Cover Image: Black Like Who?

Black Like Who?

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Member Reviews

I requested this book because I did not know anything about black Canadians. I try to learn more about America and its own troubled past but jumped at this opportunity to learn about another country. Like many have said in their reviews, this book is very dense and informative. It reads very academically, which is great for learning all kinds of new things but can be a lot of information all at once. I often had to listen to this in small batches to not be overwhelmed. It teach me a wealth of new information.
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This was an incredibly interesting book about the specificity and the universality of the black experience in Canada. It reminded me of the work by W. E. B. Du Bois and Walter Rodney.
It covers many instances of outright racism, micro aggression, and even of the racist acts of the well-meaning ignorant white majority and how it further impacts and shapes the black Canadians.
This was the second non-fiction book I read about racism towards black people in Canada, the first being Policing Black Lives by Robyn Maynard. I hope to find many more books on this important collection of experiences now that I feel like I have a broad understanding of the topic.
This book was well-written and passionate and I am personally very thankful of this reissuing since it brought the book back into the public discourse, something that we should be very thankful for.
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The parts of this that were about Canadian Black culture and and the ways in which is is (and should not be) overshadowed by African American culture or reduced to Caribbean immigrant stereotypes were really interesting.  But far too much of this was taken up by critical nitpicking and academic arguments that were on the level of disputing how many angels could dance on the head of a pin (e.g,, arguing about whether 'Black Studies' or 'Black Cultural Studies' was the better field).  That made much of this book a slog.
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Even 25 years later, this book is still just as relevant…it shouldn’t be. We should have progressed far beyond the issues presented by Rinaldo Walcott in 1997.

Unfortunately North America still grapples with what it means to be a Canadian, or an American. How is it that the Black experience is still so misunderstood? How is it that our (Black) life lessons, deep hurts, and infinite joy is perceived as not being relatable to anyone outside of the Black community? Why is our (Black) national identity separate from our racial identity? But if you happen to be white, they are synonymous? Will there ever be a time when the Black citizens of North America will be considered full citizens?

These topics and more are explored in this work and unfortunately the answers still elude us. They are presented clearly and are flanked by a wealth of resources.

One thing I will note is that this work is incredibly dense. It offers a plethora of information and examples, which is very helpful when processing the complex subject matter., but made listening to it a bit difficult for me. I found myself rewinding often to make sure I captured what was being said. I would have preferred to have a physical copy of the book. This may have been a personal issue, but it did impact my experience with the work.
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In Chapter One of this book, the author begins with a quote then continues with, “This is a meditation on the place of Black Canadas in contemporary discourses of Black diasporas and the Black Atlantic.”  Clearly in my mind, meaning a treatise on Black men and women in Canadian history.  Continuing, a clear, academic feel arises.  This is not to say the book (I listened to the audio version) was boring.  Far from it.  The author Rinaldo Walcott (and the narrator, Nigel Shawn Williams), created a very interesting reading on the view of Black culture in Canada by way of the use of literature and music and other cultural aspects.  One chapter of interest is Chapter Five on the politics of 3rd cinema in Canada.  Featured is the Canadian film director, Clement Virgo and discussion of his first featured film, Rude.  He states that Black bodies (physical body) had gone MIA in public debate.  "The Black body in western discourse is a marked body--marked with a history of enslavement and disenfranchisement."  The author goes on to say that discourses concerning Blackness shifted since the 1950s and the 60s and 70s and  “Black post-modernity is an unsentimental approach to addressing the complex and varied history of diasporic Black peoples.”  There is some comparison and discussion of Blacks in America, Britain, and other parts of the world in a historical sense.  The title of this book, “Black Like Who?” deserves some pondering.
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I received a free e audiobook from Netgalley.  I realized I had no knowledge of Black Canadian history.  As a person, that is interested in Black history this surprised me.  I started googling Black Canadian history as I listened to this book.

The book gives so much information on Black Canadian history.  As a person, who realized knew nothing about the subject, it was a little overwhelming at times.  However, the book is a good overview.  I really liked the narrator of the book.

The book is very academic.  It made me feel like I was taking an introductory class.  Words like diaspora and Blackness are used a lot in the book.  Unfortunately, Canada has done a lot wrong in how it has treated its Black citizens ( not very different from America).

I did start to wander off at times.  I don't know if it was too much information or my lack of knowledge in the subject. .I usually read books instead of listen to them.

I want to thank the author for allowing me to listen to his book.  Giving me the opportunity to learn more about the history of Black Canadians.  Thank you for so much research into the material.
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This was such a fascinating book! I'm so glad it is coming out in audio because admittedly, it was a bit too academic than my usual reading, but the audio format helped as I could go back and listen to certain sections again to fully grasp the points Walcott was making. 

For anyone who is interested in an engaging and smart look at how Blackness in performed, perceived, categorized, and treated in Canada and specifically in Canadian cultural spaces, this is a great read. Walcott discusses the various arts and culture institutions that make up Canada's cultural spaces and contribute so much to building Canada's idea of itself as a nation; literary works; pop culture, music, and film; and even delves into some cultural policies and shifts in the city of Toronto.

It's remarakable that this book was written in the 90's (I know it was updated a few years ago as well) because so much of what Walcott discusses is still relevant today, and in a way, he was ahead of his time getting into these discussions - or perhaps the larger society is just very late!

Anyway, this was great and I'm definitely going to reread it because I'm sure I've missed some things!
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There is good reason this is still considered such an important work, especially in the world of academia. I was fortunate to be chosen to receive an advanced reader copy of the anniversary edition. The original study of Black culture in Canada has been updated to now include of-the-moment topics, such as BLM.

I truly learned — and felt — a lot. The essays cover so much information and undoubtedly provoke thought. This is a book that will stick with me. It has clearly stood the test of time, and the updated version will surely help many others better understand the complexity of the lives of Black Canadians, past and present. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of the anniversary edition in exchange for my honest review.
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