Victoria Beach: Trees remind settlers of Lebanon

“The feeling of pride, self-reliance and hard work comes through the story like a shaft of sunlight.”

March 15, 2015

Among the many interesting and wonderful men and women who worked on writing their life stories with me as their workshop instructor was a woman named Marion Eisler. I still own the pink and gray wool hat that she knit for me during classes that I held at the St. James Senior Centre in Winnipeg.

Now that I am just shy of 60 myself, I remember often how Marion summed up growing old for me after we discussed an ailment she was experiencing. “Getting old is not for sissies,” she said quoting an aging movie star.

Marion and her husband had a cottage in Lester Beach, the area that was owned by my ancestors on my father’s paternal side of the family.  The following book review that I am sharing with you here, though, is about a book written by my grandmother on my father’s maternal side of the family.

My grandmother, you see, not only read tea leaves as I do now (I think she did, anyway, as my great-grandmother Shafia or Sophia did) but she also was a writer and author as I am.

Here is the dear Marion Eisler’s review of Laela’s book in a Victoria Beach, Mantoba community newspaper:

Victoria Beach

Trees remind settlers of Lebanon

by Marion Eisler

Cedars of Lebanon by Laela Ateah-Lester. Columbia Press, Winnipeg (Copies in University of Manitoba Library)

This 160-page book is about Michael and Shafia Atean, parents of the author, a first generation Canadian.

Michael came from the Mount Lebanon region of Syria. The story is about his first meeting with Shafia, their marriage, and there move in 1912 to what is now Victoria Beach. The author writes about her parents’ struggle to make a living on their “small lonely peninsula” where dense pines reminded her father of his home country. The feeling of pride, self-reliance and hard work comes through the story like a shaft of sunlight.

In writing about her father’s death in 1937 Laela says: “Spirits of our Syrian ancestors escorted Michael to his new home where the Cedars of Lebanon, high over still waters, would shade him forever.”

–END–

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