Writing Services Contest Vote

Entry F1    Entry P1    Entry V1    Entry E1    Entry E2

The Huron1Read Writing and Digital/Visual Arts Contest offers first-year students the opportunity to creatively engage with the themes in this year’s novel, Our Homesick Songs. In addition to the categories of grand prize, best essay entry, best visual arts entry, best poetry entry, and best fiction/creative non-fiction entry, the Huron community is being given the opportunity to choose a “reader’s choice” winner. Please review the entries for this year and vote for your favourite!

Voting has ended.

Entry Code: F1 (2019-2020)

The Capital Man

Bigger is better, or so they say. It’s a zero-sum game where the winner walks home, and
the loser moves away. Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll ever witness a world where the little
guys aren’t deemed less worthy, where they rest warmly, unafraid of the day when the capital
man comes. I don’t know if I’ll ever see that day, for I’ve already seen so many worse days
come. I’m not sure I believe that day exists.

How did I get here, to my sad hopeless state? Well it started with a man, maybe two, who
had a talk after the evening meal. They reclined on worn leather chairs with their stomachs filled,
and dazed ideas flowed freely from their mouths. Each had a crystal glass holding amber liquid
that glowed. Their ears were tickled by the lilting laughter of their wives who lounged outside
the office doors. They likely had beautiful wives with dazzling smiles which were constantly on
display. Oh, I bet those wives smiled at the guests and smiled as they cooked, probably smiled as
they bid their adoring husbands goodnight and slept with a wisp of a smile adorning their
delicate faces. I don’t see those kinds of smiles around me anymore. So, it started with a man,
maybe two who shared a thought. It wasn’t great or golden, but a kind of lost thought. One of
great ships which took to the water, with radars, and rods, and well knotted nets too. It was just a
thought, and then it became true.

I still remember the water. I can see it in my mind’s eye, see the way is clawed at the
shore during a rough storm, or how it caressed a bobbing boat during a foggy afternoon. It seeps
into every memory like it used to seep into my woolen socks. I want to hear it. I go and sit by the
window hoping to hear it call to me in the night. I want to listen to the songs of sirens, hear the
harmony of the wind whining and the sea soothing its pain. I want to put on my boots and go sit
on the smooth rocks that lined the coast. I want to feel the slick stone against my undressed legs
and the cool water licking at my toes. I want to open my window and be overcome in the scent of
brine. I want to taste the salt on my tongue – and I do, but it is the salt from my eyes, salt that
escapes its confines and runs tracks along my cheeks. I have a lot of wants, but I won’t get any of
them, not now that the capital man has come.

Before the capital man came, we would share tales. Many adored the ones of heroes and
villains who lived in distant kingdoms, but my favorite was started with a ship, maybe a few,
which braved the water I so love. They sailed with the wind behind them propelling them with a
purpose. Unfortunately, the winds do not favor the lives of mere mortals, and eventually they
became angry, vengeful. They tore at the sails, and slashed at the deck, hurling men into the deep
blue waves. The once glorious and powerful fleet was caught in a storm then swallowed by the
sea. The flowing fabric sails went dark as the light did not reach the farthest depths of the ocean.
Currents pulled them back and forth until they slowly gave way and became one with the sea
floor. The great wooden hulls, which once shone from the constant scrubbing, began to turn
viridescent. Only the cabins remained a functioning part of the once magnificent ships. Through
the shattered windows crept a slim lithe body. Even deep at the bottom of the ocean the light
sparkled on the scales for these creatures. Slowly, a community formed, one far larger than
anyone had ever seen before, bigger than the distant kingdoms of all the heroes combined. So
many bodies that the water was no longer blue but silver. After all, it wasn’t just the silver that
was leached from the mines that called the Europeans to this land. Like called like and the
sunken ships called a floating fleet. Slowly it called the capital man to us too.

To me the water was home, I suppose it still is home. To him the water was wealth, likely
it will always be wealth. He never knew what it felt like to catch your first fish. He would never
understand the songs shared between ships, and how the voices drifted to shore for all of us to
revel in. He never knew those things, never bothered to learn them, never acknowledged how
much they meant to us. Instead he knew different things. Perhaps I cannot blame his ignorance of
our world which he so quickly disrupted and dismantled – it was a culture that had no value to
him. Perhaps I can blame him for his greed, for placing his value, not in my people, but in a
silver bodied fish. Now I tell the children a new tale it goes like this: “Once upon a time a snake
became a fish. Many years later a man became a snake.”

Entry Code: P1 (H1R 2019-20)

 New-Found Homes

Little one, I have a story for you,
One you might already know,
Of snakes that were chased into the ocean blue
From a land that was soon filled with woe;

Those swimming snakes found a new type of land,
Across that tempestuous sea,
And the Irish from there, then, also ran,
With the hopes that they could be free;

That new-found land is where we live now,
And those snakes are what we call Cod,
Who were fished by sailors with beaten brow,
On a sea untouched and broad;

The people were full of food, wealth and mirth,
But those snakes did not feel the same,
For those who had fled from an overworked earth
Forgot the reason they came;

Again, Mother Earth had been raped without pause,
And her people she could not sustain,
And the adults, they knew that that they had been the cause
Of what now brings their children such pain;

Such pain being torn from the land that they love,
Such pain in the tears that they cry,
Such pain for the parents when they think of
Forcing their young one’s goodbyes.

But through story, through song, through verse and through note cannot one’s true home live on?
And cannot love, unity, strength, and community against this dark night, bring dawn?
The mermaid’s song will stay in our hearts a thousand miles off of the shore
And though it may take ten thousand years, I know we’ll be back once more
For whether snakes or cod or oil or wealth there will always be something to chase
But if we remember the mistakes that we’ve made, perhaps one day we’ll outrun this race.

So, my dear one, this is why we must leave too
Our new-found home awaits
But deep in our hearts we will always keep true
Our history, your history – that – which this poem relates.

Entry Code: V1 (H1R 2019-20)

Untitled Painting

Entry Code E1 (H1R 2019-20)

How would a historian respond to the novel?

Homesickness is a deceptive name for longing; it implies a one-dimensionality to
homesickness where one misses only their home, not the identity that comes with their
home. Our Homesick Songs, by Emma Hooper, tells the story of a family experiencing change in
both their home and their identity. A historian reading Our Homesick Songs, drawing on the
Annales School’s concepts of microhistory and the Longue Durée, would contextualize the
Connor family’s experience, as described by Hooper and Callahan, as a microcosm for the
experience of Newfoundland Canadians during the fishery collapse.

Microhistory focuses on the experience of the common person and how that perspective
represents broader societal norms. Whereas the Longue Durée explores all levels of society
through slow societal shifts. Hooper incorporates the Annales School concepts of the
microhistory through the structure of the story. Our Homesick Songs has four narrators: Finn,
Cora, Aidan, and Martha. The varied personal perspectives of these four fictional characters
simulate primary sources that historians would record and compare to create micro-historical
impressions of the common experience. Furthermore, Hooper identifies the subjectivity of each
narrator through her exclusion of quotation marks. Because of this stylistic choice, the reader
occasionally blurs the line between thoughts and actions, modifying how the book is read. The
dialogue resembles oral history, which is more naturally identified as subjective by the reader.
Annales historians would analyze the varying subjective perspectives and propose how the
common person interacts with society and considers their identity.

As a novelist, Hooper has more literary freedom to use narratives than an Annales
historian. Hooper establishes parallels between the lives of her characters and the larger themes
at the time, drawing on both the microhistory and the Longue Durée. In the case of microhistory,
during the fishery collapse, Aidan’s birth-home in Little Runnings is floated on the ocean to the
larger town of Big Runnings (132). Aidan’s experience watching his home be abandoned
foreshadows his experience watching Big Runnings empty as everyone moves to Alberta for
work. Identity is often entrenched in location. By including the physical movement of Aidan’s
home, Hooper writes a microhistory for everyone in Newfoundland forced to leave their homes
for work. An example of Hooper’s ability to draw on the Longue Durée to insert important
historical themes is her use of names. For example, the names of each generation represent the
connection with their Irish heritage; Ms. Callahan, Aidan Connor, and Martha Murphy being
closest to Ireland, and Finn and Cora (Coral) being closest to Newfoundland. Hooper
deliberately chooses to stop using Irish names and instead use oceanic names. The Irish
significance in their identity is replaced by Newfoundland. This explains the younger
generation’s difficulty leaving behind Newfoundland because each generation’s identity is
increasingly connected to Newfoundland, their physical “home”.

Mrs. Callahan, in the Annales perspective, is the town lore-keeper. She tells Finn the
story of St. Patrick and early migration to Newfoundland. In her version, St. Patrick rids the
snakes from Ireland; however, contrary to the original, the fleeing snakes swim to Newfoundland
and are followed in boats by the snake-supporting Irish. As the snakes swam, they started
“growing fins…and gills” (71) and “the saltwater drew the colours out of their skin” (71) until
they transformed into cod. The change of the Irish snakes into Newfoundland cod parallels the
change of the Irish immigrants into Newfoundlanders, as previously seen in Hooper’s use of
names. Ms. Callahan’s story provides Finn with both an understanding of his ancestral identity
and the historical context of his identity – where he comes from and who he is.

Annales School historians would identify aspects of their method within Hooper’s
structure and her character Ms. Callahan. Annales historians are interested in all levels of society
and examine society through two methods, microhistory and the Longue Durée, both of which
are demonstrated in this novel. First, Hooper’s structure of the novel, having four different
narrators, creates four micro-historic stories where each character is a primary source for the
Newfoundland experience at the time. Second, Ms. Callahan’s story of St. Patrick and the Irish
migration begins the story of the town’s identity, in addition to Hooper’s multi-generation
narration style, from Aidan’s youth in 1969 (12) to Aidan’s adulthood in 1992 (150) lead the
book to tell a much longer story than the years of the Newfoundland fishery collapse. This
narrative method resembles the Longue Durée historical concept developed by Annales School
historians. The major difference between Hooper and the Annales school is Hooper’s focus on
the narrative. The Annales School works on drawing the analytical from the emotional narrative,
whereas Hooper’s narrative describes the emotional response of her characters to the lessdirectly
addressed analytic change.

Our Homesick Songs tells both the personalized stories of individuals experiencing the
changing world around them and the broader stories of changing identity. Hooper uses both short
and long narratives that Annales historians would use to interpret the core perspectives of
common people and to conceptualize historical context and continuity over time. The characters,
their experiences, and the themes addressed in Hooper’s novel depict the shared experience of
Newfoundlanders leaving not only their homes behind, but also the history, culture, and identity
linked to their homes.

Entry Code: E2 (H1R 2019-20)

Approaching Historical Context

History, as acknowledged today, is an interpretation of evidence. Our own interpretation of
historical context can be much different than reality in the past and there are many ways to explore this
concept. In the novel “Our Homesick Songs,” Emma Hooper outlines contextual histories from the 19th
century. One of the primary historical contexts she spotlights is the problem of overfishing cod off the
shores of Newfoundland and Labrador. Here, I will be discussing ways in which a historian might
approach this devastatingly huge impact on a society through environmental history as well as cultural

One way in which a historian might approach overfishing cod in Newfoundland and Labrador in
the 19th century is by simply asking questions in response to human action; as history is a summary of
answered questions. Every problem or action is often linked to a result of another action. Why did the
Europeans come and fish in Canadian waters? After the discovery of North American land from European
estates in 1492, they found the water to be plentiful with cod. This lead the Europeans to overfish the cod
in a premature state, not allowing regeneration. Great technology leaps between centuries of the fishing
industry allowed cod fishing to become simpler. In turn, this lead to the overall collapse of the East coast
fishery. As stated earlier, every action is directly linked to the result of another action. Often we talk a lot
about the results of human action and the effects it has on a society. People are concerned with human
action, as we can see it is harmful to environmental history. Thus, human action lead to the damaged
environmental history in Newfound and Labrador at this time. In “Our Homesick Songs” she outlines this
from a child’s point of view. Young Martha responds to seeing huge fleets descending into the Labrador
sea “Just think how many fish you could fit on one of those,” she says “A whole town’s worth. A whole
sea,” (116). This is an interesting foreshadow in response to negative human action. Every action is
sprung from the result of another, thus, the loss of a culture, in turn, is a result of corruptive human
actions in the environmental history of the cod.

One of the easiest ways to tap into the views of a society in history, is to listen to the stories being
told. Understandably, we do not take old mythical stories very literally as historians, but one can interpret
them to get a good idea of what the culture was like at that time. In “Our Homesick Songs” Hooper
implements a character named Mrs. Callaghan to tell mythical stories of how the cod came to the shores
of Newfoundland. As historians, it is important not to overlook these stories as simply fictional nonsense,
but rather view it as an insight into the actions of a society as a whole. Cultural history can be difficult to
interpret, nevertheless, stories can be analyzed to highlight the views of a society/culture. This is not
always easy, but part of history is piecing together a story based off of clues. The stories of witches and
the church in the 16th century is a great example of stories giving insight to how a society was run; many
historians have done this in the past. For example, Francis Hutchsion believed that killing women for
being associated with devil was superstitious, and created a substantial amount of chaos. Here, one can
see the stories of witchcraft interconnected with the church, resulting in a superstitious and chaotic
society. Similarly with mythical stories being told, creation stories become a subcategory of this. Creation
stories offer an explanation of how and why humans were created. Universally, it involves one central
figure with supernatural traits and it gives historians a good insight into the formation of the culture of a
society. For example, the Haudenosaunee creation story outlines the idea of a woman falling onto the
back of a turtle and the woman gives birth to twins of good and evil. This shapes the society and culture
through stories, more specifically as a creation story. As historians, it is easy to unveil a core belief of a
society in any given time period through the use of storytelling, hence, displaying cultural history.

There are many ways in which historians can view context from the past. These ways include
asking questions to reveal human action, as well as storytelling. Historically, asking questions targeted
towards human actions can lead to the potential downfall of environmental history. Storytelling leads to
an understanding of a society’s beliefs highlighting cultural history. Both of which present societies in a
vulnerable manner.