George Elliott Clarke explores the African-Canadian experience in a new collection of essays
Despite the influence of African-American culture, African-Canadian literature has a distinct history and deals with issues all Canadians hold in common. That is the message of Odyssey Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature (U of T Press, 2002), a collection of essays by English professor George Elliott Clarke. Clarke investigates how African-Canadian writers – in both fiction and non-fiction – have addressed issues of identity, racism and colonialism in Canada since 1785. “Our population consists of people with roots going back centuries as well as the more recent arrivals from the Caribbean, Africa, South America and the United States,” says Clarke. “It’s an exciting mixture of people who don’t necessarily share the same world views, religion or language but who do share an experience of displacement, colonialism, slavery and racism.” Nevertheless, African-American models will continue to influence African-Canadian ones because of what Clarke calls “the dynamic and successful cultural example of African-Americans” in their long struggle to achieve equality.