Book Reviews

Book suggestions from Citizens for Public Justice, published each summer in the Catalyst.

Book Review: Wrongs to Rights

Wrongs to Rights From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

Wrongs to Rights: How Churches Can Engage the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Edited by Steve Heinrichs
Mennonite Church Canada, 2016

Reviewed by Amie Nault

There has been a lot of discussion lately about how to best respond to the calls to action presented in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report. For many of us, we are left with the desire to do something, but remain unaware of what that something is.

Book Review: An Army of Problem Solvers

an_army_of_problem_solvers From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

An Army of Problem Solvers: Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy
By Shaun Loney
McNally Robinson, 2016

Reviewed by Asha Kerr-Wilson

An Army of Problem Solvers is about empowering people to be the problem solvers of the big social, economic, and environmental problems faced by their communities. Shaun Loney is a social entrepreneur and former civil servant who has worked with and been involved in establishing a number of social enterprises – small-scale community non-profits that aim to address social or environmental challenges using market forces

Book Review: Towards a Prairie Atonement

Towards A Prairie Atonement From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

Towards a Prairie Atonement
By Trevor Herriot
University of Regina Press, 2016

Reviewed by Dennis Gruending

Trevor Herriot is a gifted Saskatchewan writer who has published five acclaimed books within the past 16 years. His grandparents were European settlers on land just north of the Qu’Appelle River, which flows through Southern Saskatchewan into Manitoba. Herriot has staked his literary claim on that region. He has a strong naturalist bent and writes in illuminating detail about what he sees and hears on the ground, and about what has been lost. The prairie landscape, he says, has become one of the most altered on the planet.

Book Review: After the Sands

After the Sands From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians
By Gordon Laxer
​Douglas & McIntyre, 2015

Reviewed by Karri Munn-Venn

After the Sands is a fascinating, if dense, history of Canadian energy policy, offered by prominent Alberta political economist, Gordon Laxer.

At its core, After the Sands is a call for a fundamental reorientation of government approaches to energy policy and societal understanding of the urgency of the climate crisis.

Book Review: Better Now

Better Now From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians
By Dr. Danielle Martin
Allen Lane, 2017

Reviewed by Sally Guy

Better Now will likely find itself preaching to the choir. That is not to say that Martin is ever preachy—in fact, her style is conversational and unpretentious. But those that really need to read this book, sadly, won’t. Many of the ‘big ideas’ would hinge on the participation of all levels of government, and would require a fundamental shift in the way many Canadians understand the rights of citizenship.

Book Review: Finding Home in the Promised Land

Finding Home in the Promised Land From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

Finding Home in the Promised Land: A Personal History of Homelessness and Social Exile
By Jane Harris
J. Gordon Shillingford, 2015

Reviewed by Darlene O’Leary

“I fought my way out of the wilderness, but I still wear cuts inside my body and soul.”

In Finding Home in the Promised Land, author Jane Harris shares her deeply personal story of domestic violence, poverty, homelessness, and social exile. She also offers a narrative and historical glimpse of her Scottish immigrant ancestors, particularly her great-great grandmother. Their struggles in the new “promised land” of pre- Confederation Canada both parallel and contrast Harris’s own quest for home.

Book Review: Hopeful Realism in Urban Ministry

Hopeful Realism in Urban Ministry From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

Hopeful Realism in Urban Ministry: Critical Explorations and Constructive Affirmations of Hoping Justice Prayerfully
By Barry K. Morris
Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2016

Reviewed by Lee Hollaar

To all involved in any seemingly overwhelming ministry, this is an important and refreshing read. While dealing with issues of poverty, marginalization, and the politics of exclusion, it’s easy to move beyond naive optimism and approach a sense of futility. While the author looks through the lens of ministry in urban settings, this book speaks with equal cogency to the work of social justice—and any ministry, for that matter.

Book Review: How Did We Get Into This Mess?

How Did We Get Into This Mess? From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature
By George Monbiot
Verso Press, 2016

Reviewed by Joe Gunn

George Monbiot is a maddening writer.

He baits the reader, starting off each of the 50 short essays in this book with a totally outrageous proposition. Then the long-time columnist for the Guardian newspaper describes some unthinkably brutish environmental injustice, military madness, political skullduggery, or economic corruption. And finally he stuffs right into our faces the shame at how we never guessed this could be happening today, under our unsuspecting noses.

Book Review: The Lightless Sky

The Sky From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee's Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World
By Gulwali Passarlay
HarperOne, 2016

Reviewed by Bolu Coker

The Lightless Sky is an inspiring personal account of a twelve-year old boy’s journey to safety from Afghanistan to Europe. Gulwali Passarlay tells a story that brings to life the precarity of refugees’ living conditions on their journeys to refuge.

Fearing the Taliban, Passarlay’s mother arranges for him and his brother to be smuggled out of the country. The brothers are separated early on, leaving Passarlay at the mercies of smugglers and other refugees he encounters along the way. Upon hearing of his brother’s arrival in England, Passarlay defies all odds— smugglers’ extortion, multiple imprisonments, and even a near-death experience— to be reunited with his brother.

Book Review: The Vimy Trap

The Vimy Trap From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

The Vimy Trap, or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War
By Ian McKay and Jamie Swift
Between the Lines, 2016

Reviewed by Debbie Grisdale

April 9, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge where 3,598 Canadians died and 7,000 were wounded, with an estimated 20,000 casualties on the German side.

In this timely book , MacKay and Swift focus on the evolution, over the past century, of the remembrance of WWI, and in particular the battle for Vimy. Canada has moved from seeing it as a battle in a horrific, pointless, and costly war to a romantic myth that Vimy in some way represented the “birth of our nation.”


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