Author Tags: History

Formerly an SFU history student, Sharon Stewart and her husband Roderick Stewart have written the biography Phoenix: The Life of Norman Bethune (McGill-Queens 2011).

[BCBW 2011]

Review (2011)

Sharon Stewart (BA’69) fell in love with history as a charter student at SFU. Now she and husband, Roderick Stewart, have written the definitive book about Canadian and Chinese icon Dr. Norman Bethune. The book is based on in-depth interviews with Bethune’s family and friends, reviews of letters and documents, plus exhaustive research in Spain, China, and Canada.

Bethune emerges as a rather improbable and unlikeable humanitarian and hero. His passion, his bravado, his skills, and his brilliance conflict with his personal selfishness, self-aggrandizement, and plain bloody-mindedness when he wanted something.

It is startling to realize that most of Bethune’s reputation today here and in China rests on his activities during a very short time: from his arrival in China in February 1938 until his death in November 1939. During that period he was with the Communist Eighth Route Army fighting in the remote Jin-Cha-Ji border region. Conditions were deplorable, and Bethune treated patients and operated on them under the most difficult of situations.

Bethune died after cutting his hand and then contracting an infection while operating without surgical gloves, only one of the many necessary medical items not available to him.

[CHRISTINE HEARN, AQ Magazine, 2011]