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Dionne Brand

Dionne Brand, poet, writer, filmmaker, educator, and activist (b at Guayguayare, Trinidad 195 !" Dionne Brand moved to Toronto in 19#$ and attended t%e &'()*+,(T- ./ T.+.'T. (B0, *nglis% and 1%ilosop%y! and t%e .ntario (nstitute for ,tudies in *ducation (20, 1%ilosop%y of *ducation!" Dionne Brand, poet, writer, filmmaker, educator, and activist (b at Guayguayare, Trinidad 195 !" Dionne Brand moved to Toronto in 19#$ and attended t%e &niversity of Toronto (B0, *nglis% and 1%ilosop%y! and t%e .ntario (nstitute for ,tudies in *ducation (20, 1%ilosop%y of *ducation!" ,%e %as publis%ed poetry, fiction, essays and ot%er writings3 s%e %as taug%t literature, creative writing, and women4s studies at various universities in 5anada and t%e &nited ,tates3 and s%e is an influential %uman rig%ts activist" Brand is considered one of 5anada4s 6 if not t%e world4s 6 most accomplis%ed poetic voices" Dionne Brand is best known for %er poetry, of w%ic% s%e %as publis%ed several volumes, including Land to Light On (199#!, w%ic% won t%e Trillium Book 0ward for 1oetry and t%e Governor General4s 7iterary 0ward for 1oetry3 thirsty (8$$8!, w%ic% won t%e 1at 7owt%er 2emorial 0ward3 Inventory (8$$9!3 and Ossuaries (8$1$!, w%ic% won Brand t%e 8$11 Griffin 1oetry 1ri:e" ;er poetry is c%aracteri:ed by formal and linguistic e<perimentation in %er endeavour to articulate wit% %onesty and passion t%e e<perience of an immigrant woman of colour in 5anada" (n %er well6known long poem ='o 7anguage (s 'eutral= (199$!, Brand meditates on %er =escape= from Trinidad to 5anada, w%ere language can be >ust as enslaving and w%ere %er %istory is >ust as obscured by ot%ers4 (w%ites4, men4s, %eterose<uals4! master narratives? =;istory will only %ear you if you give birt% to a @ woman w%o smoot%es starc%ed linen in t%e wardrobe @ drawer,= s%e writes, =and w%o gives birt% to a woman w%o is a @ poet, and, even t%en"= 0ccordingly, Brand4s work c%allenges attempts to stabili:e and fi< boundaries of identity, w%et%er personal or national" Brand4s fiction includes t%e s%ort6story collection San Souci and Other Stories (19A9! and t%e novels At the Full and Change of the Moon (1999! and What We All Long For (8$$5!, w%ic% won t%e Toronto Book 0ward for its c%arged, c%allenging and lyrical e<amination of belonging in a multicultural city" ;er first novel, (n Another Place, Not Here (1999, Ne !or" #i$es 'otable Book 199A!, tells t%e story of two 5aribbean women, one w%o wis%es to escape from t%e islands to t%e city to attain a life of independence, and t%e ot%er w%o returns to t%e islands from Toronto to effect political c%ange? bot% women long to be =in anot%er place, not %ere"= T%eir mutual feelings of cultural displacement bring t%em toget%er, for a time, as lovers" 7ike %er poetry, muc% of Brand4s fiction is lyrical and r%etorically innovative, full of sumptuous imagery and vivid evocations of %er protagonists4 wide range of e<periences and emotional states" Dionne Brand is also a prolific writer of non6fiction, including No %urden to Carry (1991!, a book of oral %istories of Black women in .ntario, %read Out of Stone (199B!, a book of critical essays on gender and race issues in 5anada, and A Ma& to the 'oor of No (eturn (8$$1!, a self6refle<ive meditation on memory, identity, and t%e %istory of t%e 0frican diaspora" /or Brand, =t%e Door of 'o +eturn= is a =fissure between t%e past and t%e present,= a place w%ere %er ancestors departed =t%e .ld Corld for t%e 'ew"=

T%e book is %er attempt to draw a =map= of t%at unc%artered territory, to =e<plore= %er ancestry as a woman of colour in 5anada" (n addition to %er contributions to do:ens of ant%ologies and >ournals, Brand %as also written or co6directed films for t%e 'ational /ilm Board of 5anada, including Older, Stronger, Wiser (19A9! and Sisters in the Struggle (1991!, portraits of influential 5anadian women of colour" ,%e is also a committed social activist, critiDuing economic and political power structures and speaking against racism, discrimination against women, and discrimination against gay and lesbian communities (see ;omose<uality!" 0mong ot%er pro>ects, s%e %as worked as a counsellor at t%e Toronto (mmigrant Comen4s 5entre, and s%e is a founding member of Our Lives, 5anada4s first newspaper devoted to Black women" Dionne Brand %as taug%t literature and creative writing in .ntario and Britis% 5olumbia" ,%e %as also been a Distinguis%ed )isiting 1rofessor at ,t" 7awrence &niversity in 'ew -ork and %as %eld t%e +ut% Cynn Coodward 5%air in Comen4s ,tudies at ,imon /raser &niversity" ,%e currently %olds a &niversity +esearc% 5%air in *nglis% and 5reative Criting at t%e &niversity of Guelp%" ,%e was made a /ellow of t%e +oyal ,ociety of 5anada in 8$$9 and appointed 1oet 7aureate of Toronto in 8$$9"

Dionne Brand (ntroduction Dionne Brand 1953Trinidadian6born 5anadian poet, novelist, biograp%er, s%ort6story writer, and essayist" T%e following entry presents an overview of Brand4s career t%roug% 8$$ " 0n emigrant from t%e 5aribbean nation Trinidad, Brand %as been recogni:ed as one of 5anada4s most important contemporary writers for articulating concerns traditionally silenced by mainstream society" Brand4s writings typically foreground matters of race, gender, and cultural imperialism" 0 radical social activist, s%e %as freDuently blended standard *nglis% diction wit% 5aribbean dialect in %er work, often preferring t%e latter to t%e former" ,ince arriving in 5anada, Brand %as defended a number of black, feminist, and labor causes, including t%ose of t%e 5anadian 5ommunist 1arty and t%e (nternational 5oalition of Black Trade &nionists" (n addition, Brand was a founding member and editor of Our Lives, t%e first black women4s newspaper in 5anada" Biographical Information Born in Guayguayare, Trinidad, on Eanuary #, 195 , Brand was raised by %er grandmot%er" ,%e attended 'aparima Girls4 ;ig% ,c%ool in ,an /ernando and graduated in 19#$" &pon graduation, Brand emigrated to 5anada and enrolled at t%e &niversity of Toronto w%ere s%e earned a bac%elor4s degree in *nglis% and p%ilosop%y in 19#5" (n 19#A, Brand publis%ed %er first poetry collection, )Fore 'ay Morning* Distressed by t%e deart% of c%ildren4s literature about t%e black e<perience s%e discovered w%ile working wit% t%e Black *ducation 1ro>ect, Brand wrote +arth Magic (19A$!, a c%ildren4s poetry book" /ollowing t%e publication of Pri$itive Offensive (19A8! and Winter +&igra$s , +&igra$s to +rnesto Cardenal in 'efense of Claudia (19A !, Brand traveled to Grenada to assist t%e revolution until t%e &nited ,tates invaded in 19A " ;er e<perience of and outrage at t%e invasion inspired %er fourt% poetry collection, Chronicles of the Hostile Sun (19AB!" &pon returning to Toronto, Brand worked at various black and feminist community organi:ations, including t%e (mmigrant Comen4s 5entre, t%e Black -out% ;otline, and t%e Toronto Board of *ducation" (n 19A9, Brand co6wrote wit% Frisant%a ,ri B%aggiyadatta t%e essay collection (ivers Have Sources, #rees Have (oots* During t%e late 19A$s, Brand pursued graduate studies at .ntario (nstitute for ,tudies in *ducation, w%ic% granted %er a master4s degree in %istory and t%e p%ilosop%y of education in 19A9" T%at year, Brand also publis%ed %er first s%ort6story collection, San Souci, and contributed to t%e production of t%e 'ational /ilm Board of 5anada documentary Older Stronger Wiser* (n 199$, Brand publis%ed No Language Is Neutral, a poetry collection w%ic% was nominated for t%e prestigious Governor General4s 0ward" &sing %er preliminary researc% for a doctorate degree t%at s%e eventually abandoned, Brand collected interviews wit% working6class black women in No %urden to Carry (1991!" ,%e contributed to several ot%er documentaries before publis%ing t%e essay collection %read Out of Stone in 1995" (n 199#, s%e publis%ed %er first novel, In Another Place, Not Here, and %er si<t% volume of poetry, Land to Light On, w%ic% won t%e Governor General4s 0ward for poetry" ,ince t%en, Brand %as written t%e novel At the

Full and Change of the Moon (1999!, t%e fictional autobiograp%y A Ma& to the 'oor of No (eturn (8$$8!, and t%e poetry collection #hirsty (8$$8!" Major Works Brand4s poetry generally centers on issues concerning race, gender, and cultural politics, particularly in relation to Brand4s status as an e<ile from bot% %er native and adopted %omelands" /or e<ample, )Fore 'ay Morning deals wit% memories from BrandGs c%ild%ood in Trinidad and %er painful separation from %er beloved grandmot%er w%ile recalling t%e blatant racism and cultural imperialism t%at prompted %er emigration to 5anada" *c%oing t%e militant sentiments of t%e 199$s Black 1ower 2ovement, Pri$itive Offensive tracks t%e origins of t%e 0frican diaspora, celebrating its contributions to Cestern civili:ation and e<tolling its unity in t%e face of oppression" ,uffused wit% wit and irony, Winter +&igra$s , +&igra$s to +rnesto Cardenal in 'efense of Claudia describes t%e life circumstances of black 5anadians, suggesting t%at t%e frigid climate corresponds wit% t%e in>ustice and se<ism of 5anadian culture" Based on Brand4s e<perience of t%e revolution in Grenada and t%e subseDuent 0merican invasion, Chronicles of the Hostile Sun narrates a %istory of 5aribbean revolutions from a female point of view" 5omprising free verse and prose poems written in bot% standard and 5aribbean *nglis%, No Language Is Neutral demonstrates %ow racism, classism, and %eterose<ism affect speakers4 attitudes toward t%e *nglis% language" Land to Light On bemoans t%e in>ustice and ineDuality of 5anadian society, lamenting t%e worldwide collapse of socialism and t%e pervasive violence of contemporary times" 7ike %er poetry, Brand4s fiction also contains a strong political message t%at ec%oes concerns about gender, race, and class" T%e s%ort stories of Sans Souci draw upon Brand4s c%ild%ood wit% %er grandmot%er in Trinidad, %er relocation as a young adult to Toronto, and %er return to t%e 5aribbean during t%e revolution in Grenada" 5elebrating t%e struggles and triump%s of immigrants, many of t%ese stories also use t%e 5aribbean vernacular in dialogue and incorporate t%e imagery and style of poetry" Brand4s first novel, In Another Place, Not Here, encompasses t%e colonial and postcolonial %istory of slavery and its conseDuences, narrating t%e relations%ip between t%ree women" 0lternating from settings in t%e 5aribbean to Toronto and back again, t%e novel articulates t%e anguis% of oppression perpetrated by w%ites upon blacks as well as t%e liberation of one of t%e women, w%o comes to terms wit% %er lesbianism" ,imilarly, t%e novel At the Full and Change of the Moon spans t%e decades between t%e 1A8$s and t%e 199$s, recounting t%e generational and geograp%ical effects of a slave woman4s refusal to submit to w%ite domination, w%ile t%e fictional autobiograp%y A Ma& to the 'oor of No (eturn represents Brand4s searc% for %er own ancestry woven from fragments of personal memories, travel memoirs, and newspaper articles" (n addition to poetry and fiction, Brand4s oeuvre contains several nonfiction collections t%at reflect concerns about racism and cultural imperialism" 0n e<tended essay interspersed wit% interviews, (ivers Have Sources, #rees Have (oots addresses discrimination against black and female 5anadians, w%ile No %urden to Carry transcribes a series of oral %istories by black working6class women w%o lived in .ntario from t%e 198$s to t%e 195$s" 5omprising t%irteen essays, %read Out of Stone gat%ers essays on suc% diverse topics as t%e politics of writing, t%e t%eoretical applications of cultural appropriation, and t%e similarities between racism, se<ism, and %omop%obia" Critical Reception

5ritics %ave generally praised Brand4s writing as muc% for its political content as its r%etorical strategies, particularly for prominently using 5aribbean dialect and street slang rat%er t%an conventional *nglis% diction and synta<" C%ile some commentators %ave recogni:ed Brand since t%e mid619A$s as 5anada4s Hfirst ma>or e<ile female poet,I ot%ers %ave traced %er consistent attempts to give voices to people marginali:ed by t%eir race, gender, class, or se<ual orientation" ,ome literary sc%olars %ave studied Brand4s work as bot% a response to and an e<tension of 2odernism4s principles, observing t%e creation of an original sub>ect position and an aut%entic alternative voice" ,imilarly, feminist critics %ave e<amined t%e communal approac% to cultural memory e<%ibited by Brand4s writings" ,uc% sc%olars closely align %er work wit% t%e subversive traditions of women4s storytelling t%at embrace struggle against and encourage resistance to patriarc%al establis%ments" (n addition, ot%er critics %ave evaluated t%e %istorical conte<ts of Brand4s work, particularly its e<ploration of t%e connections between various kinds of oppression in bot% t%e colonial past and t%e postcolonial present" 0lt%oug% t%e ma>ority of critical reaction to Brand4s writings %as typically emp%asi:ed t%e ways in w%ic% it fosters racial unity and understanding, a number of critics %ave begun to assess %er body of work on aest%etic merits alone"