Backyards Need Books, Too

Redeemer Reads: with Daniel Coleman

By: Anna Bailey, senior reporter

Did you know that when a deer stomps its foot, glands release a bad smell to warn other deer of danger? This was just one of many interesting facts author and McMaster Professor Dr. Daniel Coleman shared at a Redeemer Reads event on Thursday, November 15th.

Dr. Coleman is an English professor at McMaster who usually writes books about culture or reading. However, this week he read from his book Yardwork: A Biography of an Urban Place, published in 2017. This book is the story of his backyard, as seen from his window.

Dr. Coleman began the reading not only by thanking those attending and involved in setting up the event, but by acknowledging the bigger systemssuch as post-secondary institutions and familiesthat allowed people to be there. The event was held in the executive dining room and attended by around twenty students, professors, staff, and other visitors.

Dr. Coleman’s grateful opening was inspired by the Six Nations’ practice of opening meetings with “Words Of Thanksgiving” in order to bring those gathered together to one mind. In a sense, his book Yardwork is an extension of this practice. In 2006, a land dispute in Caledonia called Dr. Coleman’s attention to environmental and Indigenous issues in Ontario. His book is an attempt to cultivate “gratitude in an abused place.” He believes that learning both the ecological and historical stories of land and city will “help us live gratefully and gracefully.”  

Dr. Coleman’s reading sparked questions from students about how to care for the environment, and how to relieve the tension between Indigenous and Christian worldviews. Dr. Coleman answered questions with thoughtfulness and humility, saying such questions need “living wisdom, not a formula.” Thanks to Dr. Coleman’s enthusiasm and excellent writing, this event became not only a reading, but a complex conversation about many current, controversial topics.