The Athabasca Ryga presents essays, short stories, plays, and selections from a novel that George Ryga wrote in Athabasca and in Edmonton before his move to British Columbia in the early 1960s. Very little of this work has ever been published before. Almost all these early writings evoke and portray the sights, sounds and people of Deep Creek, Athabasca, and Edmonton. They reveal to us Ryga’s ethnic roots, his childhood as a farm boy, his struggle to learn in a one-room school, his desperate search for off-farm employment in meat-packing plants and lumber camps, and his flight to an alien, hostile city where he became both a class-conscious wage-labourer and a visionary poet. Among the manuscripts included in The Athabasca Ryga are two early television dramas (?Storm,’? and ?Village Crossroad,”), excerpts from the unpublished autobiographical novel, ?The Bridge ?(1960), and a set of five short stories collectively titled ?Poor People.” The Athabasca Ryga also reprints two essays from Ryga’s later years ? ?Notes from a Silent Boyhood,” and ?Essay on A Letter to My Son? ? both reflections on what it was like growing up as an intelligent, creative but lonely youth with a love for literature in an isolated and poverty-stricken Ukrainian farming community.
In 1967, George Ryga soared to national fame with The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which has since evolved into a modern classic. A self-proclaimed artist in resistance, Ryga takes the role of a fierce and fearless social commentator in most of his plays, and his work is renowned for its vivid and thrilling theatricality. George Ryga died of stomach cancer in Summerland, BC, in 1987 and will always be remembered and cherished as one of Canada’s most prolific and powerful writers. His memory was publicly honoured at the BC Book Prizes ceremony in 1993.
David E. Gregory
E. David Gregory is Associate Professor of History and Humanities in the Centre for Global & Social Analysis, Athabasca University. He is currently Past President of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada, a member of the board of directors of the Canadian Society for Traditional Music, and editor of Canadian Folk Music/Bulletin de la musique folklorique canadienne. His publications include The Athabasca Ryga (Talonbooks), Athabasca Landing: An Illustrated History, and articles on the history of English and Canadian folksong. His third book, Victorian Songhunters, is forthcoming with Scarecrow Press.
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