Dionne Brand’s storied career has brought her many places, including a role as Toronto’s Poet Laureate. But back in the late eighties and early nineties, while writing and co-directing films with the women of Studio D at the National Film Board, Ms. Brand published two books with Women’s Press.
The first, published in 1989, is Sans Souci And Other Stories, a wonderfully lyrical series of stories which take you from an Obeah House and Speakeasy on Vaughan Road in Toronto to a small house in the village of Guayguayare in Trinidad, where grandparents pass down charms and protections from night spirits. The women of these stories claim their identity through traditions living in one land and the next, finding themselves in the details of the everyday. Read more about Sans Souci here.The second book published in 1991 by Women’s Press, is No Burden to Carry: Narratives of Black Women Working in Ontario 1920s to 1950s. Like many great works in the history genre it has unfortunately gone out of print. In any case, No Burden to Carry documents the complexities of various female figures in Black-Canadian history with verve and an interest that goes beyond the cursory knowledge of the historical surveys that preceded it. The title of the work comes from a woman who worked in Ontario in the 1930s, and was told by her parents that education was “no burden to carry” in that no one could take it away from her. At the time, it seemed to Brand that this woman’s parents were advising her on a way to simultaneously transcend gender and racial inequality. Brand’s adaptation of this work into film is included in her work for the NFB, in the series Women at the Well (1989-1993). You can read more about Ms Brand’s work in film, and where you can see her work, here.