Raised in the WASP suburbs of Oakville, Ontario by a white mother and a black father, Langston Cane V feels no sense of belonging. In trying to make sense of his own life, Langston sets out to uncover five generations of family history that toggle between Baltimore, Maryland and the shores of Lake Ontario.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
We enjoyed this novel on several levels: as an engaging story, as a look at life on both sides of the US/Canadian border, and as a source of information about the early history of Oakville -where some of us live. We liked the book’s use of humour and its many wonderful characters such as Yo Yo and Millie. The book left us wanting to learn more about the Underground Railway and black history in Canada.
We were delighted to have Lawrence Hill as our guest when we discussed this novel. Mr. Hill put everyone at ease with his friendly manner. He spoke about the planning and research for this novel and about his current project. He also gave a short reading from the book.
Some of the questions we asked Mr. Hill were:
What is your writing technique? (Hill plans the major structure of a book and then writes drafts of the various scenes in a free form manner- putting down characters and conversations as they bubble up in his imagination)
Do you feel uncomfortable talking about the steamier scenes of your novels? (no, but when giving a public reading it’s best not to read such scenes in full daylight!)
Why does a Canadian writer use US spelling? (it’s a more common spelling which facilitates sales in both markets);
Why did you put the kidnapping scene into the novel -it seemed somewhat out of step with the rest of the book? (I wanted to get the two characters in a room together to resolve their past, so I decided to do it in an outrageous fashion and also liked the idea of upsetting people’s assumptions about the kidnappers.)
How did your family react to your latest book -the autobiographical “Black Berry, Sweet Juice: on Being Black and White in Canada? (they were made very uncomfortable by some of the scenes -just as I would be if my children chose to write about their childhood in twenty years time).