5 Essential Books About Being Black in Canada, Today

These authors and their books should not be trotted out only when grappling with immediate anti-Black violence. Discuss, celebrate and study them all the time.

I have compiled a list of what I feel are essential readings on the Black experience in Canada, but it’s by no means complete. Nor should these authors and their writing only be trotted out only when our country is grappling with immediate anti-Black police violence and grief around Black death. These authors and these works deserve to be discussed, celebrated and studied all the time. I would encourage anyone seeking out these books to buy them from Black-owned or independent bookstores, as well as your local library.

The cover of "They Said This Would Be Fun" by Eternity Martis
They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up,
 Eternity Martis, 2020. This new memoir deals with the author’s experiences attending Western University. Martis delves into grappling with her interracial identity, as well as the micro-aggressions and more overt forms of anti-Black racism she was subject to during her time in London, Ontario.

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The cover of "The Skin We're In" by Desmond Cole.
The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power,
 Desmond Cole, 2020. A bestseller, chronicling a year of Cole’s activism from January 2017 through January 2018, as he documents anti-Black racism and violence experienced by Canadians from different stratas of life. The book gives important historical context to this violence, and references a large body of Black Canadian scholarship that is often overlooked.

The cover of "Policing Black Lives" by Robyn Maynard.
Policing Black Lives, Robyn Maynard, 2017. Maynard’s book lays open the often dismissed history of anti-Black police violence in Canada, tracing it back to the equally dismissed history of Black enslavement here. She shifts the focus as she centres Black Canadian voices in this unfortunate, but ever present conversation, directing attention at not only cisgender heterosexual men, but all Black people.

The cover of "Africville" by Shauntay Grant.
Shauntay Grant, 2018. This picture book, wonderfully illustrated by Eve Campbell, was a finalist for the Governor General’s award for young people’s literature. Highlighting the the Africville community in Nova Scotia, it’s a good introduction to Black Canadian history, both for adults who aren’t familiar with it, as well as parents thinking about ways to have conversations about racism with younger kids.

The cover of "Until We Are Free."
Until We Are Free, Various Authors, 2020. A collection of essays, poetry and photography edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware, some of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter Toronto collective. It covers a wide range of topics, like the collective’s genesis, the importance of Black disability justice, and the discrimination and racism Black Canadians experience in our healthcare system.

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