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A great way to support Black History Month is to support black writers.
To help you dip your toes into the large, vibrant talent pool of British Columbia’s Black writers, Postmedia News has curated a list of titles that will make great additions to your 2024 reading list:
By Esi Edugyan
Patrick Crean Editions, 2018
Edugyan’s work could have its own list. There is the novel Half-Blood Blues. And the collection of essays titled Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling.
But the choice here is the future classic, Washington Black. The sprawling 19th century story follows a young field slave whose life changes radically when a pair of English brothers arrive on a Barbadian sugar plantation in the early 19th century.
Victoria’s author’s novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and earned Edugyan her second Giller Prize.
A television adaptation, produced by Sterling K. Brown, will be released on Hulu in the near future.
By David Chariandy
Random House, 2018
Set in a housing project in Scarborough, Ontario, during the summer of 1991, Vancouver writer Chariandy’s coming-of-age novel about two brothers raised by their single Trinidadian mother examines family, race, and identity.
Winner of the 2017 Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Award, Brother was adapted to film by Clement Virgo and stars Lamar Johnson and Aaron Pierre.
Invisible Boy: A Memoir of Self-Discovery
By Harrison Mooney
Patrick Crean Editions, 2022
Former Vancouver Sun reporter Harrison Mooney was born to a West African mother and then adopted as an infant into a white evangelical family in Abbotsford.
Mooney’s childhood and adolescence are difficult as his racial identity is a constant source of ridicule from those tasked with caring for him.
Presented with humor and heartbreak, Mooney’s memoir offers a meaningful discussion of personal identity and asks readers to consider the consequences and racial realities of children whose culture is swept under the rug.
By Chelene Knight
Book*hug Press, 2022
This moving, award-winning novel from Harrison Hot Springs author Knight is set in the 1930s in the black, immigrant community of Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver.
The book follows the story of Junie, a creative girl who lives with her volatile and alcoholic jazz singer mother. As Junie grows, she leans toward her artistic inclinations as she tries to navigate between her sexuality and a mother who slides further into the bottle and away from Junie.
The island of oblivion
By Jasmine Sealy
Harper Avenue, 2022
With a nod to Greek mythology, this novel by Sealy, a Barbadian Canadian and Vancouver resident, covers four generations of a family that runs a beachfront hotel. The story, which begins in the early 1960s and continues through 2019, looks at love in many forms and the deep-rooted effect a family’s past can have on its future.
The outer port
By Wayde Compton
Arsenal Pulp Press, 2014
Known primarily as a poet, Vancouver’s Compton won the City of Vancouver Book Award for his first collection of short stories. Spanning from 2001 to 2025, the book is made up of a series of interconnected stories that delve into the connection between identity and place set in a city built on a history of racism and colonialism.
A is for Acholi
By Otoniya J. Okot Bitek
Wolsak and Wynn, 2022
Winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, this wide-ranging collection examines the diaspora and marginalization of the Acholi people of northern Uganda.
Okot Bitek, former Poetry Ambassador for the City of Vancouver, deconstructs form and function by touching on topics such as the Acholi people’s contact with the British in 1862 and life in lands deeply connected to colonization.
Racing: the trials and triumphs of Canada’s fastest family
By Valerie Jérôme
Goose Lane Editions, 2023
Jerome’s brother Harry, one of the most recognized black Canadian athletes of the 1960s, set world records and competed for Canada in three Olympic Games.
She and Harry’s grandfather, John (Army) Howard, were the first black Canadian Olympians in 1912.
Valerie competed for Canada at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
But history is not just about sporting achievements. It’s also about setting the record straight and shedding light on the far-reaching racism that the Jerome family faced in every corner of the world.
The Journey Prize Stories 33: The Best of Canada’s New Black Writers
Selected by David Chariandy, Esi Edugyan and Canisia Lubrin.
Random Penguin House, 2023
For more than 30 years, Journey Prize Stories has highlighted the next generation of great Canadian writers.
The 33rd edition of the prestigious annual fiction anthology celebrates the country’s best emerging black writers. While not entirely local, this exceptional collection includes the work of several Black BC writers and is co-curated by two of the best in Edugyan and Chariandy.
The meeting of chance
By Tolú Oloruntoba
Palimpsest Press, 2021
Surrey-based poet Oloruntoba received the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Prize for Poetry and the Griffin Poetry Prize for this collection.
“(Poetry) has consistently calmed my anxiety and helped me show some people that they are not alone,” Oloruntoba told Postmedia News.
Focusing on themes such as illness, the immigrant experience, dysfunction and social injustice, the poetry collection The Junta of Happenstance draws on Oloruntoba’s time as a primary care physician in Nigeria and a leading virtual health physician in Canada .
By Cecilia Nicholson
Claw Books, 2022
The most recent collection from the Vancouver writer, who previously received the Livesay Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Prize for Poetry, focuses on what Nicholson calls “Blackness in Rurality.”
It includes aspects of Nicholson’s story of growing up on a farm, as well as his experience during COVID-19 volunteering at a farm that offered incarcerated and recently released people the opportunity to be on the land.
Recommended by Editorial
Best-selling author Esi Edugyan expands on long-marginalized stories
Prestigious short story anthology focuses on emerging Black Canadian writers
Knight lived with his protagonist for a long time before finding her a home in his first novel Junie.
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