Book launch aids newcomers centre

January 5, 2011 | Artbeat | Number 1
By Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Alberta Correspondent
Edmonton, Alta.

On Nov. 10, Greenwoods Bookshoppe hosted a book launch for Canadian literary legend Rudy Wiebe’s newest book, Collected Stories/1955-2010, at Edmonton’s Oldtimer’s Cabin, a log building maintained by the Northern Alberta Pioneers and Descendants Association.

It was Wiebe’s idea to use the event to fundraise for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, a cause he and his wife Tena have supported since its inception in the 1980s. In planning the event with Gail Greenwood, Wiebe said, “Why not charge some admission and make it a benefit for what I think is a most worthy cause in Edmonton. Refugees have always been of particular concern to me, because in 1930, before I was born, Canada accepted my parents and their five children as refugees from the Soviet Union.”

Asked why readers of Canadian Mennonite might pick up Collected Stories, Wiebe replied, “There’s a lifetime of writing here; 55 years of my story interests in my place, my people. The opening story is about the historical Cree chief Maskepetoon, who was an amazing promoter of peace between the Cree and the Blackfoot people of 19th century western Canada. Grant MacEwan called him ‘The Gandhi of the Plains.’ In particular, readers of The Blue Mountains of China might be interested in the last three stories, which pick up the lives of major characters in the novel and bring them forward from 1967 to 2002.”

The Global Voices Choir, composed of newcomers centre staff, current and former program participants, volunteers and community members, performed a Chinese folk song and a piece entitled “Running,” which tells a Sudanese refugee story. Global Voices closed the program, leading the crowd of more than 100 in singing an iconic freedom song, “We Shall Overcome.”

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