Read GB’s essay The Swimming Hole on DooneysCafe.com
George Bowering was born in Penticton, where his great-grandfather Willis Brinson lived, and Bowering has never been all that far from the Okanagan Valley in his heart and imagination. Early in the twenty-first century, he was made a permanent citizen of Oliver. Bowering has family up and down the Valley, and he goes there as often as he can. He has been asked during his many visits to Okanagan bookstores over the years to publish a collection of his writing about the Valley.
Writing the Okanagan draws on forty books Bowering has published since 1960 – poetry, fiction, history, and some forms he may have invented. Selections from Delsing (1961) and Sticks & Stones (1962) are here, as is “Driving to Kelowna” from The Silver Wire (1966). Other Okanagan towns, among them Rock Creek, Peachland, Vernon, Kamloops, Princeton, and Osoyoos, inspire selections from work published through the 1970s and on to 2013. Fairview, the old mining site near Oliver, is the focus of an excerpt from Caprice (1987, 2010), one volume in Bowering’s trilogy of historical novels. “Desert Elm” takes as its two main subjects the Okanagan Valley and his father, who, as Bowering did, grew up there. With the addition of some previously unpublished works, the reader will find the wonder of the Okanagan here, in both prose and poetry.
“Particularly moving is Bowering’s essay on Mourning Dove, born Christine Quintasket in Idaho in 1885, one of the earliest North American First Nations women to write a novel. Before writing the piece, Bowering visited her grave in Okanogan, Washington. He outlines her struggles to be a writer and her close ties with her First Nations family north of the border, which included both of her grandfathers and one of her grandmothers. Mourning Dove herself taught at what Bowering calls ‘the Indian school’ north of Osoyoos in 1917.
“Throughout the book, Bowering’s lyrical sense of place shines through, both in descriptive passages and in evocations of local people. As he says himself, ‘You don’t cast aside your boyhood locus; it remains as part of the breath and sound trying to make what you are trying to make. Trying even now, forty-nine years on.’” (37).—BC Studies
“This is a rare opportunity to observe the growth of a writer over a lifetime, while at the same time enjoying numerous hidden gems of humour, wisdom, and writing virtuosity”.—49th Shelf