By Aaron Zaretsky
If you’re looking for some new reads this Black History Month, you’ll find thousands of covers that honour the legacy of Black people; past and present. But if you seek handpicked titles exclusively penned down by Black Canadian authors, with stories that tackle several themes and issues, putting you on an emotional roller coaster – look no further. VIBE105 brings you FIVE books you need to dig into this February.
Have You Met Nora? By Nicole Blades
Have You Met Nora? is a story of a Black woman, Nora Mackenzie, portraying as a White woman. She enjoys the privileges of being white such as an elegant socialite and becoming a top fashion stylist in the country. Also, she is days away from marrying into one of New York’s most powerful families. Nora has everything she wants but encounters someone who knows her secret, threatening to ruin her high society life. Nora now faces a dilemma. Does she continue to live a life of lies or does she reveal the truth? Have You Met Nora? is Montreal-based Nicole Blades’ second novel, and she is a novelist with vast potential.
The Alchemists of Kush by Minister Faust
Edmonton-based Minister Faust’s novel, The Alchemists of Kush, explores the lives of Somali and Sundanese youth in North America. The novel focuses on two young boys whose lives are transformed through unlikely mentors. One becomes the Supreme Raptor; other is referred to the Greeks as Horus, son of Osiris. Their parallel stories connect ancient African cultures to modern-day Edmonton. Both become Alchemists of Kush and, in an interview with CBC radio, Faust states that “Ancient Kush is essentially the horn of Africa stretching to southern Egypt” which includes Sudan Ethiopia and Somalia. The Alchemists of Kush is worth reading and delves deeply into the African culture.
In the Black by B. Denham Jolly
In the Black is a memoir that documents overt racism and discrimination that B. Denham Jolly suffered while establishing a successful business in 1950’s Toronto. Those experiences led to a 12-year battle between Jolly and the CRTC in his fight to receive a license for a Black-owned radio station in Toronto. Jolly won the battle and founded Flow 93.5, the first ever Black-owned FM radio station in the city.
Besides narrating his remarkable journey, Jolly also tells the story of a generation of activists who worked to reshape Canada into a more open and just society. Furthermore, he explains that Canada has not reached the ideal of equality and will require more time. Jolly won the 2017 Toronto Book Award for this memoir.
Queer Returns by Rinaldo Walcott
Queer Returns focuses on gender and race, specifically of “queer and Black” and “Black queer” through the lens of multiculturalism and Canadian identity. Author, Rinaldo Walcott , provides a series of essays on how capitalism, colonialism and sexual identity intersect and shape culture, politics and Black expression. Just like how In the Black states that Canada’s equality is not at an ideal level, Queer Returns exemplifies that there needs to be equality for everyone. The essays question what it means to live in a multicultural society, and how gender and race complicate the political claims surrounding multiculturalism and queer politics.
The Hanging of Angelique by Afua Cooper
The Hanging of Angelique documents the life of Marie-Joseph Angelique, a female slave in Montréal in the 1700s. Angelique was convicted of starting a fire that burnt a significant portion of Montréal to a crisp in April 1734. The result from her actions is the title of this book by Afua Cooper. The Hanging of Angelique argues that the belief that Canada was slavery-free is a fallacy. Furthermore, Cooper reveals that Canada legally and culturally endorsed slavery for an astonishing 200 years. If you want to learn more about Marie-Joseph Angelique and slavery in Canada, do read The Hanging of Angelique.
These five books contain several themes and issues worth exploring further. Also, these page-turners are written by Black Canadian authors providing their perspective, theories, and arguments on such matters. So, don’t forget to check them out. Do you know any good books that celebrate Black culture or are written by Black authors? Let us know on all social platforms by tagging @vibe105to.