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Michael Usiskin.

Winnipeg, Peguis Publishers, c1983.
174pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-919566-92-8.

Grades 10 and up.
Reviewed by George Huffman.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

This account is a memoir of a pioneer settler, who, like so many others, came from Europe in the early 1900s to begin a new life on the western frontier. The author, Michael Usiskin, was a Russian Jew who in 1911 came to the Jewish farming colony known as Edenbridge, Saskatchewan. The book originally was written in Yiddish and now has been translated into English by Usiskin's niece, Marcia Usiskin Basman.

Usiskin tells of the hardship these pioneers faced in attempting to establish farms in the forest and muskeg of northeastern Saskatchewan. Readers will come to realize that the whole province is not one vast treeless prairie and that pioneer life on the forest fringe was very different and much more difficult than on the plains in the south.

What is particularly unique about the book is that it relates the story from a Jewish perspective. This is not simply a history of settlement but also the story of Jewish settlers searching for a life free of the persecution they had experienced in Tsarist Russia. It is an amazing account of their struggle to maintain a learned way of life thousands of miles from the centres of their religious and cultural civilization. It shows how historic divisions among Jews, such as secular and religious, were transplanted into the Saskatchewan wilderness.

I highly recommend this book to both high school students and their teachers. It would be particularly useful for studying western settlement and illustrating an aspect of the Canadian cultural mosaic that is not well known.

George Huffman, Weybum C. S. Weybum, SK.
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