14 must-read works of fiction by Black Canadian authors

Looking for something to read during Black History Month? Here are 14 great works that should be on every Canadian's bookshelf.

Looking for something to read during Black History Month? Here are 14 great works by Black Canadian authors that should be on every Canadian's bookshelf.

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

André Alexis' novel Fifteen Dogs won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2015. (CBC)

In André Alexis's award-winning novel Fifteen Dogs, the gods Hermes and Apollo place a wager over pints in Toronto's Wheat Sheaf Tavern and 15 dogs are given the "gift" of human intelligence. Alexis won both the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize for the book. The novel also won Canada Reads 2017, championed by Humble The Poet. It's the first book to win both Canada Reads and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Have You Met Nora? by Nicole Blades

Nicole Blades is a novelist, speaker, and journalist based in Montreal. (Dafina/

In Nicole Blades' sophomore novel Have You Met Nora?, a Black woman "passing" as a white woman encounters someone who knows her secret and threatens to ruin the high society life she's established. This Montreal-based novelist is slowly developing her craft and body of fiction work and is a writer to watch in the years ahead. 

What We All Long For by Dionne Brand 

Dionne Brand is a Canadian poet, novelist, essayist and documentarian. (Vintage Canada)

The lives of four 20-somethings living on the margins of Toronto intersect in Dionne Brand's immersive novel What We All Long For. The novel, Brand's third, won the City of Toronto Book Award in 2006.

The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke   

The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke won the Giller Prize in 2002. (Dundurn)

An elderly woman in a small village decides to confess to a murder. What unfolds is a powerful all-night confession, bringing together together elements of the African diaspora. The classic work by the late novelist won the 2002 Giller Prize, the 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best book overall and the 2003 Trillium Book Award.

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan 

Esi Edugyan won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Half-Blood Blues. (Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers)

Hiero is a talented young Black German jazz musician who disappears during the Second World War. Half-Blood Blues, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize that same year, explores race, history, love, loss, music and the sacrifices we make to pursue our passion. 

The Alchemists of Kush by Minister Faust

Minister Faust is the author of The Alchemists of Kush. (

Minister Faust's novel The Alchemists of Kush tells two parallel stories of young boys whose lives are transformed, for better or worse, through unlikely mentors. The Edmonton-based author's book explores the lives of Somali and Sudanese youth in North America. 

Independence by Cecil Foster

Cecil Foster is a Canadian novelist, essayist, journalist and scholar. (HarperCollins Canada/

Set against the backdrop of Barbados's independence from Britain in 1966, this coming of age tale by Cecil Foster features two young teens, Christopher and Stephanie, as they attempt to assert their own independence and spirituality in a morally complex world. 

Drawing Down a Daughter by Claire Harris

Claire Harris is a Canadian poet and author based in Calgary. (Goose Lane/

This work by Calgary-based writer and poet Claire Harris, functions as a book-length poem, merging post-modernist influences with narrative. Creative and resourceful, Drawing Down a Daughter uses journals, letters, stories and eloquent imaginings to follow a woman about to give birth.

Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill

Lawrence Hill is a bestselling author based in Toronto. (HarperCollins, Lisa Sakulensky)

Written ten years before his celebrated novel The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill's Any Known Blood follows five generations of an African-Canadian-American family, from the slave trade of 19th-century Virginia to the predominantly white suburbs of Oakville, Ont. 

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is the author of Brown Girl in the Ring. (Courtesy of Nalo Hopkinson/Grand Central Publishing)

Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring is set in 2049 Toronto, after the city has experienced an economic collapse and becomes overrun by poverty and violence. A Canada Reads 2008 finalist, Hopkinson's debut novel is a tale filled with magic, mystery and folklore and an unforgettable Black protagonist.

The Return by Dany Laferrière, translated by David Homel

Dany Laferrière is a Haitian-Canadian novelist and journalist who writes in French. (Douglas & McIntyre/Wikimedia Commons)

The question of returning from exile is the focus of this Dany Laferrière novel. The Haitian-born narrator, now living in Montreal, must return to his homeland during the Baby Doc Duvalier's regime in the late 1970s to bury his father. 

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall by Suzette Mayr

Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall is Suzette Mayr's fifth novel. (Coach House Books)

This novel combines an academic setting with classic horror elements. Dr. Edith Vane, a scholar of English literature, is dealing with the publication of her dissertation, backstabbing colleagues and a haunted office building to boot. 

No Crystal Stair by Mairuth Sarsfield

Mairuth Sarsfield was a Canadian author, activist journalist, researcher and television personality. (Ron Fanfair, Canadian Scholars' Press)

Mairuth Sarsfield's novel tells the story of a young widow trying to raise three daughters and earn a decent living on her own. Set in Montreal in the mid-1940s, No Crystal Stair is a compelling story of ambition, love and a tightly-knit Black community that must contend with the subtle racism of Canadian society.

The Heart Does Not Bend by Makeda Silvera

Makeda Silvera is a novelist and short story writer. (Penguin Random House)

Exploring themes of love, loyalty and betrayal, Makeda Silvera's The Heart Does Not Bend is an expansive novel featuring a strong matriarch, family drama and culture clashes. 


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?