Tag Archives: House of Anansi

Understanding the Human Condition One Piece of Flora at a Time | Review of “The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart” by Holly Ringland (2018) House of Anansi Press

Image linked from the Publisher’s website

There is a special bond between flowers and our emotions. We use them to bring cheer and we quietly turn to the beauty when we need to cry. They are an emotional bond for our psyches when we need them. And that is the brilliant bond that Holly Ringland brings to her book The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart.

Page 15

The ritual was to walk to the sea and lie on the sand staring up at the sky. With her mother’s gentle voice telling the way, they took winter train trips across Europe, through landscapes with mountains so tall you couldn’t see their tops, and ridges so smothered in snow you couldn’t see the line separating the white sky from white earth. They wore velvet coasts in the cobblestoned city of a tattooed kin, where the harbour buildings were as colourful as a box of paints, and a mermaid sat, cast in bronze, forever awaiting love. Alice often closed her eyes, imagining that every thread in her mother’s stories might spin them into the centre of a chrysalis, from which they could emerge and fly away.

When Alice was six years old, her mother tucked her into her bed one evening, leant forward and whispered in her ear. You’re old enough now to help me in my garden. Alice squirmed with excitement; her mother usually left her with a book while she gardened alone. We’ll start tomorrow, Agnes said before she turned out the light. Repeatedly through the night, Alice woke to peer through the dark windows. At last she saw the first thread of light in the sky and threw her sheets back.

Ringland has written a well-thought out and detailed story here. Readers witness the life of the protagonist Alice through several different stages in her life. In the midst of Alice’s brutal and hurtful existence at times, there exists the wonder of flora and thrill of nature that provides not only comfort but a means of escape for her. Ringland’s masterful prose and simplistic style makes this book a pleasure to slide into to read.

Page 112

She glanced towards the gum tree, thinking about the names carved into its trunk. The river is another story altogether, June had said when they’d been in the flower field together. It’s belonged to my family for generations. Out family. Alice looked down through the water, at her feet on the sandy bottom. Was a river a thing that could ever be owned? Wouldn’t that be like someone trying to say they owned the sea? Alice knew that when you were init, the sea owned you. Still, the thought that she was somehow a part of this place filled a small space inside her with warmth. Overhead a kookaburra burbled. Alice nodded. Enough thinking. She took a step forward and sank into the swirling green water, leaving all her unasked questions on the surface.

The sweet and absolute absence of salt shocked her. Her eyes didn’t sting. She exhaled bubbles and watched them rise and pop. The heart of the river beat in Alice’s ears. Her father told her once that ll water eventually ran to the same source. A new question bloomed: could she swim down river, through time all the way home?

Ringland has documented strong elements of the human condition here that readers crave to understand about themselves and their lives. This isn’t a book that should be rushed through. It is detailed and well-written and needs to be carefully reflected on. There are elements that she touches on that occur to not only ourselves but to our friends and family members. There are hard truths and mistakes that are part of the protagonist’s story that enable those of us who want understand the world better need to learn about.

Page 265

Alice was grateful for the low light, hoping it hid her face. Lulu dipped her sponge in the suds bucket and began scrubbing the windscreen.

‘You’ve slept with him, haven’t you?’ Alice asked quietly.

Lulu glanced at her. Cast her eyes away. ‘I just don’t want you to get hurt.’

Alice’s head was spinning. She couldn’t bear the thought of them together, of him being with anyone but her.

Lulu wiped the windscreen down and dunked the sponge back in the bucket, sighing. ‘I don’t know what you’ve left behind but I know you’ve come here to put yourself back together,’ she said. ‘So do it, chica. You keep banging on about how much you love my place and would love yours to be like it, but you keep living like you’re a nun. Decorate. Embellish. Use you weekends for adventures, go exploring. There’s so much more around her than just the crater, like there’s a gorge not far from her that you have to see at sunset to believe. So, grow. Please. Grow your life here.’ Lulu pointed to her heart. ‘Don’t give everything you’ve got to someone who isn’t worth it.’

There is detailed growth and wisdom in the book The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland. It’s descriptions are vivid and – if read in a calm manner – depicts elements of the human condition that need to be consider. In short, a brilliant read.

Link to House of Anansi Press’ website for The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Link to Holly Ringland’s website

Exploring the Mysteries of the Arctic | Review of “Minds of Winter” by Ed O’Loughlin (2017) House of Anansi


There is a certain mystery to the human condition. Time and place draws upon our psyche making us act in strange ways. And asking ourselves why we do what we do and why has a certain introspective beauty to it as well. And that is certainly the simple truth that Ed O’Loughlin documents in his complex novel Minds of Winter.

Page 4 North West Territories

They were driving on the sea ice a mile from the shore when a little brown creature ran out in front of them. It was heading out to sea, but the headlights confused it and it dithered in their beam. Nelson stood on the brakes and the car lurched to a stop, throwing Fay against her seat belt.

‘What is it?’ she said. And Nelson, who found he wanted to impress her, got out of the car and stood over the little animal. I had tied to hide under a tongue of drift snow but they could both see it plainly, the size of a hamster, its fur turned grey by the veneer of snow.

Nelson put on his gloves and picked it up.

‘What is it?’ she said again, and he turned and held it up to her.

‘It’s a lemming. They live under the snow.’

She joined him in the funnel of the lights. I’m standing on the open sea, she thought. It’s the Arctic winter, a month of night, and I’m standing on a frozen ocean, and that man is holding a lemming.

The little rodent stopped struggling and sat quiet in Nelson’s palm, its nose twitching, staring at her with tiny black eyes. She reached out her hand then quickly withdrew it.

​’What`s it doing out here on the ice?’

‘I don’t know.’ He turned a full circle, studying the problem. A mile to the south the North American mainland came to its end, a low snow-covered hump on the snow-covered sea. A timber fishing cabin, shuttered for the winter, sat on its edge, the only visible detail. To the north the sea ice stretched off to infinity, its snow carved by wind into motionless ripples. But there was no wind today, just a tremendous cold, silent apart from their idling engine.

I keep forgetting my own rule that good books should be read in quiet, reflective moments and they should be pondered over. As award season came upon us readers, I rushed out to buy this book and began to read it. But as I rushed through the second chapter, I began to have my doubts that book was worth my time. I threw it in my back thinking I would try it later. My week became even more busy and this 474-page volume always was popping up in my way – in my book bag, on my desk, in my bed – and I finally decided to find a quiet few moments and read this book. I am glad that I finally took the time to properly read and admire it.

Pages 66-67 Lancaster Sound 1848

This private letter is intended only for you eyes, and for our friends in Room 38, so I shall not trouble here with any detailed account of the ruin of the North West Passage Expedition. You will find all you need on this point in the papers of Erebus and Terror, which I ordered Captain FitzJames to inter in the cairn at Point Victory after we gave up our ships. I also include with this letter some surplus instruments that I took from the ships and that I believe might be useful to Room 38. It is to be hoped that my whimsical cairn, built of food tins and gravel, will preserve them intact from the cold and the damp. I have little doubt, James, that you will be the first to come and search for us, and thus the first to open my cairn on Beechey Island. Perhaps you are already near, leading the search for your old friends and shipmates. I wish that I could wait for you, but an opportunity is afforded to me to make a great journey, and if I do not seize it now it will not come again.

To explain myself I must begin with a singular event that occurred in April of this year, but of which you will find no mention in the logs of either ship: I was careful to omit it from my own records, and by that time Captain FitzJames, having become as disordered as most of the men, had ceased keeping his own. We had just passed our second winter beset in the ice off King William Land, stores were running low, game could not be found for hunting, and the crews despaired of the ice ever breaking. The men were near mutiny, and disease and scurvy had reduced our numbers to only one hundred. Our ships no longer kept naval watch, except for a few good men who could still be trusted to stay on deck to keep a look-out. thus my boatswain was alone on deck on the evening of April 18th when I heard him hail me as I worked below on my magnetic records.

There are several different narratives that occur in this book but the beauty of the story is the draw of the Arctic to people. There is a lure of exploring the tundra in the cold winter darkness that is almost undefinable. Is there something in our nature that calls to us for the solitude and emptiness of the north? And is that draw fatalistic for us? O’Loughlin’s well-crafted words explore that mysterious concept in rapt detail in several of the stories.

Page 367 Fort McPherson, North West Territories, July 1931

His sisters had made him paddle to bring on his first long canoe trip. He dipped it in the water a few strokes at a time, aping the motions of his mother in the prow. The swarming black flies had driven them from the slack water under the bank and his mother strained against the strong current mid-stream. From time to time, switching sides with her paddle, she would glance back at her son, sat up on their bundle of furs. His efforts with the paddle threw off her rhythm, dripped water on their cargo, but she never complained. This was how he would learn.

It was just past noon and the day was hot. The canoe came around a wooded bend and there at last was Fort McPherson, a few tin and shingle roofs on a ridge above the Peel.  His mother, who had never been this far south before, rested her paddle, looking for a gap in the alders which grew on the riverbank under the ridge.

The sun smoked off the water, and as the canoe turned broadside to the current the child glimpsed a shape in the heat-haze. It might have been a waterbird holding its wings out to dry, or a sail boat with only its upper sails spread, but as his mother started paddling again the shape turned into a raft made of logs lashed with willows. On it stood a man with a long-handled paddle. He was a white man – his blond-brown hair showed this from tow hundred yards away – but he was travelling light; the boy could see a burlap sack tied to his back but there was no gear on the raft, ono pack or rifle, not even an axe.

Ed O`Loughlin has certainly crafted a great piece of literature with Minds of Winter. Readers should not race through this hefty book but appreciate the tones and the mysteries of the human condition that he documents in it. In short a worthy read done in a few reflective moments.


Link to House of Anansi`s website for Minds of Winter

Link to Ed O’Loughlin’s website

A Picture Book which truly Enlightens | Review of “Town Is by the Sea.” Written by Joanne Schwartz and Illustrated by Sydney Smith (2017) Groundwood Books


The beauty of any book occurs when it documents a common theme to a reader while being set in an unique locale. A reader empathizes with the central character while learning about the location, which is simply why many of us enjoy reading and looking at books. And that is exactly what occurs when one looks at Town Is by the Sea written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith.

When I wake up, it goes like this –

first I hear the seagulls, then I hear a dog barking,

a car goes by on the shore road, someone slams a

door and yells good morning.

And along the road, lupine and Queen Anne’s lace

rustle in the wind.

First thing I see when I look

out the window is the sea.

And I know my father is already deep

down under that sea, digging for coal.

I love the feeling this perfect mix of illustrations and words give this book. The story deals with a young boy going through his busy day on a coastal village yet mindful of his father’s hard work digging for coal deep under the sea. Schwartz’s words are poetic and lyrical while Smith’s illustrations are profound yet simple. Flipping through this book is an enlightening experience for any reader of any age.


“From my house, I can see the sea.” Illustration by Sydney Smith

This is a work that is simply well-crafted. It, no doubt, took time, care and planning to bring this volume together. And it works well. It enlightens while it simply engages a reader. Worthy of anybody’s few moments in a quiet corner to reflect over.

“My father is a miner and he works under the sea, deep down in the coal mines.” Illustration by Sydney Smith

While this book may take place in a different time and place for many of us, it helps us understand a small section of the human condition a bit better. We relate to the little boy’s experience but we gain a simple understanding of what his father’s role was at that time. Enlightenment comes easy with this book.

Author’s Note

If you were a boy in the mining towns of Cape Breton – or, indeed, a child in any mining town in the world – during the late 1800s and early 1900s, you might well have faced the prospect of going to work in the mines at the young age of nine or ten, enduring twelve-hour days in the harsh, dangerous and dark reality underground. Decades later, the life of these towns still revolved around the mines. Even into the 1950s, around the time when this story takes place, boys of high-school age, carrying on the traditions of their fathers and grandfathers, continued to see their future working in the mines.

This was the legacy of a mining town.

Town Is by the Sea is a great example of a great piece of literature, even though it is a ‘picture book.’ Joanne Schwartz’s words blend well together with Sydney Smith’s illustration to tell a unique story.


Link to Groundwood Books/House of Anansi’s website for Town Is by the Sea.

Link to Sydney Smith’s tumblr “Sketchbook”

Gritty and Enlightening Read | Review of “The Break” by Katherena Vermette (2016) House of Anansi


For many of us, literature is a means of understanding a way of life of people different from us. In reading a book, we learn the hardships and difficulties of others whom we may or may not have contact in our day-to-day lives. There has been an interest with a lot of people in my circles  trying to gain a better understanding of Indigenous people in our society.Katherena Vermette’s novel The Break gives us readers insights and something to start conversations to improve life for all peoples.

Page 4

In the sixties, Indians started moving in, once Status Indians could leave reserves and many moved to the city. That was when the Europeans slowly started creeping out of the neighbourhood like a man sneaking away from a sleeping woman in the dark. Now there are so many Indians here, big families, good people, but also gangs, hookers, drug houses, and all these big, beautiful houses somehow sagging and tired like the old people who still live in them.

The area around the Break is slightly less poor than the rest, more working class, just enough to make the hard-working people who live there think that they are out of the core and free of that drama. There are more cars in driveways than on the other side of McPhillips. It’s a good neighbourhood but you can still see it, if you know what to look for. If you can see the houses with never-opened bed sheet covered windows. If you can see the cars that come late at night. park right in the middle of the Break, far away from any house, and stay only ten minutes or so before driving away again. My Stella can see it. I thought her how to look and be aware all the time. I don’t know if that was right or wrong, but she’s still alive so there has to be some good in it.

Vermette has given a detailed book here using a complex set of characters trying to deal with a violent and desperate situation. One evening, Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window and sees a violent attack on the Break (a field on an isolated strip of land  outside her house.)  She calls the police and a chain of events – which include thoughts, emotions, actions and frustrations – are documented through the book.

Page 24-25

Phoenix falls up the snow-packed front stoop and jerks open the screen door. She knew it would be unlocked, but thought, in her last steps that it might not be, just this once. That would just be her luck, wouldn’t it? But nah, it’s open, so she can stumble into the warmth. Thank fuck.

Her uncle’s house smells like smokes, dope, and old food, but it’s great to her. And warm. Phoenix takes he hands out of her jacket sleeves, and rubs them together, blowing on them to help get the feeling back. They’re raw and red, but she keeps rubbing at them anyway.

Some skinny girl is passed out on the couch, and another is on the armchair. They look like they fell over in the middle of talking and no one bothered to move them or cover them up. One of them snores lightly, her face against her bare arm, drool dripping over an awful rose tattoo and track marks. Fuck. Phoenix can smell the booze from her, that ugly day-after stench. They look pretty rough, even passed out. Most people look so peaceful when they’re sleeping, but these girls just look a little less used up.

No one else is in sight. The house feels asleep. Phoenix hears music coming quietly from her uncle’s room so she knows he’s there. He can’t sleep without music playing, usually old school rock stuff. Aerosmith and AC/DC. Classics, he’ll say with a smack across the head if anyone ever tries to say no one listens to that shit anymore. Phoenix has always liked the music. It reminds her of him, of back when she was small and he was a good kid, before all these other people started hanging around him and he had to get hard.

She’s so fucking glad to be here.

The language Vermette is frank, bold and gritty at times. But it reflects the reality the story is set in. The language can also be tender and sad. Again reflecting the scene or an emotion. And while the whole narrative is somewhat complex, it is a great story illuminating an element of the human condition we may or may not be aware and creating empathy.

Page 290-291


Scott turns his radio down again, rubs his eyes, and tries to concentrate. He needs to get to sleep. He needs to text Hannah and tell her he’s still working. No, he just needs to get an actual good night’s sleep.

Christie looks straight ahead as they drive. Tommy can tell he’s annoyed and want to ge this over with. Tommy’s been leading him around for days. The sergeant was no help. He didn’t see anything linking this Monias guy to the assault. The numbered company turned out to be in the name of Angie Dumas, the skinny girl, Monias’s girlfriend and no one was home at her residence so Christie suggested the sister.

“What was her name? Settler?”

“Settee,” Tommy had said and looked up the address in his written notes. Pritchard Avenue.

They are going there now. But it is all starting to feel like a circle.

After they talked to the sergeant, Sunday night had descended on the northside as predicted. Tired drunk people fell out of tired drunk houses. There were only two domestics as if everyone was too tired to fight too hard. As if they were only going through the motions, passionless. Tommy had just pulled a large, handcuffed man into the squad car and looked back at the women left behind, standing impassively.

He shivers and wants a coffee. If he doesn’t find anything soon, they’ll just have to leave the case unresolved, and the words will become numbers. Emily will become Case 002-121869, never to be opened again. He thinks of the other girl, Zegwan. It means spring. He thinks of his language teacher again. His face was always  on the veryge of a smile, a light smirk as Tommy tried to make his tongue wrap around the strange words.


Katherena Vermette has given the literary world a great bit of insight with her novel The Break. It is an emotional, gritty and complex novel but one that builds empathy and enlightenment about Indigenous people in our time. A great read and a great piece of literature.


Link to House of Anansi’s website for The Break

Link to Katherena Vermette’s website



When That One Person Appears to Fail Us | Review of “The Best Kind of People” by Zoe Whittall (2016) House of Anansi


We all rely on that one person. Be it a family member or a trained professional or even a politician. We need them to be strong people who support and care for us. Yet when that one person even gives the appearance of faltering or failing us, our whole world falls apart and we are sometimes too stunned to move. That element of the human condition is what Zoe Whittall brilliantly documents in her novel The Best Kind of People.

Page 20-21

Sadie felt a brief moment of birthday excitement, and then the house seemed to shake with a pounding on the front door, followed by an insistent baritone call: “We’re looking for George Alistair Woodbury!”

“What’s going on?” Sadie said, peering through the kitchen entrance and down the hall to the foyer. Red and blue flashed through the open windows, a light show for the symphony of cicadas. She approached the door tentatively. George sat back down at the table, staring into his glass of wine.

“Sadie, don’t. I’ll get it,” Joan said as she approached the door, peering through the peephole cautiously. She opened it slowly to find two plainclothes detectives and several uniformed officers.

“Hello, ma’am, is your husband home?”

They made it only a few feet down the front hall before spotting him through the living room, still at the kitchen table. He stood, knocking over his glass. It pooled, then slowly dripped onto the kitchen floor.

For months Joan would replay this moment, trying to decipher the look on her husband’s face. Was it guilt? Confusion? Indignation? Stoicism? Acting? But nothing, not even a revolving camera of omniscience, a floating momentary opportunity to narrate, would allow anyone to truly understand the truth about George. He became a hard statue, an obstacle, a symbol.

The father and the husband, from that moment, had been transformed.

The brilliance of this novel is that the main character is rarely allowed to make an appearance or speak. We have George Woodbury – teacher, husband and father – whisked away and arrested for sexual impropriety at the local school. Each member of his family must endure the community’s scorn while dealing with their own questions of his guilt or innocence. A whole wash of thoughts and emotions are dealt with as we read through the book.

Page 202-203

The next afternoon, she drove thirty-six miles to the Woodbridge health clinic that hosted the support group for women with partners in prison. She arrived half an hour early, sat in the car, and watched women park their cars and go in through the side door. It was windy, and she put her hat in the glove compartment lest it blow away but then didn’t get out of the car. More women arrived, some in minivans, others in compact cars; a few walked from the busy stop. She felt the same way she had felt when she was young and travelled to different countries: surprised that the world still looked familiar. The parks in Sweden and Morocco looked like regular parks she’d seen at home. The women who parked their cars and walked into the centre looked like anyone. It’s not as though she expected them to be wearing neon signs that said Married to a Pervert, but she had expected to see something that would give away their status, an indication however subtle, some sort of obvious physical sign of weakness. She looked at her phone, turned it to silent, and applied some Carmex to her lips. They were dry and flaking, no matter how much water she drank. The stress showed on her face. Every step felt heavy as she made her way inside.

Joan lingered outside in the basement hallway in front of a display of health pamphlets. She pretended to be interested in the details of diabetes treatment, as though she couldn’t have written the entire pamphlet herself from memory. She waited so long to actually enter that she was a few minutes late, and walked in while a woman was speaking.

“The way I see it, he’s sick. It’s a sickness. You can’t control what you’re born with, right? My one kid’s got the Down’s syndrome. He can’t help that neither. Now he’s been found out and he can get help and he wants to get help. Who am I to leave now? I believe in second chances.”

The woman who was talking resembled a pug dog; she had one of those smooshed-up faces. Joan took one of the two empty seats around the circle and couldn’t stop herself from thinking that if the woman didn’t hang on to this guy, she’d probably have a hard time finding some other man to replace him. then she felt awful for thinking that.

Whittall does an excellent job of going through the thoughts of a wide-range characters and describing their range of emotions. The prose she uses in a everyday kind of language, making the book easy to understand. But make no mistake, this isn’t a type of book that should be rushed through either. There is well-crafted detail and thought put in here and any reader should ponder the well-chosen words carefully.

Page 146

“Thanks,” Andrew said, watching Stuart take another paranoid scan. “I’m sorry for snapping. It’s happened really quickly and I’ve been buried in legal documents and I don’t really have perspective, you. My dad and I, we were starting to get close again. It’s so fuckin’ weird.

“Yeah . . .”

Andrew started back towards the door. Stuart called after him.

“I just wanted you to know that you really were my true love . . . ”

Andrew turned. Stuart was standing close to him now. He could smell hours of beer on his breath and was slightly revolted, yet at the same time he felt a familiar wave of nostalgic attraction. Stuart leaned in to kiss Andrew, holding his hands at the waist like they were kids at a school dance. The kiss was gentle, and Andrew pulled back before it got sloppy, or before he tried to draw him into a hug. the smell of Stuart’s cologne and cigarettes was enough to make Andrew feel as though he could fall over from the associated emotions.

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall is a brilliant, modern novel dealing with important elements of the human condition. It is well-thought out and well written. In short a great read to ponder over.


Link to Zoe Whittall’s website

Link to House of Anansi’s website for The Best Kind of People


“When I first got sick, I had trouble finding anything that showed me how it feels to live with cancer, how to make sense of the emotional weight of it, of the changes to my life. So, I started to draw.” | Q&A with writer/graphic artist Teva Harrison


Cancer, when it hits us or our loved ones, throws us into shock.  And, no doubt when Teva Harrison found out that she was diagnosed with cancer, she was in shock too. So she drew. And she wrote. And through all drawing and writing came out her book In-Between Days. And in it she has given us something to consider and relate to when the disease strikes.


1.Using your own words, can you give a bit of an outline of In-Between Days?

In-Between Days is a book about making sense of a terminal cancer diagnosis, and learning how to keep on living. It’s a non-chronological memoir told in comics and short essays that explores what it is to live with cancer, what’s lost and what’s still here. Notably, I’m still here.

2.What was your primary motivation to create In-Between Days? How long did it take to create?

I wasn’t initially drawing to make a book. I was drawing for myself, to make sense of my muddy, muddled thoughts and feelings. It helped me to draw, it still does. I decided to share the work online in hopes that it would find is way to somebody working through similar experiences. I’m still amazed that I had the opportunity to turn those initial investigations into a book. I’m really grateful to House of Anansi for welcoming and guiding me through that process.

This is my first book, so my perspective isn’t worth much, but I am told that this book was produced very quickly. It took about a year.

3. The descriptions for the book state that it is a combination of illustrations and essay. Is all the work based on memories and experiences or did you do any research for it as well?

The work interprets memories and experiences. They essays are personal, but I believe there’s something universal about my experiences and emotional response. Rather than writing a book about cancer, I wrote about how I am figuring out how to live with cancer, how to still have meaning with diminished possibilities and capabilities.

4.It looks like a limited circle of people have already seen the book. How has the reaction been to it so far? Has there been any memorable reactions to the book you care to share ?

I’ve felt so grateful for the positive response the book has received so far. I feel that people have been very kind. It has been so heartening to see authors and artists I respect like Joseph Boyden, Vincent Lam, Guy Maddin, and Kathleen Hanna respond so positively to the work. The most rewarding thing, though, has been the look of knowing – of understanding and being understood – that I’ve encountered from other people living with cancer or other terminal or chronic illnesses, and the people who care about and for them.

5. Do you have any specifics hopes for the book? Is there anything you would like it to accomplish?

It is my sincere hope that this book will find its way to somebody who needs to feel understood, not alone, in their health crisis. I am sharing it because I wanted to find something like it – emotional, honest, explicit, when I was first diagnosed – to give me some idea of what I was going to experience. I look forward to seeing if and how it can be useful to other people, either ill themselves or supporting an ill person.

6. You seem to have an active role on social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. How do you like using those applications? Are you hoping to use those apps. in order to gauge reaction to In-Between Days?

I’ve been active on social media for a long time. One of the things I love about these kinds of platforms is the opportunity for an immediate response. I think there’s a great possibility for iterative improvement in these environments. The comics that developed into this book were first published online. That means that I had a real-time response as my comics developed. That absolutely influenced me to develop my craft at a more rapid rate than I would have in a vacuum. In addition to gauging reaction, social media has afforded me the opportunity to tap into a remarkable online community gathering around the shared experience of a cancer diagnosis, stage IV or otherwise. I feel really lucky to have made the connections I have, although I do wish the circumstances were different for all of us. 

7. Is there a tour for planned for In-Between Days? (I know of the launch at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto on May 4) If yes, are there any dates you are excited to partake in?

Right now, I am booked into a few upcoming readings and festivals, The Ottawa Writers Festival, The Ontario Writers Conference Festival of Authors, and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I’m also helping out at two of Toronto’s many amazing bookstores for Authors for Indies Day. I am really excited about all of the events! I feel very lucky, not just to be invited, but to be well enough to participate. I look forward to seeing where else the book might take me!

8. What is the state of your health? How are you feeling?

Thanks for asking. Right now, my cancer is basically stabilized by the drugs I am taking in a clinical trial. My pain is fairly well managed thanks to my palliative care team, acupuncture and massage. I get tired easily, but if I manage my time well, building in time for naps and rest, not taking on too much, I’m able to feel fairly well. There are some things, of course, but as symptoms and side effects come up or change, I work with my healthcare team to manage them. Stage IV breast cancer is incurable, but it can be treated, at least for a time. In the best case scenario, it can be rendered chronic with a series of treatments, adjusted and applied as the cancer adapts to evade them. I have regular clinic visits, blood work and CT scans to monitor my tumours. I’m getting better at living with the uncertainty of living scan to scan.

9. Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?

Yeah! After spending so much time drawing exclusively about cancer, I really wanted to spend some time just focusing on things that delight me, so I’m working on The Joyful Living Colouring Book. It’s a lot of fun to draw!


Link to Teva Harrison’s website

Link to House of Anansi website for In-Between Days

Understanding the Views Outside | Review of “The Outside Circle” by Patti LaBoucan-Benson/Art by Kelling Mellings (2015) House of Anansi


I have to admit that I am new to reading graphic novels. I keeping hearing over and over again from different sources how powerful and enlightening certain graphic novels are so I check them out. And I have to agree that I find the story lines and the images powerful to me and my mind’s eye. Hence why I feel the need to mention The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti LaBoucane and Kelly Mellings here.


The imagery is strong in this book and the plot flows well, easily helping the mind’s eye grasp the story. It deals with Pete, a young Aboriginal man dealing with the harshness of modern, urban life. Pete’s involvement with gangs and his mother’s heroin addiction threaten the little comfort he and his family have. It is in jail and through rehabilitation – including traditional  Aboriginal healing circles – that we see Pete rise up and realize his true identity.


The perception may be that this is a simple book to read but it is one that should be pondered over and reflected upon. It gives insight to a section of humanity that needs to be understood and considered. I certainly found it enlightening to understanding the situation of the Aboriginal communities.


The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel by Patti LaBoucane and Kelly Mellings is a great piece of literature. It enlightens readers an element of the human condition in a strong and forceful form. A must read for any book fan, no matter what their background may be.

Link to House of Anansi website for The Outside Circle




Is what we perceive what we really see? | Review of “The Irrationalist” by Suzanne Buffam (2010) House of Anansi

Is what we perceive what we really see? When we look at something do we really and truly understand it? Or are we misjudging and dismissing items that are really important. These are the types of questions that come up when one reads Suzanne Buffam excellent collection of poetry called The Irrationalist.

Ruined Interior (Excerpt) Page 3

In the beginning was the world

Then the new world.

Then the new world order

Which resembles the old one,

Doesn’t it? Its crumbling

Aqueducts. It trinkets and shingles.

Its pathways lacquered in fog.

If all we’ve done is blink a bit

And touch things,

Notice how dust describes

A tin can by not falling

Where it sits, or how a red sleeve

Glimpsed through curtains

Mimics the tip of a flickering

Wing, was the whole day a waste

Or can worth be conferred

on a less than epic urge? Bow-wow

Says the doggie on page two.

Buffam has a frank style here but still at times can be mind-blowing with a turn of a phrase. Each and every line can make a reader pause and think.

On Necessity (Page 29)

As a young man Galileo

Understood very well

The workings of the pendulum

But not until he was an old man


The hour

Of his death

Did he devise

The pendulum clock


On First Lines (Page 34)

The first line should pry up

A little corner of the soul

As the first ray of daylight

Pries open the sleeper’s lids.


The mind’s eye is certainly opened a few times by these poems. The words need to be read and re-read to completely gain the meanings but the thoughts are profound.

The Wise Man (Page 61)

I am not a wise man. This makes my life difficult in certain ways. But in other ways it simplifies things. I find it hard to sit still very long before I get up and wander the halls in my hat for example. On the other hand I stay warm and keep moving. Could these ways be the same way? A wise man could tell you. A wise an would look out his window and see not a row of low clouds rolling east like a trainload of coal through a crossroads, but a lit glimpse of the infinite, the wise man’s only home. A wise man might think of his childhood and smile. Often in a quandary I ask myself what would a wise man do? A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees, said a wise man, and when I look out at the spruce I wonder what a wise man sees. A wise man might laugh at such questions. As for me I laugh often, but I don’t get the joke.


The Irrationalist by Suzanne Buffam is a frank and eye-opening read. It questions in many cases what we perceive and makes one think. Definitely a great piece of literature.


Link to House of Anansi’s  page for The Irrationalist