WEYBURN – Jennifer S. Wallace has penned a non-fiction account of her mother and of herself in their journey through life, with a book entitled “Miss G and Me”. It’s a journey that began in Jamaica for her mother, and led her to England for nurse’s training, and then to Canada by first coming to Weyburn to be a nurse.
Wallace grew up in Saskatoon and is a kindergarten teacher there. She also teaches French immersion and judo (as a black belt sensei), and loves to sing and read literature.
This is her second book, after she self-published her first book, a non-fiction title, “When He Opened His Eyes”, in 2009.
“It was a very personal story, as it was for me and my family,” she explained, noting this current book was for a much wider audience, and was published by DriverWorks out of Regina.
The story of “Miss G and Me” follows her mom Ruth from Jamaica to England, and after she was done her nurse’s training, “she wanted to travel, and came to work in Weyburn. That was her gateway into Canada, and an opportunity to meet some really personable people who became lifelong friends.”
She stayed in Weyburn for about a year, then went to Saskatoon and ended up meeting Ian, who became her husband, Jennifer’s dad.
Wallace noted her mom arrived in Canada the year after the Centennial, and there was a lot of growth and recruitment going on.
“It was a really exciting time to be here,” she said, adding her mom had been in Europe as well as England, but was not prepared for what she found here.
“When she got to Weyburn, it was kind of shocking how big and wide open it was,” she said.
Growing up in Jamaica, she was never that far from the ocean, and living in Weyburn with its wide-open horizon, she thought if she drove far enough she might see the ocean. “You could drive for hours and hours and not get to the ocean.”
The idea for writing about her mother’s life and experiences had first come to her as a young woman in her 20s, and she wrote down some things without talking to her mom.
She set it aside, and the idea didn’t arise again until about 2019 when she saw the British TV show, Call the Midwife, particularly the episodes that dealt with a Jamaican nurse coming to England. The character had come from an area of Jamaica not far from where her mom grew up, and it occurred to her that her mom’s story would be interesting reading about the challenges and experiences she had.
After she talked to her mom about it, Wallace did a series of interviews with her about her life, intermixed with her own memories from her growing up years.
Her mom was open to the idea of talking about her life, but at the same time it was difficult for her, said Wallace.
“It’s not easy to have your life exposed like that. Even now, it’s strange for her to see her face on the cover,” she said, but her mom understood that people need to know what it was like for a woman of colour to set out on her own to a new country and establish a new life there.
“Women of colour need to be heard. People need to know that they need to belong and to have a voice,” said Wallace.
Once she had the story written, she was able to have Deana Driver of DriverWorks take on her story and to help out with editing and polishing the work.
Wallace was also able to obtain a Creative Sask book publishing grant to help out with the production costs, and she was able to be mentored by author Mary Harelkin Bishop, writer of the youth novels, “Tunnels of Terror” and “Tunnels of Time”.
Wallace’s book is widely available in book stores, and now she has also been able to speak in schools about writing.
“That’s been a dream come true for me,” she said, as a teacher and as a writer.