Books from UCalgary’s Writerly Friends and Faculty

An accessible yet nuanced exploration of assisted suicide, an intimate, poetic interrogation of restrictive masculinity, and a look at how we might have approached 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic differently have been added to the bookshelf.
Dr. Travis Dumsday, PhD’10

Assisted Suicide in Canada delves into key federal and provincial court rulings on medical assistance in dying (MAID) from 1993 to 2015 and explains subsequent legislative history. Dr. Travis Dumsday engages in an accessible, yet nuanced exploration of the most significant ethical arguments — pro and con — and unravels the related legal and policy disputes. Thorny issues such as freedom of conscience for health-care professionals, public funding for MAID and proposed extensions of eligibility are dealt with thoughtfully and clearly.


I Wish I Could Be Peter Falk (February 2022)

Paul Zits, BA’08, MA’10

An intimate, poetic interrogation of restrictive masculinity from award-winning author Paul Zits, I Wish I Could be Peter Falk challenges the standards of the masculine convention, and the various media that help sculpt our expectations, tirelessly telling men how to feel, how to think, how to dress, what to drive and how to identify. These poems speak with candid intimacy, delivering a perceptive critique with sensitivity and humour. With its title invoking the name of the iconic late Columbo actor, I Wish I Could Be Peter Falk is a nuanced exploration of modern masculinity and a warning of the dangers that persist when the commodification of gender goes unchecked.


Cafe Conversations: Democracy and Dialogue in Public Spaces (March 2022)

Dr. Michael Picard, BA’86, PhD

Cafe Conversations is the first to look closely at the phenomena of philosophy in a café. This volume brings the international voices of numerous facilitators of engaged philosophical inquiry, including some of the most prominent, together with observers in allied fields, to explore practical and organizational issues. It also brings to bear critical and theoretical perspectives on participatory philosophy in the public sphere.


Arborophobia (March 2022)

Nancy Holmes, BA’82, MA’90

Arborophobia, the latest collection by award-winning poet Nancy Holmes, is a poetic spiritual reckoning. Its elegies, litanies and indictments concern wonder, guilt, and grief about the journey of human life and the state of the natural world. When a child attempts suicide and western North America burns and the creep of mortality closes in, is spiritual and emotional solace possible or even desirable? Answers abound in measured, texturally intimate and often surprising ways. Taking a hard look at what we have done to this beautiful planet and to those we love, Arborophobia is a companion for all who grapple with the problem of hope in times of crisis.


Next Time There’s a Pandemic (March 2022)

Vivek Shraya

In Next Time There’s a Pandemic, artist Vivek Shraya, an assistant professor in UCalgary’s Department of English, reflects on how she might have approached 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic differently, and how challenging and changing pervasive expressions, attitudes and behaviours might transform our experiences of life during — and after — the pandemic. What might happen if, rather than urging one another to “stay safe,” we focused instead on being caring? What if, instead of striving to “make the best of it” by doing something, we sometimes chose to do nothing? With generosity, Shraya captures the dissonances of this moment, urging us to keep showing up for each other so we are better prepared for the next time … and for all times.


Medical English as a Lingua Franca (March 2022)

Dr. M. Gregory Tweedie, PhD, and Dr. Robert C. Johnson, PhD

Dr. M. Gregory Tweedie, associate professor with the Werklund School of Education, and Dr. Robert Johnson, associate professor with the University of Calgary in Qatar, assert that the concept of Medical English as a Lingua Franca (MELF) represents an important contribution to our understanding of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), in that existing ELF research has been limited to relatively low-stakes communicative situations. Medical contexts, in contrast, often represent situations calling for exceptional communicative precision and urgency. Providing both evidence from their own research and analysis from the limited number of existing studies, the authors offer a counterpoint to the optimism regarding communicative success prevalent in ELF. The book proposes a theoretical perspective on how the various features of health-care communication serve as important variables in shaping interaction among speakers of ELF, further enlarging our understanding of this emerging sub-field.


A Kid Called Chatter (April 2022)

Chris Kelly, BCS’14, MA’17

A stunning work of Prairie magical realism, A Kid Called Chatter is a kaleidoscopic mingling of history, truth, folk tale and fiction. A fable of belonging, it explores how humans use stories to confront what can’t be explained, and the way communities come together to protect — or to destroy — the things that make them unique.


A History of Touch (May 2022)

Erin Emily Ann Vance, BA’16, MA’19

Erin Emily Ann Vance’s first collection of poetry interrogates the position of the female body in folklore, pop culture and history. Exploring the natural, the supernatural and everything in between, the poems in this collection writhe with sharp and often lurid imagery, digging into the marrow of “sweet wickedness.” The poems in A History of Touch haunt the reader with both a bitter familiarity and the “the woebegone, the winsome, the wild.”


An Orchid Astronomy (July 2022)

Tasnuva Hayden, BA’06, BSc (Eng)’10, MSc’13

An Orchid Astronomy is the story of Sophie, her personal trauma and climate catastrophe, told in striking experimental poetry. Crossing poetic styles and genres, words and sentences flow and break, twist into images, and cluster together like the Arctic stars. Coming together in a sustained narrative, these poems ask how we grapple with magnificent loss, searching for solutions in science, in mythology, in storytelling and, ultimately, in our re-lived memories.


Energy Efficient Affordable Housing: Policy Design and Implementation in Canadian Cities (April 2021)

Dr. Sasha Tsenkova, professor, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Written for researchers, policy-makers, city leaders, professionals and students, Energy Efficient Affordable Housing provides the first comparative assessment of the energy-efficiency retrofit programs in the social housing sector of Canadian cities. Dr. Sasha Tsenkova, PhD, explores important strategies for the provision of green and affordable housing while addressing climate-change imperatives and resilience issues.

Call Me Stan: A Tragedy in Three Millennia (Dec. 2021)  

Kevin Wilson, BMus’80  

The story of a man endlessly struggling to adjust as the world keeps changing around him, Call Me Stan is a biblical epic from the bleachers, a gender fluid operatic love quadrangle and a touching exploration of what it is to outlive everyone you love. Or almost everyone. Wilson, writing under the pseudonym K.R. Wilson, is the author of the award-winning debut novel An Idea About My Dead Uncle.

Unlocking (June 2021) 

Amy LeBlanc, BA’17, BEd’19  

In Snowton, Alta., secrets flourish like the crocuses in spring. When Louise Till lets herself into a neighbour’s home using a surreptitiously copied key, she discovers more than she ever wanted to know about her small town and herself. Lou must confront not only the lives of her neighbours, but the unspoken truths of her family and the doors within herself for which there are no keys. Told over the course of one long winter, Unlocking is a poignant and penetrating exploration of grief, community, family and the secrets we keep, even from ourselves. 

Driven: The Secret Lives of Taxi Drivers (May 2021) 

Marcello Di Cintio, BA’97, BSc’97  

Occupying the space between public and private, a cab brings together people who might otherwise never have met — yet most of us sit in the back and stare at our phones. Nowhere else do people occupy such intimate quarters and share so little. In a series of interviews with drivers with backgrounds ranging from the Iraqi National Guard, to the Westboro Baptist Church, one recalling an arranged marriage that left one woman stranded in a foreign country with nothing but a suitcase, Driven seeks out those missed conversations, revealing the unknown stories that surround us. 

Iron Goddess of Mercy (Feb. 2021) 

Dr. Larissa Lai, PhD’06, associate professor, Department of English 

Inspired by the tumultuous history of Hong Kong, from the Japanese and British occupations to the ongoing pro-democracy protests, Iron Goddess of Mercy is a long poem that interrogates the complicated notion of identity, offering a prism through which the term “Asian” can be understood to make sense of a complex set of relations. Presented in 64 fragments to honour the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, Iron Goddess of Mercy also borrows from haibun, a traditional Japanese form of travel writing in which each diary entry closes with a haiku.

The River Troll: A Story About Love (Sept. 2021) 

Rich Théroux, BEd’03 

The River Troll, written and illustrated by Théroux, takes place late at night as our protagonist wanders a little and ponders quite a lot on a long walk along a river looking for a reason to keep on living. He meets up with the River Troll, a minotaur, a cheeky monkey and a few other all-night ghouls as he drifts along, searching for purpose. They all find it amazing that their friend can negotiate his way through the day posing as a teacher.  

On Borrowed Time: North America’s Next Big Quake (Sept. 2021) 

Gregor Craigie, BA’95 

For more than a decade, Gregor Craigie interviewed scientists, engineers and emergency planners about earthquakes, disaster response and resilience. He has also collected vivid first-hand accounts from people who have survived deadly earthquakes. On Borrowed Time dives headfirst into explaining the science behind “The Big One,” and asks what we can do now to prepare ourselves for events geologists say aren’t a matter of if, but when. 

Icefields: Landmark Edition (Oct. 2021) 

Dr. Thomas Wharton, PhD’98 | Afterword by Dr. Suzette Mayr, BA’90, PhD, professor, Department of English 

First published in 1995, Thomas Wharton’s Icefields is an historical novel set in a mesmerizing literary landscape, one that is constantly being altered by the surging and retreating glacier and unpredictable weather. Here — where characters are pulled into deep chasms of ice as well as the stories and histories they tell one another — is a vivid, daring and crisply written book that reveals the human spirit, loss, myth and elusive truths. 

Indigenous Identity Formation in Post-Secondary Institutions: I Found Myself in the Most Unlikely Place (Nov 2020) 

Dr. Barbara G. Barnes, PhD’10, instructor, Department of Political Science and Dr. Cora J. Voyageur, PhD, professor, Department of Sociology

Professors Barnes and Voyageur’s research explores how Indigenous students’ experiences fit with conventional and Indigenous identity-formation theories, while considering the impacts of colonization and the Indian Act. Based on the experiences of 60 self-declared Indigenous students from a variety of backgrounds at six post-secondary institutions in Western Canada, Barnes and Voyageur build an entirely new model of Indigenous identity formation in Canadian post-secondary institutions. 

Prime Ministers’ Wives: Those Who Endure (Jan 2021)

Lavona Fercho, BEd’79, DipEd’83

Beginning with Isabella Clark Macdonald and ending with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, this collection of 13 biographical sketches reveals the evolving role of the Canadian prime minister’s wife throughout the years. Frank and revealing, Prime Ministers’ Wives tells how each wife handled the extreme pressures of the position, and how they endured personal and public challenges, including, for some, marital issues such as infidelity, alcoholism and mental illness, as well as public verbal and physical assaults, death threats, and unrelenting scrutiny while promoting a societal recognition of women for equal status.

Sustainability Matters: Prospects for a Just Transition in Calgary, Canada’s Petro-City (Sept 2021)

Dr. Noel Keough, MEDes’89, PhD’05, with Dr. Geoff Ghitter, BSc’93, MSc’95, PhD’10

Sustainability Matters is the story of Calgary’s setbacks and successes on the path toward sustainability. Chronicling two decades of public conversations, political debate, urban policy and planning, and scholarly discovery, it is both a fascinating case study and an accessible introduction to the theory and practice of urban sustainability. A clear-eyed view of the struggles of turning knowledge into action, this book illuminates the places where theory and reality converge and presents an approach to municipal development, planning and governance that takes seriously the urgent need to address climate change and injustice.

An Idea About My Dead Uncle (Sept. 2019) 

Kevin Wilson, BMus’80  

Winner of the inaugural Guernica Prize for unpublished manuscript, An Idea About My Dead Uncle (credited to K.R. Wilson) follows a young, mixed-race composer, raised without meaningful connections to his Chinese heritage and struggling with identity issues, as he travels to China in search of his long-missing uncle, an uncle who vanished in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square. Set partly in the University of Calgary’s Music department, An Idea About My Dead Uncle is about the identities we choose and the ones that are imposed on us. It is about dealing with pain through the artistic process. It is about the power of narrative. 

Hardwired: How Our Instincts to be Healthy are Making us Sick (Oct. 2020)

Dr. Robert S. Barrett, PhD’10 | Co-Author: Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, MD, PhD   

Hardwire is about modern health — or lack thereof. Barrett, a PhD from the world of social science and Francescutti, an MD from the world of medicine — combine forces to bring this emerging human crisis to light. They argue that our deteriorating wellness is rapidly becoming a health emergency, and that much of these trends are rooted in the way our highly evolved hardwired brains and bodies deal with modern social change. Densely packed with fascinating facts and little-told stories, Barrett and Francescutti weave together real-life cases that describe how our ancient evolutionary drives are propelling us toward ill health and disease.

How to Fail as a Popstar (Mar 2021)

Vivek Shraya, assistant professor, Department of English

How to Fail as a Popstar is Shraya’s debut theatrical work, a one-person show that chronicles her journey from singing in shopping malls to “not quite” pop music superstardom with beguiling humour and insight. Shraya’s book is a raw and humorous reflection on the power of pop culture, dreams, disappointments and self-determination.

On This Day in History Sh!t Went Down (Apr 2021)

James Fell, BA’93, MA’96, MBA’99

Fell’s writing has evolved from fitness to motivation to social justice. Now, he’s writing about history. His latest book will expand your knowledge of world history in the most hilarious and profane way possible.

Behind the Enigma: The Authorised History of GCHQ, Britain’s Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency (Oct 2020)

Dr. John R. Ferris, PhD, professor, Department of History

Based on unprecedented access to documents in the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) archive, Behind the Enigma is the first book to authoritatively explain the history of one of the world’s most potent intelligence agencies, revealing the fascinating truth behind this remarkable and enigmatic organization.

The Intentional MBA: A Guide to Maximizing Your Decision, Experience and Investment
(Jun 2020)

Christine Dagenais, MBA’11, and Renée Francis, BA’06, MBA’16

After three years of collaboration, the authors never planned to launch their labour of love during a pandemic, but they’ve soldiered on. Written for MBAs by MBAs, this practical guide will help those considering an MBA, studying in school now or graduated to find information on how to get the most out of the experience.

Seven Songs and Seven Stories (Aug 2020)

Michael Sundberg, BSc (Eng)’88

While working in Saudi Arabia as an engineer, Sundberg began writing and ultimately turned to this new passion as a full-time pursuit. He was intrigued by the similarities and differences amongst people around the world — their cultures, priorities and histories. This collection of short stories and song lyrics (published under the pseudonym ML Sund) explores temptation, regret and redemption across the American Heartland.

Sleep Good: Get the Sleep You Deserve (Nov 2020)

Raman Gill, BEdP’13

After two years of sleepless nights, Gill published Sleep Good — a handy guide on the essential practices to get a deeper sleep and better understand how sleep works. Learn how to wake up refreshed, handle shut-eye habits and self-reflect to a better sleep.

Others of My Kind: Transatlantic Transgender Histories (Oct 2020)

Dr. Annette F. Timm, PhD, professor, Department of History | Co-Authors: Alex Bakker, Rainer Herrn and Michael Thomas Taylor

Others of My Kind is the story of a transatlantic network of transgender people who, through the exchange of letters and photographs, established a community for themselves and carved out a space in the emerging study of human sexuality.

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