Black CanLit Authors You Need to Know
Published on February 7, 2022
Black Futures Month, celebrated in conjunction with Black History Month, takes place every February to encourage a more nuanced understanding of Black existence. Through events, readings, performances and more, it’s an opportunity to highlight the work being created by Black artists all year long, and consider the roles we all play in paving new, equitable futures.
The Toronto International Festival of Authors has selected six Black writers creating remarkable work in the Canadian literary scene today. Through their poetry, books and essays, these authors are sharing unique perspectives and experiences. Learn more about these authors below, and be sure to add their work to your reading list.
Scarborough, Ontario’s Randell Adjei has made a name for himself inspiring communities through his passion for poetry. He is an author, spoken word artist and motivational speaker whose debut poetry collection, I Am Not My Struggles, is a powerful exploration challenges and triumphs, and a reminder that an individual’s struggles should not define them. In addition to becoming Ontario’s first-ever Poet Laureate (a role he’s held since 2021), Adjei is also well-known for his extensive work with BIPOC youth through R.I.S.E. Edutainment.
Romance readers might already know Jane Igharo. Her first two books, Ties That Tether and The Sweetest Remedy, are fan favourites owed to the strong and beautifully flawed Nigerian women portrayed at their core. These characters are reflective of Igharo’s own experiences immigrating to Canada from Nigeria at the age of 12, and the women she’s encountered in her life. Her third novel, Worth Having, is will be released in September.
Even before the pandemic, author and freelance journalist King Perry was fascinated by the way local sports brought communities together. From basketball to cricket, Perry witnessed how groups of people gathered all around Toronto, celebrating and strengthening their neighbourhoods. When the pandemic restricted these gatherings, King was optimistic and penned Rebound: Sports, Community and the Inclusive City. The book celebrates the importance of inclusive local spaces, such as community centres and parks, and explores the many ways to reimagine neighbourhoods.
While readers eagerly wait for Canisia Lubrin’s debut fiction book, Code Noir, to be released in 2023, the award-winning author’s poetry continues to impress. Her collection The Dyzgraphxst, was the winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Derek Walcott Prize and the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize. To celebrate the new generation of artists inspiring Canada’s ever-evolving literary scene, Lubrin is curating a special performance of poetry, music and theatre as part of TIFA’s The New Embassy series this February, available to watch digitally for free.
Robyn Maynard’s national bestselling book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present is a staple in reading lists nation-wide. An honest portrayal of anti-Blackness, racism and slavery in Canada’s history, Maynard lifts the veil of ‘multiculturalism’ that Canada promotes. Her work as a writer demands a new way forward, and she isn’t stopping with Policing Black Lives. In Maynard’s new book Rehearsals for Living, set to release in June, she teams up with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson for an honest conversation about Black and Indigenous perspectives on what’s happening now, and how slavery and colonization brought us here.
YA author Louisa Onomé’s book Like Home is an enthralling coming-of-age story set in a beloved neighbourhood threatened by gentrification. From navigating common teenage emotions and complicated friendships to fighting for a place to call home, Onomé finds a unique and thoughtful way to explore what many marginalized races and socioeconomic classes face every day. Drawn from her own experiences of being a Nigerian-Canadian, her writing provides much-needed representation in the YA genre. Her second novel, Twice as Perfect, will be released in July.
If you are looking for more opportunities to learn from Black authors, artists and performers, be sure to check out Kuumba, a month-long programme of stimulating and thought-provoking discussions and performances.