Black Writers – A Reading List

On February 3, 2022, Afua Cooper, Habiba Cooper Diallo, Asha Jeffers, Chad Lucas, Sylvia Parris, and Evelyn C. White shared their top picks of books or other media by Black writers to read, enjoy, and learn from. The 60 recommendations included fiction, non-fiction, poetry, YA and children's literature, and other genres and media.

The Black Writers to Read Right Now panel was free to attend. It was co-presented with Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute and with the support of Halifax Public Libraries.

Click on a genre above to jump to those recommendations.
Click on a cover to find out more or to order the recommended title directly from its publisher/distributor.
If you prefer to order through a local bookshop, check out our database of Nova Scotia Independent Bookshops.

Fiction

Daniel Black - Perfect Peace

Perfect Peace (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011)

By Daniel Black

The heartbreaking portrait of a large, rural southern family’s attempt to grapple with their mother's desperate decision to make her newborn son into the daughter she will never have.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

David Chariandy - Soucouyant

Soucouyant (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007)

By David Chariandy

A soucouyant is an evil spirit in Caribbean folklore, and a symbol here of the distant and dimly remembered legacies that continue to haunt the Americas. This extraordinary first novel set in Ontario, in a house near the Scarborough Bluffs, focuses on a Canadian-born son who despairingly abandons his Caribbean-born mother suffering from dementia.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Alyssa Cole - An Extraordinary Union

An Extraordinary Union: An Epic Love Story of the Civil War (Kensington Books, 2017)

By Alyssa Cole

romance fiction

In this historical romance, a courageous pair of spies—former slave Elle Burns and Pinkerton’s detective Malcom McCall—plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Tsitsi Dangarembga - Nervous Conditions

Nervous Conditions (originally published 1988)

By Tsitsi Dangarembga

The groundbreaking first novel in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s award-winning trilogy, Nervous Conditions won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and has been “hailed as one of the 20th century’s most significant works of African literature” (The New York Times). Two decades before Zimbabwe would win independence and ended white minority rule, thirteen-year-old Tambudzai Sigauke embarks on her education. On her shoulders rest the economic hopes of her parents, siblings, and extended family, and within her burns the desire for independence. She yearns to be free of the constraints of her rural village and thinks she’s found her way out when her wealthy uncle offers to sponsor her schooling. But she soon learns that the education she receives at his mission school comes with a price.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Esi Edugyan - Half-Blood Blues

Half-Blood Blues (HarperCollins, 2019)

By Esi Edugyan

From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, the narrator of Half-Blood Blues, musician Sid Griffiths, leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world and into the heart of his own guilty conscience. The bestselling, award-winning Half-Blood Blues is an entrancing, electric story about jazz, race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves—and demand of others—in the name of art.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Jasmine Guillory - Royal Holiday

Royal Holiday (Berkley, 2020)

By Jasmine Guillory

romance fiction

A spontaneous holiday vacation turns into an unforgettable romance.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Bessie Head - A Question of Power

A Question of Power (Pearson, 1986)

By Bessie Head

In this fast-paced, semi-autobiographical novel, Head exposes the complicated life of Elizabeth, whose reality is intermingled with nightmarish dreams and hallucinations. Like the author, Elizabeth was conceived out-of-wedlock; her mother was white and her father black—a union outlawed in apartheid South Africa. Elizabeth eventually leaves with her young son to live in Botswana, a country less oppressed by colonial domination, where she finds stability for herself and her son by working on an experimental farm.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Langston Hughes - The Ways of White Folks

The Ways of White Folks (Knopf Doubleday, 1990)

By Langston Hughes

short fiction collection

A collection of vibrant and incisive short stories depicting the sometimes humorous, but more often tragic interactions between Black people and white people in America in the 1920s and ’30s.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim - Season-of-Crimson-Blossoms

Season of Crimson Blossoms (Cassava Republic Press, 2017)

By Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

The story of an illicit affair between a 25-year-old street gang leader, Hassan Reza, and a devout 55-year-old widow and grandmother, Binta Zubairu, who yearns for intimacy after the sexual repression of her marriage and the pain of losing her first son.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Yejide Kilanko - Daughters Who Walk This Path

Daughters Who Walk This Path (Penguin Canada, 2012) [Out of Print]

By Yejide Kilanko

Spirited and intelligent, Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and family in busy, modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, their traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own. So there’s nothing unusual about her charming but troubled cousin Bros T moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted, but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Phaswane Mpe - Welcome to Our Hillbrow

Welcome to Our Hillbrow (Ohio University Press, 2011)

By Phaswane Mpe

An exhilarating and disturbing ride through the chaotic and hyper-real zone of Hillbrow—microcosm of all that is contradictory, alluring, and painful in the postapartheid South African psyche.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Jambula Tree and Other Stories

Jambula Tree and other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing (Jacana Media, 2008)

By Monica Arac de Nyeko

short fiction collection

The Caine Prize (http://www.caineprize.com/) for African Writing is Africa’s leading literary prize and is awarded to a short story by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere. Each year, the full shortlist and 12 other stories are collected and published in one volume. This year’s winner is Monica Arac de Nyeko for “Jambula Tree,” described as “a witty and touching portrait of a community which is affected forever by a love which blossoms between two adolescents.”

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

Zalinka Reid-Benta - Frying Plantain

Frying Plantain (House of Anansi, 2019)

By Zalika Reid-Benta

Set in the neighbourhood of "Little Jamaica," Frying Plantain follows a girl from elementary school to high school graduation as she navigates the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation immigrants experiencing first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity in a predominantly white society.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Sahle Selassie - Warrior King

Warrior King (Heinemann Educational, 1974) [out of print]

By Sahle Selassie

The exciting and fast-moving story of the rise of Kassa Hailu to become Emperor Teowodros II, or Theodore as he has been called. Sahle Sellassie has drawn on the full richness of 19th century Ethiopian history to show a strong man reuniting the provinces of the Empire. The epic story is given human proportions by being introduced through the eyes of a peasant boy, Gebreye.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Ousmane Sembene - God's Bits of Wood corrected

God’s Bits of Wood (Knopf Doubleday Publishing, 1970) [out of print]

By Ousmane Sembene

God's Bits of Wood is a 1960 novel by the Senegalese author Ousmane Sembène that concerns a railroad strike in colonial Senegal of the 1940s. It was written in French under the title Les bouts de bois de Dieu.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Vamba Sherif - Bound to Secrecy

Bound to Secrecy (HopeRoad, 2015)

By Vamba Sherif

A mixture of African tradition, classic crime fiction and the supernatural, Bound to Secrecy is a captivating tale, an account of the complexities of Liberian society and an transporting exploration of the differences and inevitable clash between modern life and ancient cultures.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Zadie Smith - White Teeth

White Teeth (Hamish Hamilton, 2000)

By Zadie Smith

Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Colson Whitehead - Harlem Shuffle

Harlem Shuffle (Doubleday, 2021)

By Colson Whitehead

A gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s. To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home. Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Colson Whitehead - The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016)

By Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him. In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Nonfiction

Michael Arceneaux - i-cant-date-jesus

I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé (Atria Books, 2018)

By Michael Arceneaux

With the characteristic wit and candor that have made him one of today’s boldest writers on social issues, I Can’t Date Jesus is Michael Arceneaux’s impassioned, forthright, and refreshing look at minority life in today’s America. Leaving no bigoted or ignorant stone unturned, he describes his journey in learning to embrace his identity when the world told him to do the opposite.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

GE Clarke - Portia White - A Portrait in Words

Portia White: A Portrait in Words (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

By George Elliott Clarke

In his unique brand of spoken word, Africadian poetry, the incomparable George Elliott Clarke explores a personal subject: his great-aunt Portia White. The result is a stirring, epic poem vibrating with energy and music that spans White’s birth in 1911, a coming of age amidst the backdrop of two World Wars, and her life-long love affair with music—from singing in to directing the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church choir to her bel canto tutlege at the Halifax Conservatory of Music to her final, command performance before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1964. A stunning testament to the first African Canadian to become an international star. Features vibrant illustrations by contemporary artist Lara Martina.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

GE Clarke - Where Beauty Survived

Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir (Knopf Canada, 2021)

By George Elliott Clarke

A vibrant, revealing memoir about the cultural and familial pressures that shaped George Elliott Clarke’s early life in the Black Canadian community that he calls Africadia, centred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Habiba Cooper Diallo - Blackinschool

#BlackinSchool (University of Regina Press, 2021)

By Habiba Cooper Diallo

A young Black woman documents the systemic racism in her high school diary and calls for justice and educational reform.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Mayann Francis - An Honourable Life

Mayann Francis: An Honourable Life (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)

By Mayann Francis

When Mayann Francis was named Nova Scotia’s first Black lieutenant-governor, she wondered if the community would accept her. Francis was born just three months after businesswoman Viola Desmond was arrested for sitting in a whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. Had enough changed? In this candid memoir, Francis describes her journey from humble beginnings in Whitney Pier, the daughter of immigrants, to the vice-regal office. She explains how her religious faith and her family’s belief in education equipped her for life’s challenges, including the loss of much of her vision.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Saidiya Hartman - Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (WW Norton, 2020)

By Sadiya Hartman

Saidiya Hartman examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Free love, common-law and transient marriages, serial partners, cohabitation outside of wedlock, queer relations, and single motherhood were among the sweeping changes that altered the character of everyday life and challenged traditional Victorian beliefs about courtship, love, and marriage.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Wangari Maathai - Unbowed - A Memoir

Unbowed: A Memoir (Knopf, 2006)

By Wangari Maathai

In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa. Persevering through run-ins with the Kenyan government and personal losses, and jailed and beaten on numerous occasions, Maathai continued to fight tirelessly to save Kenya’s forests and to restore democracy to her beloved country.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Valerie Mason-John - Afrikan Wisdom

Afrikan Wisdom: New Voices Talk Black Liberation, Buddhism, and Beyond (North Atlantic Books, 2021)

Edited by Valerie Mason-John

A spiritual, political, and interdisciplinary anthology of wisdom stories from Black liberation leaders and teachers.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Nega Mezlekia - Notes from the Hyena's Belly

Notes from the Hyena’s Belly (Penguin Books Canada, 2000)

By Nega Mezlekia

Part autobiography and part social history, Nega Mezlekia's Notes from the Hyena's Belly offers an unforgettable portrait of Ethiopia, and of Africa, during the 1970s and '80s, an era of civil war, widespread famine, and mass execution. Winner of the Governor General’s Award.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Trevor Noah - Born a Crime

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Penguin Random House, 2019)

By Trevor Noah

The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Viola Parsons - My-Grandmothers-Days

My Grandmother’s Days (Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, 2020)

By Viola Parsons

Mrs. Viola L. Parsons did a great thing in writing My Grandmother’s Days in 1987. She became one of the few Scotians – African Nova Scotians or Africadians – to tell younger people how our culture developed and of what it consisted.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Lindsay Ruck - Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians

Amazing Black Atlantic Canadians: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Achievement (Nimbus Publishing, 2020)

By Lindsay Ruck

This fascinating, full-colour illustrated book features over 50 amazing Black people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, sharing their incredible stories and accomplishments, past and present.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Assata Shakur - Assata - An Autobiography

Assata: An Autobiography (Lawrence Hill Books, 1988)

By Assata Shakur

On May 2, 1973, Black Panther Assata Shakur (aka JoAnne Chesimard) lay in a hospital, close to death, handcuffed to her bed, while local, state, and federal police attempted to question her about the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike that had claimed the life of a white state trooper. Long a target of J. Edgar Hoover''s campaign to defame, infiltrate, and criminalize Black nationalist organizations and their leaders, Shakur was incarcerated for four years prior to her conviction on flimsy evidence in 1977 as an accomplice to murder. This intensely personal and political autobiography belies the fearsome image of JoAnne Chesimard long projected by the media and the state. With wit and candor, Assata Shakur recounts the experiences that led her to a life of activism and portrays the strengths, weaknesses, and eventual demise of Black and White revolutionary groups at the hand of government officials.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute - Black History

Black History: Africa, The Caribbean and The Americas (Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute, 2021)

By Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute

Black History: Africa, The Caribbean, and The Americas explores early African history, including Africa as the birthplace of humanity and early African civilizations. The resource scrutinises the oppression and resistance of Blacks in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America on their march to freedom. Particular attention is given to the history of African Canadians since the second World War and includes a section on the history of African Nova Scotians. The textbook concludes by examining Africa Today.

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

David Wisniewski - Sundiata - Lion King of Mali

Sundiata: Lion King of Mali (HarperCollins, 1999)

By David Wisniewski

In the 13th century, Sundiata overcame physical handicaps, social disgrace, and strong opposition to rule the West African trading empire of Mali.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Poetry

Lucille Clifton

The Poetry of Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton was born in 1936 in DePew, New York, and grew up in Buffalo. She studied at Howard University, before transferring to SUNY Fredonia, near her hometown. She was discovered as a poet by Langston Hughes (via friend Ishmael Reed, who shared her poems), and Hughes published Clifton's poetry in his highly influential anthology, The Poetry of the Negro (1970). A prolific and widely respected poet, Lucille Clifton’s work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life. Awarding the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to Clifton in 2007, the judges remarked that “One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s poems—it is a moral quality that some poets have and some don’t.”

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Afua Cooper - Black Matters

Black Matters: Poetry and Photography in Dialogue (Fernwood Publishing, 2020)

By Afua Cooper and Wilfried Raussert

Halifax’s Poet Laureate Afua Cooper and photographer Wilfried Raussert collaborate in this book of poems and photographs focused on everyday Black experiences. The result is a jambalaya—a dialogue between image and text. Cooper translates Raussert?s photos into poetry, painting a profound image of what disembodied historical facts might look like when they are embodied in contemporary characters.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

A Gregory Frankson - africanthology

AfriCANthology: Perspectives of Black Canadian Poets (Renaissance Press, 2022)

Edited by A. Gregory Frankson

AfriCANthology: Perspectives of Black Canadian Poets brings together some of Canada's most influential dub, page, and spoken word poetic voices and gives them space to speak freely about their personal journeys in piercing verse and unapologetic prose. Just as individual experiences of Blackness are diverse across Canada, each contributor recounts aspects of navigating their unique personal, professional, and artistic paths in Black skin with fearless candour and audacious forthrightness. Featuring essays by Evelyn C. White and Afua Cooper.

(Recommended by Evelyn White and Afua Cooper)

Honoree Fanonne Jeffers - The Age of Phillis

The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press, 2020)

By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research,The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley's "age"—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Grace Nichols - I is a Long Memoried Woman

I is a Long Memoried Woman (Karnak House, 1983)

By Grace Nichols

First published in 1983 to gain the distinction of being the first book of poetry written by a Caribbean woman to have won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, it has since become a modern classic. Rightly proclaimed a significant narrative of the African Caribbean woman in proclaiming the recovery of her memory, the book celebrates and evokes memories of the triangular trade in enslavement from the African continent to the cane plantations of the Caribbean through the voice of an unnamed African woman.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

Danez Smith - Homie

Homie (Graywolf Press, 2020)

By Danez Smith

Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family—blood and chosen—arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez’s friends and for you and for yours.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Clint Smith III - Counting Descent

Counting Dissent (Write Bloody Publishing, 2016)

Clint Smith

Clint Smith's debut poetry collection is a coming of age story that seeks to complicate our conception of lineage and tradition. Smith explores the cognitive dissonance that results from belonging to a community that unapologetically celebrates black humanity while living in a world that often renders blackness a caricature of fear. His poems move fluidly across personal and political histories, all the while reflecting on the social construction of our lived experiences. Smith brings the reader on a powerful journey forcing us to reflect on all that we learn growing up, and all that we seek to unlearn moving forward.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

A Van Jordan - MACNOLIA

MACNOLIA (WW Norton, 2005)

By A. Van Jordan

In 1936, teenager MacNolia Cox became the first African American finalist in the National Spelling Bee Competition. Supposedly prevented from winning, the precocious child who dreamed of becoming a doctor was changed irrevocably. Her story, told in a poignant nonlinear narrative, illustrates the power of a pivotal moment in a life.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

YA & Children's Literature

Damon Roker - Gavin Roker - Q-is-for-quarantine

Q is for Quarantine: The ABCs of COVID (Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, 2021)

By Damon Roker and Gavin Roker

for middle grade readers

"When we learned that summer camps were cancelled, we decided to take the boys to Nova Scotia for several weeks. We had no idea just how challenging it would be to manage through quarantine. The idea of this book came while we were on the fourteen days quarantine in Nova Scotia. Every day we would spend some time talking about all the things we could do to get through COVID. There was no road map to help families get through these challenging times, but we managed. Writing about what we did actually helped us to look back as we moved through quarantine, and this book is the result. We hope you enjoy our ABCs of COVID."

(Recommended by Sylvia Parris)

Akwaeke Emezi - Pet

Pet (Make Me a World, 2019)

By Akwaeke Emezi

for YA readers

Set in a post-revolutionary world, Pet is a fascinating, inventive tale about monsters (real and metaphorical), justice, and the stories we choose to tell or bury.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Andre Fenton - The Summer Between Us

The Summer Between Us (Formac Publishing, 2022)

By Andre Fenton

for YA readers

The latest novel from Halifax’s Andre Fenton, due out this spring, follows Adrian and Mel as they navigate the end of high school and the beginning of adulthood. It resonates as a joyful love letter to Black and racialized kids carving their paths and finding their voices.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Chrystal D Giles - Take Back the Block

Take Back the Block (Penguin Random House, 2021)

By Chrystal D. Giles

for middle grade readers

Wes would rather be playing NBA 2K than attending neighbourhood protests, but when a new development threatens to change the character of his historic neighbourhood, he rallies with his friends to take a stand. Giles makes a complex topic like gentrification accessible to middle-grade readers, with a lot of humour and heart along the way.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Lynn Jones - R is for Reparations

R Is for Reparations (Roseway Publishing, 2019)

By Global Afrikan Congress - Nova Scotia Chapter

for young readers

R Is for Reparations invites readers to listen to the voices of young activists as they share their hopes and dreams about the global demand for redress, compensation and restitution for the horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Jessica Lewis - Bad Witch Burning

Bad Witch Burning (Penguin Random House, 2021)

By Jessica Lewis

for YA readers

Katrell figures out her newfound ability to raise the dead is a profitable way to escape poverty and a rough home life—but her gift comes with a terrible price. Black girl magic meets riveting horror in this spooky, thrilling book.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Janae Marks - From the Desk of Zoe Washington

From the Desk of Zoe Washington (Katherine Tegen Books, 2020)

By Janae Marks

for middle grade readers

After receiving a letter from her incarcerated father on her twelfth birthday, budding baker Zoe sets out to discover if he was wrongfully imprisoned. A sensitive, thoughtful exploration of racism and the justice system.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Kwame Mbalia - Black Boy Joy

Black Boy Joy (Penguin Random House, 2021)

Edited by Kwame Mbalia

for middle grade readers

From the first day of school to adventures in space, this anthology celebrates the many facets of Black boyhood.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Robtel Neajai Pailey - GBAGBA

Gbagba (One Moore Book, 2013)

By Robtel Neajai Pailey

for young readers

Sundaymah and Sundaygar are two siblings who live in Grand Bassa County in Liberia. On the way to visit their Auntie Mardie's house in Monrovia, they encounter various characters in the big city and have an experience that introduces them to a very important word.

(Recommended by Habiba Cooper Diallo)

Ben Philippe - Charming as a Verb

Charming as a Verb (HarperCollins, 2020)

By Ben Philippe

for YA readers

This clever YA novel from Haitian-born, Montreal-raised author Ben Philippe is part romantic comedy, part nuanced exploration of the ways Black teenagers adapt to fit a world not built for them, and entirely hilarious.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Ben Philippe - The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager (HarperCollins, 2020)

By Ben Philippe

for YA readers

A hilarious YA contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clichés, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience—including falling in love.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Jason Reynolds - Look Both Ways

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019)

By Jason Reynolds

for middle grade readers

Reynolds is an award-winning master of middle grade and YA fiction, and this collection of connected stories captures the magic in the everyday with compassion and humour.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Other Media

Thirst Aid Kit

Thirst Aid Kit (BuzzFeed, 2017 – 2019; Slate, 2019 – 2020)

Hosted by Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins

podcast series

Digging deep into the various ways women express their thirst, asking: Why do we desire who we desire?

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

A Man Named Pearl

A Man Named Pearl (Tentmakers Entertainment, 2006)

Directed by Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson

documentary film

A Man Named Pearl tells the inspiring story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar. It offers a message that speaks to respect for both self and others, and shows what one person can achieve when he allows himself to share the full expression of his humanity.

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

Andrew Moodie - Riot

Riot (Scirocco Drama, 1997)

By Andrew Moodie

theatrical script

A dramatic and often humorous look at six black Canadians of diverse backgrounds who share a Toronto house. Their lives unfold against the backdrop of civil unrest, which erupted when the Los Angeles police officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King are acquitted. The fracas outside keeps intruding as characters clash, collide, and swap jokes about everything from racism to the status of Quebec as a distinct society, from Malcolm X to The Road to Avonlea.

(Recommended by Asha Jeffers)

High on the Hog

High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America (Netflix, 2021)

Starring Stephen Satterfield, Gabrielle E.W. Carter, and Jessica B. Harris

documentary series

Black food is American food. Chef and writer Stephen Satterfield traces the delicious, moving throughlines from Africa to Texas in this docuseries.

(Recommended by Afua Cooper)

Summer_of_Soul_2021

Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Onyx, 2021)

Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

documentary film

This documentary examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which was held at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem and lasted for six weeks. Despite having a large attendance and performers such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Blinky Williams, Sly and the Family Stone and the Chambers Brothers, the festival was seen as obscure in pop culture, something that the documentarians investigate.

(Recommended by Chad Lucas)

Stevie Wonder - Talking_Book

Talking Book (Universal Music, 1972)

By Stevie Wonder

music

Stevie Wonder was just 22 years old when he released Talking Book, considered to be his first masterpiece. Singles include “Superstition,” “You and I,” and “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever).”

(Recommended by Evelyn White)

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that each workshop’s participants share a level or range of writing / publication experience. This is to ensure each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their current writing priorities.

To this end, the “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions developed by WFNS:

  • New writers: those who have been writing creatively for less than two years and/or have not yet been published in any form.
  • Emerging writers: those who have been writing creatively for less than five years and/or have some short publications (poems, stories, or essays) in literary magazines, journals, or anthologies.
  • Established writers/authors: those with numerous publications in magazines, journals, or anthologies and/or a full-length book publication.
  • Professional authors: those with two or more full-length book publications.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer (that is, participant-to-participant) feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed.

For all other workshops, the recommended experience level is just that—a recommendation—and we encourage potential participants to follow their own judgment when registering.

If you’re uncertain of your experience level with regard to any particular workshop, please feel free to contact us at communications@writers.ns.ca