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Publishing@SFU's List of Books You Need Right Now

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Simon Fraser University's Publishing department recommends these books "to better understand the history and present of anti-Black violence in Canada as well as the strength of Black art and storytelling."
Policing Black Lives

Policing Black Lives

State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Audiobook

 

Delving behind Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives traces the violent realities of anti-blackness from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms and beyond. Robyn Maynard provides readers with the first comprehensive account of nearly four hundred years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punishment of Black lives in Canada.

While highlighting the ubiquity of Black resistance, Policing Black Lives traces the still-living legacy of slavery acro …

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The Skin We're In

The Skin We're In

A Year of Black Resistance and Power
edition:Hardcover

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2020 TORONTO BOOK AWARD
A bracing, provocative, and perspective-shifting book from one of Canada's most celebrated and uncompromising writers, Desmond Cole. The Skin We're In will spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists.

In his 2015 cover story for Toronto Life magazine, Desmond Cole exposed the racist actions of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times he had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial pra …

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How She Read

How She Read

edition:Paperback

How She Read is a collection of genre-blurring poems about the representation of Black women, their hearts, minds and bodies, across the Canadian cultural imagination.

 

 

 

Drawing from grade-school vocabulary spellers, literature, history, art, media and pop culture, Chantal Gibson's sassy semiotics highlight the depth and duration of the imperialist ideas embedded in everyday things, from storybooks to coloured pencils, from paintings to postage stamps.

 

 

 

A mediation on motherhood and daughterhoo …

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The Gospel of Breaking

The Gospel of Breaking

edition:Paperback

In The Gospel of Breaking, Jillian Christmas confirms what followers of her performance and artistic curation have long known: there is magic in her words. Befitting someone who "speaks things into being," Christmas extracts from family history, queer lineage, and the political landscape of a racialized life to create a rich, softly defiant collection of poems.

Christmas draws a circle around the things she calls "holy": the family line that cannot find its root but survived to fill the skies wit …

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The Black Prairie Archives

The Black Prairie Archives

An Anthology
edited by Karina Vernon
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology recovers a new regional archive of “black prairie” literature, and includes writing that ranges from work by nineteenth-century black fur traders and pioneers, all of it published here for the first time, to contemporary writing of the twenty-first century. 

This anthology establishes a new black prairie literary tradition and transforms inherited understandings of what prairie literature looks and sounds like. It collects varied and unique work by wr …

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I've Been Meaning to Tell You

I've Been Meaning to Tell You

A Letter to My Daughter
edition:Hardcover

In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today.

When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what happened?" David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race. A decade later, in a newly h …

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Excerpt

The Occasion

Once, when you were three, we made a trip out for lunch. We bussed west in our city, to one of those grocery-store buffets serving the type of food my own parents would scorn. Those overpriced organics laid out thinly in brushed-steel trays, the glass sneeze guard just high enough for you, dearest daughter, to dip your head beneath it in assessing, suspiciously, the “browned rice” and “free-range carrots.” And in that moment, I could imagine myself a father long beyond the grip of history, and now caring for his loved one through kale and quinoa anda soda boasting “real cane sugar.”
     But we’re both dessert people, a soda won’t cut it, and so we shared a big piece of chocolate cake. “It’s good for you,” you giggled. “Chocolate cake is very, very good for you.” You squirmed away as I tried to wipe your mouth, laughing at all of my best efforts. It was an ordinary moment. And an ordinary thirst was brought on by the thick sweet of the cake, and so I stood and moved towards the nearby tap to get us both a glass of water, encountering a woman on her way to do the same thing. She was nicely dressed, a light summer cream suit, little makeup, tasteful. We reached the tap at roughly the same time. I hesitated out of a politeness, and this very gesture seemed only to irritate her. She shouldered herself in front of me, and when filling her glass of water, she half turned to explain, “I was born here. I belong here.”
     Her voice was loud. She meant to be overheard, to provoke agreement, maybe, although the people lunching around us reacted only by focusing harder upon their own bowls and plates. And you, my daughter, sitting closest, didn’t understand, or else you didn’t even hear. You were still in a moment of joy, your own laughter filling your ears, the dark frosting between your teeth, and so I decided. I waited patiently to fill our glasses. I walked carefully back to you, never spilling a drop. I sat. I might have tried to match your smile. I might have attempted once more to wipe your mouth, or asked you to take a sip of water to prevent dehydration, the latest foolish fear of parents like me. I don’t remember. I sometimes find myself in this state during the course of an ordinary day. I was lost in thought and quiet, even after I caught your hand waving beforemy eyes. Your face now cross and confused. “Hey,” you asked, “what happened?”

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Brother

Brother

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

The long-awaited second novel from David Chariandy, whose debut, Soucouyant, was nominated for nearly every major literary prize in Canada and published internationally.

     An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991. 
     With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precisio …

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Excerpt

The world around us was named Scarborough. It had once been called “Scarberia,” a wasteland on the out­skirts of a sprawling city. But now, as we were growing up in the early ’80s, in the heated language of a chang­ing nation, we heard it called other names: Scarlem, Scarbistan. We lived in Scar-bro, a suburb that had mush­roomed up and yellowed, browned, and blackened into life. Our neighbours were Mrs. Chandrasekar and Mr. Chow, Pilar Fernandez and Clive “Sonny” Barrington. They spoke different languages, they ate different foods, but they were all from one colony or the other, and so they had a shared vocabulary for describing feral children like us. We were “ragamuffins.” We were “hooligans” up to no good “gallivanting.” We were what one neighbour, more poet than security guard, described as “oiled crea­tures of mongoose cunning,” raiding dumpsters and garbage rooms or climbing up trees and fire-exit stairs to spy on adults. During winters we snowballed cars on Lawrence Avenue, dipping into the back alleys if the drivers tried to pursue us. A Pinto Wagon once shaving past my face, its wake tugging hard upon my body, Francis’s hand upon my shoulder pulling me safe.

During the day, we had more formal educational opportunities. Our school was named after Sir Alexander Campbell, a Father of Confederation. But we the stu­dents of his school had our own confederations, our own schoolyard territories and alliances, our own trade agree­ments and anthems. We listened to Planet Rock and carried Adidas bags and wore stonewashed jeans and painter caps. You could hear us whenever there were general assemblies in the auditorium, our collective voices overwhelming whatever politely seated ceremony we were supposed to be attending.

Hey Francis, homeboy, my man.

Rudebwoy Francis! Gangstar!

Francis and I each served out long sentences in class­rooms beneath the chemical hum of white fluorescent lights, in part out of fear of our mother, who warned us, upon pain of something worse than death, not to squan­der “our only chance.” But Francis actually liked to learn. He read books, and he was a good observer.

And after class was out there were other institutions to learn from. A dozen blocks west of the towers and housing complexes of the Park, at the intersection of Markham and Lawrence, there lay a series of strip malls. There were grocery shops selling spices and herbs under signs in foreign languages and scripts, vegetables and fruits with vaguely familiar names like ackee and eddo. There were restaurants with an average expiry date of a year, their hand-painted signs promising ice cream with the “back home tastes” of mango and khoya and badam kulfi, a second sign written urgently in red marker promising that they’d also serve, whenever asked, the mystery of “Canadian food.”

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A Map to the Door of No Return

A Map to the Door of No Return

Notes to Belonging
edition:Paperback

A Map to the Door of No Return is a timely book that explores the relevance and nature of identity and belonging in a culturally diverse and rapidly changing world. It is an insightful, sensitive and poetic book of discovery.

Drawing on cartography, travels, narratives of childhood in the Caribbean, journeys across the Canadian landscape, African ancestry, histories, politics, philosophies and literature, Dionne Brand sketches the shifting borders of home and nation, the connection to place in Ca …

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Excerpt

A Circumstantial Account of a State of Things

My grandfather said he knew what people we came from. I reeled off all the names I knew. Yoruba? Ibo? Ashanti? Mandingo? He said no to all of them, saying that he would know it if he heard it. I was thirteen. I was anxious for him to remember.

I pestered him for days. He told me to stop bothering him and that he would remember. Or stop bothering or else he would not remember. I hovered about him in any room in which he rested. I followed him around asking him if he wanted me to do this or that for him, clean his glasses, polish his shoes, bring his tea. I studied him intently when he came home. I searched the grey bristles of his moustache for any flicker which might suggest he was about to speak. He raised his Sunday Guardian newspaper to block my view. He shooed me away, telling me to find some book to read or work to do. At times it seemed as if Papa was on the brink of remembering. I imagined pulling the word off his tongue if only I knew the first syllable.

I scoured the San Fernando library and found no other lists of names at the time. Having no way of finding other names, I could only repeat the ones I knew, asking him if he was sure it wasn’t Yoruba, how about Ashanti? I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to be either one. I had heard that they were noble people. But I could also be Ibo; I had heard that they were gentle. And I had followed the war in Biafra. I was on their side.

Papa never remembered. Each week he came I asked him had he remembered. Each week he told me no. Then I stopped asking. He was disappointed. I was disappointed. We lived after that in this mutual disappointment. It was a rift between us. It gathered into a kind of estrangement. After that he grew old. I grew young. A small space opened in me.

I carried this space with me. Over time it has changed shape and light as the question it evoked has changed in appearance and angle. The name of the people we came from has ceased to matter. A name would have comforted a thirteen-year-old. The question however was more complicated, more nuanced. That moment between my grandfather and I several decades ago revealed a tear in the world. A steady answer would have mended this fault line quickly. I would have proceeded happily with a simple name. I may have played with it for a few days and then stored it away. Forgotten. But the rupture this exchange with my grandfather revealed was greater than the need for familial bonds. It was a rupture in history, a rupture in the quality of being. It was also a physical rupture, a rupture of geography.

My grandfather and I recognized this, which is why we were mutually disappointed. And which is why he could not lie to me. It would have been very easy to confirm any of the names I’d proposed to him. But he could not do this because he too faced this moment of rupture. We were not from the place where we lived and we could not remember where we were from or who we were. My grandfather could not summon up a vision of landscape or a people which would add up to a name. And it was profoundly disturbing.

Having no name to call on was having no past; having no past pointed to the fissure between the past and the present. That fissure is represented in the Door of No Return: that place where our ancestors departed one world for another; the Old World for the New. The place where all names were forgotten and all beginnings recast. In some desolate sense it was the creation place of Blacks in the New World Diaspora at the same time that it signified the end of traceable beginnings. Beginnings that can be noted through a name or a set of family stories that extend farther into the past than five hundred or so years, or the kinds of beginnings that can be expressed in a name which in turn marked out territory or occupation. I am interested in exploring this creation place – the Door of No Return, a place emptied of beginnings – as a site of belonging or unbelonging.

Maps
The rufous hummingbird travels five thousand miles from summer home to winter home and back. This hummingbird can fit into the palm of a hand. Its body defies the known physics of energy and flight. It knew its way before all known map-makers. It is a bird whose origins and paths are the blood of its small body. It is a bird whose desire to find its way depends on drops of nectar from flowers.

Water
Water is the first thing in my imagination. Over the reaches of the eyes at Guaya when I was a little girl, I knew that there was still more water. All beginning in water, all ending in water. Turquoise, aquamarine, deep green, deep blue, ink blue, navy, blue-black cerulean water.

To the south of this island on a clear day you could see the mainland of South America. Women and men with a tinge of red in the black of their faces and a burnt copper to their hair would arrive from the mainland to this island fleeing husbands or the law, or fleeing life. To the north was the hinterland of Trinidad, leading to the city which someone with great ambition in another century called Port-of-Spain. To the west was the bird’s beak of Venezuela and to the east, the immense Atlantic gaping to Africa.

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