Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

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Books and Talks

February 28, 2024

Two things to draw your attention to.

First, a fine new book by and about the Squamish Nation. Tiná7 Cht Ti Temíxw: We Come From This Land describes the history and future of the Squamish, whose traditional territory includes Howe Sound and the shores of Burrard Inlet. One chapter, for example, tells the story of Senákw, a village site in False Creek with a complicated history of dispossession where the Squamish are now involved in a large, and controversial, development project. Reliable sources about the history of local First Nations are not easy to come by so this book is very welcome. Produced by Page Two Books, one of Vancouver's leading boutique publishers, it is also gorgeous to look at.

Second, the latest online offering from the Vancouver Historical Society is a talk by Laura Saimoto about the Renfrew Heights neighbourhood of east Vancouver. This subdivision was developed post-WWII to provide housing for returning vets and their families. Laura also talks about the Italian Cultural Centre which is located nearby and where her talk took place. As I have mentioned before, the Historical Society posts most of its talk on YouTube so take some time to look at what else is on offer.

February 7, 2024

Joe's Cafe is a landmark on Vancouver's Commercial Drive, not least because of an infamous political protest that broke out there in 1990. When the owner ejected two lesbian patrons for openly kissing on the premises, he touched off a boycott of the cafe by supporters of gay rights. The protest lasted several months until the owner apologized.

What brings this to mind is that the incident is included in a new online "digital storymap" about Vancouver produced by a group of history...

January 28, 2024

One Christmas present I very much appreciated was Jonathan Raban's last book, Father and Son.

I've admired Raban's writing for many years, ever since reading Coasting, his wonderful account of sailing around Great Britain in 1982, also a meditation on the damage that Margaret Thatcher was doing to his native country. When I read it I was in a sailboat myself, cruising through...

December 19, 2023

December 13, 2023

In the November issue of the Literary Review of Canada, under the guise of revisiting Jack Granatstein's 1998 polemic, Who Killed Canadian History, Patrice Dutil writes a lament about the state of Canadian history today.

I didn't like Granatstein's book when it appeared 25 years ago and I don't much like Dutil's recycling of some of the same arguments. But instead of going on about it myself I...

November 27, 2023

Last week I was down to the regular meeting of the Vancouver Historical Society. The speaker was Jason Colby, professor of environmental history at the University of Victoria.

Jason was talking about his book Orca: How We Came to Know and...

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