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Thirteenth Issue
Volume 7, No. 1


O Mordecai, Where Art Thou?
By Juan Rodriguez


Quebecite: A Jazz Fantasia In Three Cantos
Reviewed by Kelly Murphy

A House By The Sea
Reviewed by Ian McGillis

The Speaking Cure
Reviewed by Mark Heffernan

The Applecross Spell
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Universal Recipients
Reviewed by Eleni Zisimatos Auerbach

Black Bird
Reviewed by X.I. Selene

A Sunday At The Pool In Kigali
Reviewed by Edward R. Smith

Song For My Father
Reviewed by Mary Soderstrom

The Heart Is An Involuntary Muscle
Reviewed by Kim Bourgeois

Another Book About Another Broken Heart
Reviewed by Poppy Wilkinson

Without Cease The Earth Faintly Trembles
Reviewed by Jessica Ticktin

fiction at a glance

After All!
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Moosehead Anthology #9: Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


Respectable Burial: Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, And The Shadows Of History
Reviewed by Elizabeth Johnston

Louis Riel
Reviewed by Philip Hawes

Tables For One: A Spanish Journal
Reviewed by Sarah Rosenfeld

Practice Imperfect
Reviewed by Joan Eyolfson Cadham

Ha! A Self-murder Mystery
Reviewed by Anne Cimon

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages
Reviewed by Jill Rollins

non-fiction at a glance

Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

A Love Of Reading: The Second Collection
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Entering The War Zone: A Mohawk Perspective On Resisting Invasions
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Drive I-95: Exit By Exit Info, Maps, History And Trivia
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Crooked Smile
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

Four Hundred Brothers And Sisters
Reviewed by Margaret Goldik

After Notman: Montreal Views - A Century Apart
Reviewed by Ian McGillis


Snow Formations
Reviewed by Bert Almon

In The Worshipful Company Of Skinners
Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bamboo Church
Reviewed by Bert Almon

An Abc Of Belly Work
Reviewed by Bert Almon

young readers

Emma's Story
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Fairy Ring
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

The Mole Sisters And The Way Home
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Learning With Animals
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sink Or Swim
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Suki's Kimono
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Peter's Pixie
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

A Friend For Sam
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Sam's First Halloween
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Tales Of Court And Castle
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Think For Yourself: A Kid's Guide To Solving Life's Dilemmas And Other Sticky Problems
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Nellie Mcclung: Voice For The Voiceless
Reviewed by Carol-Ann Hoyte

Practice Imperfect
By Rae Tucker Rambally
paper 210 pp.
Shoreline Press 1-896754-25-2

Taking on the System

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New Document The headlines left me wondering how Rae Tucker Rambally would have reacted. A judge in Saskatchewan had given a conditional sentence to a 24-year-old man who had been found guilty of sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl. The judge's reasoning was that, because the girl might have come from an abusive family, she was possibly the aggressor.

Presumably, anyone who has ever worked with troubled children and their families would react with incredulity to the judge's suggestion that the child was the author of her own misfortune. Which leads to Rambally, who managed to dedicate forty years to families in need without ever suggesting that her clients had earned what life dealt out to them. As her career wound down, Rambally was able to reflect on her life in social services and on the clients and systems she encountered along the way. The resulting book reveals a woman with plenty to say.

Rambally's forty years of work took place in three very different societies. Raised in Trinidad, she studied in Montreal and London, and worked in London, Montreal, and Barbados. She encountered social service systems where salaries absorbed 85 per cent of the budget, leaving the rest for programs that might help the clients; young black clients served by white workers who didn't understand the important little issues of skin and hair care; and heavy caseloads that created a burden of job dissatisfaction. Somehow she survived those forty years without burning out, and without adopting either an all-pervasive desperation or an all-knowing arrogance. Most amazingly, after years of maintaining client files, Rambally has written a story, not a jargon-riddled case conference report.

Practice Imperfect tells the stories of Julia, a young girl who had suffered through so many foster families that she had learned not to care; of Sylvie, who was too burdened by life to find energy for change; and of 14-year-old Myrna, who took on the system and won. These are real people, though Rambally has changed names and identifying locations to protect the confidentiality of her clients. Practice Imperfect is also the story of a worker who had always known that her destiny was to work with people. Finally, it is the story of systems that sag under the weight of bureaucracy, arbitrary rules, and impressive theories of human behaviour which, too often, bear little resemblance to real people and their lives.

Rambally worked in post-World War II London, and in Montreal from 1969 to 1990, the years when the Pill had a direct impact on adoption, and a time when the Youth Protection Act, designed to protect kids from abuse, presented as many problems as solutions.

Although Practice Imperfect is not a social work treatise, it could serve as both an inspiration and a warning to social work students, a reality check to staff, and a how-to manual for clients and groups working with the system.

I spent 26 years as a childcare worker in Montreal. While Rambally was a social worker with foster and adoption services, I delivered front line, day-to-day services to kids in a residential treatment centre. Though we saw the same situations from different perspectives, she still manages to speak to my concerns. To her credit, she has also made us care about the system, which is often as dysfunctional as the clients it attempts to serve. Rambally's picture is painted with a masterly hand.

Joan Eyolfson Cadham is a former Montreal child care worker who now writes full-time in Foam Lake, Saskatchewan.