Souris author revisits Neepawa


Margaret Laurence Home hosts Rebekah Lee Jenkins’ book launch

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Photos by Cassandra Wehrhahn

Author Rebekah Lee Jenkins strikes a pose with her new book and members of her team. From left to right are Becky-JoFlucker, Tammi Amundsen, Rebekah Lee Jenkins, Ev Marshall, and mother Debi Jenkins.

By Cassandra Wehrhahn

Neepawa Banner & Press

A self-publishing Souris author revisited Neepawa’s Margaret Laurence Home last week Thursday, Aug.23, for the launch of her newest book “Hope in Oakland”. The author, Rebekah Lee Jenkins, was the Margaret Laurence Home’s very first “writer in residence” just a year prior.

While in residence, Jenkins wrote the first draft of the newly released book. Jenkins is known for writing strong female characters, and writes primarily for her nieces. Rrain Prior, a board member for the Margaret Laurence Home, extended a warm welcome, stating “we [the board] are very delighted to have her back.”

Big honour

“I was very shocked when I got the invitation to come back,” relayed Jenkins, who commented on her return. “It’s a really big honour to be here.”

Jenkins’ book, Hope in Oakland, is the first of a historical fiction trilogy that uses real pieces of Canadian and Manitoban history from the 1920s, and is set in 1904. The Souris author drew inspiration from Canada’s first female lawyer, Clara Brett Martin, for main character Cora Rood who is a lawyer and prominent suffragette in the novel. Priscilla, a character who is also in the series, is based on a real woman from the past, and uses true transcripts from her divorce. Hope in Oakland can be summarized as “women of the past fighting injustice”. This installment follows the release of the series’ second part, “The Night They Came for Til”, which was written first.

“I did it wrong,” Jenkins commented with a hearty laugh. “I wrote The Night They Came for Til and I said, that’s it. I just wanted to write this one book for my niece! And then people liked it!”

Jenkins assured people that they could read the novels in whichever order they wished, but encouraged to read Hope in Oakland first if they haven’t read anything yet. She also stressed that the books are clean, meaning they can be enjoyed by people of many ages.

Delving into stories of her research for Hope in Oakland, and the other installments of the series, Jenkins shared her thoughts on her findings.

Divorce laws unfair

“Until 1925, men could divorce women based on adultery alone. He retained rights to children and money,” said Jenkins.  “So at the end of the divorce she would be left with no children and no money. By contrast, a woman who sought divorce had to prove both adultery and abuse. No matter who was at fault, men retained rights to children, money, and property. Women were left ashamed, destitute, and in many instances they never really saw their children again.”

Jenkins recalled a scene in which Priscilla goes to criminal court to have her husband prosecuted for the deliberate miscarriage of her son. According to the law at the time, Priscilla had no rights in court but her unborn child did. She stopped looking through the archives after she found Priscilla’s case, lamenting that she had seen nothing worse. In her search, Jenkins also found letters, pictures and pleas from women who were being divorced.

“Knowing the law is one thing,” stated Jenkins. “But it’s another to see the women who were so harshly affected by it.”

After speeches were finished and questions thoroughly answered, guests visited with the author and enjoyed refreshments of cake and iced tea. Taking Til,  Jenkin’s third installment of the series is expected for release in the coming spring.

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After guests enjoyed their iced tea and slices of “Priscilla’s Lazy Dazy Cake”, a draw was conducted. Pictured is lucky draw winner Sarah Clauss of Carberry is pictured with her basket of winnings! The basket included books and other items from the author.