Rossland a great place to write, says award-nominated author
Rossland's own Rosa Jordan will share the spotlight with two other Kootenay writers in the run-up to the third annual One Book, One Kootenay (OBOK) award to be given by the Kootenay Library Federation.
The OBOK award winner is chosen by readers who vote for one of the three nominees at ballot boxes now open in public libraries across the region. Voting will remain open until July 30 and winners will be announced on Sept. 8, International Literacy Day.
Jordan's historical fiction, Far From Botany Bay, is set in an Australian penal colony, the high seas, and 18th century England.
It's up against The Glass Seed by Nelson's Eileen Delehanty Pearkes — a "poetic, insightful, [and] surprisingly uplifting" book, one review said, of a woman's reflections as she comes to terms with her mother's Alzheimer's — and Living in the Shadow of Fisher Peak by Cranbrook's Keith Powell, another historical fiction that delves into the characters and colours of the unruly era that was the Kootenay gold rush.
Far from Botany Bay is Jordan's first adult novel, although she has a long background in journalism, non-fiction, and literature for youth. Claiming no special interest in the 18th century, Jordan said, "What captivated me was Mary Broad's story, which seems to me to be as relevant today as it was then."
"For a foolish mistake made in her youth, she went to prison where she suffered abuses vastly disproportionate to the minor crime she had committed," Jordan explained. Then, although Broad was freed, "she was further imprisoned by poverty and an abusive spouse."
Jordan underlined a fundamental lesson: "Then as now, reclaiming one's freedom takes enormous initiative and courage. Not everyone has that, but those who have demonstrated it should be remembered for the model and inspiration they provide."
Jordan grew up in Florida's Everglades and went to university in California and Mexico, immigrated to Canada in 1980, and began her writing career with travel journalism.
"First it was Mexico, then Guyana, then Guatemala, then Ecuador," she said, describing a pattern of "falling in love" with foreign countries, visiting each many times "as I tried to get under the skin of the culture."
Jordan has since partnered with Earthways Foundation in Malibu, Calif., to develop grassroots environmental and social justice programs that include a food security project in Guatemala and a jungle cat reserve in Ecuador's Choco rainforest.
She wrote a screenplay, The Sweetest Gift, which was made into a TV movie, but it was only after her move to Rossland that she began writing books, including two non-fiction titles co-authored with her partner, Derek Choukalos: One has a local spirit — Rossland: The First 100 Years — and the other, Cycling Cuba, is published by Lonely Planet.
"I have lived in more places than I can remember, and as a place for a writer to be based, I have never found one that is remotely as satisfactory as Rossland," Jordan said.
She switched styles again and authored four middle reader and young adult novels whose animal characters are based on her relationship with animals.
"Domestic animals were important members of my family as a child," she said, "and I have had amazing experiences with wild animals like alligators and exotic cats. The older I get, the more I realize how much those connections contributed to my understanding of life, the universe and everything."
Cuba has a special place in Jordan's heart, and her affection has lasted 15 years. In other countries, "I'd get to a level where I couldn't relate," Jordan said, but Cuba was different, "probably because it shares my environmental and humanitarian values and is actively working to advance them."
Jordan cites the high percentage of protected parks and reserves, free education including graduate school (for those who make the grades,) and Cuba's high level of medical assistance offered to poor nations.
"Would that Canada, so much wealthier than Cuba, could say the same!" she said.
By mid-summer, Choukalos and Jordan hope to release their travel guide to Cuba's best beaches, and in December, Jordan hopes to release her second adult novel: The Woman She Was, about a doctor in contemporary Cuba.
"[She], like Cuba, is struggling with identity issues," Jordan said. "Will she be subsumed by her fiancé, a hard-line Communist bureaucrat? Or allow his younger brother to lure her to Miami? What about her 16-year-old niece who is abandoning her free educational opportunities to prostitute herself for desirable consumer products? And what about the good doctor's own health, as she begins to have difficulty distinguishing her persona from that of Cuba's most famous female revolutionary, whom she might have been?"
All the OBOK nominated books are available at the Rossland public library, and the OBOK club invites readers to discuss the books with friends or online.
OBOK is a regional book club that celebrates the work of talented writers living in the Kootenay Boundary.
"Anyone can join, and you don’t even have to provide hors d'oeuvres." said Sandra Smith, the interim library director of Castlegar's public library.
For more information, visit the Kootenay Library Federation website at www.obok.ca.