Books

6 Black Canadian writers to watch in 2021

February is Black History Month and CBC Books is highlighting six Canadian writers making their mark in 2021.

In honour of Black History Month 2021, CBC Books is highlighting six Canadian writers of Black heritage who are making their mark.

C.L. Polk

C.L. Polk is a fantasy writer from southern Alberta. (Mike Tan)

C. L. Polk is a fantasy writer from Calgary, and the author of the critically acclaimed novels WitchmarkStormsong and The Midnight BargainWitchmark, their debut novel, won the 2019 World Fantasy Award for best novel. 

The Midnight Bargain, their latest novel is a fantasy about a woman named Beatrice Clayborn who makes her debut at "bargaining season" — an annual event where wealthy young men and women gather from all over the world to make advantageous marriages. 

Rosey Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain on Canada Reads 2021.

C.L. Polk on her Canada Reads 2021 contender, The Midnight Bargain. 14:06

Bertrand Bickersteth

Born in Sierra Leone, raised in Alberta, and formerly resided in the U.K. and the U.S., Bertrand Bickersteth is an educator who also writes plays and poems. (Nathan Elson Photography)

Bertrand Bickersteth is a poet, author and educator who was born in Sierra Leone, raised in Alberta, and has lived in the U.K. and the U.S. Bickersteth was on the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for the poem Wakanda, Oklahoma​.

"Storied soil" is the phrase Bickersteth uses to describe his home province of Alberta in his debut poetry collection The Response of Weeds. The collection, named one of the best poetry books of 2020 by CBC Books, brings to life the experience of early Black settlers in Western Canada, including his own experience growing up as a Black Albertan. 

Bickersteth's poetry features themes of displacement, history and belonging within the African diaspora.

Poet Bertrand Bickersteth talks about his new collection The Response of Weeds, which is inspired by his experiences as a Black man in Alberta. 13:08

Francesca Ekwuyasi

Francesca Ekwuyasi is a Nigerian Canadian author. (Dario Lozano-Thornton)

Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, artist and filmmaker. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria and is currently based in Halifax. Her work explores themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness and belonging. Her writing has appeared in the Malahat Review, Guts and Brittle Paper and she was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize

Ekwuyasi's debut novel Butter Honey Pig Bread  tells the interwoven stories of twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi is convinced she was born an ogbanje, a spirit that plagues families with misfortune by dying in childhood to cause its mother misery. Butter Honey Pig Bread is a story of food, family and forgiveness.

Butter Honey Pig Bread was on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. Chef, recording artist and TV personality Roger Mooking is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread on Canada Reads 2021.

We kick off an ongoing focus on what food can reveal about life, culture and society with Francesca Ekwuyasi, the Nigerian-Canadian novelist behind the Giller Prize longlisted novel Butter Honey Pig Bread. She speaks with Chattopadhyay about the role food plays in complex family dynamics and how cooking can be a way of expressing care, regret, desire for forgiveness, and more. For more, visit: www.cbc.ca/1.5737303 10:53

Antonio Michael Downing

Antonio Michael Downing is an author, musician and activist based in Toronto. (Viking)

Antonio Michael Downing is a Trinidad-born musician, writer and activist who now lives in Toronto. He published his first book, the novel Molasses, in 2010. In 2017 he was named by the RBC Taylor Prize as one of Canada's top emerging authors for nonfiction.

Downing's memoir, Saga Boyis an exploring of Black identity and belonging. Saga Boy is Downing's story of life as a Canadian immigrant and the lasting effects of cultural dislocation.

Janice Lynn Mather

Janice Lynn Mather is a Vancouver-based author of Bahamian heritage. (Simon & Schuster)

Janice Lynn Mather was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas. The Vancouver-based novelist and short story writer holds a BFA and MFA from the University of British Columbia.

In 2018, Mather released her debut novel Learning to Breathe. The book was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.

Released in 2020, Mather's YA novel Facing the Sun is a coming-of-age story set in the Bahamas. Facing the Sun is about four young girls — Eve, Faith, KeeKee and Nia — and the choices they are forced to make one fateful summer.

Mather's upcoming YA novel, Where was Goodbye?, is slated for a 2022 release. It's about a teenage girl searching for answers after her brother dies by suicide.  

Janice Lynn Mather's YA novel Facing the Sun is a coming-of-age story set in the Bahamas. It's about four young girls — Eve, Faith, KeeKee and Nia — and the choices they are forced to make one fateful summer. When a hotel developer makes a move to buy the community's beloved beach, all four teens are faced with decisions that might change them forever. 8:52

Jane Igharo

Jane Igharo is a Nigerian Canadian author. (Borada Photography)

Jane Igharo was born in Nigeria and immigrated to Canada when she was 12 years old. The Toronto writer and novelist has a journalism degree from the University of Toronto and works as a communications specialist.

Igharo's debut novel, Ties That Tether, was released in 2020. Inspired by Igharo's own experience as an immigrant, Ties That Tether is a contemporary romance novel about a young woman named Azere who is trying to stay true to her Nigerian roots. When she meets Rafael, a man who is not Nigerian, Azere must decide between a promise she made to her dying father and following her heart.

Igharo's upcoming novel, titled The Sweetest Remedy, is set to be released in fall 2021.

As the gift-giving season is now upon us, our books columnist, Jael Richardson, joins us to discuss some of her favourite books of this year: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell, Songs for the End of the World by Saleema Nawaz, and Ties that Tether by Jane Igharo. 9:20

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