New Star Blogs

All Possible Worlds: The Missing Chapter



In 1995, New Star Books published All Possible Worlds by Justine Brown, Number 5 in our Transmontanus series.  Ms Brown’s account of half a dozen emblematic BC utopias, or intentional communities, was originally going to have a chapter on a mysterious commune in the remote Yalakom Valley, north of Lillooet, centred around a brilliant and charismatic SFU professor manque, Fred Brown.

But no matter how pervasive, and intriguing, the stories surrounding this commune were, they proved impossible to track down.  Was this mysterious Yalakom enclave even still going?  Nobody seemed to be able to say anything for sure.  So the chapter never happened, and All Possible Worlds was published without that story.

A generation later, in the present age, I encountered a video on the internet of my modest, and now retiring, colleague Judith Plant, publisher at New Society Publishers, accepting an award (I forget which) recognizing some of her contributions.  Judith gave a little talk that was particularly rich for that sort of thing, and I watched, fascinated.

There was lots of interesting Canadian publishing history, a genre I can’t resist.  But more than that, it was the story of Judith’s life path (so far).  And in the middle of her story, there it suddenly appeared:  the lost chapter from All Possible Worlds.

In the video, Judy was talking about the early years of her life with Kip, a.k.a. Christopher Plant, her partner in publishing, parenting, and life, until Parkinson’s ended that part in 2013.  She told the story of their meeting, on the commons at Simon Fraser University; of the course they took together from the brilliant professor Fred Brown, and of their adventure, following Fred away from the city and into his remote Shangri-la in the Coast Mountains.  That’s Judith and Kip, on the far right of the group shot above.

Culture Gap: Towards a New World in the Yalakom Valley, Judith’s account of her family’s Yalakom Valley adventure, publishes today, May 25.  Watch this space for information about launches in Gabriola Island, Victoria, and Vancouver, as these firm up.  Culture Gap is available from finer booksellers everywhere, including the People’s Co-op Bookstore and our own website.


The story of Salt Spring’s Hawai’ian matriarch back on shelves


We’re pleased to announce a new edition of Maria Mahoi of the Islands, Jean Barman‘s 2002 instant-classic concerning the mystery-shrouded life of one of our province’s important clan mothers.

Born in the mid-1850s to a Hawai’ian father and a First Nations mother, Maria Mahoi died in 1936 on Russell Island near Salt Spring, having raised thirteen children and leaving behind scores of descendants, including a future provincial cabinet minister.

“Jean Barman is a good storyteller  .. . When she addresses issues of race and racialization, her insight into the experience is surprisingly accurate for a monoracial woman. Barman does not theorize the racist assumptions undermining the denigration of nonwhite stories but rather participates in a counter-hegemonic project seeking to add new narratives of the racially hybrid nation.”  — Michelle La Flamme, BC Studies

Updated and with some new photos, Maria Mahoi of the Islands is on sale from Tanner’s Books, UBC Central and all the finer brick and mortar bookstores in British Columbia, and certainly from the People’s Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive, to say nothing of the real Amazon.


Green wave approaching Lower Mainland


Victoria writer and filmmakar Andrew Struthers will be in Vancouver on Friday, June 2, waving copies of his new book The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed at its Vancouver launch, at the People’s Co-op Bookstore.

This balanced look at deadly marijuana, based on the author’s own extensive personal experience of listening to tons of stories about pot and reading a bunch of books on the subject, was released on April 20, and to acclaim, too.

“[A]n entertaining read with more serious substance to it than you might predict,” quoth the Vancouver Sun, while Victoria’s Focus magazine believes that The Sacred Herb/The Devil’s Weed is “no stoner puff piece or simplistic “marijuana good/marijuana bad” debate. In fact, the book’s flip-side structure highlights the incomplete understanding that comes from such cut-and-dried dualistic thinking.”

Both reviewers imply, without actually stating, that the book is quite humorous as well.

At the launch, Andrew Struthers will be demonstrating his amazing powers of memory by reading a passage from The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed exactly as it was written!  Please join us around 8 pm Friday, June 2, at the People’s Number One Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive.

Meanwhile, copies can be purchased from Munro’s, Black Afg Bond, Spartacus Books, UBC Central, UVic Bookstore, the People’s Co-op Bookstorethe real Amazon, and maybe when the category buyer returns from their smoke break and gets around to placing the order, possibly even Chapters.

Remember your Mothers on Mother’s Day


It’s not a stat holiday, but it’s surely one you should never forget. So do remember to spend some time with your Mom this Sunday, May 14.

You’re not going to want to forget Mother’s Day 2018, either. For that date, May 13, is the publication date for a very special project about some other Mothers that’s been way more than ten years in the making.

It is, quite simply, the Mother of All Books About its subject, which also explains why it’s taken so long.

Keep an eye on this site or sign up below for all the newest and most reliable rumour and innuendo about Mother’s Day ’18 as these trend. Meanwhile, here, absolutely free, is a taste, a hint, a mere further clue, of what we’re talking about.


Rolf Knight is this year’s George Woodcock Prize winner


Long-time Burnaby resident Rolf Knight, author of more than eight books about working-class and First Nations BC history, is this year’s winner of the George Woodcock Prize.

The prize will be formally presented at a ceremony at the Vancouver Public Library on June 29. Knight’s contribution to regional history was previously recognized in 1992 by the Canadian Historical Association.

Knight’s most recent books are Voyage Through the Past Century (2013) and Along the No. 20 Line (1980; reissued 2011). Indians at Work (1977; reissued 1996) and A Very Ordinary Life (1974) continue to be among his best known books.

Since 1996, the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award annually honours an outstanding literary career in British Columbia. Previous winners include David Suzuki, Alice Munro, Phyllis Webb, Jane Rule, Jack Hodgins, bill bissett, and Jean Barman.

Read more about the award, and Knight’s response, at BC BookLook.

A Series of Dogs on the Leacock longlist


John Armstrong‘s A Series of Dogs, was announced in late April as one of nine books longlisted for the 2017 Stephen Leacock Medal, a prize, albeit named after a banker, for the funniest Canadian book of the previous year.   (Just as we were going to WordPress, we learned that Dogs had not made it on through to the three-book June 10 run-off.)

A Series of Dogs, released in November, tells of the dogs that have accompanied the punk musician-now-writer in his road through heedless youth, responsible maturity, and recently, reflective middle age.

Another dog in the fight (nine on the longlist, and one of three that made it through) is another New Star author, Gary Barwin, for his Big Five-published Yiddish For Pirates, which is differently funny from his 2011 collaboration Franzlations, maybe not as Kafkaesque.  Go, Gary!


A Short Sad Book still hip at 40


This year Canada turns 150, BC turns 146, and George Bowering‘s postmodern historical detective romance A Short Sad Book turns 40. To mark all these occasions and more we’ve reissued A Short Sad Book with cover art by John Boyle, a brilliantly fun introduction by Erín Moure, and an illuminating afterword by George Bowering himself.

Here’s James W. Woods in the Vancouver Sun on A Short Sad Book’s continued relevance:

A Short Sad Book is a delightful picaresque romp that borrows freely in matters of style from the early 20th-century American experimentalist Gertrude Stein: the spirit of Canadian literature is chased up, down and across the country, sought in vain, with both the author and his readers learning much about what it means to be Canadian in the process. …

This book fairly brims over with invention, from its distinctive spelling and punctuation to its hunger to define, almost by lack of definition, this nation. …

The casual style, jokes and the book’s compact length all conspire to seduce the reader into an impression of levity. Underneath such apparent levity, however, lie many themes as important to Canada today as they were 40 years ago.

A Short Sad Book can be found at bookstores across this country both real and imagined, and at

Spring ’17: George Bowering, Andrew Struthers, Jean Barman, Judith Plant, David Bromige


new star books spring 2017 catalogueWe’re super excited to announce our Spring 2017 list (catalogue cover illustrations by Andrew Struthers [big head] and Greg Curnoe [little head], which features five exceptional talents writing on an eclectic array of topics, and represents a 25% increase over 2016’s entire output (in a strictly quantitative sense) here at New Star World HQ, where we are intimidated by the forthcoming workload but mostly buoyed by the wit and beauty and insight of the words whose authors have lent us the privilege of publishing their work. In ascending order of wait times:

A Short Sad Book by George Bowering (introduction by Erín Moure

Forty years ago, George Bowering saw a country still struggling to find itself in its books, and decided to write A Short Sad Book about it. Did he know he was writing if not The Great Canadian Novel something like it? Poet/translator Erín Moure provides an introduction for this new edition, peeling back just enough layers of Bowering’s short but incredibly rich novel to show even more layers underneath. Bowering’s own Afterword provides additional context. A teachable moment in Canadian literature if ever there was one.

The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed by Andrew Struthers (previously announced)

This hilarious and insightful double-sided paperback by “Canada’s Hunter S. Thompson” was originally scheduled for last April, when there were ~25 times as many pot as book stores in Vancouver, but then something happened, or didn’t happen, and now it’s set for April 20, 2017, when there will be only 5x as many pot stores. (Time for someone to retire the “Mayor Moonbeam” sobriquet.)

Maria Mahoi of the Islands by Jean Barman (revised 2nd edition)

Since its original publication in 2004, Maria Mahoi of the Islands has become a classic in its field, and an important document on the history of Indigenous Hawaiians known as Kanakas, who had an early presence across the Pacific Northwest and are now part of the broader Hawaiian diaspora across North America. Drawing on information that has come to light since the book’s first publication—and sometimes as a result of it—Governor General’s Award-winner Jean Barman has updated and expanded her account, and written a new Foreword talking about the life that the book has taken on.

Culture Gap and Beyond: Real Life in a New World by Judith Plant

In the early 1980s Judith Plant and her new partner, Chris, were ready for a change. Inspired by the charismatic Fred Brown, their communications professor at Simon Fraser University, they joined a commune in a remote valley near the Yalakom River, deep in BC’s Coast Mountains. An absorbing account of a lifestyle emblematic of a time, Culture Gap and Beyond also shows, from her own older perspective, a young mother’s struggles to reconcile her social ideals of personal and environmental responsibility, and loving and caring for those closest to her.

If wants to be the same as is: Essential Poems of David Bromige, by David Bromige; Jack Krick, Bob Perelman, Ron Silliman, eds. (introduction by George Bowering)

Drawn from 22 books of poetry published by David Bromige in his lifetime, if wants to be the same as is chronicles the career of one of contemporary poetry’s most distinctive writers, whose  life’s work is, In the words of Bob Perelman, “beautiful, deeply amusing, continually surprising.”

News You Can Use (To Get Angry): Marc Edge in Conversation


The News We Deserve coverSince Marc Edge‘s last book, Greatly Exaggerated, and indeed during the whole of his 15-year career in academia, the corporate consolidation and American financial raiding of Canada’s media companies has continued unchecked. Journalists are being laid off by the thousands while the Postmedia CEO gets millions in bonuses.

But there is cause for hope: MP Hedy Fry is the latest to convene a parliamentary committee to examine the issue, in part prompted by Edge’s exhortations, as he details in the introduction (PDF) to his new book, The News We Deserve: The Transformation of Canada’s Media Landscape. Let’s hope the Fry report doesn’t go the way of the Davey, Kent, Lincoln, etc. committees….

To help you get and/or stay as informed and angry about what Paul Godfrey and his ilk are doing to a critical Canadian institution, may we recommend two Marc Edge podcasts and two books:

1. Stream or download Edge’s engaging conversation with Joseph Planta at

2. Stream or download Edge’s discussion with Ian Gill and Robert Hackett at The News We Deserve book launch from Soundcloud

3. Grab a *free* PDF of Greatly Exaggerated

4. And of course, buy The News We Deserve, read it, and scream “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” from the (browser) window.

Literary butt-sniffing: A Series of Dogs makes the rounds


John Armstrong reads at the luanch of A Series of DogsJohn Armstrong‘s new memoir A Series of Dogs has been romping around town making friends, chasing squirrels, and pissing on upright objects like some kind of domesticated urban mammal, maybe a cat or something.

On November 30, Armstrong hopped on a bus from Chilliwack to Vancouver and hammered out an entertaining email interview with Allan MacInnis, then sat down at a dog cafe for a thoughtful and hilarious interview with Lisa Christiansen for CBC Radio One’s On the Coast, before finally heading down to Lanalou’s and, before a rousing performance by The Judys, reading from A Series of Dogs to a by-turns mirthful and lachrymose crowd — though considering it was the end of Vancouver’s traditional fall monsoon season, perhaps it was just raining on their faces.

The emotional rollercoaster of the book is summed up beautifully by Heidi Greco in her Vancouver Sun review:

As with any love story, there’s a fair amount of heartbreak. But don’t think for a minute that there aren’t plenty of good times. After all, this is John Armstrong, a writer who’s pretty much guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.

Greco goes on to note Armstrong’s evident literary bona fides, and concludes that A Series of Dogs is “a memorable compendium of philosophy, social commentary, slobbery kisses and love” — i.e., the perfect gift. Ask for A Series of Dogs at bookstores everywhere, or buy it online here.