Monday, August 14, 2006

Review: Trials and Triumphs

[Lawrence Hill. Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians. Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1993.]

If I had known this book was aimed at the elementary school level I probably would not have ordered it, but it is still a good book to own. It is a short, accessible overview of the contributions of African Canadians to the history of this country.

In some ways, it is worth comparing to Towards Freedom (which I recently reviewed) -- both were published in the '90s by the same Toronto publisher, though this book targets grade school rather than high school youth, and it covers the same great expanse of time in even fewer pages. As in Towards Freedom, the vision of Canadian history that is presented is implicitly critical of the Eurocentrism that usually dominates the subject but not particularly critical in other ways -- no explicit questioning of the core myths of nationalism, an emphasis on a particular kind of inclusion into the historical narrative, and no attention to the contributions of African Canadians who have, say, struggled to overthrow capitalism, for example. But every book is a product of compromises, and I think the navigation of the difficult line given the target audience and intended use was more successful here than in the other book. In particular, some of the questionable-to-me ideas that received more open endorsement in the other book were merely left unexplored in this one.

It is a book that is not particularly useful to me as I slowly work away on my project, but it is one I'll be glad to have on my shelves for L's use once he is a few years older. If only it was not also out of print, I would recommend that others who have little ones invest in it as well.

[Edit: For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

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