Alberta Views Review of Everything Is So Political

Everything Is So Political
A Collection of Short Fiction by Canadian Writers

Edited by Sandra McIntyre  

According to editor Sandra McIntyre, “People are political and everything has some connection to the public sphere.” She has selected 20 politically themed short stories by Canadian writers, both established and new, that bear out her assertion.

I was moved to tears by Sherveen Ashtari’s lyrical “Above Her Shook the Starry Lights.” The narrator is an Iranian female prisoner awaiting the death penalty in Iran’s harsh theocracy. She proclaims, “I was born a captive,” her 1979 birthdate coinciding with Iran’s Islamic coup. Unaware of the dangers of a brutal military dictatorship, a courageous young Canadian male decides to hike alone in Myanmar in Matthew R. Loney’s “From the Lookout There Are Trees.”

Tension engulfed me while reading Shane Joseph’s gripping “Suicide Bombers,” in which a Canadian visitor remarkably survives a horrific bus explosion in Sri Lanka.

Racism shows its ugly face in Port Arthur, Ontario, in Joan M. Baril’s, “Grace Street, 1946.” The friendship between a young white girl and her First Nations classmate perturbs her mother. Her father, a policeman, risks his job to create a union, while upholding unwritten racial rules whereby Indians can be seen on one side of town but not the other.

Written as a play, R. Jonathan Chapman’s “The Extremists” depicts the determination of environmentalists to transform the traditional politics of a Canadian federal riding. In the Conservative-voting Yellowhead riding of Alberta, Andes and his farming collective, dedicated to all-organic gardening, micro-wind-farming and manure/compost blends, are part of a new movement to make their riding the first in Canada to elect a Green Party MP. A rancher’s concern regarding the environmentalists’ intention provokes a store owner-operator’s response: “They’re extremists. The truth is, so is everyone. We all think what we think is right. Everyone believes in something so they can make their way in the world.”

This book brings to mind the work of Margaret Atwood and Neil Bissoondath and Hugo Bonjean, making us see things differently and question the world around us. Although the stories differ greatly in tone and theme, they are all thought-provoking, powerful and imaginative. Not only do I recommend reading this inspiring collection, I recommend rereading it not long after.

–Jamal Ali writes non-fiction and poetry in Calgary.

Alberta Views October 2013

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