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Margaret Laurence’s first novel

The Story


In 1947, shortly after her graduation from Winnipeg's United College, Margaret Wemyss marries Jack Laurence. Between 1950 and 1957, they live in Africa where their two children, Jocelyn and David, are born. During that time Laurence begins her writing career with a translation of a work of Somalian poetry called A Tree For Poverty. In 1960, after four and a half years in Africa, the family returns to Canada where Laurence writes her first novel This Side Jordan. This Side Jordan explores the personal journey of Nathaniel, a young African schoolteacher who is anxious to be part of a new Africa and leave his tribal past behind. Nathaniel's story of personal freedom mirrors Laurence's experience of Africa during Ghana's move towards independence. The novel is well received and attracts the attention of a young Canadian publisher named Jack McClelland. This Side Jordan marks the beginning of a lifelong relationship with McClelland & Stewart.

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Dec. 19, 1960
Guest: Margaret Laurence
Hosts: Maria Barrett, Bill McNeil
Duration: 4:27

Did You know?


• The word "ghana" is Arabic for "rich" or "prosperous." In 1957, Ghana achieved its independence from the British Commonwealth in a revolt led by Kwame Nkrumah. Nkrumah was Ghana's first prime minister and served as head of state until he was deposed in 1966. Despite much political instability, Ghana's people continue to strive for democracy and freedom.

• Laurence was made a companion of the Order of Canada in 1971.

• She was also twice the recipient of the Governor General's award for the Manawaka novels and received honorary degrees from over a dozen Canadian universities.


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