Black Writers Matter

18 March 2019

Black Writers Matter
Edited by Whitney French
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Toby A. Welch
$27.95 ISBN 9780889776166

This collection of 23 stories touched on every emotion I am capable of feeling. And that is a good thing! It’s a refreshing change when a book can take you far out of your comfort zone.

As a Caucasian woman, it was eye-opening to read about experiences and issues that Black Canadians face. It’s hard to miss the Black Lives Matter movement or the ongoing worldwide racial struggles if you spend five minutes watching the news but this anthology takes us to a new awareness level. With this book in hand, you are able to experience the pain as well as the joys that Black Canadians go through. There is an underlying tone of rage in many of the stories, helping to convey the angst and frustration some of the writers live with.

The level of creativity in this book is mind-blowing. I was presented with phrases and thoughts that will linger with me because of their sheer uniqueness. Even the titles are ingenious – “Glass Lasagna” and “A Picture of Words” immediately come to mind. Words like “bludgeon”, “diaspora”, and “self-reckoning” are powerful and evocative. ”Glass Lasagna” deeply resonated with me as Cason Sharpe wrote about feeling expendable: “I want to quit my job without giving any notice. I want to blow my life up and just walk away. I want to declare bankruptcy because it feels like a bottom to hit, from which I could rebuild.” Powerful stuff. Who hasn’t had such thoughts at some point? And in “The Place That Is Supposed To Be Safe”, we are introduced to the idea that Canada isn’t just a place, it was also a time. Cool concept to ponder.

While all the stories have a similar foundation, the subject matters run a wide gamut. The topics include eating disorders, life as a taxi driver, slavery, bullying, living with a disability, sexual violence, and Afro-Indigenous youth, just to name a few. In “On Haunted Places”, we learn about residence time, which is the amount of time it takes for something to enter the ocean and then fully leave it. (The human body, for example, has a residence time of 260 million years. Fascinating!) Each story is told in the first-person point of view, lending an immediacy and intimacy not easily attained with other writing styles.

At the back of Black Writers Matter, you will find a brief biography on each of the writers who contributed to this collection. The list in an impressive Who’s Who of Canadian writers, artists, and all-around awesome people. Every one of them, without exception, gave a piece of their heart to this not-to-be-missed roundup of dynamic stories.


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