Lit­tle Yel­low House: Find­ing Com­mu­nity in a Chang­ing Neigh­bour­hood

Carissa Hal­ton

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction / Nonfiction -

Univer­sity of Al­berta Press (SEPTEM­BER) Soft­cover $24.99 (176pp), 978-1-77212-375-3

Mov­ing to her grand­par­ents’ old neigh­bor­hood of Al­berta Av­enue in Ed­mon­ton, Al­berta—a walk­a­ble hub to fam­ily and cul­tural spots—was an easy de­ci­sion for Carissa Hal­ton and her hus­band, Mat, even if the area was low in­come. Their fam­ily grew there; they set down strong roots.

Hal­ton re­calls their ad­ven­tures in the es­says of Lit­tle Yel­low House, which moves be­tween en­coun­tered topics like ur­ban home­steading, vi­o­lence in the sex trade, and dif­fer­ent in­dige­nous and im­mi­grant cul­tures. Por­traits of Al­berta Av­enue neigh­bors are a mix of poignant ele­gies and more up­beat rec­ol­lec­tions. There’s a heart­break­ing vi­gnette about a boy who dreamed of space ex­plo­ration but was side­lined by his ad­dic­tions. More light­hearted chap­ters fo­cus on Hal­ton’s quirks and foibles, in­clud­ing her rem­i­nis­cences about her cozy, de­bate-filled ma­ter­nity leave gath­er­ings “made even more hi­lar­i­ous in the pres­ence of com­pas­sion­ate women wield­ing a bunch of poorly sourced facts.”

Hal­ton clearly de­lights in in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple from all walks of life; her in­ter­est and em­pa­thy sparkle through­out. Her tone is fac­tual, non­judg­men­tal, and of­ten wryly funny. Lit­tle Yel­low House is a bal­anced pre­sen­ta­tion of a di­verse com­mu­nity in tran­si­tion, com­plete with faults and grow­ing pains. While she and other neigh­bor­hood ac­tivists work on projects to com­bat di­lap­i­dated prop­er­ties and drug houses and to sup­port school and lo­cal arts pro­gram­ming, she is clear-eyed about the dan­gers of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Lit­tle Yel­low House shows how real, sus­tain­able com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment can be built with a for­mula of per­sis­tent ac­tion, en­gage­ment with a wide group of al­lies, trust, lay­ers of in­cre­men­tal suc­cesses, and a good sense of hu­mor. RACHEL JAGARESKI

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