Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Remnants of Nation: On Poverty Narratives by Women

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Remnants of Nation: On Poverty Narratives by Women

Article excerpt

Roxanne Rimstead, Remnants of Nation: On Poverty Narratives by Women (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 348pp. Paper. £15. ISBN 0- 8020-8270-X.

Roxanne Rimstead's book presents a serious, thorough and long-overdue challenge to national myths and official Canadian discourses about poverty. Examining a wide range of texts, both canonical and lesser-known (if not obscured by 'history'), Rimstead explicitly refrains from specific theoretical approaches such as post-colonial or feminist but engages in what she calls 'reading oppositionally' - that is, recovering and rereading, on multiple contrastive bases, accounts both by and about the poor. Chapter 1, '"Fictioning" a Literature', supports her stance by laying bare the historical instrumentalisation of poverty narratives, while the following chapters counter-read the selected short stories, novels, autobiographies and oral histories by Canadian women from 1919 to the 1990s in terms of, for example, homelessness, housing, negative constructions of identity and (lack of ) social interaction. The author illuminates the mechanisms of constructing poor subjects both textually and socially, trying to understand the poor also as agents of resistance and cultural change. She takes up Diana Pearce's concept of the 'feminisation of poverty' and diagnoses an 'overlap between poverty and gender' (p. 32) with regard to the increasing number of poor women, whose poverty - like that of children, and often of families - is less visible than that of men who can more easily negotiate their social position. …

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