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.
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 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?
Recently 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.
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.
The 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…….
The city is caught in the grip of ice–
Trees, walls, snow, are as under glass
by Anna Akhmatova
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…….
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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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.
Straight 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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Our condo,the Ashdown Warehouse added a brand new roof top patio this summer. We’ve been using it quite a bit, taking guests up there before dinner for drinks and after dinner for dessert. My sister-in-law in Ontario asked why I hadn’t put some photos of our roof top patio on my blog. She was anxious to see it. Last weekend the weather was much nicer than it is today.Our friends Fran and Marge were over and we not only had appetizers, but our dinner up on the roof top. I took my camera along and got some photos. It was a beautiful fall evening. We have some great views from our roof top. There are a half a dozen little meeting and sitting areas that afford different groups privacy. The furniture is unique and attractive. Real estate agents tell us the roof top area has added value to all our…
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Our friends Meena and Anil are visiting us from Hong Kong and we took them out to the Peasant Cookery, a favorite Exchange District restaurant of ours. The window ledges are decorated with artistic fowl sculptures in wood or ceramics and jars of canned fruits and vegetables.The Peasant Cookery boasts that it offers ‘real food from the land’ and we knew from our past visits that the food would be excellent and the service friendly.
A beet salad with toasted seeds, goat cheese, arugula and a caramelized honey vinaigrette dressing
and bread pudding with Guinness ice-cream and a caramel sauce for dessert.Despite his look of concern in this photo our waiter was attentive and very pleasant and earned extra bonus marks from us when my husband asked him who his favorite Winnipeg band was and he replied, “Royal Canoe,” the band our son plays in. After dinner we were off to the Trappist Monastery in St. Norbert to see this years’ Shakespeare in the Ruins production of The Comedy of Errors. It was a near perfect night. The rain held off and it was just cool and windy enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay. We had warm blankets provided by the theatre troupe. We moved around the monastery grounds to see the different scenes from the play. It was done in such an entertaining fashion, the humor bawdy and the acting a bit ‘over the top’ in a good way. The actors made it so easy to follow the rather complicated plot of mistaken identity that near the end of the play when it was revealed that identical twins had been mixed up throughout the drama, a little boy about three or four years old in the audience blurted out, “Why there’s two of them.” Even he understood the plot resolution. The Peasant Cookery staff and Shakespeare in the Ruins company helped us show off our city to our Hong Kong friends in first class style.
Other related posts……
The First Friday of every month different art galleries and studios in the Exchange District where I live throw open their doors and invite people in to explore their spaces. There’s nibbles and drinks at many of them and often artists choose to have their openings on a first Friday. We went exploring yesterday and here are a few of my favorites.
Miriam Rudolph chose a Friday night in Winnipeg as the theme for this print. She’s featured the Silpit Building at 54 Arthur Street and in all the little windows artists are working or showing their work. We get to peek in and see what everyone is doing. Miriam Rudolph was born in Paraguay and now lives in Minneapolis but studied and worked in Winnipeg from 2003-2012.
When I saw this painting by Alerry Lavitt I felt like I wanted to walk right into it. It reminded me of walking in the woods in winter at our family cottage at Moose Lake. The painting gave me such a sense of stillness and quiet. Alerry is a Winnipeg artist who works in many different kinds of mediums. One of the themes she likes to explore is humanity’s relationship to nature.
Candace Propp was a childhood acquaintance of mine and was also my yoga instructor many years ago. She is a retired Winnipeg art teacher and has done such a variety of work. She just opened a show at the Cre8 Gallery. Her latest work has a fossils’ theme. She says, “living in Manitoba on a foundation of limestone has inspired my latest body of work based upon fossils.”
Yvette Cenerini’s work Nouvelle Neige or New Snow was included in a fascinating show at the MAWA(Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art) Gallery on Main Street. The exhibit called Winter Mothering explores both the joys and challenges of being a mother in Winnipeg’s long cold winters. A group of women who “hold informal, monthly meetings to experiment with art materials, share and critique their art work, and discuss concerns, ideas, inspiration, and strategies for juggling artmaking and mothering” staged the show. I found every piece intriguing but Yvette’s was a standout. She says Winnipeg winters are hard even for mothers who have lived in the city all their life, but what about mothers who are new to Winnipeg and have recently immigrated here from much warmer places. All the snow and cold must be such a new and challenging experience for them.
Other posts about Art in the Exchange District……
An article I was asked to write recently for Rhubarb Magazine was published as a blog post on their website. Drawing on several other pieces I’ve written in the past it is called Feeling Safe in Winnipeg’s Exchange District.
Other posts about the Exchange District……
We have breakfast every Saturday morning at the Free Press Cafe. This Saturday morning we found ourselves in the middle of a movie set. Crews were out turning Arthur Street into a Christmas wonderland, with blow up Santas, lights and even a mailbox for sending letters to the North Pole. We watched as workers used hoses to spray some kind of white stuff all over the trees. This turned out to be unnecessary since just a few minutes later it actually began to snow for real in Winnipeg. We found out from the waitress at the cafe that the film being shot was a Hallmark Hall of Fame special called One Christmas Eve and that it starred Anne Heche. Apparently Heche plays a newly divorced Mom having some unexpected adventures on Christmas Eve. Later our friend Les dropped by to join us for breakfast. He sometimes works as an extra on movies being shot in Winnipeg and he told us a film crew has been in Winnipeg for a number of weeks already filming this movie. Les had been hired to work on the set the following night.I don’t know what the story line is about but fire fighters and fire engines, police cars and ambulances and stretchers were being put in place for filming so I’m thinking there must be some sort of accident scene. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see when the movie is aired on television. Seeing film crews in our neighborhood isn’t at all unusual since Winnipeg is a popular site for making movies. Our historic Exchange district can easily be turned into downtown Chicago, New York or San Francisco at the turn of the century or in the present. Having movies shot in our neighborhood is just one more thing that makes living in Winnipeg’s Exchange district interesting.
Other posts about movies in our neighbourhood…….