February is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities.
There is no doubt that books and stories by Black writers and illustrators are being sought out by readers year-round. Nonetheless, we will take this opportunity to highlight some notable works – both new and recent backlist – that we encourage you to add to your shelves. Use the "Shop Local" button below each book to find it at, or order it from, your nearest indie bookstore.
Written by Sifton Tracey Anipare
Published by Dundurn Press (2021)
Cybelle teaches English in a small city in Japan. Her contract is up for renewal, her mother is begging her to come back to Canada, and she is not sure where she belongs anymore. She faces ostracism and fear daily, but she loves her job, despite its increasing difficulties.
Meanwhile, yokai feast and cavort around Osaka and Kyoto, as the barrier between their world and the human world thins. Zaniel spends his nights walking the dream world and serving his demon “bodyguard,” Akki. But there is a new yokai on the scene, and it has gotten on Akki’s bad side. When Cybelle gets caught up in the supernatural clash, she must figure out what is real and, more importantly, what she really wants.
Sifton Tracey Anipare is a Ghanaian Canadian writer who lived and taught in Japan for four years. She loves video games, bubble tea, and Japanese coffee mixes, and is an avid collector of stickers and stamps.
Dream of No One but Myself
Written by David Bradford
Published by Brick Books (2021)
Dream of No One but Myself is an interdisciplinary, lyrical unravelling of the trauma-memoir-as-proof-it’s-now-handled motif. Through a complex juxtaposition of lyric verse and self-erasure, family keepsake and transformed photo, David Bradford engages the gap between the drive toward self-understanding and the excavated narratives autobiography can’t quite reconcile. These gorgeous, halting poems ultimately take the urge to make linear sense of one’s own history and diffract it into beams of light.
David Bradford is a poet based in Tiohtià:ke (Montréal). He is the author of several chapbooks including Nell Zink is Damn Free and The Plot. His work has appeared in The Tiny, The Fiddlehead, and more. He holds an MFA from the University of Guelph and is a founder of House House Press.
Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling
Written by Esi Edugyan
Published by House of Anansi Press (2021)
What happens when we begin to consider stories at the margins, when we grant them centrality? How does that complicate our certainties about who we are, as individuals, as nations, as human beings? Through the lens of visual art, literature, film, and the author’s lived experience, Out of the Sun examines Black histories in art, offering new perspectives to challenge us. In this groundbreaking, reflective, and erudite book, Esi Edugyan illuminates myriad varieties of Black experience in global culture and history, combining storytelling with analyses of contemporary events and her own personal story.
Esi Edugyan is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Victoria. She is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of Washington Black and Half Blood Blues, both of which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and more. She has held fellowships in the U.S., Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain, and Belgium. She lives in Victoria.
Chasing Bats and Tracking Rats
Written by Dr. Cylita Guy, illustrated by Cornelia Li
Published by Annick Press (2021)
What can city bees tell us about climate change? How are we changing coyote behavior? And what the heck is a science bike? Featuring the work of a diverse group of eleven scientists, Dr. Cylita Guy shows how studying urban wildlife can help us make cities around the world healthier for all of their inhabitants. In the process, Guy reveals how social injustices like racism can affect not only how scientists study city wildlife, but also where urban critters are likelier to thrive. Sidebars include intriguing animal facts and the often-wacky tools used by urban ecologists, from a ratmobile to a bug vacuum, while Cornelia Li’s engaging illustrations bring fieldwork adventures to life.
Cylita Guy, PhD is a Toronto-based ecologist, data scientist, and science communicator who studies bats. In her downtime, you can find your friendly neighborhood batgirl chasing her next big outdoor adventure.
Corneila Li is a Chinese-born illustrator based in Toronto. She is intrigued by narrative weaved into daily interactions between people and their surroundings and sets out to capture this relationship by externalizing ideas and emotions into visual elements.
Beatrice and Croc Harry
Written by Lawrence Hill
Published by HarperCollins Canada (2022)
Beatrice, a young girl of uncertain age, wakes up all alone in a tree house in the forest. How did she arrive in this cozy dwelling, stocked carefully with bookshelves and oatmeal accoutrements?
So begins the adventure of a brave and resilient Black girl’s search for identity and healing in Lawrence Hill’s middle-grade debut. Though Beatrice cannot recall how or why she arrived in the magical forest of Argilia, something tells her that a family is waiting anxiously for her return. Outside her door lives Beatrice’s most unlikely ally, Croc Harry, who just may have a secret of his own. As they form an unusual truce, Beatrice and Croc Harry learn more about their forest home and themselves.
Lawrence Hill is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of The Book of Negroes, The Illegal, Some Great Thing, and Any Known Blood. Hill’s nonfiction work includes Blood: The Stuff of Life and Black Berry, Sweet Juice. Lawrence Hill has volunteered with Crossroads International, the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, Book Clubs for Inmates, and the Ontario Black History Society. A professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph, Lawrence lives with his family in Hamilton, ON and Woody Point, NL.
Facing the Sun
Written by Janice Lynn Mather
Published by Simon & Schuster Canada (2021)
Eve is the rock in her family of seven, the one they always depend on. Faith is the dancer all the boys want, but she only has eyes for the one she can’t have. KeeKee is the poet who won’t follow the rules, not even to please her estranged father. Nia is the prisoner longing to escape her overprotective mother. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets The Education of Margot Sanchez in this Caribbean-set story about four friends who experience unexpected changes in their lives when a hotel developer purchases their community’s beloved beach.
Janice Lynn Mather is a Bahamian writer with an MFA from the University of British Columbia. Her first novel, Learning to Breathe, was honoured by the Governor General’s Literary Award, the BC Book Prize, the CCBC Amy Mathers Teen Book Award, and more. Janice Lynn lives in Vancouver, BC with her family and a growing collection of dust bunnies.
Written by Nancy Redd, illustrated by Nneka Myers
Published by Penguin Random House Canada (2020)
In my family, when the sun goes down, our hair goes up!
My brother slips a durag over his locs.
Sis swirls her hair in a wrap around her head.
Daddy covers his black waves with a cap.
Mama gathers her corkscrew curls in a scarf.
I always wear a bonnet over my braids, but tonight I can't find it anywhere!
Bedtime Bonnet gives readers a heartwarming peek into quintessential Black nighttime hair traditions and celebrates the love between all the members of this close-knit, multi-generational family.
Nancy Redd is an American Library Association award winner, an NAACP Image Award nominee, and a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She currently serves as a self-esteem expert to Fitness magazine, as an AOL Health Insider, and a contributing editor at J-14 and American Cheerleader magazines.
Nneka Myers lives in Toronto and illustrates for publishers and the animation industry. Although drawing is her favourite, she can often be found looking for inspiration in vintage fashion, drinking tea with friends, or playing video games.
Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers
Written by Makambe K Simamba
Published by Playwrights Canada Press (2021)
Slimm, a seventeen-year-old Black boy in a hoodie, suddenly finds himself in the first moments of his afterlife. He calls out for God. God does not respond. What happens next is a sacred journey through the unknown, as Slimm grapples with the truth of the life he lived and the death he didn’t choose. This play for young audiences is a protest for all Black life beyond headlines and hashtags, a prayer for all families left behind, and a promise to the community that all Black lives matter.
Makambe K Simamba is a Dora Award–winning playwright and actor. Other plays include A Chitenge Story, The Drum Major Instinct Trilogy, Makambe Speaks, and MUD. She is the 2020/2021 Urjo Kareda Artist-in-Residence at Tarragon Theatre. She recently co-directed inVISIBLE (Too) at the University of Lethbridge. Makambe is proudly Zambian, and her intention is to be of service to her community through her ability to tell stories.
Uncle: Race, Nostalgia, and the Politics of Loyalty
Written by Cheryl Thompson
Published by Coach House Books (2021)
Uncle Tom, the eponymous figure in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sentimental anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was a loyal Christian who died a martyr’s death. But soon after the best-selling novel appeared, theatre troupes across North America and Europe transformed Stowe’s story into minstrel shows featuring white men in blackface. In Uncle, Cheryl Thompson traces Tom’s journey, exposing the relentless reworking of the literary character into a nostalgic, racial metaphor with the power to shape how we see Black men.
Cheryl Thompson is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University in the School of Creative Industries. She is author of Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture. She previously held a Banting postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto. Her work has appeared in The Conversation, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, and more.
Disorientation: Being Black in the World
Written by Ian Williams
Published by Penguin Random House Canada (2021)
Inspired by the essays of James Baldwin, the essays in this collection explore such things as the unmistakable moment when a child realizes they are Black; the ten characteristics of institutional whiteness; how friendship forms a bulwark against being a target of racism; the meaning and uses of a Black person's smile; and blame culture—or how do we make meaningful change when no one feels responsible for the systemic structures of the past.
Ian Williams was born in Trinidad and raised in Canada. In 2019 he won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his first novel, Reproduction. His poetry collection, Personals, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize. His short story collection, Not Anyone's Anything, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada. Williams holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Toronto and is a tenured professor there.