Doctor, social activist and feminist Ruth Simkin first revealed her personal challenges in a memoir that recounted her successful struggle to overcome misunderstood epilepsy, The Jagged Years of Ruthie J (Ekstasis Editions, 2010).

This has now been followed by What Makes You Happy: Memories and Fiction (Ekstasis $25.95), a diverse collection of stories-some fictionalized-with poignant and humorous accounts of her work as a physician.

What Makes You Happy ranges from the big subjects-God, death and cruelty-to miniscule but formative experiences, such as remembering her backyard conversations with animals as a child. And then there was the time when Simkin was chastised by a religious Jew who passed by the yard and objected to five-year-old Ruth whistling on the Sabbath.

Cumulatively it's a deeply humanist affirmation of life from a Jewish-raised doctor, born in Winnipeg, who became a specialist in palliative care.

In the early 1990s, Simkin moved to Salt Spring Island where she became a farmer of "yuppie veggies"; for almost ten years before returning to medicine as the first fellow to study palliative care at the UBC Faculty of Medicine.

After her three-year fellowship she became certified by the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, becoming a specialist in pain and symptom management of dying people. For five years, she worked at the Victoria Hospice during which time she left Salt Spring Island and moved to Victoria.

Ruth Simkin's first book, Like an Orange on a Seder Plate (Self-published, 1999), has been described as a feminist Passover Haggadah. Having lived and studied in Canada, the U.S., Israel, China, England and Russia, Simkin has also published many medical articles on women's health.

In recent years, Simkin was active with a pet therapy program (PATS) and she served on the board of directors of the cultural group Out of the Box Productions for four years. She was active in volunteer work for the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, became a taiko drummer, and was involved in theatrical productions at the Vancouver Island Jewish Community Congregation Emanu-El.

Ruth Simkin received a copy of her new book while she herself is currently in palliative care. 978-1-77171-127-2


Like an Orange on a Seder Plate: Our Lesbian Haggadah (R. Simkin 1999) 0968477909

The Jagged Years of Ruthie J (Ekstasis Editions 2010) 9781897430545 $24.95

What Makes You Happy (Ekstasis 2015) $25.95

[BCBW 2015]