In celebration of the special issue of Research in African Literatures, What is Africa to Me Now?, contributor Pilar Cuder-Domínguez talks about her essay "In Search of a 'Grammar for Black': Africa and Africans in Lawrence Hill’s Works."
"How does Africa feature in the literary imagination of the black diaspora? In Canada, black writers have chosen to give the continent visibility through the very terms they have coined to situate themselves and their imagined community in relation to their African motherlands: some refer to an “Afrospora” (Marlene NourbeSe Philip), others to an “Afroperiphery” (Wayde Compton), yet others call their land “Africadia” (George Elliott Clarke).
"The Canadian writer Lawrence Hill, despite his African American ancestry, has found it anything but easy to be granted recognition of his affiliation with such prefixes as “Afri-“ or “Afro-”. The reason for this? His light skin. In his memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice (2001), he confessed to having wished as a child to be darker-skinned: “I wanted my blackness to be taken as a given, a fait accompli,” he says, “and even though I was loved in the family, I felt somehow that I would have to affirm my racial identity to be truly accepted.” This wish compelled him, as an adult, to travel to Africa on several occasions. His visits to the continent allowed him to reclaim cultural and racial affiliations—but not necessarily those he had expected.
"While the events in Hill’s life have undoubtedly influenced his artistic vision, they do not solely define it. This article, therefore, looks into the conceptualization of Africanness in the writer’s fictional and non-fictional works. It finds that a racially ambiguous journalist, a light-hearted Cameroonian reporter, and a former West African slave are all pieces of a diasporan jigsaw that fits within a non-essentialist black Atlantic model of identity."
Read "In Search of a 'Grammar for Black': Africa and Africans in Lawrence Hill’s Works" and the rest of the fantastic scholarship in Research in African Literatures 46.4 online now at JSTOR!