Books

Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author Ian Williams to write a book of essays about race, due out in fall 2021

The nonfiction book by the Ontario-raised author is titled Disorientation. Inspired by the essay writing of James Baldwin, it explores Williams's personal experience of being Black and the diversity of Black lives.

Titled Disorientation, the nonfiction book explores being Black and the diversity of Black lives.

Ian Williams is a Brampton, Ont.-raised poet and writer. (Justin Morris)

Ian Williams, author of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel Reproduction, is writing a book about race.

The nonfiction book, titled Disorientation: The Experience of Being Black in the World, will be released in the fall of 2021.

Disorientation is inspired by the essays of the late American author James Baldwin in Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows my Name. The forthcoming book will explore issues such as the nature of Black identity and being Black in the world. 

The Brampton, Ont.-raised, Vancouver-based Williams is a poet, author and professor at the University of British Columbia. He told CBC Books that he wanted to explore the diversity of Black lives and his personal experience of growing up as a Black Canadian. 

Disorientation, to be published by Random House Canada, will feature essays that look at the "disorientation" of discovering one's own Black identity as a child, the significance of Black faces and bodies in fomenting division, how Black people support each other in the face of racial disorientation and what it often means to be the only Black person in a room.

"How does one engage with the explosive world of race and privilege? In a culture that demands statements from corporations and pressures individuals to lay their politics bare on inhospitable platforms, many of us have had to rethink how we translate our personal, inarticulate convictions for public inspection," Williams told CBC Books in an email. 

When Williams won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2019 for his debut novel Reproduction, he joined a select group of Black Canadian writers who had previously accomplished the feat — including Esi Edugyan (Washington Black in 2018 and Half-Blood Blues in 2011), André Alexis (Fifteen Dogs in 2015) and Austin Clarke (The Polished Hoe in 2002).

Reproduction, which examines race, class, gender and geography through the story of Felicia and her teenage son Army, was also shortlisted for the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Williams's previous books include the 2012 poetry collection Personalswhich was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award, and the 2011 short story collection Not Anyone's Anything

His newest poetry collection, Word Problems, will be released in September 2020.

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