When June Harrison decided to write a memoir as a way of compiling her memories and stories of her family for her grandkids, little did she think, it would take her 10 years to finally see the book in print.
Harrison, was born to parents who were among the first few European settlers in the Ootsa Lake region. It is safe to say that she comes from one of the area’s pioneer families. Harrison graduated from Lakes District Secondary School in 1961 and just two years later, started teaching in New Westminister. She was a teacher and a school-admin for 36 years and she was the only female principals for several of those years.
In 2010, she decided to write a memoir of her time spent in the area, her childhood, her family, not for herself or as a diary, but as a gift for the future generations.
“I decided to write a family memoir for my grandchildren who live an urban life in New York,” said Harrison.
But her journey to completing the memoir was not easy. Between life getting in the way to her diagnosis of a stage four metastatic cancer five years ago, Harrison jumped through hurdles to get the memoir completed. She was given six years to live. This jolted her into action and the Covid-19 shutdown especially helped her as she could isolate and force herself to write and finish the memoir.
Although the story for the memoir was easy for Harrison, as she had lived it, it was difficult for her to shape the story properly.
“I had a hard time giving it a proper framework but then I found Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers in which he talks about how we are what we grow up with and there, I had found the initial framework,” she said adding that she also used Christopher Beach’s Master’s thesis, “Beneath the Waters: A Microhistory if Ootsa Lake, a Northern Eurocanadian community” to help give context to her memories. Lakes District Museum Curator, Michael Riis-Christianson, whose quote appears on the book’s back cover, also helped Harrison with maps and information around the area.
“This book has been a group project,” said Harrison who will be showcasing her work during a book launch at the final community market of the season on Aug. 28.
Harrison, who now lives in New Westminister, has been a regular visitor to the area and comes to stay at her parent’s house in Tchesinkut Lake. She spends her time sitting by the lake, watching the loons.
“That’s where I started the book. I know a lot of people who leave small towns and never go back but I don’t want to give up like that. For me, coming back here is like going home,” she said.