A Glowing Dream: A Memoir.


306 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-897289-19-7
DDC 971.27'03092




Reviewed by Paul G. Thomas

Paul G. Thomas is a political science professor at the University of
Manitoba and the co-author of Canadian Public Administration:
Problematical Perspectives.


This fascinating memoir chronicles the family and professional life of Roland Penner. The title of the book is derived from the chorus of his parent’s favourite song, “The Commonwealth of Toil.” Both parents were from Russia, were members of the Communist Party of Canada, and were active on numerous causes. Even though the family lived on the economic margins in Winnipeg’s famous North End during the difficult 1930s and 1940s, their lives were exceedingly rich in cultural and intellectual terms. Vivid childhood memories, combined with a section of black and white photographs, provide the reader with an authentic sense of that life and of the divisions along class lines in the city. Blatant political repression was a fact of life. For example, a young Rolland Penner saw his father, a respected city councillor, locked up under the War Measures Act during the Second World War.


After attending university in the 1950s, Penner was a lawyer in private practice and eventually taught at the law school. In 1961, with no fanfare, he had dropped his own membership in the Communist party and 20 years later re-ran successfully for the NDP, first becoming the Attorney General and then Education Minister in the government of Premier Howard Pawley. As a prominent and effective minister, Penner played a leading role on such key issues as the adoption of a human rights code, a change to provincial policy on abortion, the French language crisis, the Meech Lake Accord, and aboriginal constitutional issues. Some readers will wish for more depth to the accounts of these events, but the author set out to write a family and personal history, not a book on public policy.


With the 1988 election defeat of the Pawley government and his own defeat, Penner returned to the university, where earlier he had been a leader of the faculty association. He soon became Dean of Law for a five-year term. This memoir, written when Penner was 83, places the life of a family and an individual in the wider context of ideas and events, and therefore makes the book of interest to people outside of Manitoba


Penner, Roland., “A Glowing Dream: A Memoir.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28832.