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White Squall

Sailing the Great Lakes

Edited by Victoria Brehm

History, Biography, Great Lakes, Maritime Studies

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Paperback
Published: May 2018
ISBN: 9780970260611
Pages: 400 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 150 black-and-white illustrations
eBOOK
Published: May 2018
ISBN: 9780970260697

From the Native water monster who raised canoe-killing storms to thousand-foot cargo ships, sailing the Great Lakes has inspired autobiography, folksong, poetry, and fiction about some of the most beautiful, most dangerous, waters in the world. In the words of the men and women who lived them, here are the dangers and triumphs, the ghosts and mysteries, the daredevil risks and losses, spanning the worlds of Native journeys, wars on the lakes, early canoe travel, schooner work, yacht racing, steamer travel, and the great bulk carriers. Their accounts are edited with introductions and technical explanations, illustrated with photographs and drawings, and accompanied by notes and a glossary of sailing terms. Heavy-weather sailors, arm-chair sailors, and every reader in between will find something interesting. White Squall is a history of the lakes written by those who knew them best in all weather and all eras from the beginning to the present.

Published by: Ladyslipper Press

Victoria Brehm, Ph.D., is a retired professor who writes about the Great Lakes. She created The Women’s Great Lakes Reader, named "One of Fifty Essential Books for Michigan History," and Star Songs and Water Spirits, the first collection of lakes’ Native literatures, described by Lake Superior Magazine as "A masterwork and an accumulated treasure." She lives on her family’s Centennial Farm in Tustin, Michigan.

Heavy-weather sailors, arm-chair sailors, and every reader in between will find something interesting. Essentially, White Squall is a history of the lakes written by those who knew them best in all weather and all eras from the beginning to the present.

– Mary Cowper, Midwest Book Review

Whether you're taking to the waters of the Great Lakes this summer or contemplating them from shore, White Squall will make an illuminating companion.

– Minnesota History

Victoria Brehm's wonderful book is an anthology of rare firsthand accounts gleaned from reports, letters, memoirs, stories, poems, and diaries of those who sailed, paddled, or steamed the Great Lakes from the early 1600s through the 1900s. It even includes an excerpt from a David Mamet play. It is an outstanding example of dogged research accompanied by brilliant commentary. The book had me wallowing for days in my fascination and passion for Great Lakes maritime history and heritage.

– Michigan in Books

White Squall provides a varied and in-depth picture of sailing on the Great Lakes that is rich with surprises.
Researchers and historians are likely familiar with Dr. Victoria Brehm’s contributions to Great Lakes studies. In Sweetwater, Storms, and Spirits (University of Michigan Press, 1991), she revealed the unique characteristics of sweetwater fiction. In The Women’s Great Lakes Reader (Ladyslipper Press, 2000), she uncovered the experiences of women in the Great Lakes. In Star Songs and Water Spirits (Ladyslipper Press, 2011), she introduced readers to Great Lakes Native literatures. In each of these collections, Brehm tackled the formidable task of celebrating the often-overlooked voices of Great Lakes writers by locating and contextualizing hard-to-find and nearly lost Great Lakes texts. Throughout her body of work, one theme resurfaces: "Geographically and culturally the Lakes are unique" (5). Revealing the characteristics that make life on the Great Lakes unique is the connecting thread in Brehm’s passion for re-discovering and sharing Great Lakes literature in all its forms.
In this most recent of Dr. Brehm’s anthology projects, she turns her attention to Great Lakes sailing. More than 50 diverse texts are represented in White Squall: Sailing the Great Lakes, including essays, diary entries, poetry, fiction, drama, and songs. In the introduction, Brehm explains the power of this multi-genre approach: "Understanding a subject as complex as sailing the Great Lakes requires not only ‘objective’ facts but literature as well… because without literature the record of what it means to travel on the Lakes or to command a vessel is incomplete" (6). White Squall is organized into eight sections, each with its own introduction and thematic focus, including native selections, wartime texts, various accounts of commercial shipping (from birch bark canoes to bulk cargo ships), accounts of superstitions, ghosts, smugglers, inventors and thrill seekers.
On the surface, these categories may suggest a conventional picture of a "progress-oriented" history of sailing on the Great Lakes. However, Brehm avoids reinforcing popular ideas about the Great Lakes, which she sees as a distortion of history, "a socially constructed past preserved by those who have the power to choose" (5). Instead, selections challenge many common assumptions. Specifically, Brehm’s anthology sets out to show that the history of sailing the Great Lakes "is more than shipwreck" (5). More often than not, selections present paradoxical realities that complicate popular myths. For example, selections in "White Stone Canoe" undermine the myth of Europeans as a dominant force in the fur trade, "The Long journey" reveals the cycles of economic exploitation beneath the gaiety of voyageur songs, and the ghost stories of "St. Elmo’s Fire" provide compelling clues to the power structures and abuses that were often part of life aboard Great Lakes sailing vessels.
White Squall provides a varied and in-depth picture of sailing on the Great Lakes that is rich with surprises. Brehm’s extensive commentary supports interpretation and helps to explain the power of the texts to communicate essential aspects of Great Lakes history: "What endures are writers’ attempts to understand a maritime life unlike any other: close to shore but separated from it as if by leagues of water, technologically sophisticated but prey to unsurvivable gales" (24). The anthology is an indispensable tool for researchers, including extensive notes, a bibliography, glossary and detailed index. Best yet, Brehm is already working on a second volume, which promises additional selections for categories included in the first volume, as well as new sections, such as "Sailors in Small Boats."

– Jacqueline Justice, INLAND SEAS: Quarterly Journal of the National Museum of the Great Lakes

White Squall is an impressive collection of writing styles leading to an authentic representation of what it means to be from the lakes and to sail them. . . . Whether you’re a history buff, boat nerd, or written word enthusiast, everyone should find something within that suits their interest.

– Lisa Pike, The Anchor Wisconsin Maritime Museum