7 works of Canadian nonfiction to read for Black History Month 2020

Here are some recent works of nonfiction by black Canadian writers to check out.

It's Black History Month. Check out these seven recent works of nonfiction by black Canadian writers.

Angry Queer Somali Boy by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali

Angry Queer Somali Boy is a memoir by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali. (Philip Sutherland, University of Regina Press)

Angry Queer Somali Boy is a memoir by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali, a young man who left Somalia, spent time in the Netherlands and ended up homeless in Canada. Canada was the promised land, but when he didn't fit in and life was more difficult than he expected, Ali turned to drugs and partying before finding his way. 

Angry Queer Somali Boy combines Ali's personal story with the history of and commentary on the places he's called home: Somalia, Europe and Canada. It's his first book.

The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole

The Skin We're In is a nonfiction book by Desmond Cole. (Doubleday Canada, Martin Trainor/CBC)

In The Skin We're In, journalist and activist Desmond Cole looks at what it's like to live in Canada as a black person. The Skin We're In looks at one year, 2017, and chronicles Coles's personal journalism, activism and experiences alongside stories that made the headlines across the country, including refugees crossing the Canada-U.S. border in the middle of winter and the death of Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi at the hands of the Ottawa police.

Cole is a journalist, radio host and activist based in Toronto. His writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, Now Magazine and the Walrus. The Skin We're In is his first book.

Activist Desmond Cole speaks with CBC


2 years ago
Activist and writer Desmond Cole speaks with CBC about Const. Daniel Montsion's trial for the death of Abdirahman Abdi 7:45

Until We Are Free, edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson and Syrus Marcus Ware

Until We Are Free is a collection of writing that reflects on the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada. (Submitted by University of Regina Press)

This collection of writing and photographs explore issues facing the black community in Canada. In light of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in this country, Until We Are Free addresses how developments in Canadian black activism, alliances with Indigenous groups and the savvy use of social media have served to challenge systemic racism, state violence and question myths of "Canadian politeness and niceness."

Until We Are Free  was edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson and Syrus Marcus Ware.

Diverlus is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto. He spoke with CBC News about the Toronto Pride Parade protest and the state of racism in North America. 22:31

Black Writers Matter, edited by Whitney French

Black Writers Matter is an anthology edited by Whitney French. (University of Regina Press, Whitney French)

Black Writers Matter is an anthology of black Canadian writing from new and established writers that aims to reflect the "everydayness" of living in Canada while being black. The essays in Black Writers Matterfrom authors such as Rowan McCandless, Philip Dwight Morgan, Makeda Silvera and Chelene Knight, tackle historical and contemporary issues around as race, gender, sexuality, ancestry and Canadian identity.

Black Writers Matter  was curated by Whitney French. 

French is a writer, storyteller and educator. She was named a black Canadian writer to watch in 2019 by CBC Books.

Malcolm Gladwell on his new book Talking to Strangers, about how we make wrong assumptions when dealing with people we don’t know. 16:35

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is the bestselling author of Talking to Strangers. (CBC)

Talking to Strangers explores how we interact with people we don't know, and the impact of the assumptions we bring to these conversations. As with his previous books, Malcolm Gladwell uses anecdotes and a narrative voice to examine how societal structures shape human behaviour, including decision-making and the spread of ideas. 

Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of several nonfiction books, including BlinkOutliers and The Tipping Point.

From My Mother's Back by Njoki Wane 

From My Mother's Back is a nonfiction book by Njoki Wane. (Wolsak & Wynn)

Njoki Wane's From My Mother's Back takes a look at her childhood living in Kenya where her parents owned a small coffee farm. It explores her African identity and how her upbringing and close relationship with her mother ensured her sense of self as a black woman.

Wane is a professor at the University of Toronto and a recognized scholar in the areas of black feminism and African spirituality.

BlackLife by Rinaldo Walcott & Idil Abdillahi

Blacklife is a nonfiction book by Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi. (Submitted by ARP Press)

Writers and academics Rinaldo Walcott and Idil Abdillahi are the authors of BlackLife, a nonfiction book that examines the modern reality of black Canadians through the Western cultural lens of culture, history, literature, music and public policy.

BlackLife posits that violence is at the core of the nation state and how the destruction of black life and culture has been seen as acceptable collateral damage. The book maintains that a rethink by artists, activists and scholars alike is needed to enable a new reality for black Canadians. 

Walcott is a professor at the University of Toronto, where he is the director of women and gender studies and teaches at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Abdillahi is a professor of social work at Ryerson University.


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 conversationCreate account

Already have an account?