In my opinion, a book that takes me into another person’s world while also sending me off into my own (as I lift my eyes from the page) is a good book! So it was with Silentium: And Other Reflections on Memory, Sorrow, Place, and the Sacred (Wipf & Stock, 2017) by Connie T. Braun.
This collection of poetry and essays forms a memoir both of Connie’s mother, who fled Poland in the upheavals of the Second World War, and Connie herself, as we enter her childhood and powerful family bonds in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and travel along to sites of family history. It’s memoir, yes, but a kind of “quest” or discovery literature too.
I experienced many resonances as I read: our common Mennonite heritage, our appreciation for the writing of Patricia Hampl, places H. and I also saw on a tour to Poland. And the surprise mention of Linden, Alberta, where I grew up! I was also taken into the differences, my immigration past being the 1920s arrival of my grandparents to Canada, hers a postwar arrival. Connie Braun has become one of the most significant Mennonite writer-witnesses to that particular period and those events. Continue reading →
My daughter and I joined a crowd of some 5000 at the convention centre in Vancouver this morning/afternoon to hear Hillary Rodham Clinton. We’ve both been Canadian fans of hers and were very disappointed when she lost the U.S. election just over a year ago; an evening that we thought would be a celebration of the first woman president turned into a long walk in the crisp night air to process our disbelief and emotions.
I’m not posting here to stump for Hillary in retrospect, however, but just to tell a little about today’s event from my perspective–because it was great fun and inspiriting too. We arrived soon after the doors opened 9-ish, though it didn’t start until 11:30. A long line had already formed around the building. We secured the closest spots possible in the cavernous hall, in the Silver section, also known as the Somewhat Cheaper Seats Where You Don’t Get a Copy of the Book. But no problem, I’ve already read the warm and very honest memoir, What Happened, and enjoyed it. For the next hours we hung out together, talking and reading and chatting with folks seated around us. The woman next to me had a HRC figurine in her purse. She kept it on her desk, she said, for inspiration I presume. So, without direct access to Hillary herself we photographed the figurine in the blue pantsuit, and the poster!
It’s been a long day, a good day, and I’m tired, but a few thoughts as promised about day two of the Mennonite/s Writing VIII conference. Beginning from the end.
The conference re-located from the University of Winnipeg to Canadian Mennonite University across the city this evening for what was billed as a “Creative Evening.” That is, we listened to five writers of varying ages and genres as well as a pair of musicians: Jennifer Sears, Len Neufeldt (his writing read by Robert Martens), Jessica Penner, Casey Plett, Maurice Mierau and Carol Ann Weaver on piano with Marnie Enns singing. Although not all these artists are young or entirely new to Mennonite Lit, in the main they are newer voices gaining strength and recognition among us, and it was a delight to hear them. Continue reading →