Celebrating Mennonite Literature
In 2012 and again in 2014-15, Grebel invited significant Canadian writers to talk about how their writing sensibilities, their careers, and their Mennonite heritage intersect. The authors offered a combined reading/commentary meant to take the audience on a journey that traces how the writer's Mennonite heritage contributed to shaping his or her literary sensibility.
On Friday, November 14th 2014, U.S. poet and essayist Jeff Gundy read from his new book of poetry, Circling Defiance, as the second night of this year’s Bechtel Lectures. A key writer in the growing field of “theo-poetics” and an established figure in Mennonite studies, Gundy’s new book extends his ongoing exploration of human nature and the natural world in his signature mix of humour and insight.
On Wednesday, November 26th 2014, Grebel hosted Miriam Toews for the first time, as she read from her bestselling new novel All My Puny Sorrows. Winner of the Governor General’s Award for A Complicated Kindness, Toews’ most recent novel returns to a cast of Mennonites with a tight-knit family wrestling through urgent questions of life, death, and the power to choose.
On Wednesday, January 21st 2015, BC-based poet Patrick Friesen returned to Grebel to read from his forthcoming book of poems, A Short History of Crazy Bone. Author of fifteen books of poetry and recent winner of ReLit Award, Friesen’s work consistently challenges—and rewards—readers with its beautiful exploration of faith, experience, and language itself.
On Wednesday, February 4th 2015, Di Brandt read from a collection of poems in progress. The dynamic author of more than a dozen celebrated books of poetry, criticism, and fiction, Brandt currently teaches Canadian Literature and Creative Writing at Brandon University, and is the Manitoba Public Libraries Writer-in-Residence for 2014-2015.
On Wednesday, February 18th 2015, Winnipeg-based author David Bergen read from his new book Leaving Tomorrow. Author of seven previous novels, including the Giller Prize winning The Time in Between, and bestselling The Age of Hope, Bergen’s latest novel moves from small-town Alberta to Paris and back again, powerfully exploring the paradoxes of home, faith, and the need to belong.
On Wednesday, March 4th 2015, the series concluded with Grebel alumnus Carrie Snyder, whose last work, The Juliet Stories, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. Snyder’s much-anticipated new novel, Girl Runner, tells the story of an Olympic runner and a forgotten period of Canada’s past. It was released across the US, the UK, and Australia in 2014, and in translation across Europe and South America.
On January 11th 2012, internationally-renowned Canadian novelist Rudy Wiebe was in Waterloo to kick off a nine-week reading and lecture series sponsored by the Canada Council and the Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies at Conrad Grebel University College. Wiebe, who lives in Edmonton, has twice won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, for The Temptations of Big Bear and A Discovery of Strangers. In 2007 he won the Charles Taylor Prize for his memoir, Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest. He is known for his great stories of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, and about Mennonites in western Canada and around the world. Wiebe, who was born in Saskatchewan in 1934, read from his work while reflecting on his 57 years as a writer.
On January 18th 2012, David Waltner-Toews, an internationally known epidemiologist and a poet and novelist spoke about how science and a Mennonite upbringing inform all his work – from his poetry to murder mysteries to popular science writing like his study of excrement called “Shit: A Biography,” soon to be published by ECW Press. Recently retired from the University of Guelph, he lives in Kitchener.
Patrick Friesen, well established as one of Canada’s best lyric poets and literary performers, has published over a dozen volumes of poems. He has also written stage and radio plays, including a stage adaptation of his long poem The Shunning, most recently reprised at Winnipeg’s Prairie Theatre Exchange. Poet Di Brandt calls The Shunning “a startling ... exhilarating book, widely celebrated for its innovative form ... its gorgeous visceral poetry.” Friesen has collaborated with literary translaters and with choreographers, dancers, musicians, and composers. He lives on Vancouver Island. He spoke at Conrad Grebel on January 25th 2012.
On February 1st 2012, Redekop, Professor Emerita at the University of Toronto, augmented her lecture on laughter in Mennonite writing, “Here come the clowns,” with a clowning performance featuring “Sush Funk,” whom she identifies as a descendent of Paul Hiebert’s prairie songstress, Sarah Binks.
Zacharias, Associate Editor of the Journal of Mennonite Studies and a postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto, examined the collapse of the Russian Mennonite Commonwealth as it has come to be understood in Canadian literature.
Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Julia Spicher Kasdorf spoke on February 15th, 2012. She is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Poetry in America(2011). She is Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the Pennsylvania State University, where she teaches creative writing. Kasdorf also delivered the 2012 Rodney and Lorna Sawatsky lecture, “Mightier than the Sword: Martyr’s Mirror in the New World,” on Friday, February 17, at 7.30pm in the chapel at Conrad Grebel.
The celebrated Canadian novelist David Bergen, who won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2005 for The Time in Between, read from his fiction and talked about his remarkable career on the evening of Wednesday February 29. His novels – which have received much critical acclaim – deal with such matters as family and personal estrangement, guilt, and the quest for redemption. Bergen lives in Winnipeg.
Darcie Friesen Hossack
A new arrival on the literary scene, Darcie Friesen Hossack, read from and spoke about her work on Wednesday March 7. Her collection of short stories, Mennonites Don't Dance, set among families living on the Canadian prairies, was nominated for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book – Canada and the Caribbean, and selected for the Globe and Mail’s 2011 Best First Fiction. She lives in British Columbia.
Paul Tiessen and Carrie Snyder
Tiessen, Professor Emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University, spoke about the work of Canadian novelist Miriam Toews, whose internationally popular novel, A Complicated Kindness, won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction