Winter 2016

Your Letters

Memorable Moments with a CanLit Legend

Scot Morison’s article on Rudy Wiebe (“The Annotated Rudy Wiebe,” Autumn 2016) and his creative writing class made me nostalgic. I vividly remember the seminar room, the circle of students and Rudy’s intensity as he explained the importance of point of view. I was his student in 1985, and I remember him sharing his personal grief with us; his celebrating with us the rare times we wrote something from life that leaped up into the shining light of competence; his passionate and intimidating critiques of diction; and his compassionate insistence that every story had at least one redeeming quality, no matter how small. Reading the article, with Rudy’s marginalia, made me pull out the stories I wrote for his classes and reread his comments. Morison is right: no matter how much a comment hurt or angered me at the time, Rudy’s advice was always right. I once told Rudy that I wished I had enough cash to buy “all the books in the W section,” which is one of the few times I recall him laughing out loud. The W section of my personal library has kept growing over the years, as has my appreciation for Rudy’s place as a great CanLit writer and teacher.

Laura Holland, ’86 BA(Hons), Mississauga, Ont.

Image Reinforces Discrimination

I was super disappointed while looking through my Autumn 2016 edition of New Trail. In the article “Party at the Taj,” you published both racist cultural appropriation as well as a misogynist transphobic image. Firstly, the name of the dentistry students’ house, “Taj Mahal,” is racist in its cultural appropriation. The Taj Mahal is a real place, with real cultural implications for Indian people, not something for young privileged white men to appropriate for a “party house.”

Secondly, the photo shows the all-male class of dentistry students dressed up for the “Molar Mambo.” They are dressed up as women, and it clearly implies the humour of femininity on male bodies. This is transphobic and reinforces discrimination toward transgender women (assigned male at birth but who identify as women). Trans women experience staggering amounts of violence, including unfathomable rates of murder and suicide. To publish this sexist and transphobic image is really disgraceful.

It’s incredibly upsetting to see New Trail celebrating the University of Alberta’s racist and transphobic past. As a transgender alumnus, it makes me feel like there is no place for me and my community at the University of Alberta. Shame on you.

Daley Laing, ’07 BA, Edmonton

Editor’s Note: Inclusion is important to us. Thank you for taking the time to write. Your letter has helped make us more aware of these concerns.

Kudos and Criticism

There is much to learn from this issue: Rudy Wiebe, a writer dedicated to his craft and someone who gave me pause, since my parents and I also escaped from Eastern Europe, but 14 years later [than Wiebe]; and Samuel Óghale Oboh, an architect interested in making our environment meaningful. But when I turned to “A Healthy Dose of Humour” in the Books section, I was distraught to find the photo which harshly lowered the level of the issue. Much of our attention to important text today is thoughtlessly “grabbed” in this manner. I wish you well in writing with inspiration from Wiebe.

Victor Snieckus, ’59 BSc(Hons), Kingston, Ont.

Fire Escape Escapades

I am a longtime resident of B.C. but had the privilege and good fortune to grow up in Windsor Park, just west of the U of A campus. Attending Garneau junior high meant walking through the campus every day on our way to and from school, which often involved sliding down the circular fire escape at St. Stephen’s, stopping at the Tuck Shop for a drink or running into the tackling dummies lying on the field during football practice. Not to mention the numerous Bears football, hockey and basketball games we snuck into on the weekends. Such easy access to the university grounds and facilities became a huge part of my life, and I thoroughly enjoy the articles in your magazine as there is always reference to a building, an event or a name that brings back some strong memories for me. As Mary Pat Barry mentioned in her column in the most recent edition, the fall always means a new beginning for me, complete with the first Bears football game on a sunny Saturday afternoon followed by the Bar None Dance that night. Thanks and keep up the great work — New Trail is a superior publication.

Andy Gilbert, ’74 BEd, Coldstream, B.C.

‘Fear of the Other’

I would like to comment on the story “The Department of Risk Mismanagement” (Autumn 2016) by Curtis Gillespie. I enjoy Curtis’s writing style and, in this case, also thinking about his experiences in Algiers. My being Jewish had me thinking, while reading this story, that I feel it is sad that being Jewish makes it more difficult to visit Algeria (and many other places that I might want to visit). Curtis wrote an introspective final paragraph commenting on “the fear of the other.” I think it is still the case that religion can/does make it difficult to do certain things, and this is a sad thing. Maybe someday things will be different.

Albert Calman, ’90 MSc, Karmiel, Isreal

A Brilliant Adventure

New Trail, Autumn 2016, is so great! From the bold art-direction decision to obscure the title on the front cover (is that a new thing?) to the subject-annotated article on the great Rudy Wiebe, I love it. But the pièce de résistance is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book for arts students ... brilliant in concept, art and especially the writing. Engaging, informative and convincing. Congratulations to Kate Black, Brian Ajhar and everyone else involved in the production of this publication.

Janine Gliener, ’78 BA(RecAdmin), Toronto

From Twitter

@Wittmeier: Love this #NewTrail Choose Your Own Adventure, @kategblack, but I really hoped for at least one macabre outcome.

Brent Wittmeier

@mhingston: This is the best piece of service journalism I’ve ever seen. Dreamed up by @NewTrail_Lisa, written by @kategblack.

Michael Hingston