The Hermit of Africville by Jon Tattrie

Jon Tattrie paints a bleak picture of the destruction of Africville through the eyes of a lifelong protestor, Eddie Carvery.  Carvery grew up in Africville, a black community in the northern section of Halifax. In the 1960s he watched the city force residents from their homes and raze the properties, often without permission or knowledge of the homeowners. Many left their home with only what they could carry.…

Pearleen Oliver: Canada’s Black Crusader for Civil Rights, Edited by Ronald Caplan

As the Black Lives Matter movement advances, there have been many, many new books released focussing on the history of slavery, segregation and outright racism that existed and still exists in Canada. This is particularly true in Atlantic Canada where many former slaves and black Loyalists sought freedom and new lives, only to face the same issues they were escaping from in the Thirteen Colonies.…

The Talking Drum by Lisa Braxton

Lisa Braxton’s debut novel, The Talking Drum, explores various power structures at work in urban America in the 1970s. The novel follows three intertwined sets of characters: Sydney and Malachi Stallworth, Della Tolliver and her boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and Omar and Natalie Bassari. In different ways, the overarching impacts of racism and gentrification weigh on each character, and the changes occurring in their respective communities of Liberty Hill and Petite Africa form the backdrop for a study of class issues, racial tensions, sexism, and community resilience.  

Place is central to the novel.…

Afraid of the Dark by Guyleigh Johnson

Afraid of the Dark is Darmouth author Guyleigh Johnson’s second book. Johnson is a spoken word artist, writer, and community organizer and she pours her multiple talents into this work of short fiction and poetry.

The book is framed by prose sections written from the perspective of Kahlua Thomas, a 16-year-old black teenager from Halifax who lives in poverty with a mother that struggles with alcoholism.…

Finding Fortune: Documenting and Imagining the Life of Rose Fortune (1774-1864) by Brenda J. Thompson

closely on the heels of her award-winning book The Poor Houses of Nova Scotia, Brenda J. Thompson has brought an important historical figure to light: Black Loyalist Rose Fortune.

Rose was a ‘character’ in Annapolis Royal and elsewhere. She was born a time when, as a poor Black woman, she was expected to keep her place in the community and keep herself silent.…

The Lost Sister by Andrea Gunraj

Gunraj is the author of The Sudden Disappearance of Seetha (2009, Knopf Canada), her first novel. Her follow-up novel The Lost Sister (2019, Vagrant Press) is actually two stories that Ms. Gunraj has cleverly interleaved and zipped up into one considerable read so that we have two stories, both with a “lost sister.” We begin with the present-day story (actually 1998) of two sisters, Diana and Alisha, 15 and 13 respectively, the daughters of Donald and Beatrice Sookermany, immigrants from Guyana living in the Jane-Finch area of Toronto.…

Exile Blues by Douglas Gary Freeman

recently watched the 2013 movie Lee Daniel’s The Butler which I thought notable for vividly depicting the struggle for desegregation in Washington D.C. during the late 1950s and early 1960s by both peaceful and radical means. Viewed through the lens of time, it is even more shocking to think that humans treated other humans less favourably based on skin colour alone.…

Black Cop: My 36 years in police work, and my career ending experiences with official racism by Calvin Lawrence, With Miles Howe

The title and subtitle pretty much sum up what this book is about: being black and facing systemic racism in two police organizations in a 36-year career. Calvin Lawrence was born in 1949 in Yarmouth and raised in Halifax. His parents (he was actually raised by his Uncle and Aunt) were a mixed-race couple living in Halifax. His father worked as a porter for the railway, one of the few respectable jobs available to blacks at the time.…

Daughters of Silence by Rebecca Fisseha

Rebecca Fisseha’s debut novel Daughters of Silence was recently featured on CBC Books’ 34 Works of Canadian Fiction to Watch for this Fall, which is no small feat, particularly for a first novel. (Incidentally, her publisher, New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions has two entries on this list, the other being Different Beasts by J.R. McConvey. Not a few of the books on the list are from independent, small press publishers.…

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta (Guest Post)

Note: For the past three summers, Naomi of the Consumed by Ink book review blog and I have been swapping a book review. This year I reviewed The Afrikaner by Arianna Dagnino for her site, and she has written a review of the critically-acclaimed book by Jamaican-Canadian author Zalika Reid-Benta, Frying Plantain (2019, House of Anansi Press)*. Naomi writes from Truro, Nova Scotia and reviews a broader range of CanLit than I do, although we sometimes review the same book, which is always interesting!…

Precept by Matthew de Lacey Davidson

Self-published Nova Scotian author Matthew de Lacy Davidson has released his first novel Precept, and it is firmly in the historical fiction genre. I particularly enjoy these types of novels, for one learns something, if not of the actual event, then about the personages themselves. Precept is no exception. The 19th-century historical figure of Frederick Douglass, a former slave and abolitionist, has escaped to Ireland to avoid recapture and certain death.…

Black Beach by Glynis Guevara

Trinidadian Glynis Guevara has now written her second Young Adult (YA) novel, Black Beach, following 2017’s Under the Zaboca Tree. Both titles are published by Inanna Publications. Black Beach is set (like its predecessor) in Trinidad. Tamera is sixteen-years-old and lives with her father and mother in the rural fishing village of La Cresta. Her older sister Mary lives next door with her husband Renwick and their young child Emma.…

Redemption Songs by Jon Tattrie

Redemption Songs won a 2017 The Very Best! Book Award for Non-Fiction.

do Nova Scotia, Black leader Marcus Garvey, and Rastafarian musician Bob Marley have in common? Very little, you might think until Jon Tattrie weaves some literary and historical magic to make it all seamlessly fit together in Redemption Songs (2016, Pottersfield Press), a treatise against racism and the false “colouring” of humans.…

The Lynching of Peter Wheeler by Debra Komar

Author and forensic anthropologist Debra Komar has written two books to date dealing with murder and wrongful conviction in Atlantic Canada’s past. Her first book, The Ballad of Jacob Peck (2013, Goose Lane Editions) was about a murder inspired by religious fervour that occurred in 1805 in New Brunswick. The follow-up, The Lynching of Peter Wheeler (2014, Goose Lane Editions) is about the wrongful conviction of Peter Wheeler in the death of Annie Kempton in Nova Scotia in 1896.…