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From the archives

Our Violent National Game

The great hockey debate continues

Pax Atlantica

NATO’s long-lasting relevance

Donna Bailey Nurse

Donna Bailey Nurse is a juror for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Articles by
Donna Bailey Nurse

Track Changes

How black railway porters helped reshape a nation June 2019
Multiculturalism has often been presented as a kind of housewarming gift to new Canadians, who are only too happy to learn they can keep their faiths and customs upon moving in. For Canadians of colour, this gift has often been offered as more of a consolation prize in lieu of the full privileges of citizenship. But as Cecil Foster shows in his new…

A Novel Bursts to Life

The quiet brilliance of Helen Humphreys October 2018
Perhaps for lack of a better word, Helen Humphreys, one of Canada’s most beloved writers, is generally described as a novelist. She has written more than half a dozen novels, several award-winning. Leaving Earth (1997), the story of two Depression-era women who attempt to break an aviation record, earned her a Toronto Book…

Scenes from a marriage

Aida Edemariam on one woman's life against the backdrop of Haile Selassie’s rise and fall June 2018
Not long ago my ­daughter was a bridesmaid in an Ethiopian wedding. The ceremony, which was held in Toronto, was Orthodox, and the festivities lasted several days. A stirring part of the reception featured the young couple surrounded by members of the congregation dressed in white muslin chanting and dancing to the throbbing beat of magnificent African…

Kim Thúy and the burdens of the past

The beloved novelist's latest is an answer of sorts to her critics April 2018
Ru, by the Montreal writer Kim Thúy, was one of the most successful debuts in Canadian literary history, sold to twenty countries, winning a Governor General’s Award and CBC’s Canada Reads at home, and receiving an Italian prize for multiculturalism as well as three French awards, including Salon du livres de Paris,…

Lives of a Brother

Love, hope, and death in Scarberia October 2017
It is no coincidence that Brother, the title of David Chariandy’s new novel, is similar to that of the memoir by Jamaica Kincaid. My Brother is Kincaid’s account of her younger sibling’s battle with AIDS. In the book she writes that she is surprised to learn that despite her brother’s sexual bravado in the company of…

Border Crossings

The in-between worlds of Steven Heighton July–August 2017
Steven Heighton may be Canada’s most romantic novelist. Not romantic as in affairs of the heart—although he does write stirringly of love—but as in the capital “R” Romantic of the 19th-century poets. The Romantic Movement emerged out of the ideals of the French Revolution, and its literary practitioners rebelled against the neo-classicism of the previous…

Against the Flow

Race, radio and Canada’s musical coming of age May 2017
My musical coming of age occurred during the soulful, psychedelic 1970s, against the hypnotic groove of the Ohio Players, Kool and the Gang, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Well before that, when I was eleven, I had split my first allowance between Bill Withers (“Lean on Me”) and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (“If You Don’t Know Me By Now [You Will Never Never…

Lines of Flight

Finding the tracks of Canada’s missing black history March 2017
The first thing I wanted to do after reading Karolyn Smardz Frost’s previous book, I’ve Got a Home in Gloryland: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, was run down the Esplanade to the public school and tell all the black children about the neighbourhood’s history. This was in 2007. I was living at 2 Market…

Country of Eternal Forgetting

A masterful literary archivist explores a future unburdened by the past October 2016
Is there any Canadian writer who contemplates the meaning of time with greater distinction and intellectual grace than M.G. Vassanji? Guided by nostalgia, instinct and an accumulation of residual proofs—documents, diaries, photos, furniture, shards of memory—he reconstructs a cultural history that is not merely past, but virtually extinct. From his earliest novels, he has exhibited a preoccupation with the notion of historical…

The Jamaican Dilemma

Slavery’s legacy plays out in a story of absent mothers and distant fathers April 2012
A stirring passage in Olive Senior’s haunting first novel, Dancing Lessons, depicts the wordless, mesmerizing courtship of Gertrude, the story’s heroine. Gertrude, a lonely, emotionally neglected teenager, is being raised by her grandmother and aunt just outside Kingston, Jamaica. The family are light-skinned blacks, members of a respected country clan that prizes their fair complexion above…

A Political Pioneer

The personal struggles and triumphs of Canada’s first black member of Parliament. June 2010