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In the Black.


New African Canadian Literature


Insomniac Press

A diverse group of African-Canadian writers probe love, loss, liberation and longing in In the Black, a new collection compiled by Ryerson University professor Althea Prince.

In "A Good Woman," Gayle Gonsalves offers a beguiling story with biblical Cain and Abel undertones. Set in Antigua, the saga chronicles the fraught relationship between two brothers and a woman who is central in both of their lives. Skilfully paced, the story resonates long after its haunting final sentence: "There is no loud thump as she closes the door."

Hip hop performer Motion explores a romance restricted by the barriers of prison in her stirring series of vignettes, "Locks and Love." The first-person narrative reveals the impact of rising incarceration rates, especially among marginalized groups.

Mansa Trotman delivers a counter to Canada's much-touted multicultural image in the poem "Listen." She writes: "I'm flying/ over lumps and clumps of your classifications/ look closely and you'll find that/ they're people/ real people/ ... can't classify them into oblivion."

The book also includes work from male authors such as Dwayne Morgan, who decries societal expectations for boys and men in his impassioned poem "Man Up." He notes, "Look at the world men have built/ We've got to become more female/ If we ever hope to truly be human."

Readers accompany a youngster through a Caribbean village as he collects recyclables to earn money for school fees in "Bottles' Hustle," a story by another male contributor, Jelani Nias. "My mostly empty bag ... swung with each step," Nias writes in the delightful piece. "The multi-layered smacking sounds helping to keep my spirits high as they clinked (three dollars) and clanked (fifty cents)."

In "Christmas Eve," playwright Djanet Sears pays tribute to a Canadian yuletide season infused with West Indian folkways. "Jerk the chicken/ fry the fish/ season the curry goat," she writes. "I place the turkey in a large container/ to sit in the great ... refrigerator outdoors/ ... Pray it won't freeze."

Through its chorus of voices, In The Black deepens our understanding of African-Canadian culture and community.

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Author:White, Evelyn C.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2013
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