Black History Month Recommendations With Denise Da Costa - Dundurn
Feb 09, 2024

Black History Month Recommendations With Denise Da Costa

Denise Da Costa's debut novel And the Walls Came Down is about a troubled Delia Ellis who returns to her old neighbourhood, Don Mount Court, to retrieve a beloved childhood diary. While the entries uncover significant revelations around her mother’s past, it is Delia’s return home that leads to a true understanding of the circumstances that forged her identity.

Here are the books Denise recommends to read:

Frying Plantain  by Zalika Reid-Benta 
Set in Toronto’s "Little Jamaica" neighbourhood, these twelve brilliant, interconnected stories are centered on Kara Davis, a girl caught in the middle of two worlds. Kara is attempting to reconcile her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican all while coming of age as a first-generation Canadian in a multi-generational household full of love and angst between the mothers and daughters.

Reading Frying Plantain felt like finding a lost childhood photo album during a move. They were the stories I wished for growing up — to get a glimpse of someone like me. Written with great care and insight, Kara's story delves into the life of an adolescent coming of age in Toronto, along with important social commentary on the Canadian experience of children of the Caribbean diaspora.

George & Rue  by George Elliot Clarke
This evocative story of two brothers in Nova Scotia is a reimagining and an exploration of a vicious crime committed by two of Clarke's distant relatives, and their ensuing fate.

Contained within this cinematic, haunting cover, this vivid and visceral story explores the living conditions and socio-political climate of eastern Canada in the 40s. It's brutal, honest, and empathetic in its attempt to understand the circumstances that drive the oppressed to violence. 

At the Full and Change of the Moon by Dionne Brand
In the 1800s, Marie Ursule, queen of a secret society of militant slaves in Trinidad, plots a mass suicide as an act of revolt. Marie Ursule does not, however, kill her young daughter, Bola, who escapes and produces descendants who disperse across the Caribbean, North America, and Europe.

This is an epic story of multiple generations told through elevated prose and winds around you leaving you breathless. It's temporally ambivalent; blending present, future, and past to tell the story of Bola's family and how the impact of chattel slavery follows their bloodline for generations.


Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
Two deities walk into a Toronto bar, grant consciousness and language to fifteen unsuspecting dogs in a nearby veterinary clinic, and watch to see what unfolds, in this experiment on the happiness of mortals. 

This Giller-prize-winning book had me hooked with its recognizable Toronto-based settings and its compelling characters that include a poet named Prince, and leader of the pack, a Neapolitan Mastiff named Atticus. A fable for the ages, it’s the second in a series of Alexis' planned books to explore various aspects of the human condition.

Butter Honey Pig Bread by francesca ekwuyasi
This debut novel spans time and place, telling the story of twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, whose mother Kambirinachi believes she is an Ogbanje (a spirit) that brings families misfortune. Kambirinachi defies the rules set for an Ogbanje and the consequences of her actions fall upon her twin daughters.

This genre-defying story captured and retained my attention through its combination of the paranormal, family history, romance, trauma, queerness, sibling dynamics, and food. This rich, sensual, and unforgettable read was a feast.