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HomeEventsEsther Birney Series (on Zoom) - Fall 2021

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Esther Birney Series (on Zoom) - Fall 2021

Thursday, September 16, 2021, 10:30 AM until 12:00 PM
Additional Info:
Registration is not available online - contact the event coordinator
Payment In Full In Advance Only
Join us for this well-curated literary arts series including intriguing topics given by knowledgeable presenters. (See below for a complete list of topics and information about using Zoom.)

If you are a current member and would like to join this series, please register by contacting BevAnn directly at Thank you. If you are already registered for the Spring term, you do not need to re-register.
Available Slots:
No Fee
No Fee
Note: If you don't have access to the Zoom application on a computer, tablet or smart phone, Zoom presentations are also available by dialing in using a landline or cellphone. On the day and time of the course, call 778-907-2071 (within Metro Vancouver) and enter the Meeting ID and Passcode that were given after registering for the course. If you live outside of metro Vancouver, please look up the local phone number for your locationat (The calls are muted when you join the meeting, to unmute yourself, please press *6 (as per instructions on the phone). 

September 16 – Geoff Mynett - Murders and True Crime on the Skeena River: Gunanoot, Gordon, Grider and others.

Geoff returns to the Esther Birney Series to talk about his books Pinkerton’s and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot: Double Murder, Secret Agents and an Elusive Outlaw and Murders on the Skeena, True Crime in the Old Canadian West: 1884–1914, both published by Caitlin Press in 2021. (Murders on the Skeena may not be off the press by September 16.)


The setting for these stories of true crime is Hazelton, a small frontier town in northern British Columbia. Hazelton is one of the most historic places in the province, with a non-Indigenous history going back to 1833 and an Indigenous history going back millennia before then.


Geoff Mynett’s first book was a best-selling biography of the Dr. Horace Wrinch, the pioneer doctor in Northern British Columbia, 1900-1936, entitled Service on the Skeena: Horace Wrinch, Frontier Physician.


Geoff qualified as a barrister in the UK and, after emigration in 1973, as a barrister and solicitor in British Columbia. He was in-house counsel for over twenty-five years. Married, with two sons. Retired. Artist. Reader. Lives in Dunbar. He has been a member of Brock House for several years and participates in the Brock House Artists Group. Some members may have bought some of his greeting cards.

September 23 – No talk


September 30 – Film showing and talk - Far Away From Far Away: A Story About the Importance of Place

A National Film Board Production

Far Away From Far Away is a reminder that we walk with one foot in the past and one in the future. Inspired by the early life of visionary Zita Cobb, it tells the story of a young girl growing up on the remote Fogo Island with her father during the 1960s and ‘70s. More than a historical retelling, it offers a contemporary interpretation of time and place while painting a powerful picture of rural life in that era. It was originally filmed using a smart phone.

Far Away From Far Away
is led by Newfoundland-born multimedia creator Bruce Alcock, Webby Award-winning multimedia artist Jeremy Mendes, and award-winning author and poet Michael Crummey, born in Buchans Newfoundland and raised in 
Wabush, Labrador. It was shot by filmmaker Justin Simms, born in Labrador City and now based in St. John’s, with assistance from Fogo Island high school students.

Michael Crummey will be joining us on Zoom. Bruce Alcock and Jeremy Mendes will be in-house.

October 7 - Nicola Levell – “The Flight of the Hummingbird: Storytelling and the Art of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas”

They huddled at the edge of the forest and watched. 

All of the creatures gathered, except one – Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas


In this talk, I will trace The Flight of the Hummingbird by dipping into the colourful art of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, the so-called Haida Manga guy. From the beautifully illustrated pages of his parable for the environment about the little hummingbird, Dukdukdiya, I tell the story of Yahugulanaas’ creativity as it modulates from visual arts to operatic performances captivating diverse audiences on its way. I reflect on the agency of individuals, storylines and art to foster multispecies wellbeing through relations of reciprocity, sharing and giving. I invite us all to take action in the time of climate change.


Nicola Levell is Associate Professor of Museum and Visual Anthropology at UBC and an independent curator. Her research and writing focus on exhibitions, collections history, public and performing arts, and storytelling. She has curated exhibitions and art installations in the United Kingdom, Portugal, the United States and Canada. Her latest exhibition, Shadows, Strings and Other Things: The Enchanting Theatre of Puppets won an Award for Outstanding Achievement in 2020 from the Canadian Museum Association. Her most recent publications are Mischief Making: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Art and Seriousness of Play (Oct 2021) and the edited volume Bodies of Enchantment: Puppets from Asia, Europe, Afirca and the Americas (Nov 2021).


October 14 – Rhea Tregebov presents her 2019 novel, Rue des Rosiers


Sarah Levine is the black sheep of the family, the youngest of three sisters. At twenty-five, she is rudderless, making decisions by flipping a lucky penny. However, when she is fired from her Toronto job, an unexpected stay in Paris opens her up both to new direction and purpose, and to an unexpected collision with an act of terror. Rue des Rosiers can be read as a novel about chance, about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it is also a novel about choice, the need to make conscious choices about who we are, what we value, and how we want to live. The novel offers a moving exploration of how we find our common humanity – even when confronted with prejudice and terror.


Rhea Tregebov is the author of seven books of poetry, as well as two novels. In 2005 she moved from Toronto to Vancouver to take on a faculty position in the Creative Writing Program at UBC where she taught poetry, translation and fiction writing. In the spring of 2019, she led a graduate course on translation at Tsuda University in Tokyo, Japan. She is now an Associate Professor Emerita and is currently working on her eighth collection of poetry. Rue des Rosiers was short-listed for the BC/Yukon Book Prize and was awarded the Nancy Richler Memorial Prize for Fiction.  

October 21 – Alix Ohlin – “A Life in Stories”

What can the short story tell us about life? In the space of just a few pages, a great deal. As a lifelong reader of stories, I'll talk about what I think is so exciting about the short story, why I'm drawn to it in my own work, and how a new generation of writers in Canada and beyond is reinventing this age-old genre.

Alix Ohlin
is the author of six books, most recently WE WANT WHAT WE WANT, a collection of short stories. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Walrus, and many other places. She is the Director of the UBC School of Creative Writing.


October 28 – no talk


November 4 – Rachel Mines – “Jonah Rosenfeld’s Yiddish Fiction: Century-Old Stories for Modern Times”

Jonah Rosenfeld was one of the most well-known Yiddish writers you’ve never heard of. He was a prolific contributor to the Forverts newspaper in the 1920s and 30s, but only a few of his stories have been made accessible to the English-speaking reader until recently. His stories, striking for their modernity, deal with timely concerns such as immigration, alienation, culture clash, women’s lives, and family dysfunction.


Dr. Rachel Mines, Langara Faculty Emerita, English, will introduce you to Jonah Rosenfeld and read from her recent book of his translated stories, "The Rivals” and Other Stories. Copies will be available for purchase.


November 11 – Remembrance Day


November 18 - Kathleen Oliver – “Three Ways of Looking at Theatre”

From the blank page, from the darkened house, from the office upstairs—these are very different perspectives on a play.

Langara College English instructor Kathleen Oliver has worked as a playwright (with productions across Canada, in the UK, and Paris), theatre critic (over twenty years reviewing for the Georgia Straight), and arts publicist/office assistant (at about a dozen Vancouver arts organizations). She will talk about her experiences as a theatre devotee from all these angles.


November 25 – no talk


December 2 - Sandra Friesen - Dainty Fine Duchessesof the Libertine Restoration (1660-1700): Women, Sex, and Satire in the Court of Charles II


In the famously libertine court of Charles II, a form of underground satire proliferated that was so lascivious and vulgar it could raise the eyebrows of even the worldliest among us today.  Through the case of royal mistress Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, this talk explores the clandestine satires on Restoration England's court ladies (ca. 1660-1700), alongside their visual portraits and colourful biographies. 


Far from being empty, throwaway slander or satire intended only to take indirect aim at the king and his male court (as has long been assumed by traditional scholarship), Dr. Friesen will discuss how these risqué, virulent satires circulated widely in the period to chronicle court affairs, disseminate gossip, and impart both fame and infamy on their subjects.  As such, they functioned not only as political and sexual commentary, but also as a form of portraiture in verse - however unflattering and caricatured - that is crucial to gaining a complete picture of women's roles, influence, and celebrity in Restoration London and beyond.


Langara College instructor Sandra Friesen obtained her BA in English and French and MA in English from the University of Western Ontario. She earned her PhD at the University of Victoria. Her dissertation on late 17th century political humour and satire was (mostly) a delight to write

Dec. 9 – Dr. John LeBlancFilm showing and talk - Jane Eyre, 1943

Start time 9:45

Dr. LeBlanc returns to host another film version of a classic novel. Jane Eyre is a 1943 American film adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by John HousemanAldous Huxley, and director Robert Stevenson. It stars Orson Welles with Joan Fontaine playing the title character. The film runs for 97 minutes.

Dr. Leblanc, professor emeritus UBC, will join us after the film for a discussion.

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