In 1996, Black History Month was celebrated by the government of Canada for the first time. Cabinet member Jean Augustine, the first black woman to be elected to Canadian Parliament, led the charge, introducing a motion in December 1995 to formally recognize the month-long celebration. Her motion was passed unanimously.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary, we’ve asked some of Canada’s finest writers to shine the spotlight on young black authors to watch. Scroll down to see their picks, or click here to see a list of the chosen authors’ works.
1. George Elliott Clarke recommends Adebe DeRango-Adem
She writes under the name, “Adebe D.A.”
She be the MC of Mischievous Consciousness, the
DJ of Damning Justice, the DA of Determined Accounting.
She knows there was a Marine Holocaust – a fire on the water –
that was the African Slave Trade, a Crime Against Humanity
that remains unpunished and unreparationed. She names –
has got to name – the bloody acts, the ruddy facts – of the
oppressors and their isms. The “Terra Incognita” that remains –
the remains – that she explores? Slave cemeteries, African
villages, Southern sites of KKK Terrorism….Here’s a poetry after
Amiri Baraka, after Kamau Brathwaite, after Wayde Compton,
that prefers Fanon to Obama, that unveils the “Negress” in
“nigrescence,” the “Mulatta” in “malleable,” the “bloody root”
that bears “Strange Fruit.” Gotta love this wide-ranging riffing
on defiant definitions of unspeakable histories and unspoken
hardships. There’s “bones and stink” – Yeatsian – in this jazz;
there’s “Pythagorean gore” – Nietzschian – in this blues. Damn
it all to Hell: Yo’s face-to-face, eardrum-and-eye-flute, with
Pan-African, verbal voodoo, here, folks: Transformative!
2. Esi Edugyan recommends Chigozie Obioma
Chigozie Obioma’s exquisite first novel is mythic in its implications. Set in small-town Nigeria in the 1990s, it follows Benjamin, one of four brothers living in Akura. They spend most of their days fishing at the Omi-Ala River. One afternoon, they meet a local outcast. He knows one of the brothers’ names, though he has never before met them. Ranting, he delivers a terrible prophecy: the eldest of them will be killed by one of his brothers. Are these the ravings of a madman, or will such a tragedy actually come to pass? And if it does, who will be the killer?
The Fishermen dazzles as both allegory and political commentary – above all, though, it is virtuosic storytelling. It is a fine beginning in what promises to be a great career.
I recommend One Night in Mississippi by author Craig Shreve. He writes swiftly, competently, engagingly about important issues.