Readers are often surprised to learn that black writing in Canada is over two centuries old. Ranging from letters, editorials, sermons, and slave narratives to contemporary novels, plays, poetry, and non-fiction, black Canadian writing represents a rich body of literary and cultural achievement. The Black Atlantic Reconsidered is the first comprehensive work to explore black Canadian literature from its beginnings to the present in the broader context of the black Atlantic world. Winfried Siemerling traces the evolution of black Canadian witnessing and writing from slave testimony in New France and the 1783 "Book of Negroes" through the work of contemporary black Canadian writers including George Elliott Clarke, Austin Clarke, Dionne Brand, David Chariandy, Wayde Compton, Esi Edugyan, Marlene NourbeSe Philip, and Lawrence Hill. Arguing that black writing in Canada is deeply imbricated in a historic transnational network, Siemerling explores the powerful presence of black Canadian history, slavery, and the Underground Railroad, and the black diaspora in the work of these authors. Individual chapters examine the literature that has emerged from Quebec, Nova Scotia, the Prairies, and British Columbia, with attention to writing in both English and French. A major survey of black writing and cultural production, The Black Atlantic Reconsidered brings into focus important works that shed light not only on Canada's literature and history, but on the transatlantic black diaspora and modernity.
“Winfried Siemerling’s The Black Atlantic Reconsidered is the book that students of the black literary experience in the New World have been waiting for, without fully appreciating it was missing, for generations. Not only does it open our eyes to the monumental importance of black Canadian writing, from enslavement in New France to North Star escapes to the explosion in diasporic expressions from the 1960s to today; it forces us to expand our understanding of the boundaries of the African journey in the New World upward, to where they belong and always have been. Siemerling’s scholarship on Canada’s place in the wider black Atlantic should be read and taught for many years to come.” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“The Black Atlantic Reconsidered offers a meticulously researched, contextualized and engaging exploration of Black Canadian writing. A must-read for any person who desires a comprehensive meditation on Black Canadian writing past and present. Winfried Siemerling's thorough and thoughtful book helps to fill a mighty void, and will open the door to more conversations about one of Canada’s most vital, yet understudied literary communities.” Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes
“This powerfully rendered text brings us closer to a definitive understanding of the entire "circum-Atlantic network" in its critical interrogation of the Canadian scene-its histories, cultures, and literatures; routed through the times and spaces of Canada, we come upon the black Atlantic once again as a reconfigured repertoire of actual and archival resources that elaborate upon and expand our identitarian signatures. Mining the deep structures of Canadian historiographies, Siemerling lovingly and masterfully provides a prehensile reading of the virtually inexhaustible richness of African Canadian literary (and musical) culture-its past as well as its quite stunning contemporaneity.” Hortense Spillers, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor, Vanderbilt University