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Celebrating Black Excellence

Great books by Canadian writers



February is Black History Month in Canada. This year's theme is 'A heritage to celebrate, a future to build'. If you're looking for ways to celebrate Black excellence this month, here are a few reading recommendations that will open your mind –and your heart– to the voices of Black artists in this country.


Fiction:


Reproduction by Ian Williams

This story won the Giller Prize in 2019, and is described as "a hilarious and poignant love story" about the unique ways families are formed. Williams is also a poet, and his collection 'Word Problems' addresses issues of race and displacement as if they were grade school math and grammar problems. A former poetry teacher at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Williams is now an English professor at the University of Toronto.


Speculative Fiction:


Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson

This collection of stories won Hopkinson the World Fantasy Award, but her broad collection of spec fiction really began back with Brown Girl In The Ring. Hopkinson, who is currently teaching at UBC, was named Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master in 2021, by the Science Fiction Writers of America, making her the youngest Grand Master and the first woman of African descent.




Midnight Bargain by CL Polk

Polk's compelling Witchmark began the Kingston Cycle series which was recognized with a World Fantasy Award. In Midnight Bargain, Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress, who must balance her desire to become the first great female magician against her duty to her family. CL Polk lives and writes in Calgary.




Short Stories:


The Outer Harbour, by Wayde Compton

Poet Wayde Compton's first book of short stories won the City of Vancouver Book Award in 2015. The judges called it "a creative manifesto for radical change in Vancouver’s attitude to its marginalized citizens". Compton has a new book of poetry due out next month, and he teaches creative writing at Douglas College in Vancouver.


Picture Books:


Because You Are by Jael Richardson

Richardson is an author, activist and speaker who founded the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD), held every year in Brampton. She's written books for children and adults and is also a popular public speaker who addresses both the craft of writing and the challenges surrounding history, race, and identity in Canada. 


Poetry:


100 Days by Juliane Okot Bitek

Okot Bitek is a Ugandan-Canadian poet and scholar, formerly in BC but now teaching at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. This collection of poetry is an examination of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and it won the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry and the INDIEFAB Book of the Year (Poetry) Award.



Biography:


by Valerie Jerome

Sister to sprinter Harry Jerome and an Olympic athlete in her own right, Races tells of the barriers Valerie faced growing up in North Vancouver and the story of her family's fight against segregation and racism in Canada. You can also read excerpts of her memories in the archive at the Museum of North Vancouver.



by Desmond Cole

Author, activist and journalist Cole documents a year in Toronto, exposing a system of entrenched, systemic inequality. He won the Toronto Book Award, among others, for this searing indictment of racism in Canada.



Have thoughts to share about Black History month? Leave your comment below or write us at editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca


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