Book Reviews by students of John Myers at OISE.

Liana Molinaro

They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars.

Bev Sellars is a Canadian writer who published this book as a memoir of her childhood experiences as a student at a church-run residential school called St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake, British Columbia. This memoir tells the story of how these institutions aimed to “civilize” Native students through Christian teachings, forced separation from family, language, and culture, and strict discipline. As Sellars talks about her time at the school, one can understand the hardships of the children and the families of the children that were forced into this school system. Sellars details life after the residential school and how she and her family suffered from severe depression and even suicidal thoughts.

I think this would be great to use in a grade 10 Canadian history course. I would not read the book in its entirety with my class; instead I would select meaningful, relevant, and significant passages from the book to complement the curriculum. In this grade, students learn all about Canada’s past including the treatment and mistreatment of Aboriginals. Using passages will give the students a better understanding of the experiences faced by these children.  I think this is a great learning tool as students get a firsthand account of the measures taken to assimilate Aboriginals in Western culture. This will provide a perspective other than the textbook account which will deepen student understanding and provide meaning and context to the curriculum content.



And now something to get you thinking about coming to Ottawa in November for the OHASSTA Conference!


By Alan Skeoch

Nov. 4, 2016

Let me take you for a train ride…to share something that deeply moved me.  Perhaps you will have similar, albeit vicarious, feelings.  By good fortune I was able to go to our history conference in Ottawa.   “Do not drive, Alan, you could get killed.”  So I took the train…lots to think about sitting alone in a near empty railroad car... Alone, or near alone, legs stretched out … window as wide as a movie theatres…porter/chef/steward opened trip with  “And what would you like to drink, sir?”

“Anything at all, you mean anything at all?”

“Yessir, what will it be?”

And so the trip began…  A somewhat free drink and the music of steel wheels on steel rails bumping fishplate joiners would make anyone philosophical.  Made me so.  Made me think about Arlo Guthrie, Willy Nelson and Johnny Cash.  Made me tap my foot and hum that wonderful song about the railroad.

“What song?, you ask…well, read on...


Steve Goodman noticed Arlo Guthrie in a Chicago bar in 1972. Arlo Guthrie was a folk musician…Goodman was hardly known at all.  

“Will you let me play a tune I wrote for you?”, said Goodman in the Quiet Knight Bar.

“Maybe, if you buy me a beer.”


“But I will only listen as long as the glass of beer lasts.”

And so was born “The City of New Orleans”, one of the great songs of the almost vanishing passenger trains.  Goodman described his train ride from Chicago to New Orleans as only a poet could.

Doing History: Profiles of people working in history but not necessarily as history teachers. We encourage you to show these to your students. 


Risa Gluskin e-interviewed, Sean Boyle, a Ph. D candidate at U of T.

Tell me about yourself and your unique point of view.

I am a PhD candidate in History at the University of Toronto. My primary field of study is 20th-century American capitalism and labour. Currently I’m immersed in research for my dissertation on the political, economic, and labour aspects of Federal Express in the 1970s through the 1990s. For the past four years at UofT I’ve also been a teaching assistant for American, Canadian, and global-imperial histories. While American history has always been my focus, I have been drawn to the varieties of global and trans-national histories that have been in vogue the past fifteen years. Looking outside the borders of America gives a perspective on the nation that some scholars lack. Ideas, goods, capital, and people all move across borders. Scholarship should too. This is partially why I came to UofT. Being an American from New Jersey, I felt that UofT offered opportunities to get out of the national bubble and hopefully acquire a fresh outlook. Studying Canadian history hasn’t only helped me understand my new home but has also given me new insight into American history. I think as national historians we can overemphasize the importance of the nation in historical events. While there are definite political, economic, and cultural differences between Canada and America, cross-border regional histories highlight congruities and provide a perspective that is absent when national boundaries circumscribe scholarship.   

By Rachel Collishaw

Speak Truth to Power Canada - A new exhibit from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. A selection of 12 Canadians who are human rights defenders. They all start with an interview with the defender, and then move into biography, and the larger community of defenders. Some of the defenders are Jeremy Dias, Wilton Littlechild and Louise Arbour. They have been carefully selected to represent a cross-section of Canadians. Free to use, though still under construction.

Voices Into Action - Produced by Canadian organization FAST (Fighting Anti-Semitism Together) this is a powerful collection of videos, lessons, and personal stories of people fighting against all kinds of discrimination. The lessons are tied to numerous curricula. The Komagata Maru, the Armenian Genocide, Gender issues, Islamophobia and Irish Catholics in the 19th century. All are free to use, funded by FAST, but teachers need to register so the organization can track use.

Facing History and Ourselves - An organization based in the US with a Canadian chapter in Toronto. They specialize in creating empathy related to the holocaust and other atrocities. They offer teacher webinars and summer institutes ($$). They have a new book called Stolen Lives: The Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools which is free to download, but you can purchase it in print. The have a vast collection of online lesson plans to create empathy for students of all levels. The writings of people who suffered discrimination are also easily searchable and available, such as this recollection of an Anishnabee-Ojibway woman on being called an Indian

Doing History: Profiles of people working in history but not necessarily as history teachers. The profile below is particularly relevant for reconciliation


Risa Gluskin e-interviewed Krista McCracken, one of the editors of Active History. She is an Archives Supervisor at Algoma University’s Arthur A. Wishart Library and Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.


What did you want to "be" when you were in high school?

In high school I wanted to be an English or history teacher. I knew I was really interested in both of those subjects but had no idea how to turn that interest into a job outside of becoming a teacher.

What were history classes like for you in high school?

I loved history classes in high school.  The teacher I had for a world history class was particularly memorable and was one of the main reasons I went on to study history at university.  

Did you study 'public history'? If so, how did you find out about this field?

I have an MA in public history from Western University.  I found out about public history in the third year of my undergrad degree when a social history professor mentioned it in passing.  Later in my fourth year when I was trying to decide what to do upon graduation I got back in touch with that professor and he connected me with practicing public historians who provided advice on educational paths.