I have loved Toronto’s Second Story Press books since the first one appeared at my desk many years ago. According to its website, the publishing company “is dedicated to publishing feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers,” with a mandate of publishing diverse books that reflect their readers’ culture.
I never pick up a book based on the character’s culture, but I always pick up a book if it sounds like a great story.
Freedom’s Just Another Word by Caroline Stellings is one such book.
Set in the 1970s, Saskatoon teenager Louisiana, Easy for short, a blues singer with passion and talent, meets Janis Joplin, who invites her to Texas so she can sing. Easy catches a ride with a nun, and nun in training, to perform for Joplin and, hopefully, catch her big break.
It was interesting for me to read about how a black, or in Easy’s case, a half-black, person was treated in Canada in the 1970s, and even more interesting/disturbing – as Easy herself found out – how a black person was treated in the States during that same time frame.
“Austin isn’t Saskatoon,” said Clarence, Easy’s dad. When Easy said she knew, Clarence, who you come to understand as a mild-mannered transplanted American man who has only spoke up and stood up for himself twice, said “No, Easy. You don’t know. Don’t be fooled about all the talk about civil rights. Thing are just as bad as ever. Worse even, because the white folks resent us even more.” Easy promises to be careful, but Clarence reminds her she has never faced racism. When Easy lists the time with run-ins with the locals, Clarence says, “Everything you’ve seen, everything you’ve experience here in Saskatoon is nothing – nothing like you’ gonna to see in Texas. A lot of white folks are all right, but a lot of them would like nothing to spit in your face, Easy. And the problem is, you can’t tell one from the other until it’s too late.”
Easy’s character is amazing – I laughed out loud in several parts – as are the secondary characters including Easy’s mom Thelma, who you meet in voice and memory only, and the nuns she meets along the way.
Freedom’s Just Another Word
Another beautiful book, this one a children’s picture book, comes from Nimbus Publishing in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
It follows the story of Abigail who longs for a new dress to wear to the celebration when her Aunt Dinah has her baby. But new things are hard to come by in her new home of Birchtown, where Abigail and her family, plus thousands of others, fled to after the American Revolution.
My seven-year-old son and I opened the book, and closed it. I think the amount of words on a the page of what looks like a picture book scared us both off (now if it was a chapter book with some pictures, it likely wouldn’t have been a problem). So I read the book on my own. I loved it. It was an interesting look of how life was like for a new Canadian family during a time period that I love. I also know who will also love to read it – my 10-year-old niece, who likely loves the pioneer time period as much as I do.
Gloria Ann Wesley
Note: While Second Story Press and Nimbus Publishing sent these books, the opinions, as always, are my own.