Recommended Reads by Black Canadian Writers

Text reads: Books by Black Canadian Writers against a black and white background.

Actions speak louder than words, but we hope the two can be complementary. If you’ve arrived on this website looking to purchase an Invisible book, we ask that you also consider purchasing a book by a Black Canadian author. We’ve provided a list below to get you started.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but to provide a springboard; we hope it inspires you to see out more writing and books by Black Canadians.

If you’re not able to buy direct via the links below, please place an order through your local bookstore, or check in with your local library for availability.

Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard (Fernwood Publishing)
A call-to-action, Policing Black Lives urges readers to work toward dismantling structures of racial domination and re-imagining a more just society.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Penguin Random House)
Eleven-year-old George Washington Black—or Wash—a field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation, is initially terrified when he is chosen as the manservant of his master’s brother. To his surprise, however, the eccentric Christopher Wilde turns out to be a naturalist, explorer, inventor, and abolitionist.

Theory by Dionne Brand (Penguin Random House)
Theory begins as its narrator sets out, like many a graduate student, to write a wildly ambitious thesis on the past, present, and future of art, culture, race, gender, class, and politics–a revolutionary work that its author believes will synthesize and thereby transform the world.

Subdivided edited by Jay Pitter and Peter Lorinc (Coach House Books)
We say that ‘diversity is our strength,’ but has a feel-good catchphrase prevented us from confronting the forces that seem to be separating and isolating urban communities?

Shut Up You’re Pretty by Tea Mutonji (Arsenal Pulp Press)
Tinged with pathos and humour, they interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.

Reproduction by Ian Williams (Penguin Random House)
Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn’t a matter of blood.

Voodoo Hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin (Wolsak & Wynn)
Pulling from pop culture, science, pseudo-science and contemporary news stories about race, Lubrin asks: What happens if the systems of belief that give science, religion and culture their importance were actually applied to the contemporary “black experience”?

The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole (Penguin Random House)
Puncturing the bubble of Canadian smugness and naive assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year—2017—in the struggle against racism in this country.

BlackLife: Post-BLM and the Struggle for Freedom by Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi (ARP Books)
BlackLife discloses the ongoing destruction of Black people as enacted not simply by state structures, but beneath them in the foundational modernist ideology that underlies thinking around migration and movement.

Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware (University of Regina Press)
Until We Are Free contains some of the very best writing on the hottest issues facing the Black community in Canada. It describes the latest developments in Canadian Black activism, organizing efforts through the use of social media, Black-Indigenous alliances, and more.

The Stone Thrower by Jael Ealey Richardson, illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood Books)
As told by his daughter, The Stone Thrower is the story of African-American football player Chuck Ealey who despite his unbeaten record in high school and university, would never play professional football in the United States.

Africville by Shauntay Grant, illustrated by Eva Campbell (Groundwood Books)
When a young girl visits the site of Africville, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the stories she’s heard from her family come to mind. Africville was a vibrant Black community for more than 150 years. In the 1960s, city officials demolished the community. Today, Africville has been replaced by a park, where former residents and their families gather each summer to remember their community.

Live from the Afrikan Resistance by El Jones (Fernwood Publishing)
One of Canada’s most controversial spoken word artists, El Jones writes to educate, to move communities to action and to demonstrate the possibilities of resistance and empowerment. Gathered from seven years of performances, these poems represent the tradition of the prophetic voice in Black Nova Scotia.

She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks by M. NourbeSe Philip (Poui Publications)
In this groundbreaking collection, Philip defiantly challenges and resoundingly overthrows the silencing of black women through appropriation of language, offering no less than superb poetry resonant with beauty and strength.

The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal by Afua Cooper (HarperCollins Canada)
Building on 15 years of research to shed new light on a rebellious Portuguese-born black woman who refused to accept her indentured servitude, Cooper demolishes the myth of a benign, slave-free Canada, revealing a damning 200-year-old record of legally and culturally endorsed slavery.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson (Hachette Book Group)
The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways–farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother. She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.

Things Are Good Now by Djamila Ibrahim (House of Anansi Press)
The collection is about remorse and the power of memory, about the hardships of a post-9/11 reality that labels many as suspicious or dangerous because of their names or skin colour alone, but it’s also about hope and friendship and the intricacies of human relationships. Most importantly, it’s about the compromises we make to belong.

Black Writing Matters edited by Whitney French with foreword by Afua Cooper (University of Regina Press)
An anthology of African-Canadian writing, Black Writers Matter offers a cross-section of established writers and newcomers to the literary world who tackle contemporary and pressing issues with beautiful, sometimes raw, prose.

Monoceros by Suzette Mayr (Couch House Books)
Monoceros is a masterpiece of the tragicomic; by exploring the effects of a suicide on characters outside the immediate circle, Mayr offers a dazzlingly original look at the ripple effects – both poignant and funny – of a tragedy.

Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight (Book*hug Press)
Dear Current Occupant is a creative nonfiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Peering through windows and doors into intimate, remembered spaces now occupied by strangers, Knight writes to them in order to deconstruct her own past.

Days by Moonlight by Andre Alexis (Coach House Books)
Days by Moonlight is a journey through an underworld that looks like southern Ontario, a journey taken during the “hour of the wolf,” that time of day when the sun is setting and the traveller can’t tell the difference between dog and wolf, a time when the world and the imagination won’t stay in their own lanes.

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta (House of Anansi Press)
In her brilliantly incisive debut, Zalika Reid-Benta artfully depicts the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation Canadians and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominately white society.

Magnetic Equator by Kaie Kellough (Penguin Random House)
The poems in Kaie Kellough’s third collection drift between South and North America. They seek their ancestry in Georgetown, Guyana, in the Amazon Rainforest, and in the Atlantic Ocean. They haunt the Canadian Prairie. They recall the 1980s in the suburbs of Calgary, and they reflect on the snowed-in, bricked-in boroughs of post-referendum Montréal. They puzzle their language together from the natural world and from the works of Caribbean and Canadian writers.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe (HarperCollins Canada)
Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

The Effigies Series by Sarah Raughley (Simon & Schuster)
Four girls gifted with elemental powers must fight monstrous phantoms to save the world from a terrible evil in this action-packed series.

We’re aware that this list points to gaps in our own publishing list. We remain committed to working to close those gaps by a) continuing to prioritize the reading of submissions made by all people of colour, including Black writers; b) actively seeking work by a diverse range of writers, including Black writers; and c) hiring Black and POC editors for series and book projects.

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