Black Berry, Sweet Juice

A memoir from two-time Canada Reads–winning author Lawrence Hill.

Lawrence Hill

In Black Berry, Sweet Juice, Lawrence Hill movingly reveals his struggle to understand his own personal and racial identity. Raised by human rights activist parents in a predominantly white Ontario suburb, he is imbued with lingering memories and offers a unique perspective. In a satirical yet serious tone, Hill describes the ambiguity involved in searching for his identity — an especially complex and difficult journey in a country that prefers to see him as neither black nor white. (From HarperCollins Canada)

Read an excerpt | Author interviews

From the book

When I was seventeen, I decided it was high time to do something about the wild mop that was sprouting in all directions from my head. It had become completely uncontrollable. Even when I drenched my hair with conditioner, I still couldn't comb through all the knots. They shot out like a condensed, fused mass from the sides of my head. The curls had wound and twisted themselves around each other to such a degree that the hair looked like one massive dreadlock. The only time my hair looked presentable was when I emerged from the shower, soaking wet.

I hadn't been to a barber in ages and was a little unsure of where to go. I had just come back from travelling in Europe, and I was about to begin my last year in a private high school where there were no other blacks and almost no racial minorities. I felt like asserting my blackness.

I announced that I wanted to get my hair fixed and that I had decided to get an afro, or as close an approximation as my loosely curled hair would permit. Who helped me line this up? My white mother! In retrospect, I find this fascinating.

From Black Berry, Sweet Juice by Lawrence Hill ©2001. Published by HarperCollins Canada.

Author interviews

Featured VideoLawrence Hill talks about racial identity in Canadian children of mixed marriages. Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada by Lawrence Hill. HarperCollins Canada, 2001
Featured VideoThe scientific consensus is that we're all a soup of DNA, and that race is indeed a fiction. But where does that leave us? Lawrence Hill, Priscila Uppal, Hayden King, and Karina Vernon have a go at a very modern, age-old question.