Gold Dust on His Shirt is an evocative telling of the experience of a Scandinavian immigrant family of hard-rock miners at the turn of the century and up to World War II. Based on fascinating historical research, these are tales of arriving in ‘Amerika,’ blasting the Grand Trunk Pacific railway, work in the mines, and domestic life and labour struggles in company towns throughout British Columbia.
Part family history, part economic and social history, Gold Dust on His Shirt is an intriguing look at life on the industrial frontier, the world of immigrant workers and the rise of unions such as the Wobblies. This remarkable and provocative tale of a family, region and era references a number of broader social and political issues.
Born in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to Scandinavian parents, Irene Howard has devoted her writing career to combining her interest in labour and immigrant history with her love of literature. She has been an English instructor and has broadcast talks for the CBC and written articles and essays for Canadian magazines and journals. She is the author of several books, including The Struggle for Social Justice in British Columbia: Helena Gutteridge, the Unknown Reformer, which in 1993 won the University of British Columbia Silver Medal for Canadian Biography and was shortlisted for a City of Vancouver Book Award and the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.
A stunningly vivid and in-depth family history that doubles as progressive labour history.
– BC Bookworld
It is migration history, labour history, women’s history, and family history woven into one story…This engaging tale is written with an ironic, low-keyed humour that demonstrates Howard’s deep affection for workers who often lost limbs and lives in building this province, and it will be useful to anyone who seeks a better understanding of British Columbia’s rich working-class history.
– BC Studies
Easily one of the most impressive family memoirs ever written about a B.C. working class family…Theirs is an epic tale of perseverance, superbly told, as a celebration of dignity.
– ABC Bookworld
One of the best books I’ve read this year by far.
– Alan Twigg on CBC’s North By Northwest
This engaging tale is written with an ironic, low-keyed humour that demonstrates Howard’s deep affection for workers who often lost limbs and lives in building this province, and it will be useful to anyone who seeks a better understanding of British Columbia’s rich working-class history.
– BC Studies
Howard’s story is valuable and often untold, and her objective storytelling–in which she often removes herself entirely from the narrative, even though she lived through the same events–is a refreshing departure from the self-centered account most memoirs provide.
– Feminist Review
I read this book and I was just simply thrilled. I have a PhD in literature and I’ve seldom, if ever, read a book that strikes me as so real and literary. It made me think in some ways of Angela’s Ashes.
– David Tacium on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal)
In Gold Dust on His Shirt, Irene Howard tells a family story of passion, industry, sacrifice, and love which will resonate for many Canadians. Her Scandinavian immigrants are well worth knowing. Once again, she has enriched the scholarship on Canada’s working people.
– Veronica Strong-Boag, former President of the Canadian Historical Association and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
I couldn’t put it down. It took me back to my time in mining camps listening to the old miners tell their stories. This compelling and intimate story of the hard work, struggle, and exploitation experienced by an honest, hard-working immigrant family is the real history of the mining industry in Canada. The sacrifices these men and women made have never been adequately recognized, and it confirms for me once again why I do what I do.
– Ken Georgetti, President, Canadian Labour Congress
Alfred and Ingeborg Nelson were never famous, but now their daughter Irene Howard makes them so, and they deserve it. Memoir, family history, immigration story, Gold Dust on His Shirt explores the life of one family among tens of thousands in twentieth-century British Columbia. “Toil…a life of unremitting toil,” was their own brief history of themselves, but with care, wisdom, and compassion, Irene Howard shows us much more than that.
– Christopher Moore, historian, journalist, and author of numerous titles of Canadian history, including Canada: Our Century and The Story of Canada
|Chapter 1||Coyote Holes and Black Powder: Drilling and Blasting for the Grand Trunk Pacific|
|Chapter 2||Sarah Erika Hansdotter: Discovering My Uppstudsig Grandmother|
|Chapter 3||To Amerika and the House on English Hill|
|Chapter 4||The Norns, the GTP, and Her Beautiful Black Hair|
|Chapter 5||The Cabin on Hudson Bay Mountain|
|Chapter 6||The Saga of Ingeborg-Oline Aarvik|
|Chapter 7||The Saga of Ingeborg-Oline Aarvik|
|Chapter 8||Children of the Empire: Life and Death and Bitter Strikes|
|Chapter 9||Diamond Flush and the Blowtorch Solution: Polaris Taku and Other Adventures|
|Chapter 10||Searching for My Home Town: Pioneer and Bralorne Mines, 1997|
|Chapter 11||The Price of Free Gold|