Why Amanda Parris loves the anthology Testifyin'

The host of Exhibitionists and Marvin's Room adds this anthology of plays to CBC Books' Great Canadian Reading List.
Amanda Parris is the host of CBC's Exhibitionists and Marvin's Room. (CBC)

July 1, 2017 marks 150 years since Confederation in Canada. CBC Books is creating the great Canadian reading list — a list of 150 books curated by you.

Amanda Parris, host of Exhibitionists and Marvin's Room, adds Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama, Vol. II edited by Djanet Sears to the reading list.

"The Canadian book that is the most meaningful to me at this moment is an anthology of theatre plays edited by the incredible writer/director and actor Djanet Sears called Testifyin': Contemporary African Canadian Drama Vol. II (Volume 1 is also incredible but it is currently out of print). When I first discovered this collection I felt as though I had stumbled upon a long-forgotten treasure. At 604 pages, Testifyin' is a formidable presence on my shelf and received more than a few glances when I would pull it out of my bag to read on the bus. But the epic journeys and unexpected adventures contained within its pages make it well worth the extra weight in my bag. However, what truly makes this work stand out amongst all the other theatrical anthologies that abound is that each play is preceded by an introductory essay written by (primarily) Black critics/scholars. These essays provide rich historical, political and social context for the plays and illuminate important threads of analysis and consideration. Reading them, I was reminded that no matter where you are in Canada, it still remains rare that a Black theatre play gets 'reviewed' by a Black theatre critic and that has left countless works bereft of the particular depth of analysis that I found in Testifyin'. This collection crafts a unique opportunity for critical dialogue and aesthetic discovery that brings so much joy to my nerdy (or should I say blerdy*) heart.

"*blerd is a slang term for Black nerd.

"Testifyin' contains theatrical plays by Lorena Gale, Andrew Moodie, Rhoma Spencer and Susan Sandiford, Trey Anthony, Frederick Ward, debbie young (now known as d'bi young) and naila belvett (now known as Naila Keleta-Mae), George Elroy Boyd and Djanet Sears."

Amanda Parris hosts Exhibitionists, a show all about Canadian art, on CBC-TV on Sundays at 3:30 p.m., 4:00 p.m. NT. Parris also hosts Marvin's Room a weekly radio show on CBC Radio 2 dedicated to the world of R&B. It airs Friday from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. on CBC Radio 2 and Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on CBC Radio 1.

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