Nova Scotia

'Africville My Home': Nova Scotia dancer self-publishes new book

Leslie Carvery found she had to leave home for Montreal in order to write.

Leslie Carvery left her life in Nova Scotia to write in Montreal

Leslie Carvery's latest novel draws from the stories her father told her about life in Africville. (Submitted )

It would be easy to categorize Nova Scotia's Leslie Carvery as a dancer-turned-writer, but Carvery doesn't see it that way.

"I think I was born a writer who got caught up in a dance world," Carvery told CBC's Information Morning.

"I've always wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl and I've always wanted to tell stories."

Author Leslie Carvery launched her book 'Africville My Home' in July. (Submitted )

Carvery found she had to leave her home in order to write about it. She made her getaway for Montreal three years ago.

"I was 42," she laughed. "And I left everything."

She left her son, who was going on 17 at the time. He stayed with her parents so he could finish his last year of high school. She also left her dance studio of 13 years.

"I just holed up in a small room, $300 a month, and I finished my books," Carvery said.

'Africville My Home'

Carvery wrote three books, including the novel Africville My Home, which she self-published and launched in July. It's a fictional story that draws from stories she heard growing up. 

"Africville was demolished the year I was born, so I just missed it," she said.

An archive photo of the Halifax city dump with Seaview African United Baptist Church and Africville houses in the background. (Nova Scotia Archives/Bob Brooks)

Africville was established by former American slaves and other black people who moved to the area. The former city of Halifax neglected the area and decided to raze the community instead of improving it.

Leslie Carvery ran a Latin dance studio in Nova Scotia for 13 years before leaving the province for Montreal. (Submitted )

"As a young girl I used to play there, even though it was no longer a community," Carvery said. "I was attached to the land itself and the stories filled in the gaps for me."

Those stories came from her dad, Nelson Carvery.

"I thought, if someone outside of the family of Africville writes this, they're gonna miss something," said Carvery, whose book is mostly set in the 1940s.

"Everything is important to mention," said Carvery. "Everything from the gypsies coming, to the wild dogs, to the smell of roses, to the sunset."

Dance vs. writing

There's not much of a difference between dancing and writing, said Carvery.

"They both take energy out of the same file of creativity," she said.

But it's hard to do both at the same time.

"I can still teach dance but to perform and put my creativity back in it, I'd have to take from the same file that I need to write and to push my books forward," she said.

And Carvery is OK with that. She's happy with all she's done in her dance career, from going to Puerto Rico three times to dance in the World Salsa Congress, to performing with the Cuban All-Stars.

'Nova Scotian to the bone'

Carvery plans to stay in Montreal to write.

"I don't want to be known as a Montreal writer," she said. "I'm Nova Scotian to the bone, but what a great city and it facilitates my growth."

But she still comes home.

Just recently, she sat down in the former Africville site to have lunch.

"My father and Edie Carvery [were] driving around in his scooter and my father was just sittin back and they're both wearing Africville t-shirts and I just looked at them and thought, 'Wow, I need to write another book," she laughed.

"That part of it, it was beautiful."

With files from CBC's Information Morning