Author Tags: Fiction

Born in Eldoret, Kenya in 1938, Bill Schermbrucker graduated with a major in Latin at the University of Cape Town. He taught at Delamere High School and Prince of Wales School in Nairobi and Alliance High School in Kikuyu before immigrating to Canada, where he obtained a Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia. He was a founding member of Capilano College, North Vancouver, retiring in 2004 to live on Saturna Island, where he continues writing and is president of the Property Owners Association and an officer of the volunteer fire department.

Schermbrucker wrote a fictionalized memoir about his mother in Africa, Mimosa (Talonbooks, 1987), that received the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in 1988. He was bereft of memories of his mother and knew little about her life, so he decided to overcome "that emotional vacuum produced by my father's forbidding us to attend her funeral, a vacuum which the imagination was bound to fill at some point." The story occurs against the backdrop of events that include the Anglo-Boer Wars, British settlement of Kenya, the Italian incursions into Eritrea during World War II and the bloody Mau-Mau uprisings in Kenya.

Mimosa was preceded by Chameleon and Other Stories (Talonbooks, 1983), also about Schermbrucker's upbringing in Kenya during the time of Mau Mau. A third autobiographical novel, Motortherapy (Talonbooks), appeared in 1993. As an English instructor at Capilano College since it opened, Schermbrucker published The Aims and Strategies of Good Writing and he edited the Capilano Review.

In Bill Schermbrucker’s fouth novel Crossing Second Narrows (iUniverse 2013), he uses the North Vancouver bridge as a symbolic link between a white liberal professor at Capilano College, Alistair Randall, and a Marxist professor of colour, Rashid Hassan, at SFU. Their relationship addresses the radical changes in post-secondary education that grew out of the anti-Vietnam War movement and student rebellions at Berkeley, the Sorbonne and elsewhere. Randall was born in Kenya; Hassan was born in India.


Chameleon and Other Stories (Talonbooks, 1983)

Mimosa (Talonbooks, 1987)

Motortherapy (Talonbooks 1993)

Crossing Second Narrows (iUniverse 2013)
Hardcover | 6 x 9in | 356 pages | ISBN 9781475964912
Softcover | 6 x 9in | 356 pages | ISBN 9781475964905
E-Book | 356 pages | ISBN 9781475964929
Hardcover | 6 x 9in | 356 pages | ISBN 9781475964912
Softcover | 6 x 9in | 356 pages | ISBN 9781475964905
$20.95 – Paperback
$30.95 – Hardcover
$3.99 – Ebook

[BCBW 2013] "Fiction" "Africa"

Mimosa (Talonbooks $11.95)

"ONE NIGHT A FEW MONTHS AGO, IN the Fairview Hotel, Nairobi," commences Bill Schermbrucker in Mimosa (Talonbooks $11.95), "I dreamed that I was walking through an avenue of eucalyptus trees, in the Uasin Gishu district of Kenya, where I was born."

The dreamer enters a strangely familiar house and confronts a young woman sitting at a mahogany desk. "I did not recognize her face from my own memory, but I knew that it was my mother because she resembled a photograph I had recently seen of her, taken when she was nineteen or twenty."

The mother looks very busy. "Is this your house," the dreamer asks. 'No," she says, smiling at the thought, "Do you think I would keep animal skins on the floor? I would have Persian carpets everywhere!" As a child, Schermbrucker was forbidden by his father to attend his mother's funeral in 1950. He possesses almost no mementos of her. So after a visit to Mimosa, the family farm in northern Transvaal, the Capilano College English teacher began to create a fictionalized history of his mother's life and times, addressing his forgotten mother throughout. The result is an intimate novel with an epic historical backdrop, using real names and events from the Boer War, Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia, the first stirrings of Mau-Mau rebellion and the privileged lives of the Afrikaaner and British elite. The unusual work is a follow-up to Schermbrucker's first book of autobiographical fiction, Chameleon and Other Stories, also set in Africa, published in 1983. Bill Schermbrucker was born in Kenya in 1938 and came to Canada in the mid-1960's. He is a former editor of the Capilano Review.

[Winter / BCBW 1989]

Crossing Second Narrows
Press Release (2013)

SATURNA, British Columbia – In his new novel “Crossing Second Narrows” (published by iUniverse), author Bill Schermbrucker addresses what he suggests are the radical changes in post-secondary education that grew out of the anti-Vietnam War movement and student rebellions at Berkeley, the Sorbonne and elsewhere.
“Crossing Second Narrows” tells the story of the friendship and intellectual debate between two immigrant professors in Canada: Alistair Randall, at Capilano College, a white liberal who was born in Kenya, and Rashid Hassan, a Marxist person of color at Simon Fraser University, who was born in India. Each on their own campus, these two professors are trying to bring about new approaches to education. “The Second Narrows Bridge” is a symbolic link between what is happening on each campus.

An excerpt from “Crossing Second Narrows”:

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” said Jenadie, spreading her hands and looking up with a zealot’s gleam in her eyes, “if we could completely disengage the educational system from the military-industrial complex! Just imagine if universities and colleges were actually free to allow people to think and learn, instead of being used as screens for employers. Education would cease to be just a grading system and really help people grow into fuller lives!”

Schermbrucker suggests that “Crossing Second Narrows” fulfils a specific void in the market of books on the subject of education. “It will be of particular interest to academics who care about the evolution of university and college educational methods in the late 20th century,” he explains. “It will also appeal to readers who want to learn about the end of colonialism in Africa (from the colonists’ point of view), and the anti-war movement in the U.S., which led to such tragedies as the shooting of students at Kent State by the Ohio National Guard.”