The Skin We're In; screenshot from Librairie Drawn & Quarterly

With the past few months being such a tumultuous time for race relations in North America, this Black History Month feels different. It feels like people have been reminded, once again, as Doctor Nadia Brown, professor from Purdue University, says, that “there is an unequal world [where] people of African descent have different lived experiences, different relationships, particularly with police and policing.

One of the best ways to learn more about these experiences that you may not relate to firsthand, is to educate yourself about them. The following is a list of works by African Canadian authors that explore racism and race relations in Canada, but also are a celebration of black lives. Let this month be the beginning, not only to making new additions to your bookshelf, but also the start of  lifelong changes in the way you relate to the world and others.

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

Stepping beyond the front of multiculturalism in Canada, Maynard writes about the history of slavery in the country and its current legacy. The book discusses anti-Black racism from an intersectional perspective and the role of the state in racial profiling, law enforcement violence, incarceration, and other structures that hold power in society.

Shut Up You’re Pretty - Téa Mutonji

In this collection of short stories, Mutonji writes about multiple women and their lives. Some question their traditions and make difficult decisions, and others explore the relationships in their lives. Told lightheartedly and with a lot of humor, the stories interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.

Frying Plantain – Zalika Reid-Benta

Set in Toronto’s ‘Little Jamaica’ neighbourhood, this book is the story of Kara Davis and her struggle to choose between her Canadian nationality and her Jamaican identity. We follow Kara’s life as she moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood and copes with the changes that she experiences.

Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

Washington Black (Wash) is a slave at a Barbados sugar plantation and is chosen as the servant to his master’s brother, Christopher Wilde, who turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist. But when someone is killed and Wash has a bounty placed on him, he has to go on the run with Christopher, learning more about himself as travel everywhere from the Caribbean to London to Morocco.

They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up- Eternity Martis

This national bestselling memoir is Martis’ own story of being a smart kid from Toronto who moved to Western University to get her undergraduate degree and her unique campus experience of being one of the only Black students there. We follow her over her 4 years of complicated encounters, including white students in blackface at parties, being tokenised by her romantic partners, and hearing racial slurs everywhere she went. We get to read her story as she gets labelled and categorised but also comes out with a strong community of support around her.

Angry Queer Somali Boy - Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali

This memoir about Ali’s complicated past tells the story of his kidnapping by his father as a child on the eve of Somalia’s societal implosion where he was first taken to the Netherlands and then to Canada. He grows up stuck in between his Somali traditions and the Western ones that he is surrounded by, all while trying to understand his own sexuality.

The Skin We’re In - Desmond Cole

This book is about just one year, 2017, and the journey of black resistance and power amongst assumptions of a post-racial Canada. 2017 was a year that saw calls for strict border regulations when Black refugees were braving frigid temperatures to enter Manitoba from the U.S., and Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more. All this, and not mention Cole’s own challenges with the Toronto police board in April and then in July. The book covers each month and creates a complete picture of the systemic injustices and the social justice movements that become important to combat them.

DM us and let us know what you want to add to your list this Black History Month!