Navigating the Great White North: Representing Blackness in Canadian Young Adult Literature

Author: 
Zetta Elliott

picture of girl reading

In the interest of disclosure, I must begin with an admission: I write books for children. I’m black, I’m Canadian, I’m an award-winning author, but I’ve never been able to get my stories published in Canada. I struggle here in the US as well, but I have nonetheless managed to find an audience for my poetry, plays, essays, and books for children. I begin with this admission in order to problematize my supposed scholarly objectivity. I am not a children’s literature scholar; I come to this field as a frustrated author, an activist blogger, and an advocate for equity in the arts and education.

In fall 2009, I reached my tipping point. After spending just one year as a fledgling member of the ever-expanding “kidlit” blogosphere, I poured my accumulated rage and frustration into an open letter to the children’s publishing industry. How could it be that with two black girls now living in the White House, African and African American authors are credited with less than 2% of the five thousand books published for children in the US each year?1 Marginalization is not a new experience for me, and so I found myself invoking—once again—this unfortunate aspect of my Canadian childhood:

I grew up in Canada in a semi-rural community on the outskirts of Toronto; I grew up without any stories that featured children of color, save the extraordinary books of Ezra Jack Keats. In a country that regularly boasts of its commitment to multiculturalism, I grew up not dreaming in color, and the first picture book story I ever wrote featured a white protagonist. I grew up never knowing black people could write books; I never met a black author or illustrator, and I suspect that most children in Canada are living that same sad reality today (thirty years later).2

I have lived in the United States for the past fifteen years and when I confront racism here, I invariably think of Canada’s multicultural rhetoric and the broken promises that helped to drive me across the border.3 As Louise Saldanha asserts, “despite multicultural exertions to the contrary,” people of color often experience Canada as “a place of non-belonging, a place not-home.”4 When they learn that I am Canadian, some Americans question my decision to emigrate and it isn’t always easy to explain why I chose to leave the wealthy, socially progressive land of my birth. It can be hard to make others understand how the golden tale (or Olympic spectacle) of multiculturalism actually “disguises Canadian realities through declamations pronouncing us as all equally ethnic, declamations that make cultural and racial inequities appear not part of Canada.”5

Despite the persistent delusion (held by a tiny minority) that the US is now “post-racial,” I think most Americans understand that racism is an ongoing, unresolved dilemma. My online plea for greater diversity in children’s literature garnered some sympathetic responses, but it did not magically transform the policies and practices that exclude most black people from the publishing arena. Here in the US, it’s a topic some folks would rather not discuss, including many authors of color who are still struggling to gain a foothold in the industry. The few established authors have no real incentive to rock the boat, and so I often feel like I’m on my own, doomed to repeat this cycle of incredulity, indignation, and resignation.

In Canada, the rhetoric around multiculturalism further complicates efforts to expose and address inequity in publishing. Tania Das Gupta argues that Canadian multiculturalism “has been gradually eroded over the last decade, with inadequate public debate.”6 In earlier times, she contends, “proponents of multiculturalism placed some emphasis on fighting inequities, racism and discrimination, at least rhetorically,” but in the post-9/11 era, we increasingly hear “claims that multiculturalism has ‘gone astray.’”7 This point of view is accompanied by a distorted understanding of culture as fixed rather than fluid:

In popular parlance ‘culture’ in multiculturalism is code for ‘non-western’ and non-white, much in the same way that ethnicity or ‘ethnics’ typically refer to non-whites. The erroneous assumption is that new immigrants in Canada (mostly non-white) have culture or ‘ethnicity’ in contrast to the ’mainstream’ or ‘normal Canadians’. In this social construction, those belonging to non-western cultures are socially produced as not fully belonging to the nation, as not fully Canadian.8

It seems as if this misunderstanding of multiculturalism dominates the Canadian children’s publishing industry. I detect a disturbing focus on people of colour who are represented as distinctly not Canadian, not living within the country’s borders, and not active in the current historical moment; blacks specifically are imagined as foreigners and/or figures from the distant past rather than established/integrated members of the national “mosaic.” This misrepresentation persists despite (or perhaps because of) the demographic shift in the country’s major cities:

When Canada marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, one in five Canadians will be a racialised minority. And projections show that by 2031, racialised minorities will make up 63 percent of Toronto’s, 54 percent of Vancouver’s and 31 percent of Montreal’s population.9

Yet instead of reflecting this racially diverse nation, books for young readers published in Canada during the first decade of the twenty-first century paint a picture of a country devoid of black citizens. My examination of Canadian middle grade and young adult novels by or about blacks reveals a curious preoccupation with slavery. Of the 26 novels published since 2000, 9 are written by black authors and 17 by white authors; 3 of the 9 black-authored novels are on the subject of slavery, 2 are set in contemporary Africa, and 3 are set in the Caribbean (2 are contemporary, 1 is historical). Only 1 book, I Have Been in Danger (Coteau Books, 2001), is set in contemporary Canada; this middle grade novel by Cheryl Foggo features two biracial sisters who find adventure during an overnight camping trip in Calgary.10

Of the 17 novels written by whites, 10 are historical (9 are set in the era of slavery); 6 are set in Africa (5 contemporary, 1 historical), and one contemporary novel (Jakeman by Deborah Ellis) is set in the United States.11 What does this tell us about the way black children figure in the (white) Canadian imagination? In most of these white-authored novels, black youth appear as fugitive and/or former slaves or as impoverished Africans grappling with violence and disease. Why is it so difficult for authors of any race to situate black teens in contemporary Canada? Why do so many authors prefer to see blacks as “eternal slaves” seeking sanctuary in “the promised land?” And what effect does the erasure of black teens from the contemporary Canadian landscape have on young readers?

Rudine Sims Bishop argues that children of all races suffer when they are deprived of a range of stories that reflect diverse realities:

When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part…

Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but they, too, have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others. They need the books as windows onto reality, not just on imaginary worlds. They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in, and their place as a member of just one group, as well as their connections to all other humans. In this country, where racism is still one of the major unresolved social problems, books may be one of the few places where children who are socially isolated and insulated from the larger world may meet people unlike themselves. If they see only reflections of themselves, they will grow up with an exaggerated sense of their own importance and value in the world—a dangerous ethnocentrism.12

Bishop insists that books can serve as “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors,” providing a reflection of each child’s life, as well as the opportunity to discover and engage with those whose lives are markedly different. Unfortunately, too many children never see themselves in books and instead are reduced to voyeurs who can only peer through the glass that separates them from others.

Dr. Alvin Curling and Roy McMurtry, authors of the 2008 Roots of Youth Violence report, acknowledge that in cities like Toronto, “Racism is worse than it was a generation ago, while there are fewer resources and structures to counter this great evil than existed in years past.”13 Curling and McMurtry also link feelings of invisibility and hopelessness to youth violence: “The deepening alienation and the lack of hope or sense of belonging that result damage the lives and prospects of many youth, and powerfully increase the risk that increasing numbers of them will be involved in extreme and unpredictable violence.”14 The authors of the report, commissioned by Premier Dalton McGuinty, suggest that Ontario is at a crossroads:

In the neighbourhoods we visited, we heard about gun violence, violence around drugs and drug dealing, robberies on the street, swarmings, verbal abuse, intimidation, threats, gangs, claims of turf, attacks with knives, fights at school, violence in sports, domestic abuse, sexual assaults, dating violence and violence that flows from systemic issues such as racism, inequality and poverty.15

If this is the reality of many of Ontario’s children, then this particular reality should be reflected in the literature written by Canadian authors and published by Canadian presses. Books for young readers should also offer a vision of the future that inspires youths to consider and/or develop healthy responses and alternatives to violence. Curling and McMurtry contend that “Visible minorities feel further alienated by a curriculum that does not reflect the cultural diversity of Ontario and does not engage their interest.”16 Yet how can Canadian educators transform the school curriculum without books that reflect the contemporary realities of their diverse students? Literature can’t solve all of the problems we face as a society, but it can help us to see, hear, and possibly save the young members of our community who are fighting desperately against figurative and literal erasure.

When I look back at the books I was exposed to in high school, it’s a virtual (American) whitewash: Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Great Gatsby. I continue to advocate for change because I cannot accept the idea that children today may be growing up in the same appalling state of ignorance that slowed my emergence as a confident black writer. Today’s youth now know that a black man can become president of the United States—but do they know they can become poets, editors, novelists, illustrators, or playwrights? As a teen in Toronto I was bused up to Stratford every other year; I clearly remember studying the plays of Shakespeare at my majority-white high school, but it never once occurred to me that a black person could write or even star in a play. And it wasn’t until 2005, after more than half a century, that the Stratford Shakespearean Festival presented Djanet Sears’ Harlem Duet, a play that was written, directed, and performed by blacks. Do teens in Toronto today study black playwrights in school? Do kids of colour believe that a future in the arts is possible for them in Canada?

Posting that open letter on my blog did yield some results. Two professors wrote me to say that it would now be required reading in their children’s literature classes, and the Editor in Chief of The Horn Book Magazine asked me to write an article. In “Decolonizing the Imagination,” I discuss the impact of rarely seeing people of colour in the books I read as a child: “Perhaps the one benefit of being so completely excluded from the literary realm was that I had to develop the capacity to dream myself into existence.”17 I also accept partial responsibility for giving up on a future in my homeland: “Many years after leaving Canada, I realized that I never believed anything magical could happen to me there. Whether I attribute that to a failure of my own imagination or to external factors, the result was that my dreams took root in a foreign land.”18

Yet getting published in the US proved almost as hard as getting published in Canada. In 2008, I finally decided to self-publish my memoir, Stranger in the Family, and my young adult novel, A Wish After Midnight; both had been rejected by US and Canadian publishers alike. That fall, my first picture book was published by Lee & Low, a small multicultural press based in NYC; Bird won numerous awards and honors, but no newspaper in Canada would review it and Chapters Indigo refused to sell it. In 2009, Amazon started its own publishing wing (AmazonEncore) and acquired the rights to A Wish After Midnight. The “new” edition (same book, different cover) was released in February 2010; Wish was featured in USA Today, I was interviewed on radio shows, we got fantastic reviews, and The Huffington Post asked me to blog for them. My first post, “Breaking Down Doors,” outlined my long, difficult journey to publication. My second post, “Demanding Diversity in Publishing,” proposed that the US follow the UK’s lead in adopting a Publishing Equalities Charter (put forward by DIPNET, the Diversity in Publishing Network). I think Canada should do the same.

I appreciate the mission of publishers to promote, preserve, and protect Canadian culture. US cultural imperialism is a very real threat, yet American books were the only ones in my Canadian public library that showed black children on the cover. I adored the picture books of Ezra Jack Keats, and in those books (written and illustrated by a white Jewish Brooklynite) I finally found the mirror I craved as a child. As Rudine Sims Bishop explains, “Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”19 Mildred D. Taylor’s 1976 middle grade novel, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, was my introduction to race relations in the Jim Crow South. After reading this book and its 1981 sequel, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, I penned my first story that did NOT have a white protagonist. Without those books from the US—without television shows from the US, without magazines from the US—I would never have found a mirror for my black female self in Canada. Not in the 1970s and ’80s.

In Marlene NourbeSe Philip’s 1988 middle grade novel, Harriet’s Daughter, fourteen-year-old Margaret Cruickshank finds herself in a similar predicament. Born in Canada to strict Jamaican and Barbadian parents, Margaret identifies strongly with US black culture. She watches but rejects the perfect, progressive family modeled on The Cosby Show20; her mother’s name, Tina, brings to mind the “cool” rocker Tina Turner21; and Margaret asks to have her hair braided like the “super-cool” models in Essence magazine.22 Even Margaret’s best friend, Zulma, learned from her Tobagonian grandmother to revere the militant, Afro-wearing activist Angela Davis:

‘Gran say de police frame she because dey didn’t like she fighting for she people – black people in de United States – and dat it remind she of some of de stories she use to hear about slavery time. How de owners use to always try and kill or maim people who try to help other slaves…dat is who me would like to be—somebody like Angela Davis,,,and fight for something real important.’23

But Margaret identifies most strongly with one particular American: Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor she learned about in her Black Heritage class in school. Her initial interest in Mata Hari eventually fades as Margaret becomes more invested in her own ability to transport her unhappy friend Zulma back to Tobago. Zulma desperately misses the grandmother who raised her, and feels insecure in the home her mother has made with a controlling, abusive man. When Margaret learns that she inherited some money from her mother’s former employer, a Holocaust survivor, a new plan and identity begin to take shape in Margaret’s mind:

Harriet Tubman. Now she was a sort of spy too, but her work was even more scary. She had to take care of people: babies, men and women – she had to bring them all the way up to Canada, and not get caught. She was carrying secrets too, a different kind of secret – people…Funny she had all those fainting spells, I thought. Harriet, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Blewchamp, again I thought of changing my name to one that meant something – like Harriet. Harriet Tubman was brave and strong and she was black like me. I think it was the first time I thought of wanting to be called Harriet – I wanted to be Harriet.24

It is significant, I think, that Margaret and others search outside of Canada or the Caribbean when looking for role models. Is this an effect of US cultural imperialism, or a result of limited black role models within their countries of origin?25 When her father vows to make good on his threat to send feisty, unladylike Margaret to his mother in Barbados for some “Good West Indian Discipline,” the teen refuses, insisting, “this is my home.”26 Yet we learn very little about Margaret’s investment in the city of Toronto. Early in the novel, she mentions her determination to stand up to anyone who calls her “nigger,”27 yet the climate at school is not so hostile that she can’t manage to recruit some of her Greek and Italian classmates to play her “Underground Railroad game.” Together the teens take on alternating roles in a dramatic chase that pits runaway slaves and their guides against slave-owners and their dogs. In a way, this bizarre reenactment of North American history supplants Margaret’s contemporary reality as a black teen in Canada. In her real life, Margaret manages conflict with her family and close friends, but her dream life reverts to the distant past or removes her entirely from Canada.

When the game starts to upset the participants, Margaret calls it off and focuses solely on rescuing Zulma from her unhappy home. To avoid being sent to Barbados, Margaret develops a scheme to run away to Tobago with Zulma using her mother’s secret hoard of cash. The dilemma in both girls’ Caribbean households ultimately is resolved by Mrs. B, an older African American woman from Mississippi who married a black Canadian man because “in those days [Canada] sounded so different and exciting.”28 Mrs. B is “always happy” and “really, really large,” and constantly plies Margaret with “cookies, cake, ice cream, cobbler” while relating her own unhappy childhood in the Deep South.29 Mrs. B manages to rally the girls’ mothers (or “mammies”); both women defy their domineering husbands and agree to send the girls to Tobago—Margaret for the summer, Zulma for good.

I had graduated from university before I learned of Harriet’s Daughter; I was sixteen when it was published, but don’t recall seeing it in my school or local public library. Yet even if it had been available, there’s no guarantee I would have picked it up—by that point my recreational reading consisted of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and the Brontës. I’m not sure how I would have reacted to a novel about black teens pretending to be runaway slaves. Mildred D. Taylor’s books resonated with my burgeoning interest in race relations and civil rights, and perhaps the feminist message in Harriet’s Daughter would have struck a chord. In the neo-slave narratives course I’m currently teaching in New York City, I ask students to recall their first experience learning about slavery; many black students recount feeling embarrassed whenever the subject was raised in their majority-white classrooms.30 Regardless of their ethnicity and country of origin, my black students said they felt self-conscious and/or shamed when learning about this continent’s history of enslaving, brutalizing, and degrading blacks. A colleague recently informed me that Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes may be added to the high school curriculum in Canada. This is welcome news, though it does not correct the imbalance in the representation of blacks living in contemporary Canada.

Tania Das Gupta concludes that, “multiculturalism in Canada has room for improvement,”31 and a sector-by-sector analysis of diversity in leadership roles in Toronto reveals just how far we still have to go to create a more just society. According to DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project, “Only 14 per cent of the top jobs in the GTA are held by visible minorities,” and “Within the Toronto media, only 4.8 per cent of editors, senior management and board members are visible minorities.”32 With so few people of color in decision-making roles, perhaps it is not surprising that of the 500 English-language children’s books published in Canada annually, an average of two are written by blacks (Table 1). Are manuscripts set in contemporary Canada being rejected by publishers in favour of stories set in more “exotic” locales, or do they not even exist?33 What could explain this silence from writers in the black Canadian community?

My mother’s African American ancestors arrived in Ontario in 1820; my father’s Caribbean parents moved to Toronto in the 1950s. Black people have been part of Canada for hundreds of years; surely there are many stories to be told of the lives they created in the Great White North.34 In the US, women writers are responsible for the majority of black-authored MG/YA novels.35 It's hard for me to name any contemporary black female authors in Canada—there's no Canadian equivalent of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Zadie Smith or Heidi Durrow (bestselling writers under 40). So perhaps the lack of MG/YA novels has something to do with the larger absence of black women novelists from the Canadian literary scene. And perhaps that has something to do with the lack of blacks in decision-making roles within the publishing industry and/or the potential bias of editors.36 As Malinda S. Smith observes,

the main challenge to achieving equity is not whether we can make it happen. Rather, it is whether we will make it happen. Some institutions are playing the ‘wait and hope’ game, others are saying, ‘yes we can’ and others still are showing leadership by saying ‘yes we will.’

Does the Canadian publishing industry have the will to change?37

In my time-travel novel, A Wish After Midnight, my Afro-Panamanian protagonist haunts the Brooklyn Botanic garden and there finds a portal that leads to the past. Genna and her Rastafarian boyfriend, Judah, are only too aware of the challenges they face as ambitious teens from an impoverished urban neighborhood. When they are sent back in time, both grapple with the racism they encounter in Civil War-era Brooklyn and desperately try to shape a future where they can be free; Genna wants to remain in New York but Judah’s goal is to reach Liberia. The whites in my novel are equally complex, their brief moments of heroism dimmed by their unapologetic bigotry. It would be interesting, I think, for students to read A Wish After Midnight alongside some of these Canadian novels of slavery/sanctuary. But that isn’t likely to happen since Wish still hasn’t been reviewed in any Canadian newspapers, and once again is not being stocked at Chapters Indigo.

I confess, I do often wonder why I’ve been unable to get published in Canada. Perhaps my writing fails to be foreign enough. Despite the endless efforts to differentiate Canada from the United States, perhaps the urban worlds I create aren’t sufficiently different from the city spheres occupied by teens in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver. Louise Saldanha writes that notions of “‘home’ and ‘away’ centrally occupy children’s literature in North America,” with “away” conventionally marking “the space of forests and similar unsettled, unsettling realms, the zone of strangeness and the zone of insecurity.”38 Perhaps my stories are actually too familiar, generating anxiety around “domestic” blackness, racism, and those teens who claim Canada as their country of origin but don’t yet feel “at home.”

Year
Number of English-Language Books Recieved at CCBC

African / Carribean African Canadian

 
 
By
About
2010
500
3
5
2009
500
6
20
2008
500
3
9
2007
500
2
14
2006
500
4
9
2005
500
2
6
2004
500
2
13
2003
500
2
4
2002
500
2
5
2001
500
2
6
2000
500
2
2

Table 1.
Children's Books By and About Blacks Published in Canada 2000-2010 (from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre)
  1. These statistics are compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center; two Canadian presses, Groundwood and Tundra, submit their books for inclusion in this ongoing study. I was not able to locate an organization in Canada that compiles comparable statistics on the percentage of children’s books by and about people of color. The Canadian Children’s Book Centre asserts that, “based on the books that are submitted to our organization, over 500 English-language books are published for children each year in Canada.”
  2. Zetta Elliott, “Something Like an Open Letter to the Children’s Publishing Industry,” Fledgling (blog), September 5, 2009. http://zettaelliott.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/something-like-an-open-letter-to-the-children%E2%80%99s-publishing-industry/
  3. In a 2009 Book Forum article, novelist Victor LaValle writes about his Ugandan mother’s experience as a black woman in Canada: “For college, my mother packed off to Canada. In Kitchener-Waterloo, she was denied housing, mistreated and maligned in school and on the street. Finally, she moved to America to escape the racism.”
  4. Louise Saldanha, “White Picket Fences: At Home with Multicultural Children’s Literature in Canada?” in Home Words: Discourses of Children’s Literature in Canada, ed. Mavis Reimer (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2008) ,131. I would like to thank Perry Nodelman for directing me to this important essay.
  5. Ibid., 130.
  6. Tania Das Gupta, “Canadian multiculturalism and social inclusion,” FEDCAN (blog), March 4, 2011, http://blog.fedcan.ca/2011/03/04/canadian-multiculturalism-and-social-inclusion/
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Malinda S. Smith, “Leading on equity and diversity matters: Yes we can, and yes we will!” FEDCAN (blog), January 5, 2011, http://blog.fedcan.ca/2011/01/05/leading-on-equity-and-diversity-matters-yes-we-can-and-yes-we-will/#more-984
  10. I initially thought this book’s cover had been “white-washed” but the illustration reflects the racially ambiguous/indeterminate appearance of the mixed-race protagonist, Jackie.
  11. The 2009 Puffin Canada novel Black and White by Eric Walters features a contemporary interracial romance but is told from the point of view of the white male protagonist and appears to be set in the United States (blacks are referred to as “African Americans”). I would like to thank Dave Jenkinson, editor of CM: Canadian Review of Materials, for bringing this novel to my attention.
  12. Rudine Sims Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” in Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom Vol. 6, no. 3 (Summer 1990): ix.
  13. Alvin Curling and Roy McMurtry, “Roots of violence grow in toxic soil of social exclusion,” Toronto Star, November 15, 2008, http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/537436
  14. Ibid.
  15. Curling and McMurtry, “Ontario at a Crossroads,” in Review of the Roots of Youth Violence: Executive Summary, Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, last modified April 27, 2010, http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/youthandthelaw/roots/crossroads.aspx
  16. Curling and McMutry, Review of the Roots of Youth Violence: Community
    Perspectives Report Vol. 3, Section 1: 15, Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, last modified April 27, 2010, http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/youthandthelaw/roots/index.aspx
  17. Zetta Elliott, “Decolonizing the Imagination,” Horn Book Magazine Vol. LXXXVI, Number 2 (2010): 16.
  18. Ibid., 20.
  19. Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” ix.
  20. Marlene NourbeSe Philip, Harriet’s Daughter (Toronto: The Women’s Press, 1988), 3.
  21. Ibid., 48.
  22. Ibid., 15.
  23. Ibid., 30.
  24. Ibid., 37.
  25. Cynthia James suggests that Margaret’s “adoption of the identity of an African American icon is not as strange as it may seem. For in their struggles in the metropolis, Blacks in the diaspora identify with Black liberation across nationalities” (54). Citing Paul Gilroy’s theory of “connective culture,” James argues that, “These borrowings of cultural identity are unconstrained by questions of national boundaries, since the legacy of a similar slave history, resistance, and mainland-to-island resale and exile of forbears connects the majority of Blacks in the New World” (55). As a teen, I greatly admired Nelson Mandela but US culture was the dominant influence in my understanding and performance of blackness.
  26. Philip, Harriet’s Daughter, 91.
  27. Ibid., 14.
  28. Ibid., 101.
  29. Another incarnation of the “mammy” stereotype appeared in Trey Anthony’s 2005 play Da Kink in My Hair. My analysis of “Enid” can be found in “Writing the Black (W)hole: Facing the Feminist Void.”
  30. A black student in Ohio was recently in the news after his teacher made him perform in a “mock slave auction,” allowing his white classmates to inspect him in their role as prospective slave-owners.
  31. Das Gupta, “Canadian multiculturalism and social inclusion.”
  32. Siri Agrell, “Diversity not reflected in leadership roles, group says,” Globe and Mail, February 8, 2011, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/diversity-not-reflected-in-leadership-roles-group-says/article1899793/
  33. In an interview with Caribbean Beat magazine, Marlene NourbeSe Philip shares this disturbing story: “Unlike the States, where you have a long tradition going back to Phillis Wheatley, who was a slave poet, in Canada you were actually creating your own audience while you were writing the work. When I finished Harriet’s Daughter, for instance, and sent it out, I was told by one of the most prestigious publishing houses there that they liked the writing but they had a problem with the characters being black – which sent me into a tailspin for about a year and a half. If they tell me the writing is bad, I can fix that, but if they tell me they have a problem with the race of the characters it’s like telling me they have a problem with my self.”
  34. Leslie Sanders confirms this neglect: “Canada is, of course, embedded in the slavery to freedom narrative as the destination for American fugitives, and as the terminus of the Underground Railroad on which so many of them traveled. After the American Civil War many returned to the United States; however, the fate of those who stayed in Canada, their subsequent history has been obscured, leaving not only popular but even supposedly knowledgeable opinion as unable to account for the presence of black people in Canada except as the result of recent immigration.” Rinaldo Walcott concurs: “when black life in Canada is even given a nod it is now dressed up in immigration studies and transnational studies, but still with little interest in the actual black communities here.”
  35. For a list of MG/YA novels published by black authors in the US in 2010, see “The Grim Reality” at my blog, Fledgling.
  36. Children’s literature scholar Laura Atkins has written about her experience as an editor at two multicultural presses where the bias of white editors impacted the publication of stories written by authors of color. See “White Privilege and Children’s Publishing.”
  37. Smith, “Leading on equity and diversity matters.”
  38. Saldanha, “White Picket Fences,” 129.