Black Canadian Voices Reading List
In recent weeks, titles by Black authors have dominated bestseller lists worldwide. If you’re interested in discovering some powerful, dramatic Black Canadian voices, here is a list of plays for your reading pleasure:
A rhapsodic blues tragedy, Harlem Duet could be the prelude to Shakespeare’s Othello and recounts the tale of Othello and his first wife Billie (yes, before Desdemona). Set in contemporary Harlem at the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X boulevards, the play explores the space where race and sex intersect. Harlem Duet is Billie’s story. Winner of the Governor General’s Award for Drama.
A dramatic and often humorous look at six black Canadians of diverse backgrounds who share a Toronto house. Their lives unfold against the backdrop of the civil unrest which erupted when the Los Angeles police officers on trial for the beating of Rodney King are acquitted. The fracas outside keeps intruding as characters clash, collide, and swap jokes about everything from racism to the status of Quebec as a distinct society, from Malcolm X to The Road to Avonlea.
Just as the stag party is about to begin, the bride cancels the wedding. Chris, the jilted fiancé, is a walking wounded, but as his three buddies attempt consolation, we discover that they, too, are relationship-challenged. Jocular and playful, these men can also be frank in revealing their vulnerability and profound desire for love and understanding.
In Better Angels: A Parable, Akosua Mansa leaves Ghana to work for Greg and Leila Tate in the tony suburbs of a metropolitan city. But she soon finds herself in an impossible situation: like more than forty million people, she’s become trapped in modern-day slavery. Taking cues from the spider god, Anansi, Akosua will take her destiny into her own hands.
Eating Pomegranates Naked examines two couples and their single frenemy as they scratch the surface of their relationships over too much wine. What do infertility, religion, toxoplasmosis, and ice cream have to do with Tulipmania? Maybe more than you think.
Keeper is a powerful, intriguing story about a connection between two women—the memory of which carries such weight from each of their pasts that the only means of self-preservation has been to try to shut it down. We witness an evening in the lives of Avalon and Constance—the former in her early 20s, the latter 16 years older—who have been bonded and blistered by death, doubt and distance. As the details of their shared history emerge, long-buried feelings and hidden truths rise to the surface. Stirring, humorous and resonant, Keeper is one part cat-and-mouse, and one part long-lost love.
Controlled Damage explores the life of Canadian civil rights icon Viola Desmond and how her act of bravery in a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946 started a ripple effect that is still felt today. An ordinary woman forced to be extraordinary by an unyielding and racist world, Desmond never gave up—despite the personal cost to her and those who loved her. Andrea Scott’s highly theatrical examination of Desmond and her legacy traces the impact she has had on our culture, but also casts light on the slow progress of the fight for social justice and civil rights in Canada.
Serving Elizabeth begins in Kenya in 1952, during the fateful royal visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. Mercy, a restaurant owner, is approached to cook for the royal couple. Although she is a staunch anti-monarchist, she agrees to take the job. Decades later, Tia, a Kenyan-Canadian intern working on a series about Queen Elizabeth, discovers that there may be more to the story of the Princess’s visit than we have been led to believe. Serving Elizabeth is a funny, fresh, and topical play about colonialism, monarchy, and who is serving whom—or what.