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Amplify Black voices—read books by Black authors. Check out some of our picks below.
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Finalist for the 2017 Amazon.ca First Novel Award
Accordéon is an experimental novel, a piercing deconstruction of Québécois culture, an ode to Montréal–a city where everything happens at once and all realities exist simultaneously. Against a satirical Ministry of Culture set on quotas, preservation and containment according to its own cultural code, Kaie Kellough weaves voices and images from the margins to probe collective fantasies of Québec old and new.
Blistering with defiance, tempered with tenderness and desire, Black is a startlingly passionate collection of poems from one of Canada’s most gifted writers. George Elliott Clarke combines fiery outrage with delicate confessions of love, creating a commentary on soul and culture that is both shocking and transformative.
What does it mean in the era of Black Lives Matter to continue to ignore and deny the violence that is the foundation of the Canadian nation state? BlackLife discloses the ongoing destruction of Black people as enacted not simply by state structures, but beneath them in the foundational modernist ideology that underlies thinking around migration and movement, as Black erasure and death are unveiled as horrifically acceptable throughout western culture. With exactitude and celerity, Idil Abdillahi and Rinaldo Walcott pull from local history, literature, theory, music, and public policy around everything from arts funding, to crime and mental health–presenting a convincing call to challenge pervasive thought on dominant culture’s conception of Black personhood. They argue that artists, theorists, activists, and scholars offer us the opportunity to rethink and expose flawed thought, providing us new avenues into potential new lives and a more livable reality of BlackLife.
Bla_K is a collection of previously out-of-print essays and new works by one of Canada’s most important writers and thinkers.
Through an engagement with her earlier work, M. NourbeSe Philip comes to realize the existence of a repetition in the world: the return of something that, while still present, has become unembedded from the world, disappeared. Her imperative becomes to make us see what has gone unseen by writing memory upon the margin of history, in the shadow of empire and at the frontier of silence.
In heretical writings that work to make the disappeared perceptible, Bla_K explores questions of timeliness, recurrence, ongoingness, art, race, the body politic, and the so-called multicultural nation. Through these considerations, Philip creates a linguistic form that registers the presence of what has seemingly dissolved, a form that also imprints the loss and the silence surrounding those disappearances in its very presence.
Praise for Bla_K: Interviews and Essays
“Poet, Essayist, Novelist, Playwright, Public Intellectual: M. NourbeSe Philip is the principal–and most principled–woman-of-letters in English right now. Her every word is a must-read because she writes nothing that doesn’t change everything. She isn’t politic; she’s political. Unabashedly. Her ruthless truth-telling is page-turning and paradigm-overturning.”—George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17)
“To read Blank—new essays as well as selected writings from her 1994 collection Frontiers—is to understand that Philip, in habitual eloquent and poetic prose, was warning us in 1994 about the dystopia of right-wing populism, violent racism, and virulent sexism we witness unfolding right here, right now in 2017.” —Dr. Richard Douglas-Chin, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Windsor
“In Bla_K: Interviews and Essays M. NourbeSe Philip shares how the lonely impossibility of black is an articulation of black life. This collection, a gathering of her past and present essays on black diasporic politics, tracks how Philip’s poetics emerge from exile–the ungrieveable middle passage and the wreckage of empire enveloping us all, globally. Here we must sit with the inflexible logics of racial capitalism, unfolding in Canada and elsewhere, as these logics are re-languaged by Philip as poetic diasporic struggle. Philip’s insights on how race and racism emerge in and beyond Canada, in the form of staged and unstaged misrepresentation, are enmeshed with a politics of (longstanding) refusal that animates the black diaspora.” —Katherine McKittrick, Associate Professor, Department of Gender Studies, Queen’s University
Marking the tenth anniversary of the publication of George Elliott Clarke’s Blue, this new and revised Gaspereau Press edition reminds us why Clarke has become one of Canada’s most read poets. His work is electric, alive, full of fury, beauty and truth. “I craved to draft lyrics that would pour outPentecostal firepell mell, scorching, bright, loud: a poetics of arson,” writes Clarke. “I am a child of napalm.”
Canada’s Forgotten Slaves is a ground-breaking work by one of French Canada’s leading historians, available for the first time in English. This book reveals that slavery was not just something that happened in the United States. Quite the contrary! Slavery was very much a part of everyday life in colonial Canada under the French regime starting in 1629, and then under the British regime right up to its official abolition throughout the British empire in 1834.
By painstakingly combing through unpublished archival records of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Marcel Trudel gives a human face to the over 4,000 Aboriginal and Black slaves bought, sold and exploited in colonial Canada. He reveals the identities of the slave owners, who ranged from governors, seigneurs, and military officers to bishops, priests, nuns, judges, and merchants. Trudel describes the plight of slaves–the joys and sorrows of their daily existence. Trudel also recounts how some slaves struggled to gain their liberty. He documents Canadian politicians, historians and ecclesiastics who deliberately falsified the record, glorifying their own colonial-era heroes, in order to remove any trace of the thousands of Aboriginal and Black slaves held in bondage for two centuries in Canada.
Book I of The Canticles puts into dialogue — as dramatic monologues — those who fostered the transatlantic slave trade, or who demonized the image of the Negro in the Occident; as well as those who struggled for liberation and/or anti-racism. In this work, Dante can critique Christopher Columbus and Frederick Douglass can upbraid Abraham Lincoln; Elizabeth Barrett Browning can muse on her African racial heritage and its implications for child-bearing, while Karl Marx can excoriate Queen Victoria. Book II will focus on Black folk readings of Scripture, Hebrew and Greek, with a few other religious texts canvassed too. Book III will narrate the rise of the African Baptist Association of Nova Scotia.
The second part of Book I of “The Canticles” continues the dialogue — as dramatic monologues — of those who fostered the transatlantic slave trade, or who demonized the image of the Negro in the Occident; as well as those who struggled for liberation and/or anti-racism. In this work, Dante can critique Christopher Columbus and Frederick Douglass can upbraid Abraham Lincoln; Elizabeth Barrett Browning can muse on her African racial heritage and its implications for child-bearing, while Karl Marx can excoriate Queen Victoria. Book II will focus on Black folk readings of Scripture, Hebrew and Greek, with a few other religious texts canvassed too. Book III will narrate the rise of the African Baptist Association of Nova Scotia.
Controlled Damage explores the life of Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond and how her act of bravery in a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946 started a ripple effect that is still felt today. An ordinary woman forced to be extraordinary by an unyielding and racist world, Desmond never gave up — despite the personal cost to her and those who loved her. Andrea Scott’s highly theatrical examination of Desmond and her legacy traces the impact that she had on our culture, but also casts light on the slow progress of the fight for social justice and civil rights in Canada.
Gulliver’s Travels meets The Underground Railroad: a road trip through the countryside – and the psyche – by the author of Fifteen Dogs.
Botanist Alfred Homer, ever hopeful and constantly surprised, is invited on a road trip by his parents’ friend, Professor Morgan Bruno, who wants company as he tries to unearth the story of the mysterious poet John Skennen. But this is no ordinary road trip. Alfred and the Professor encounter towns where Black residents speak only in sign language and towns that hold Indigenous Parades; it is a land of house burnings, werewolves, and witches.
Complete with Alfred’s drawings of plants both real and implausible, Days by Moonlight is a Dantesque journey taken during the “hour of the wolf,” that time of day when the sun is setting and the traveller can’t tell the difference between dog and wolf. And it asks that perpetual question: how do we know the things we know are real, and what is real anyway?
Dear Black girls all around the world, this one is for you — for us.
Dear Black Girls is a letter to all Black girls. Every single day poet and educator Shanice Nicole is reminded of how special Black girls are and of how lucky she is to be one. Illustrations by Kezna Dalz support the book’s message that no two Black girls are the same but they are all special–that to be a Black girl is a true gift. In this celebratory poem, Kezna and Shanice remind young readers that despite differences, they all deserve to be loved just the way they are.
Winner of the 2018 City of Vancouver Book Award
From Vancouver-based writer Chelene Knight, Dear Current Occupant is a creative non-fiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Using a variety of forms, Knight reflects on her childhood through a series of letters addressed to all of the current occupants now living in the twenty different houses she moved in and out of with her mother and brother. From blurry non-chronological memories of trying to fit in with her own family as the only mixed East Indian/Black child, to crystal clear recollections of parental drug use, Knight draws a vivid portrait of memory that still longs for a place and a home.
Peering through windows and doors into intimate, remembered spaces now occupied by strangers, Knight writes to them in order to deconstruct her own past. From the rubble of memory she then builds a real place in order to bring herself back home.
Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, Translation, 2018
Translated from French by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott.
From Goncourt Prize finalist Edem Awumey, a beautiful and brilliant new novel.
With a nod to Samuel Beckett and Bohumil Hrabal, a young dramatist from a West African nation describes a student protest against a brutal oligarchy and its crushing aftermath. While distributing leaflets with provocative quotations from Beckett, Ito Baraka is taken to a camp where torture, starvation, beatings, and rape are normal. Forced to inform on his friends, whose fates he now fears, and released a broken man, he is enabled to escape to Quebec. His one goal is to tell the story of the protest and pay homage to Koli Lem, a teacher, cellmate, and lover of books, who was blinded by being forced to look at the sun–and is surely a symbol of the nation.
Edem Awumey gives us a darkly moving and terrifying novel about fear and play, repression and protest, and the indomitable nature of creativity.
In Dominoes at the Crossroads Kaie Kellough maps an alternate nation–one populated by Caribbean Canadians who hopscotch across the country. The characters navigate race, class, and coming-of-age. Seeking opportunity, some fade into the world around them, even as their minds hitchhike, dream, and soar. Some appear in different times and hemispheres, whether as student radicals, secret agents, historians, fugitive slaves, or jazz musicians.
From the cobblestones of Montreal’s Old Port through the foliage of a South American rainforest; from a basement in wartime Paris to a metro in Montréal during the October Crisis; Kellough’s fierce imagination reconciles the personal and ancestral experience with the present moment, grappling with the abiding feeling of being elsewhere, even when here.
Less than an hour after Millington receives his permanent resident visa, he wonders if his husband Jay would now end their marriage. And Jay has multiple reasons to. Millington is an ex-Methodist minister, who once believed he could be celibate. When he fled Caribbean Methodism and came to Montreal, he thought he’d resolved the issues that made him leave, but he comes to understand that psychological trauma, childhood conditioning, parental and community expectations and his own need for community and family valorization are not easily exorcised. The third installment in the No Safeguards quartet of novels.
When Preston Downs, Jr., alias Prez, slides down the emergency chute onto the frozen tarmac at the Montreal airport, little does he know that returning home to Washington D.C. or to his adopted city, Chicago, would now be impossible. Events had sped by after a dust-up with the Chicago police. With a new name and papers, he finds himself in a foreign city where people speak French and life is douce compared to the one he fled.
Son of a World War II vet, Prez grows up in the 50s in D.C., a segregated Southern city, and learns early that black lives don?t much matter. As a leader in the streets, his journey from boyhood to manhood means acquiring fighting skills to lead and unify long before losing his virginity. Smart and skeptical, but with a code of ethics, he, like every black kid, wants to be Malcolm, Martin or at least a ?soul brother,? which inspires fear among the powers that be.
Spotted while an A student at Howard University in 1964, Prez is invited to do an interdisciplinary course with field work on Civil Rights in Chicago, a city as divided as Gettysburg was a hundred years earlier. Faced with police-state conditions, dubious armed gangs, spies and provocateurs, Prez and the young women and men he works with are propelled into a head-on fight with police.
James Baldwin wrote that the blues began “on the auction block,” others say it started with their kidnapping from Africa. Prez was born in exile, with the blues.
Only someone who has lived through that period can write an enthralling and passionate story like Exile Blues. Gary Freeman has done so with insight and sensitivity.