They Said This Would Be Fun
The debut memoir from Eternity Martis, They Said This Would Be Fun captures the difficulty of navigating through white spaces as a student of colour. Eternity thought going away to university would help her discover who she really is. Hoping to escape her abusive boyfriend, her nerdy reputation, her doting Pakistani family and her complicated feelings towards her absent Jamaican father, she heads out to the predominantly white college city of London, Ontario. At school, she discovers an entitled culture of racism and sexism: she encounters blackface at parties, hears racial slurs at the bar and has teachers ask her permission to discuss race in classrooms where she's the only student of colour.
Over the next four years, Eternity navigates her identity in her new surroundings while adjusting to student life: she bounces out the window of an inflatable castle after too much vodka, glares down drugstore cashiers who announce a price check for her pregnancy test for the whole store to hear and dodges white girls who stroke her hair at parties. And as more and more classmates of colour feel driven out of the university, Eternity decides to stay. In doing so, she starts to uncover what she went away to find in the first place: who she is. They Said This Would Be Fun captures the work students of colour must do to fight for themselves in spaces where they are supposed to be safe to learn and grow. (From McClelland & Stewart)
Martis is a Toronto-based journalist, author and senior editor at Xtra. Her work focuses on issues of race and gender and has been featured in Vice, Salon, Hazlitt, TVO.org, The Walrus, Huffington Post and CBC. They Said This Would Be Fun is her first book.
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"I've been working on the idea for about 10 years. When I got to Western, I noticed such a difference in coming from Toronto to London, from the ways that I was being perceived and the way that people were treating me. I was writing things down. First, it was like a blog post. I then wrote it as a play.
It was the stuff that you never really think is going to happen to you or that still exists. I was very shocked.- Eternity Martis
"I started writing down the things that would happen. In my second year, I went to a Halloween party and three white students were dressed in blackface and dressed as cotton pickers and approached us. It was the stuff that you never really think is going to happen to you or that still exists. I was very shocked.
"In my second and third year, I met other students who were going through similar things. We formed this friendship of people of colour, who had our insular group away from what was happening outside of us and that's how we kind of got through it."