Mayann Francis

An Honourable Life

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Pub Date 05 Jul 2019 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2021

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Description

When Mayann Francis was named Nova Scotia's first Black lieutenant-governor, she wondered if the community would accept her. Francis was born just three months after businesswoman Viola Desmond was arrested for sitting in a whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. Had enough changed? In this candid memoir, Francis describes her journey from humble beginnings in Whitney Pier, the daughter of immigrants, to the vice-regal office. She explains how her religious faith and her family's belief in education equipped her for life's challenges, including the loss of much of her vision.

Before Francis was named lieutenant-governor, she had earned a masters degree in New York City and worked in a series of senior positions. But her time in the vice-regal office was not without challenges. Francis was unable to live in Government House for much of her term because the official residence was being renovated. As the renovations dragged on, there were rumours, she writes, that some politicians and bureaucrats did not want her to ever move in. Was it, she asks, because she was Black? Francis poses tough questions in this book, but also offers advice and encouragement to anyone faced with challenges.

When Mayann Francis was named Nova Scotia's first Black lieutenant-governor, she wondered if the community would accept her. Francis was born just three months after businesswoman Viola Desmond was...


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ISBN 9781771087131
PRICE CA$29.95 (CAD)

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Featured Reviews

Mayann Francis didn’t anticipate becoming Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. Yet after a varied career in the United States and Canada, working primarily in the field of human rights, there was perhaps no better person for the job when she was appointed on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006. But it wasn’t necessarily an easy road getting there, nor an easy undertaking. In Mayann Francis: An Honourable Life, she traces from her humble beginnings to the challenges of being the first Black Lietenant Governor of Nova Scotia in a system often struggling with its own racism. No question, Mayann Francis has led an interesting life. She’s worked for the District Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. Served as the CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. Acted as the Nova Scotia Ombudsman. She’s maintained an extensive career of public service, and the sheer volume of work she has performed consistently since the 1970s could almost be overwhelming. However, in laying it all out on paper, if anything, her approach is almost understated. During an era of the overindulgent memoir, Francis keeps her focus tight. In the first section, she limits her early years to only a couple of chapters without drawing into long anecdotes. Yet she still manages to showcase the importance of her family in both the United States and Canada. This leaves room for the real meat of the book: her time in politics. Readers looking for dishy gossip might be disappointed. Francis does her best to remain apolitical, going so far as to remove the name of a political party from a related contemporaneous journal entry, though she does remark on their rude actions at the time. However, she writes with such a genuine enthusiasm for her duties that that doesn’t really matter. When she writes about meeting Queen Elizabeth II, though she remains professional, her sheer joy in the moment is palpable. It’s a common demeanor throughout her memoir. Even so, there’s a careful examination of racism and how it relates to her career that’s carried as a painful throughline. These moments are the most frank and, in turn, the most powerful. It’s perhaps best illuminated by a scandal pertaining to her moving into Government House— an issue exacerbated by continued renovations. Francis expertly questions the delayed schedule for her moving in— was there overt ill will at having a Black Lieutenant Governor? As someone attuned to constant obvious and subtle racism, Francis engages these issues directly. Above all, Francis provides something uncommon but refreshing in politics: brevity. Her memoir might be slim, but this allows for clear focus as she looks back on a unique career in Canadian politics.

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