As calls to dismantle systemic anti-Black racism hit a global boiling point, books by Black Canadian writers shot to the top of Bookmanager’s Canadiana chart. The essay collection Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada proved essential reading amidst the civil-rights uprising. Editors Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware responded by email to the bestseller’s impact.
Did the book’s reception change as people became more vocal about anti-Black racism?
Liberation is a struggle Black people have engaged in for over 600 years. The movement for Black lives is a long-term project here on Turtle Island and Inuit Nunangat. We wrote this book with Black communities across Canada, and it reflects the current iteration of our liberation struggle.
As this movement expands, we have witnessed an upswing in interest in the book by folks looking to find out more about liberation, Black radical tradition, and abolition. We are humbled to see more and more people are educating themselves about our movement and this era of collective work and organizing.
How does Until We Are Free speak to the activism that followed the murder of George Floyd?
The murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent killing of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, sparked activisms around the globe. There have been global calls to defund the police and for police and prison abolition. There have been beautiful examples of Black and Indigenous solidarity, and disability justice in this work.
All of these calls for change are reflected in the book’s content – chapters about alternatives to policing and prisons, chapters about Black and Indigenous solidarity, and stories that root disability justice in all of our work.
This has been an unpredictable year in publishing. How did this book connect with its readership and not get lost in the pandemic?
This book grew out of community. It is rooted in several communities and was ultimately embraced by those communities as folks found their stories and lives reflected in the book’s content. When our book launched in February 2020, we were already a world on the brink of widespread change. When the pandemic arrived, people began asking themselves, Into what kind of world should we emerge when COVID is over?
Who is reading this book?
Our readership is vast, from folks directly involved in organizing, who are looking for a deeper dive into the work to folks new to these issues, who are looking for a way in. It is intentionally written to offer useful tools and insights for those who are new to our struggle, emerging organizers, and established activists.
TOP 15: Canadiana (Aug. 2–8)
Data based on reports from 225 independent Canadian bookstores, as collected by Bookmanager.
- The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power, Desmond Cole (Doubleday Canada)
- From the Ashes: My Story of Being Metis, Homeless, and Finding My Way, Jesse Thistle (Simon & Schuster Canada)
- We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir, Samra Habib (Penguin Canada)
- 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, Bob Joseph (Page Two Books)
- The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life, Alex Trebek (Simon & Schuster Canada)
- Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, Robyn Maynard (Fernwood Publishing)
- A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Alicia Elliott (Doubleday Canada)
- Soap and Water & Common Sense, Dr. Bonnie Henry (House of Anansi Press)
- The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, Thomas King (Doubleday Canada)
- Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City, Tanya Talaga (House of Anansi Press)
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company)
- Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations, Richard Wagamese (Douglas & McIntyre)
- One Drum: Stories and Ceremonies for a Planet, Richard Wagamese (Douglas and McIntyre)
- Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada, Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and and Syrus Marcus Ware (eds.) (University of Regina Press)
- Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson, Mark Bourrie (Biblioasis)