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Whoever Gives Us Bread [Hardcover]

Lynne Bowen
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 25 2011
Whoever Gives us Bread is a lively people's history from the 1860s to the 1960s, as told by an award-winning historian.

In the early 1860s, Italians began trickling into British Columbia via San Francisco. Fleeing grinding poverty back home, they came north to the isolated valleys and cities of the province to pan for gold, raise cattle, dig coal, fell timber, build railroads, smelt copper and refine lead, or to start small businesses. BC welcomed them grudgingly.

Recounting the stories of individual Italian immigrants, celebrated author Lynne Bowen has crafted a loosely chronological narrative of the Italian settlement of BC. It's a story rife with discrimination and tragedy, with families torn apart when their men left Italy for more promising futures, but always there is a rich sense of community and a sense of pride.

Here we meet Joseph Fontana, who incensed his fellow striking miners when he crossed their picket line near Ladysmith. We meet Sabina Teti, who ran a boarding house in Vancouver's Italian district of Strathcona. We hear stories of the 53 Italians who were rounded up from BC and shipped off to Kananaskis internment camp for fear that they would form a fifth column in support of Mussolini. Through these stories, Bowen also reveals the Canadian immigration, labour, and multiculturalism issues of the time.

Today, the BC Italian community is Canada's oldest by 50 years. Bowen has spent 10 years conducting interviews and combing through newspapers, government records and letters to write this definitive history. Whoever Gives Us Bread will appeal to the large Italian population in BC and across Canada as well as to readers of social history.

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"Lynne Bowen does not just write about Italians in British Columbia, she evokes their ethos and brings them to life vividly and dramatically. Under Bowen's guidance we understand what it was like to be a shop owner or railway labourer or mill worker or miner; we smell the aromas in Italian kitchens and the scents of lovingly tended family gardens. Bowen is a consummate storyteller." (Jean Barman, author of "The West beyond the West" 2011-01-17)

"British Columbia's Italian immigrants came as miners and mill hands, dreamers and desperate economic refugees. They included strikers and strikebreakers, Bolsheviks and bootleggers, prosperous merchants and flamboyant saloon keepers. Stroll through B.C.'s cemeteries, from the valleys of Vancouver Island to the Rocky Mountain passes, and Italian names stand out in the chronicle of underground explosions, labour strife and family hardship on a hard frontier. Lynne Bowen's Whoever Gives Us Bread, employing the same smooth prose and meticulous research that earned her a Lieutenant-Governor's Medal, unearths in its entire human dimension, the drama, tragedy and triumph of this remarkable chapter in the history of Canada's Pacific province." (Stephen Hume, author "A Walk with the Rainy Sisters" 2011-02-16)

"Whoever Gives Us Bread is Bowen’s sixth book on B.C. history...While Bowen doesn’t shy away from the difficult aspects of history, she also presents the joyous side of the Italian community, which valued family, good food and friends." (Nanaimo Bulletin 2011-07-04)

"Nanaimo writer Lynne Bowen is well known for her history books, many of which, like Boss Whistle and Three Dollar Dreams, deal with the history of the Central Island. Her newest book, Whoever Gives Us Bread...[looks] at the immigration of Italians to cities all over British Columbia, including Nanaimo, and the impact these immigrants had on the history of the province. It's a book that's been more than a decade in the making..." (Daily News 2011-06-30)

"Lynne Bowen, a writer from Nanaimo, has compiled a comprehensive, yet highly readable, account of the contribution made by the Italian community [to British Columbia]...Their memories and achievements would have been forgotten if not for Whoever Gives Us Bread. Bowen...knows how to mine sources for rich detail, and how to weave the stories together into a book that brings history back to life." (Victoria Times-Colonist 2011-07-31)

"Whoever Gives Us Bread is a well-sourced, timely, and highly readable book. It colours the familiar and lesser-travelled places of British Columbia with the imprint of Italian experiences...Thanks to Lynne Bowen, we know much more about the Italians who sojourned or settled 'beyond the frozen wastes'." (Stephen A. Fielding BC Studies 2012-07-01)

"Reading through the first few pages of Lynne Bowen's prologue, it becomes clear that Whoever Gives Us Bread is a labour of love. The author's affection for both Italy and British Columbia has been translated into a seamless narrative based on diligent research..." (Tanja Hutter Canada's History Magazine 2012-08-15)

About the Author

Lynne Bowen is the author of five books of Western Canadian history: Robert Dunsmuir, Those Lake People, Muddling Through, Three Dollar Dreams and Boss Whistle. She has won the Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for writing British Columbia history, the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize and the Canadian Historical Association's Regional Certificate of Merit. Bowen was the Rogers Communications Co-Chair of Creative Non-Fiction Writing at UBC from 1992 to 2006. She lives in Nanaimo, BC.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars for italian 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants Aug. 14 2011
By amika
This was given to a grandson of an immigrant who thoroughly enjoyed it. He recognized some names in the book which made it very interesting. He also found it emotionally hard to read in that he had not until this time realized how difficult life was for those people when they first came to this new country and yet it was excitingfor them. Life in the old country was no piece of cake either so there was great hope and expectation for a new beginning in this country. A well written and interesting book.
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