Reviews: Teaching Bullies: Zero Tolerance on the Court or in the Classroom
Teaching Bullies offers ideas that could help us create a compelling counter-narrative in part by detailing, incident after sickening incident, what happens when teachers, coaches, and school administrators misuse masculine power. Teaching Bullies will encourage parents, educators, and community leaders who want to foster safe and inclusive school environments where all students can thrive, both socially and academically. Jennifer Margaret Fraser’s documented narrative is a powerful call to action that should galvanize us all to take a stand against homophobic bullying in our schools.” — Barry MacDonald, founder of MentoringBoys.com, and author of Boy Smarts: Mentoring Boys for Success at School, and Boys on Target: Raising Boys into Men of Courage and Compassion.
Bullying by teachers is a devastating problem that can leave long lasting and deep emotional scars on its victims. These innocent children are often re-victimized by schools that seek to hide or cover-up the abuse (and it is abuse) because these administrations would rather bury the scandal rather than face the embarrassment of what was done under their jurisdiction. For too long victims and their families have been either ignored, threatened or simply felt uncomfortable speaking out. That’s why Jennifer Fraser’s book is an important step forward in the battle to reclaim our schools for our children. We need to let victims know that their suffering matters and that they will be defended. — Stuart Chaifetz, parent advocate, Akian’s Dad
Boys model the messages they receive about becoming men. When adults inculcate homophobic attitudes among children, boys learn a binary trap: they can embody the traits associated with images of traditional masculinity, or they might be labelled “sissy,” “wuss,” “gay” in a pejorative way, or ruder words. Many boys feel pressured to become the biggest of wheels, the sturdiest of oaks, the most virulent repudiators of femininity. The link between machismo and violence can start early for boys pushed into a gender straitjacket.
Policy makers will find this book a useful introduction and guide to the reason for concern as well as to the literature and press on the issue in the North American and British context. Dr. Fraser uses her skill as a story-teller to draw the reader in with personal experiences but she keeps us there with research and strong analysis. This book should be an essential resource for any parent or educator seeking help in learning how to avoid the harm caused by teacher bullies. — Patricia Lane, lawyer and mediator
This is such an important conversation that must be had in the school system and in amateur sports. I was consistently taken aback at the ‘normalizing’ that happens when the bullying behaviours happen in sports. As you write, if you were to say these things as an English teacher, there would be no question about the repercussions. I found that same ‘normalizing’ in my research on blame. One of the many thoughts I had as I read through was how to support people to have this conversation. I think that there is an opportunity to develop conversation materials and a workshop to help schools, teams, coaches, parents, and most importantly students to understand how to have this conversation. I really look forward to further discussing this conversation which I believe may change coaching and sports in Canada. — Cheryl Mitchell, PhD, Redball Solutions
Reviews: CRUSH: A Wine Thriller
Jennifer Fraser has many passions – with good wine, writing and spending vacations in Osoyoos near the top of her personal list. She has combined all three in publishing her new novel called Crush: A Wine Thriller. Fraser, who grew up in Vancouver but has called Victoria home for the past 14 years after working for 14 years as a professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, said all of the characters in the 280-page Crush are fictitious, but everything about Osoyoos is very real. Crush is a gripping romp through B.C.’s vineyards, a great mystery that portrays the uniqueness of the Okanagan. Osoyoos Times, March 2017
Paige Munroe is the writer caught in the middle as things get complicated and ugly. All of this could very well be happening behind the scenes in the Valley’s wine industry, but in Jennifer Fraser’s new novel, Crush: A Wine Thriller, it’s all fiction. “Yes, it’s set in Osoyoos and Osoyoos is identified as such,” said Fraser, who lives in Victoria but spent a lot of holiday time in the Okanagan as a kid and more researching the book. “The characters fly in and out of Kelowna Airport and they drive Highway 97. But, the names of the wineries are fictional and the premise is fictional.” Kelowna Daily Courier, December 2017
Indulge in this heady read, in which V.I. Warshawski meets Sideways. You’ll learn the secrets of the wine industry, all the while imbibing its romance and some of the Okanagan’s local colour. Take Crush with you on a B.C. wine tour, and discover the fictitious serpent lurking at the heart of this Edenic wine country. — Liza Potvin, PhD, award-winning author of The Traveller’s Hat
Whether you’re an avid wine lover or a casual sipper, you’ll be enthralled by Paige’s adventures. The journalist who normally covers wars and military coups receives an assignment that offers more mystery and danger than she’d expected. Her situation will keep you guessing until the final pages! — Kathy McAree, founder of Travel with Taste
Crush offers the kind of taste that lingers long after you’ve turned the last page. It races, it hums, it heats the blood. Once you’ve pulled the cork on this heady adventure, you won’t put it down until the bottle’s empty.
— Terence Young, award-winning author of The End of the Ice Age
Crush is a suspenseful, emotionally charged mystery, in which wine itself is arguably the true protagonist. So, grab a glass of your favourite B.C. wine and a copy of this book, and enjoy a perfect pairing. — Sharon McLean, Sommelier
Crush’s mystery and intrigue unfold against the backdrop of a world-class wine region. Fraser’s accuracy in evoking the sense of place — the Okanagan’s landscape, climate and wildlife — stirs up vivid memories of my childhood at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery. — Andrea Stewart McFadden, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery
Crush is an effervescent whodunnit. Its bubbly excitement is contagious. Turning the first page is like popping the cork on a bottle of the best; it surges over the top and pours well, demanding our attention. Well-defined characters, a heroine with a nose for mystery, a cast of players that adds body and complexity, and a race-ahead plot make one want to gulp it down. When we reach the last page, we want to order another bottle by the same vintner. It is a frothy, giddy read. Oh — and along the way, we learn a little about the Okanagan, much about fine dining and a whole lot about wine. Crush is definitely vintage. — Bob Foulkes, author of Adventures with Knives Surviving 1,000 hours of Culinary School
Crush is a gripping romp through B.C.’s vineyards, a great mystery that portrays the uniqueness of the Okanagan. You’ll gain insight into the day-to-day activities in a winery, the stakes involved in a multinational industry, and the lengths to which some people will go to obtain power. Add realistic characters and a dash of international intrigue, and you have all the ingredients for a fast-paced, informative and very entertaining read. Whether you enjoy a good mystery or have a love of wine (or both), this tale is sure to please! — Tim Ellison, Chef de Cuisine, Sommelier, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts
Fraser brings finely realized characters to her compelling story of intrigue and deception in the beautifully depicted Falcon Ridge Winery in British Columbia. She weaves the worlds of wine and cuisine into a page-turning plot. I couldn’t put it down. — Thora Howell, founder of The Bookstore on Bastion
Reviews: Aristotle’s Poetics
My sincere congratulations to the cast and crew of the SMUS’ Theatre Society play. My husband, Bill, and I went last night and we were thrilled by the depth of feeling, the quality of the acting and musical talent, and the pertinent, yet demanding script. Clearly an ode to lyrical poetry, the play suggests that it is by feeling that we can transcend our pain. It’s not a drama for the faint of heart, but then great art never is.
The play moves tirelessly and jazzily from character to character while the members of the chorus slink on the sidelines, providing an eerie, emotional and physical subtext that lurks beneath the dialogue. It also reminds us that sympathy is easy but empathy takes real guts. - Susan Stenson, Award-winning Poet and Teacher
Many congratulations to you. As usual, you shake up your subject with pithy material; never trite nor forgettable. I saw it on the Friday, and found not only the whole thing fully engaging, but also I found much humour in the choice of words, and in the characters. Humour is so flexible (serious humour, black humour, sarcastic humour, attempted humour…..), but it is also one way in which teens, often surprisingly, communicate. Anyway, the way in which the play affected me echoes what we all keep hearing; education is best brought about through interacting/feeling/acting, front line stuff, and less through sitting, listening and being preached at. What you created was pure drama and pure education. I look forward to your next production enormously. – Peter Butterfield, Choir Master and Teacher
The actors did justice to themes and situations that are challenging for anyone to deal with, and to portray on stage. I really felt the actors were feeling their roles, and trying to let all the sides of their characters shine through. I can’t single out any one performance, but as with any show like this, I am thankful for the insight into what this group of individual students finds inside himself or herself that perhaps was not discovered before the play began. What an excellent opportunity that these students made the most of. – Bob Snowden, Headmaster of St. Michaels University School
The play was wonderful, congratulations. Scene changes were fast and efficient and the acting was excellent. Loved the music. Please congratulate the students. Well done! – Joan Tweedie, School Librarian
Congratulations on a most thoughtful and cleverly crafted play. It was so close to my heart that, at times, I found it hard to watch, but I thought the students did an excellent job in portraying a topic which thankfully, for most, is completely out of their experience. You are brilliant. Please can you let the cast know that I thought it was beautifully done? The masks were very effective I thought – another flash of genius on your part! - Anna Forbes, Art Teacher, Married to Dr. Iain Forbes who suffers from diabetes and was the inspiration for the exploration of pain in the play
Just wanted to pass along a big congratulations to your cast for its outstanding theatrical performance Wednesday evening. Being opening night, I was prepared for more or less a final dress rehearsal and I was shocked by the refined spectacle before me. Every actor on stage had me riveted by his/her credible performance as the emotion, stage presence and projection were superb. I loved the chorus’ placement around the theatre and its important role in enhancing the script. The talented musicians did a great job of portraying all the inner angst that couldn’t be expressed with words. The simplicity of the set and lighting made everyone involved have to work extra hard and I think that they lived up to the expectation. To write them a script that was meaningful and “au courant” and to provide them with an opportunity to shine in front of their peers is something only a truly exceptional teacher would do. Thank-you. – Laura Kezeire, French Teacher
To Jen and all the cast and crew of Aristotle’s Poetics:
First of all, thank you Jen, for your continued commitment to write and produce plays that are poignant, amazing and meaningful. I did attend Distortion. I was amazed. Now that I have attended two shows of Aristotle’s Poetics (and will be attending the matinee today), I am again amazed. I wanted to send a note to everyone to share my thoughts about the play.
- The play is gritty, honest, funny, sad, and reflects both teenage and adult life issues that seem to follow generation after generation.
- The strong ‘sense of teamwork’ is evident.
- The acting is superb.
- The blend of theatre and music creates the magic.
- Lessons learned from the play.
- The only way around is through
- It’s not the truth we can’t handle, it is the mystery.
- Relationships can survive almost anything except secrets.
- Sharing sorrow cuts the pain in half.
- Truth helps to explain behaviour. It creates a platform for understanding. It helps us celebrate differences.
- That as a university professor, I have to remember that my students have ‘lives’ outside of academics. I have to respect the stage of life they are at and know that students come to university with different upbringings, experiences, dreams, visions, abilities, and life challenges. I must continue to recognize that I have an amazing opportunity to share in their personal and professional growth. I also have the opportunity to share in their transformation.
Thank you to all of you – who help me reflect on a deep and personal level. I will admit there were tears shed during both performances. I also laughed as well. I am looking forward to the final performance of Aristotle’s Poetics. – Lara Lauzon, Professor at the University of Victoria
You’ve fed the heart and soul of us. Thank you for being brave and honest and speaking about the unspeakable…again. You gave a powerful voice (and so did the inspiring young actors on stage) to an unspoken core in us all. Thank you so much. – Joan Kyle-Jones, Teacher
To the SMUS Theatre Society: For me, the play struck a balance because, while it is a heavy topic, it had moments of levity (you probably heard me laughing… some of those English teacher jokes were irresistible). It certainly wasn’t light subject material, but I didn’t leave feeling depressed…. only enlightened. We do forget to consider the various kinds of pain others may be going through. Thanks for opening our eyes and our minds to the hurts of those around us. - Dorothy Hawes, English Teacher
Thanks for a riveting night of theatre. You guys were a true ensemble and told the story with confidence and commitment. – Cam Culham, Actor, Teacher, M.A. in Youth Theatre
It has taken me all weekend to send this to you…every time I sit down to write you I start weeping! Ugh! I am in awe of you…complete and utter awe…to say you are a gifted storyteller seems so menial, there must be bigger, grander words I should use. Aristotle’s Poetics was deeply moving…Teenage suffering, adult suffering…you portrayed the common thread that both share, ultimate aloneness in their struggle. What unbelievable talent those kids have…every single one of them! They are such an impressive group! You are an amazing writer and a wonderful director. – Terry Stockus, Real Estate Agent
Reviews: Be a Good Soldier: Children’s Grief in English Modernist Novels
“Be a Good Soldier will command excitement and respect for its first-calibre, strikingly original readings of grief and mourning in a truly impressive variety of modernist texts. Jennifer Margaret Fraser’s meticulous work of scholarship and criticism crucially stands on its own, blending and cross-considering textual domains with agility and inventiveness. Fraser has generated an exceptionally rich and sensitive repository of vocabulary through which historicist inquiry can now most productively happen.” – Peter Mallios, Department of English, University of Maryland
“Clear and forcefully written, Be a Good Soldier is a major contribution to research. With her careful, thorough readings, Jennifer Margaret Fraser makes a most interesting connection between the trauma of soldiers returning from war and that of a grieving child, real or symbolic, in a representative group of modernist works. This study will be widely used by teachers and students of modernism, as well as those interested in the expanding field of trauma studies.” – R. Brandon Kershner, Department of English, University of Florida
I really thought the play was magnificent and was incredibly impressed with the writing and the musicians/actors. Congratulations on a real achievement that will not be soon forgotten by the audience and certainly not the students – it was deep, profound, stirring and empowering. – Daniel Lapp, Composer, Musician
I will say that attending Distortion (twice) was one (two) of the major highlights of the school year. To see students so intricately and personally involved with the creation of this spectacular piece of drama – a play that is not only brilliantly entertaining, but also extremely topical and relevant – reaffirms that SMUS walks the walk when it comes to experiential education. – Terence Young, Author and Teacher
Distortion is an elegant, shocking, painful, stunningly beautiful script.
- Donna Williams, Vocalist, Musician, Actor, Teacher
Distortion is not just a play which entertains and gives creative students an opportunity to showcase their musical talent. It is also an incredible tool for teaching other students and even teachers themselves about the complexity of the students in any high school. As a paediatrician who sees teens with multiple social and behaviour issues, and as a mother of son who has succeeded despite his own dyslexia, I was pleased to see an accurate portrayal of many teen issues: depression, eating disorders, abusive relationships, parental expectations and the ever present, too frequent problem of exhaustion as students try to mange school, work, and social life. - Jane Cassie, MD FRCPC
Since the completion of my Masters in Theatre in Education in 2003, I have been on a decade-long discovery of plays for young audiences the world over. I was amazed at the honesty, vitality and pure entertainment of many of these plays. However, I can say with absolute conviction that on this journey I have not yet seen a play that packed as powerful a punch as DISTORTION. All of the characters were clear and believable. It is rare to find a play that speaks with equal urgency to parents, educators and youth; yet this one does. My one thought upon witnessing its impact was that the audience was left longing for a talk back session with cast members and the creative team, given the weight of its content. I feel it warrants time and money spent upon it, to prepare a sort of Drama in Education follow-up package, and that it needs to tour. Its themes of addiction, loyalties and ways of learning are relevant on a global scale and it is my hope that this play be shared now with the world. – Cam Culham, Drama Educator, Actor
I truly believe that the amazing impact of this play was the combination of the script, the acting and the music. I have a feeling that the power of the play came from that blend. Let’s just say that the play ‘spoke to me’. Just for the record it is still speaking to me and I suspect it will continue to speak for some time to come. The play for me was life changing. – Lara Lauzon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Coordinator, Recreation and Health Education, University of Victoria
I was absolutely mesmerized by the play, “Distortion”. Not only was the writing intelligent, funny, poignant and insightful but combined with the very finely selected musical numbers made for an evening that I think no human could avoid resonating with on multiple levels. Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, it was deftly treated so that we came away with a raw but hopeful snapshot of real teen struggle brought into the light. A perfect community outreach tool for youth and an opportunity to connect with kids who may be on the verge of falling into isolation. Truly stunning performances by the talented young cast of actors and musicians made it a superb, multi-faceted delight! So exciting! I can’t wait to hear about it running across the country and beyond! – Anne Schaefer, composer, vocalist, musician
I just read your play and I think it’s brilliant. It made me laugh and cry and I can only imagine just how moving the performance must have been. It has so much in it – the music, the education system, learning issues, normal crazy teenagers! You know a lot about a lot of things, and this is a really good play. I’m impressed. – Carol Matthews, Author
We LOVED Distortion. Our only complaint was that it was not on the next weekend so that we could see it again and tell everyone we know about it! Brilliant. – Annabel Curry, Accountant
I wanted to tell you both how completely impressed I was with Distortion. I saw it Saturday night and if I had known how good it was I, like my son, would have gone twice. The subject matter was very real and very challenging. I really appreciated that you took that on in such a compelling way. I was impressed that you were able to make Ms. Shrike’s character compellingly complex and not just “a bad guy”. I admired the way the music imitated how our young people live in their musical worlds, moving with ease between cellos and electric guitars and from modern to bits of classical, all beautifully played and arranged. I thought there was courage and respect and love and leadership and service and learning and passion and compassion woven through the play. It was healing to see difficult adolescent issues covered respectfully and with an appropriate degree of depth. – Patricia Lane, Lawyer/Mediator
Distortion was outstanding and particularly pertinent to our interest in differentiated learning. Given how we are better understanding our students and their learning styles, this play addressed so many relevant issues. It would be wonderful if we could schedule an encore performance for all faculty (from all campuses) to see. It would be one of the most effective professional development exercises we could possibly hope for. – Dorothy Hawes, Teacher Senior English
I was impressed with the talent, the hard work that had gone into the production, the way in which music and acting were brought together in such a brilliant piece of theatre but more than anything the obvious enjoyment of so many students participating. Congratulations to all involved. – Joan Tweedie, School Librarian
I will say that attending Distortion (twice) was one (two) of the major highlights of the school year. To see students so intricately and personally involved with the creation of this spectacular piece of drama — a play that is not only brilliantly entertaining, but also extremely topical and relevant — reaffirms that SMUS walks the walk when it comes to experiential education. – Terence Young, Author and Teacher
Distortion was a living breathing example of the school’s mission statement and its commitment to experiential learning. Both casts deserve accolades for their nuanced acting, brilliant musical performances, creative staging and heartfelt exploration of the themes of inclusiveness and differentiated intelligences. – Janice McCachen, Author and Teacher
Having been to the opening night of Distortion, it was such a triumph (both of writing and execution) and thus is a testament not only to the quality of craft and leadership, but also to the vital role that such a production plays in our school community. The students clearly thrived on the opportunity, and coupled with the thoughtful performances and meaningful contemporary themes presented through the text, the entire production was important. Please keep writing Jennifer! – Peter Butterfield, Choir Master
The kids can’t stop talking and raving about Distortion!! They just loved it, best play ever!! Congratulations!! – Terry Stockus, Real Estate Agent
I was in the audience for the Saturday Matinee. It was absolutely grand to see the quality of the actors’ work in presenting the story. You have done a fine job….and your creative skills as a playwright are highly notable. Every music teacher needs to take time to look closely at the leadership they offer from their “exalted position”….and evaluate their influence, honestly and often. Thanks Jennifer…It was stellar. – Mary Smith, Musician and Teacher
I just came back from Distortion. It was so absolutely brilliant. Thank you. – Susan Vachon, MEd, Learning Resource Specialist
Congratulations for an amazing performance Thursday night! The acting, music, lighting, singing and playing of instruments was amazing. The last scene, however, was a most powerful ending. I lost it. Both Katie and I wept from the back of the theatre (highly embarrassing). It was the perfect ending.
- Alex Butterfield, Grade 12 Student
When my daughter first told me you wrote the play, I was surprised because I had thought surely it was well known professional published play. It was amazing and we were totally entertained. The play demonstrated a keen understanding of human nature. The music was selected and performed very well. In short it was a total winner. Bravo! You should be very proud of this work. – Gary Richards, Parent
I just wanted to congratulate you on your play. I thought it was really well done. Paul and I have had season’s tickets at the Belfry for the past 20 years and Distortion was as good or better than most of the plays we’ve seen there in the past few years. It deserves a much wider audience than just us lucky SMUS parents, and hopefully this is just the beginning! – Monica Petersen, Parent
Wow! Thank you for creating such an amazing show! A friend and I attended last night’s performance and it was incredible. It was very thought provoking and certainly raised a lot of issues worth discussing at the dinner table! I loved the music and could see how much the students enjoyed performing it. Thanks again and I’ll be coming again over the next few days! – Megan Stone, Parent
Saw the play tonight and just had to tell you I loved it. Many great insights, wry comments, difficult topics openly explored, and some gorgeous language. Not to mention the great music and some riveting performances. Congratulations and thanks for a wonderful evening of theatre. – Joan Kyle-Jones, ESL Teacher
Reviews: Rite of Passage in the Narratives of Dante and Joyce
“A very forceful and original reading of Dante and Joyce, of the notion of an intertext linking them, and of the problematic of literary rebirth through literary immersion and resurrection. What is remarkable is Fraser’s almost equal expertise in both critical fields.” – Jean Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania
“Jennifer Fraser’s study provides more than simply another contribution to our understanding of Joyce’s sources; rather, her work joins the ranks of memorable totalizing “keys” to Joyce’s work. Joyce’s reading and writing of Dante’s relationship with Virgil has allowed Fraser to identify a new category of intertextuality, one that she terms initiatory. Joyce’s fascination with Virgil’s maternal mentoring of the poet provides significant insights into the Commedia. Her knowledge of Italian not only serves her analysis of the Commedia but also enables her to present Dante’s poem as Joyce would have read it. Fraser has ingeniously frames the whole background with the metaphor of a diptych, or medieval hinged, double-paneled iconography: on the one side, Dante’s Commedia (superimposed on Virgil’s Aeneid) and on the other, Joyce’s Ulysses. “The hinge that links these writing tables one upon the other is initiation,” or transformation from pilgrim to poet. As Dante reads Virgil, so Joyce reads Dante. The whole is a provocative, elaborately plotted-out influence study, embodying womb-death imagery in a new and profoundly creative psycho-mythic interpretation.” – Zack Bowen, University of Miami
“the book opens up a veritable ocean of unexplored connections, allusions, patterns and visions, altering the reader’s perception of the relationship between these authors, these works and these deeply pondered, much discussed literary transformations.”) - Dr. Heather Webb, Assistant Professor of Italian, Department of French and Italian, The Ohio State University