Author to share insight into African diaspora in literature

Acclaimed author Lawrence Hill will speak about identity, displacement, courage and the search for home at an upcoming Brock event.

The Brock community is invited to attend the virtual talk on Friday, Feb. 18, when Hill, an international bestselling author, will talk about the craft of writing and his new children’s novel, Beatrice and Croc Harry.

“This is a rare opportunity to speak one on one with not only an international bestselling writer of journalism, fiction and plays, but also someone who can answer their questions about how to write the self, how to process grief and world news, racism and unbelonging through creative acts,” says event organizer Natalee Caple, Associate Professor with the Department of English Language and Literature.

Beatrice and Croc Harry, an allegory of forced migration and loss of identity in the African diaspora, emerged out of bedtime stories Hill used to tell his daughter when she was young.

Author Lawrence Hill will speak about his latest book, Beatrice and the Croc Harry, at a virtual event Friday, Feb. 18.

“I am naturally thinking in the novel about the challenges of people of African descent who live in the Americas and who descend from enslaved Africans to locate their homes and their ancestors in Africa,” Hill told Caple by email. “It can be a great challenge to develop a sense of identity, belonging and personal and cultural history when you have been ripped from your homeland and severed from your loved ones.”

The story follows Beatrice, a young girl who awakens in a forest with amnesia and no understanding of why she is there. As she begins to get her bearings, she befriends a 700-pound crocodile and together they embark on a journey to find her identity, home and family.

While the novel is aimed at children aged nine to 14, Hill hopes it will appeal to adults as well. It is a novel about forced migration, predation, danger, trust and friendship, he says.

“I also hope this novel gives readers reason to reflect about injustice and how to confront it, and about how perpetrators of injustice and those who have been wronged might meet again later in a place of respect and healing,” he writes.

Hill will talk about why he felt this was the right time to write a story for children and situate his novel in the context of other works examining similar issues. He will also explore the challenges of the genre and answer questions following the talk.

“Creation as research is incredibly important because it is empowering and I am so excited for our students to get to see this talk and ask their questions directly of Lawrence Hill,” says Caple.

Hill’s novels and non-fiction works have been published around the world. The son of American civil rights activists who moved to Canada, Hill is a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph.

Part of Brock University’s observation of Black History Month, the talk is sponsored by English Language and Literature’s Creative Writing program, the Faculty of Humanities Dean’s Discretionary Fund, and Office of Human Rights and Equity.

The virtual event is free, but participants will need to preregister on Zoom. More event details can be found on ExperienceBU.

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