Saskatchewan author explores sense of place and intergenerational trauma in newest novel

Award-winning author, dee Hobsbawn-Smith will be introducing her newest novel, Danceland Diary, at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Tuesday at 7 p.m., where she will be reading passages to the audience, discussing her work and interacting with readers.

“They can expect suspense, interesting characters, recreation of the Prairies and recreation of the downtown Eastside in Vancouver. I lived in Vancouver for years, so they’ll see a side to Vancouver they might not know,” Hobsbawn-Smith said. “They will get the intimations of the intergenerational trauma that is at the heart of the novel, but they’ll have to read it themselves from the library or buy a copy of it themselves to read to find out what really happens to whom.”

The novel follows protagonist, Luka Dekker, as she tries to navigate intergenerational trauma and forgiveness. The story is played out against a backdrop of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and the quiet farmland of central Saskatchewan, as Luka delves into her family history in search of her mother, who disappeared when she was a young girl.

“It started out that I wanted to tell a really good story, so having a tough theme like [intergenerational trauma], is engaging and unfortunately, is reflective of the world right now. There’s a lot of intergenerational trauma in the world that we are becoming more and more aware of, and trying to find ways to deal with in our families and in the families of our friends and people that we don’t yet know,” said Hobsbawn-Smith. “It’s out there and it makes a difference in people’s lives.”

While her novel is based in fiction, Hobsbawn-Smith drew inspiration for the novel from her own life and family history. Growing up in the house her family purchased in the early 1940’s, she has memories of her aunt and mother talking about their grandfather who disappeared as a young man in the early part of the 20th century.

“I was carrying around this idea for years, wondering well, what do you do with this? How do you make something bigger than just that?” she said. “And living here in Saskatchewan after moving here from 28 years in Calgary I thought, okay place. A novel relies so much on place to do a lot of the heavy lifting and help understand the characters and who they are. I knew that this novel that I wanted to write was going to be centered in central Saskatchewan, probably on a farm, and that was the start of it. Everything just kind of grew out of that in a very organic kind of way.”

Hobsbawn-Smith said writing has always been a big part of her life. Her stories are influenced by her decades of work in the culinary world as a chef, freelance journalist, and educator. She holds an MFA in Writing and an MA in Literature, both from the University of Saskatchewan. Hobsbawn-Smith, a fifth generation Prairie resident, currently lives on the remnants of her family’s farm with her husband, just west of Saskatoon.

Her eighth book, ‘Bread and Water’, that was released in 2021, is a collection of essays and won the 2022 Saskatchewan Book Awards Nonfiction Award, was a finalist for both the City of Saskatoon Award and for Taste Canada’s 2022 Book Awards in the Culinary Narratives category. Her newest poetry collection, ‘Among the Untamed’, is set to be released in 2023.