Black History Month: Lawrence Hill, George Elliott Clarke pick young black authors to watch

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.

Left: Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke visits q (Photo Credit: Fabiola Carletti/CBC). Right: Adebe DeRango-Adem was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize for her poetry collection, Ex Nihilo. Her most recent book of poetry is called Terra Incognita (Photo Credit: Rosanna DeRango).

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

Left: Esi Edugyan won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for her novel Half-Blood Blues. Right: Chigozie Obioma was born in Nigeria and lives in the U.S. His first novel, The Fishermen, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize.

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.

Left: Lawrence Hill’s latest novel, The Illegal, is in the running for Canada Reads 2016. He’s chairing the jury for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Right: Chatham-based author Craig Shreve is the author of One Night in Mississippi(

3. Lawrence Hill recommends Craig Shreve

I recommend One Night in Mississippi by author Craig Shreve. He writes swiftly, competently, engagingly about important issues.

Click here for more authors to discover during Black History Month


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