Lawrence Hill speaks at StFX on October 19


Get your shorts to Schwartz Auditorium for an evening with a great Canadian novelist

Photo: Lisa Sakulensky

Photo: Lisa Sakulensky

Lawrence Hill will speak at Schwartz Auditorium Friday October 19th, 2018. Thanks to the StFX event sponsors Committee for Aboriginal and Black Student Success, African Descent Affairs and the Department of English, the Canadian novelist and professor of creative writing at Guelph University is scheduled for a first public speaking event in Antigonish this Fall.

Lawrence is the grandson and son of African-American soldiers who served with the American Army during WW I and WW II, respectively, and is working on a new novel about the African-American soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway in northern BC and Yukon in 1942-43. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, and lives with his family in Hamilton, Ontario and in Woody Point, Newfoundland. 

Earlier this year, Lawrence was interviewed by Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School senior students who had completed a novel study of The Book of Negroes. Lawrence’s critically-acclaimed novel won various awards including The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and two-time winner of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. The Book of Negroes was made into a TV mini-series in 2015. 

Photo: Jenn Priddle

Photo: Jenn Priddle

The questions crafted by senior students deconstruct some key elements of Lawrence’s literary devices like imagery. Senior student Timothy Matthews asked, “How did you come up with imagery for all the different settings?” 

Lawrence replied, “It’s really hard to write about a place, isn’t it? Let’s think about the ways you might write about a place and the kind of images you might use. It might be the image of a tree or nature. It might be the image of sound. What is Aminata hearing? What kind of language is being used around her? It might be the image of history, the social or historical setting of the place.” 

The evening with Lawrence at Schwartz is some four hundred kilometers away from where the novelist did his research in Shelburne, Nova Scotia when writing The Book of Negroes. Shelburne is an important place in Lawrence’s novel, especially since the book fictionalizes the 1784 riots that depicts a fragment of the Black Loyalist experience and resiliency. 

Senior Lauren Breen asked, “How much did you fictionalize the narrative when representing historical events like the Shelburne riots?”

Lawrence responded, “I gave myself every liberty to play with or exaggerate or contort minor details for the purposes of dramatic effect. I didn’t make what I would consider to be any major deviations from my understanding of the grand lines of the transatlantic slave trade.”

The full interview with Lawrence, published on May 31st, is available on The Xaverian Weekly’s website under the Arts and Community section.

Lawrence is author of novels Any Known Blood, Black berry: sweet juice and The Illegal and essays “Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book”, “Is Africa’s Pain Black America’s Burden?” and “Act of love: The life and death of Donna Mae Hill”. 

The later essay, published this year, is a heartfelt personal story that calls for Canada to reform its assisted suicide policies. 

Kalista Desmond and a drum group led by Morgan Gero will perform as opening acts for Lawrence on October 19th. Kalista has performed powerful spoken word poetry as an opening act at last year’s Youth Activism Conference headlining event with Desmond Cole. Morgan’s drum group also performed wonderfully as opening act for special guest Cole during his visit to campus last year. 

The title of Lawrence’s speaking event “Faction: Merging history and fiction in The Book of Negroes and The Illegal” hints that the author will dissect the intersection where fact meets fiction in his literature. Arrive at the October 19th event early to get the best seats in the Auditorium for an evening with special guest Lawrence Hill.