Caribbean Canadian Books And Authors Continue To Be HOT
2018 Books in Review – 8 For 18.
By Stephen Weir (original story from edited version in the Caribbean Camera)
Caribbean Canadians and authors who write about Caribbean issues in the Great White North continued to hold their own on the Canadian literature scene this year.From award-winning novels to children’s titles about the black experience, these are top 10 books that book sellers, the media and of course the Caribbean Camera recommend you consider before the clock ticks out on 2018.
1. WASHINGTON BLACK. Esi Edugyan’s latest novel is truly the book of the year in Canada, and, is also racking up sales the US and the Caribbean.
No, she isn’t Bajan – the BC writer’s parents are from Ghana -- but she nails 19th century slaving Barbados better than anyone else in Canada ever has. Her most recent novel, Washington Black, won this year’s $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a finalist for both the prestigious UK Man Booker Prize and Canada’s 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction honours. She has just been nominated for next month’s American Library Association's Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in the US.
The book is described as a “dazzling adventure story about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.” It is the story of George Washington Black, an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation who overcomes slavery and travels the globe. Wash has perilous adventures on the stormy seas, experiences the shock of a new world in England and overcomes the complexities of society in Nova Scotia.
2. POLICING BLACK LIVES: STATE VIOLENCE IN CANADA FROM SLAVERY TO THE PRESENT. “Robyn Maynard’s book has been a must for most of 2018,” said Itah Sadu, the co-owner of the downtown A Different Booklist. “We continue to get calls for her book.”
Robyn Maynard is a Black feminist writer based in Montréal. Her articles and opinion pieces appear in the Toronto Star, the Montréal Gazette, and Canadian Women Studies Journal. In this seminal study Maynard peers behind the country’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance and traces anti-Blackness from the slave ships to the prisons, the classrooms and beyond.
3. BROTHERS: Scarborough’s David Chariandy won it all in 2017 for his bookBrothers, and continued to gain the attention of book buyers and literature prizes in 2018.
The novel about two brothers of Trinidadian descent who are raised by their hardworking single mother in Malvern takes place during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
Brothers won many awards last year including the $50,000 Writer’s Trust. Earlier this fall it captured the $10,000 Toronto Book Award. What is next for Brothers? It is reported the Film and TV rights have been purchased by Hawkeye Pictures of Toronto.
4. I’VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU – A LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER.David Chariandy’s third book – a nonfiction work this time - was published in 2018. When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask, "What happened?" David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race.
Flash-forward to the present, and in this newly heated era of divisions, he writes a letter to his now thirteen-year-old daughter. The book was just named one of the top 18 Canadian non-fiction books of the year by the CBC.
5. VIOLA DESMOND: HER LIFE AND TIMES. “Don’t forget Graham and Wanda’s story of Viola Desmond has been a game changer this fall,” A Different Booklist owner Itah Sadu told the Caribbean Camera just before Christmas. “ It hasn’t won a prize, yet, but making it onto the $10 bill is a HUGE award in itself. For the past month we have had a steady stream of people coming in looking for the book to figure out what The Viola Desmond $10 bill is all about!”
Desmond, the civil rights pioneer from Nova Scotia, was jailed in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a Nova Scotia movie theatre. The book highlights this act of resistance by way of an contextual overview of the Black experience in Canada, from slavery under French and British rule in the eighteenth century to the practice of racial segregation and the fight for racial equality in the twentieth century. Authors Graham Reynolds and Wanda Robson (Viola’s sister) look beyond the theatre incident and provide new insights into her life.
6. MALAIKA’S WINTER CARNIVAL. The CBC is recommending Toronto’s Nadia L. Hohn’s children’s story / picture book about a young Caribbean girl who is reunited with her Mummy. It means moving to Canada where everything is different. It’s cold in Québec City, no one understands when she talks and Carnival is nothing like the celebration Malaika knows from home!
“Her children's fiction blends standard English and Caribbean patois, telling Black stories from an often underrepresented point of view,” says the CBC. The Canadian broadcaster named the book and the author as one of six key Black Canadian writers to watch in 2018.
The book, which was published in late 2017, won an award before it was even printed! The manuscript of the book, Malaika's Costume, won the Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children's Story Award in 2016.
7. AFRICVILLE. “ One of my favourites this year for young readers is written by Shauntay Grant and illustrated by Eva Campbell, “ said Sadu in her busy Bathurst Street bookstore. “Like many of the books in 2018, it tells the stories of life in Nova Scotia, but don’t worry it resonates back here in Toronto too.”
Shauntay Grant is an award-winning Canadian poet and author with strong Jamaican Maroon roots. She tells the story of Africville. The vibrant Black community in Halifax thrived for 150 years before being demolished by the government in the 1960s. The illustrated story is brought to life through the eyes of a young girl taking in the annual Africville Reunion Festival. Grant’s stage play The Bridge will premiere in early 2019 at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre in association with Toronto’s Obsidian Theatre.
8 THE BLACK PEACOCK. Jamaican Canadian Rachel Manley’s novel came out in the fall of 2017 and continues to sell well in 2018. This year the book was nominated for the Amazon First Novel Award.
While it was her first work of fiction, it was not her first book. She wrote the 1997 Governor General’s Literary Award–winning Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood. Her ongoing non-fiction works concern her famous Jamaican/English family. The Manley clan is the inspiration for Black Peacock which is set on a tiny Caribe isle.