Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Star (short story) by Leanne Dyck

As some of you know I'm dyslexic. My elementary school teacher wrote a note on my report:  Though Leanne tries really hard, there's something wrong. I recommend that you take her for testing at the Children's Hospital. 

This short story is inspired by true events.





A Star

I slip the yellow pencil between my thumb and index finger and coil my hand into a tight fist.
"Print your name in the right-hand corner," the teacher says.
My right hand is...? No, this one.
I push the tip of the pencil into the paper, carve an 'L', then a 'Y', then an 'N' and then I run out of room. I turn the paper sideways and add an 'I' and a 'D'. 
That's wrong.
I set the pencil on the desk and pick up the eraser. I press down hard and swing my arm back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The marks are still there. I flip the paper over. This time I make the letters smaller but my name still doesn't fit. The eraser bites a hole in the paper.
"Now draw a line connecting the dots," the teacher says.
What dots?
My best friend--Little Miss Pretty Face--connects dot after dot after dot and draws a star. I look down at my paper--the gray smudges, the hole.  
I'm STU-PID!
"Please bring your papers to my desk," the teacher says.
No! I can't show My Teacher this. My stomach becomes a solid rock.
My friend looks from her work to mine. "I'll take our papers to the teacher." She covers my mistake with her star. 

Though this story, I hope to promote awareness and understanding of dyslexia.




More...


Recommended books that promote awareness and understanding of dyslexia.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book review: The Break by Katherena Vermette

Some are told 'you are your brother's keeper', but in this day and age we are warned 'don't get involved'. So the question is if you saw someone in need what would you do?

In The Break, author Katherena Vermette addresses this question head-on. 

Young mother Stella sees what she thinks is an attack. She does something. She phones the cops. But she's Aboriginal; she's female. When the male cops come she feels like she's the one being investigated. 

Should she have kept out of it? Did she do enough? These questions haunt her throughout the book--and they've stayed with me after I finished reading The Break. 

Abuser. Victim. Vermette explores these loaded words.



Published by House of Anansi (2016)

If you're in a library or bookstore, find The Break on the shelf. I'll wait. Got the book. Great. Now flip it open to the title page. There you'll find...

Trigger Warning:  This book is about recovering and healing from violence. Contains scenes of sexual and physical violence, and depictions of vicarious trauma.

Read this warning but don't put the book back. 

The Break left me with a warm feeling. Vermette knows her craft. Her characters are developed with care and understanding. The story handled with sensitivity.

More...

If you enjoy reading this book, you may also enjoy A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Red Tent. I did.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
published by Penguin Canada (2008)

Hosseini explores the treatment of women in Afghanistan. The brutality that is depicted is off-set by the fine string of hope that connects woman to woman--a fragile (yet unbreakable) bond of friendship.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
published by Picador USA (1997)

Dinah, the Bible barely mentions her, but in the pages of this book she speaks, sings, dances, breathes. We follow her from virgin to mother to crone--and even to her final breath. 

Favourite Quote...

'Innana is the centre of pleasure, the one who makes women and men turn to one another in the night. The great mother whom we call Innana is the queen of the ocean and the patron of the rain... The great mother...gave a gift to woman that is not known among men, and this the secret of blood... In the red tent...the gift of Innana courses through us cleansing the body of last month's death, preparing the body to receive new month's life, women give thanks--for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life somes from between our legs, and that life costs blood... You will become a woman surrounded by loving hands to carry you and to catch your first blood and to make sure it goes back to the dust that formed the fist man and the woman. The dust that was mixed with her moon blood.' (p. 158)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book review: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger



I always manage to find an intriguing read at the church fair and this year was no exception.

A Perfect Day for Bananafish was recommended in an online article I read recently. And it is included in this collection. In fact, it is the first story in this collection. This is my only complaint. Not that I didn't enjoy reading it, I did. Simply because it casts a certain hue on the rest of the stories.

It's plain to see, especially in stories such as Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, J.D. Salinger ability to develop young adult characters. An ability that is utilized to great effect in his young adult best-seller The Catcher in The Rye

First published by Little, Brown in 1953 and again in 1965 (with subsequent printings by Modern Library in 1959, and Bantam in 1964 and 1981), some of the language and attitude is dated but the underlying messages in the stories are timeless.


Favourite Quote...

'The worst that being an artist could do to you would be that it would make you slightly unhappy constantly.' -from the short story De Daumier-Smith's Blue Pencil
More...

If you enjoy reading this book, you may also enjoy Stone Mattress and The Path of Most Resistance. I did.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
published by McClelland & Stewart (2014)

In this nine story collection, the grand dame of Canadian literature writes for her age cohorts. I was delighted to discover that many of the stories were written about writing. In Alphinland, an aging author finds comfort from her lonely reality in the world she created. In Revenant, a senior poet dies but lives on in his world. In Dark Lady, the poet's female muse deals with his death. In The Dead Hand Loves You, an elder horror author confronts the toll his fame has taken on his relationship with three decades-old friendships. Torching the Duties is a horror story set in a manor house for the elderly. In Stone Mattress an elderly woman finally takes revenge on the man who sexually assaulted her. Lusus Naturne and The Freeze-Dried Groom don't feature senior protagonists. Both fit into the horror genre.

I closed the book with an increased respect and passion for short stories.

The Path of Most Resistance by Russell Wangersky
published by House of Anansi (2016)

The first story in this collection--Rage--is a work of genius. The ending draws from the story--everything points to it--and yet it surprised me. Having written all of that, if I had to choose, I'd say Farewell Tour was my favourite story in this collection.

On the whole, I'm impressed by Wangersky's mastery of description but puzzled by his sparse dialogue--both internal and external. It's like he's afraid to allow his characters to speak.



photo by LDyck

Sometimes endings are very hard to write...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Discovering Land (short story) by Leanne Dyck

On Friday, August 4 those of Icelandic descent met in Gimli, Manitoba for the Islendingadagurinn (Icelandic Festival of Manitoba). This year's theme was Discover Your Land. Sadly, I wasn't there. But I did celebrate by writing this short story...


Discovering Land


All Jacky wants is sleep, but her husband won't let her. He rolls in the bed like hair in curlers. It gets worse. Now John is calling out, "It's a lie. It's a lie. It's all lies."

She flicks on the lamp. "What's that, dear?"

"It's a lie. It's a lie. It's all--"

She nudges him awake. "What's the matter, John?"

"Huh. What? Huh."

"Tell me what's troubling you."

"Nothing."

"Look, John, that might work with some but not me. I know it's something. Out with it, so I can get back to sleep."

"That space program. I've investigated. It's all a sham," he tells her.

"So they can't send a man to the moon."

He shakes his head.

"Oh, well. Night." She reaches for the lamp.

"No, you don't understand. I'm the president. When the bacon hits the pan I'll have to eat it."

That silences her. But her bottom lip doesn't tremble; her eyes don't fill with tears. "What you need is a camera crew, actors, bubble suits with motorcycle helmets. Oh, yes and a setting. Let me think." It only takes less than a minute. "Yes, of course, Iceland. It looks like the moon."


Photo by LDyck of Iceland (2007)

More...

Keep reading for more photos of Iceland taken on my trip in 2007.