It’s not unusual for a book to start out as one thing when the author sits down and begins writing, and end up taking the writer somewhere they never planned on. Jean Walton’s Mudflat Dreaming is one of those books. “Originally, I just wanted to write something set in the time and place where I came of age, in the seventies in the vicinity of Vancouver—partly because I loved the idea of combining family visits with research for a creative project,” Jean Walton explains. Though the book went through various incarnations over the last decade, including a novel, the author was continously drawing from her own life experience. “ I had drawn from my own teen diaries,” Walton explains. Eventually the project became a hybrid of memoiristic material from the author’s own life in Surrey, plus the stories of the north shore squatters and the Bridgeview community. Enter New Star Books published Rolf Maurer. “He was very excited about the history of the Mudflats on the North Shore,” Walton explains.
After some conversation with Maurer, Walton reshaped the material to focus on the dual history of those squatters and the working class community in Bridgeview, and the other side of the story of fringe communities on Vancouver’s waterfront locales. “As I went about researching the Vancouver project, I wanted to bring to it the same skills I had developed as a reader of films, but also as a lover of archival research—I wanted the project to be deeply and accurately researched, and yet to have a light touch where the writing itself was concerned. I couldn’t be making the very complicated theoretical arguments I was used to mounting in my academic work—and yet, I didn’t want to “dumb down” the issues I was treating either, since I think any audience can understand the complexity of any issue if it is narrated with some honesty and creativity.”
One notion that truly piqued Walton’s interest was the question of water. “How it travels in a rainy, mountainous locale with a serious river delta that has been diked and dammed over decades; how waste-water is disposed and how it comes back to haunt you under the wrong conditions; how tidal water can work as a metaphor for how a person might want to live in “suspension” above various kinds of social and political constraints; how whole populations, prior to colonization, lived in concert with rising and falling of water levels; how resource extraction uses water to float the province’s riches out for sale to the highest bidder.”
As Dan Francis puts it, Jean Walton has “rescued two of these communties from obscurity in her vivid and thoughtful account.” Mudflat Dreaming will be launching in October in Vancouver. Stay close to these pages for further updates on launches, signings and special events.
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