HHSS library introduces more Black-Canadian authors

By Sue Tiffin

Within days of a display dedicated to works by Black-Canadians being set up in the library at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School to recognize Black History Month Brother by David Chariandry was signed out by a student.

The display will grow after teacher-librarian Mary Cannon realized that despite having a good collection in general the high school was lacking in books representing Black-Canadians or Black-Canadian authors.

“We chose to focus on fiction written by Black-Canadian authors for our library display and actually were only able to come up with five titles in our collection of approximately 4000 fiction titles” said Cannon. “We have a lot of great current works written by Black-American authors but not nearly as many Canadian resources (obviously). The same was true of our biography section. Many titles of inspirational Black-Americans but not many of Canadians – in fact just two one about Jerome Iginla and one about Viola Desmond.”

Besides Brother the HHSS library had Field Guide to the North American by Ben Philippe The Book of Negroes and Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill and Washington Black by Esi Edugyan in its collection.

“So my co-op student Brooke Billings and I put the display together have ordered some more books to help round out the section and are now aware of a bit of a lack in our collection” said Cannon. “Which I suppose after all is the purpose of events like Black History Month.”

Cannon has added Half-Blood Blues by Edugyan Canada Reads 2020 long-list contender The Youth of God by Hassan Ghedi Santur and Fate of Flames a young adult fantasy by Sarah Raughley hoping that the themes of the books which deal with black historical themes or experiences might be appealing to the HHSS student population. She’d like to add more biographies as well after discussion with fellow teachers who might have some ideas of what students are interested in based on conversations that have come from classroom learning.

“There are so many things you can do you can put up resources about Martin Luther King and talk about the history of oppression on this continent but I feel like kids know about that and it’s not news to them” said Cannon. She noted the 2020 theme for Black History Month is  “Canadians of African Descent: Going forward guided by the past.”

“I just like the idea of celebrating achievement” she said. “I just wanted to say this is what Black-Canadians are doing in our community these authors have written these books and you might want to read them they’re awesome books.”