White Coal City

A Memoir of Place and Family

Reviewed by Danielle Chartier

Posted March 17, 2022

White Coal City explores the personal history of author Robert Boschman and multiple generations of his family. The story moves from rural farm life to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where Boschman grew up in the back of the King Koin Launderette, and it jumps between past and present.

Boschman, who is chair of the Department of English, Languages, and Cultures at Mount Royal University in Calgary, began his research for this project with old letters between his paternal grandfather John Boschman and grandmother Margaret Boschman (née Peters). A more complete picture developed as he interviewed other older family members about their own memories.

Following a tragic accident in 1940, trauma seeped through multiple generations of the family — although life had been difficult for the family even prior to this event. A large part of the memoir focuses on time spent in Prince Albert and the difficulties Robert encountered growing up there.

Boschman briefly mentions his Cree sister, who was adopted as part of the Sixties Scoop. While he writes that it is not his story to tell, it seems that his family’s experience gives him some understanding of the multi-generational trauma experienced by Indigenous people due to colonialism.

This is a memoir that presents a lot of sadness, but also hope for the future, as it offers a glimpse of life in rural and small-town Canada during the twentieth century.

Buy this book at Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the April-May 2022 issue of Canada’s History.

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