Compelling characters, confident craftsmanship and deep meaning: these are the qualities literary critic and columnist for CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter Donna Bailey Nurse looks for in a really good book. And as part of our winter season of programs centring the perspectives and experiences of Black women artists, she’ll host a series of talks with Black female authors who are making waves on the literary scene.
To kick things off, this month, Donna speaks with Canadian author Esi Edugyan, a Scotiabank Giller Prize-winner in 2011, and again in 2018 for her novel Washington Black – which was included in Barack Obama’s favourite books of 2018 list. Then in February, Donna sits down with New York Times best-seller Angie Thomas, author of the award-winning young adult novel The Hate You Give, for the Toronto launch of her newest book On the Come Up. Though both these talks are now sold out you can still purchase tickets for Donna’s discussion with M. NourbeSe Philip in March about Zong!, her most recent book of poetry and Bla_k, a new collection of essays.
We caught up with Donna to learn more about the series of author talks, Black representation in the Canadian literary scene and more.
AGO: The series you’ve helped curate features three authors. What similarities do you see in each of their work?
Donna: Being a Black woman in the world strongly influences the stories they choose to tell and how they choose to tell them. All three authors are in their own way concerned with the liberation of the body and the voice.
AGO: What stands out about these three authors?
Donna: Esi Edugyan stands out for her profound humanity; her focus on the Black individual over the group; her use of unexpected settings and her impeccable writing style. Angie Thomas stands out for her unmatched ability to capture on the page the power and pain of today’s African-American youth. And M. NourbeSe Philip is set apart by her extraordinary poetic gifts and her commitment to finding language for the unspeakable.
AGO: What are you reading right now?
Donna: Right now I am reading An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma, Unless by Carol Shields and (re-reading) Negroland by Margo Jefferson.
AGO: What was the first book you loved?
Donna: One of the books I remember most fondly and read again and again in my pre-teen years is What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. I was mesmerized by Katy’s journey from selfishness to goodness.
AGO: Any up-and-coming authors, or new releases you are looking forward to in 2019?
Donna: I am looking forward to a new collection of stories by Edwidge Danticat due out this summer. It’s called Everything Inside is Worth Dying For. Danticat is one of my all-time favourite authors.
M. NourbeSe Philip with Donna Bailey Nurse takes place on March 13 at 7 pm and tickets are available now.
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