Black History Month Recommendations With Rowan McCandless - Dundurn
Feb 16, 2024

Black History Month Recommendations With Rowan McCandless

Rowan McCandless's debut memoir Persephone's Children uses inventive forms to chronicle her odyssey as a Black, biracial woman after escaping the stranglehold of domestic abuse and explores the fraught and fragmented relationship between memory and trauma.

Here are the books Rowan recommends to read:

Dear Current Occupant by Chelene Knight
Set in Vancouver's Downtown East Side during the 1980's and 1990's, Chelene Knight's memoir is a story about home and connection. Using a variety of forms, including epistolary, Chelene's story depicts a childhood fraught with constant moving. As a fan of hybrid forms, Dear Current Occupant is a vivid portrait of memory and of seeking a place to belong. 

Stay Black and Die by Addena Sumter-Frietag
Stay Black & Die is a memoir that depicts what life was like for "Penny" growing up as a black child in the North End of Winnipeg in the 1950s and 60s. She struggles with the cruelty of family, intergenerational traumas, and the racism that greets her in the outside world with courage and determination. A definite read for those interested in Black life on the Prairies.

Butter Honey Pig Bread by francesca ekwuyasi 
Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about three Nigerian women; mother, Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. Kambirinachi believes that she is an Ogbanje, a spirit that plagues families with misfortune by dying in childhood to cause its mother misery. By living, she is afraid of the consequences her family will face because of her defiance. When tragedy strikes during the twin's childhood, the family unravels and it will take years before reconciliation can be contemplated. A must-read!

The Outer Harbour by Wayde Compton
The Outer Harbour is a collection of interconnected short stories imbued with elements of speculative fiction. Following a disconnected narrative of lives lived in Vancouver these short stories span from the past into the future. This book opened my eyes to the use of hybridity in fiction. A fantastic read!

Song & Dread by Otoniya J. Okot Bitek
In Song & Dread, Bitek highlights the contradictory nature of the pandemic with the early days of living through COVID-19. The innovative poems of Song & Dread remind us of community and connection, isolation, and grief. The turmoil and uncertainty of a global pandemic are brought forth and contrasted with the everyday struggles of life turned upside-down. A beautiful book of poetry!