Gutter Child by Jael Richardson

Jael Richardson’s debut novel, Gutter Child (2021, HarperCollins Canada)* is a forceful one that shines a spotlight on racism, colonization and the struggle to get out from under an imposed debt that only death will bring freedom from. It is a work of creative fiction that strongly resonates in the age of Black Lives Matter and other Black activist issues.

Set in an imaginary world (an apartheid state, not unlike South Africa) where the colonizers have pushed the Indigenous tribes so far back from the coast that they eventually revolt, but lose the war.…

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present by Robyn Maynard

Policing Black Lives is the work of Montreal-based Black feminist activist and educator, Robyn Maynard. Maynard brings her considerable expertise to this book, which is packed with information about the history and continued oppression of Black people in Canada. Policing Black Lives offers a frank and exceptionally well-researched perspective on the true nature of Canada’s relationship with its Black citizens which began with the forced migration and enslavement of Black people, and continues to this day with systemic oppression in many Canadian institutions.…

The Hermit of Africville by Jon Tattrie (New Edition)

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.…

Annaka by Andre Fenton

Andre Fenton’s second novel Annaka is a whirlwind. The narrative follows 16-year-old Annaka Brooks as she returns home to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for her Grampy’s funeral. Though much of her adolescence has been tarnished by feelings of loneliness and difference, her homecoming provides opportunities to rebuild connections with family and friends and to figure out key secrets from her past. Clay, her childhood imaginary friend, poses a particularly interesting reunion.…

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.…

2020 “The Very Best!” Book Awards: Best Historical Fiction Winners!

The Historical Fiction category returned in a big way after being absent in 2019. The winners here range from the British Home Child program to Black activism to a historical crime committed in rural Nova Scotia. As with the other categories, it was a shame that the well-stocked shortlist was made shorter!

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.…