When I set up a display in the library, I think of a shopper in a grocery store. It’s fine if a grocery shopper comes in with a specific list. But it can be rewarding to enter a grocery store with an open mind. Shoppers might ask, what looks good? What looks exciting? What new ingredient might I want to try to nudge me out of my chicken-nugget comfort zone? Readers can ask similar questions as they stroll by a selection of books. A display isn’t static. Instead, it should evolve as readers check books out and empty spots get filled. When I mention a display, it’s because I hope you will check out the books, not just admire their beautiful and well-arranged covers. (And, hey, I’m all for chicken nuggets. But you can’t live on them, or you would get scurvy).
This month the King’s-Edgehill Library features poetry, essays, novels, biographies, and scholarship on many aspects of Black history. February is Black History Month in Canada and has been named African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia. We were happy to add the official African Nova Scotian flag to the library’s rafters. See the upper-left flag in the photo.
The library’s Black Lives Matter display that has been a staple for the last couple of years has expanded this month to include more of the resources we have in our collection. Readers will find books by Esi Edugyan, Angela Thomas, Jason Reynolds, Shuntay Grant, Julius Lester, Lawrence Hill, Angela Bowden, Gloria Ann Wesley, Verna Thomas, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and so many more.
We have a new book by George Elliott Clarke who was born here in Windsor. Clarke is a superstar in the world of Black writing in Canada who published the first comprehensive history of Black writing in Canada, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature, and the first anthologies of Black Nova Scotian writing, Fire on the Water Volumes 1 and 2 that begin with works written in the 1700s. His most recent is Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir. Africadia is Clarke’s own coinage made up of the words African and Acadian that he uses to “designate Black people arising from the historical communities of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, to distinguish our culture and our three-century-long presence from the originally offshore histories and cultures of Black Newcomers.” Clarke has been using the term since 1991.
The display also features Shauntay Grant’s lovely picture book Africville, featuring paintings of brightly coloured houses and gardens in the community of Africville, Nova Scotia before it was razed by bulldozers in the 1960s by the city of Halifax. For further thought and analysis of that traumatizing destruction, readers can try Jennifer J. Nelson’s book of essays, Razing Africville: a Geography of Racism.
One more highlight is a new book by Canadian writer Lawrence Hill, author of the acclaimed historical novel The Book of Negroes. This time he has written a novel for younger readers, Beatrice and Croc Harry, a story about a young girl who befriends the crocodile that lives outside of her home. The two embark on a quest that one reviewer says, “touches heart, mind, and an ageless sense of wonder.”