Vera Lysenko's Yellow Boots: A Reassessment

Natalia Aponiuk, University of Manitoba

Almost fifty years have passed since the publication of Vera Lysenko's novel Yellow Boots. Published simultaneously in Canada and the United States in 1954, the novel disappeared onto library shelves to be "rediscovered" from time to time by a graduate student or a researcher. By the early 1980s it was being included in the few courses on Ukrainian Canadian and ethnic literatures then offered at Canadian universities, and it was being discussed to some extent in articles and papers presented at conferences.

The republication of Yellow Boots in 1992 resulted in a number of published articles devoted to Lysenko and/or Yellow Boots. For the most part, the critics employed feminist and post-colonialist theories and the concept of multiculturalism in their analyses and in their attempt to make a case for the inclusion of Yellow Boots in the Canadian literary canon. These theories have not been sufficient to provide a definitive reading of the novel.

This paper will extend the critical approach to Yellow Boots by focussing on elements which, although fundamental to an understanding of the novel, have been ignored. These elements include Lysenko's Ukrainian heritage and her relationship to it; Lysenko's use of Ukrainian folklore and mythology in Yellow Boots; Lysenko's relationship to the socialist movement in Canada and its impact on the novel; and the elucidation of themes in Yellow Boots through a comparative analysis of Lysenko's two other published works, Men in Sheepskin Coats and Westerly Wild. The result will be a more definitive study of the novel and of Lysenko's work generally.