday November 2, 2014From the CTV six o’clock news report Sunday November 2, 2014

I didn’t realize TV crews had been filming, but one of my fellow art gallery tour guides told me on Monday they had seen me and the children on CTV News on Sunday night and sure enough when I checked it out there I was in the news item handing out instruments and creating a musical accompaniment with the…

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