“With the skill of the author and the power of the material, Tell the Driver: A Biography of Elinor F.E. Black, M.D. reads like a novel: the epilogue is exquisite…
I plan to give her book to my mother, my daughter, and my former classmates, knowing they will all find something magic…”
– Labour/Le Travail
“Tell the Driver: A Biography of Elinor F.E. Black, M.D. deserves a wide readership… a splendid biography of a riveting personality.”
– Resources for Feminist Research
“I suspect that many readers will, like myself, find themselves in tears… Vandervoort relates with kindness and sympathy and a fine sense of the telling detail.”
– The Beaver: Exploring Canada’s History
“Deftly incorporating her subject’s own voice… Vandervoort has written a biography that should appeal to all interested in Canadian medical history, and in the history of women in the 20th century.”
– Canadian Book Review Annual
“Julie Vandervoort’s intriguing essays are exactly what serious readers always hope for: cheeky, irrepressible, often startling for their unexpected insights, and always about more than they’re ostensibly about.”
– Andreas Schroeder
“Reading Julie Vandervoort is like being a child eavesdropping on an adult party. The world comes rushing up unfiltered through the air vent: love, sex, fear, loneliness, death, delight, regeneration. You know you’re supposed to be sleeping, but how can you pull yourself away?”
– Richard Cumyn
An eloquent and moving collection of essays about defining the places where memory and imagination meet. Places that try to contain a family of “trained” adults that keeps losing the children, a witch’s weighstation in Holland, a child in a confectionary, a passport caught up in a mixed media, cross-border pursuit, a human rights observer team in Esgenoôpetitj, the compartments of a sewing cabinet, an artist fighting the hypothetical in law school, drug runners dancing with privilege in Colombia, and a fishing community that plays catch and release. Creative non-fiction writer Julie Vandervoort examines how these places shift between safety and danger. Where are the lines drawn–and who are the perimeter dogs?
These are the places: a family of “trained” adults that keeps losing its children, dancing with drug runners and privilege in 1977, a child in a confectionary, a law school in 1996, a human rights observer team, the compartments of a sewing cabinet, a witch’s weighstation in Holland, a passport altered in a mixed media, cross-border pursuit, a fishing community playing catch and release. This is the narrator: award-winning author Julie Vandervoort examining how these places shift between safety and danger, who are the perimeter dogs? Why I chose it for Libros Libertad: “I don’t hide the pleasure I felt reading this. I’m moved by the sharpness of the observer and the eloquence.”
The Debit Slips
The best time to ask my mother for something was around four o’clock in the afternoon when she was just waking up. She was a night nurse and her schedule fixed mine – come home from school, put the kettle on and take Mom a cup of tea. So far the four o’clock strategy had achieved some fairly major things, including her signature on a cheque for a cherry red Kawasaki motorcycle. I had the money, I just didn’t have a chequing account. And I wasn’t about to go off to the city carrying a wad of cash, jeez, what if I got in an accident?
Fully awake, my mom might have tried arguing against it. She worked emergency and knew. I was only sixteen and therefore passionate about formal justice. I knew only this: Tony has one. Paul had one. I sat there holding out eight one-hundred dollar bills and her pen. I was hell bent.
At seventeen I’d gone off the bike twice, gotten scraped by gravel. Burned too, by falling under the exhaust pipe. The bandage was barely off when I carried a cup of tea over to the bedside table and suggested to my mother that I get what I couldn’t live without that year – a Spanish-speaking exchange student from South America.
Here’s what she might have done: spilled the tea on herself, thrown it at me, chosen an immediate sleep relapse. She could have slowly put the tea down and explained her take on the request: “I drag myself up that goddamn hill every night to feed the kids I already have. You may not have noticed but your brothers, when they are not killing each other, are going through one loaf of bread a day. Each. Do I look like I need another teenager in this house, especially one who’s seventeen and probably looking for trouble like all of you – and doesn’t speak a word of English?”
about the author
Julie Vandervoort has received several awards for her creative non-fiction essays and her biography of Dr. Elinor Black, Tell the Driver. She produced a piece called “Moving from Coping to Creating” for a national law conference and was recently invited as a keynote speaker at the conference Imagining Amsterdam: Visions and Revisions.
She has given many public readings across Canada and in Mexico, served on the board of The Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia and as associate fiction editor for The Antigonish Review. She has worked extensively in human rights law and as an environmental activist and singer with the international Gaia Project. This project produced a double CD in 2003 (O Beautiful Gaia: Love Songs to Earth) and a 2007 CD of music inspired by the Earth Charter (My Heart is Moved). She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.