“But where are you from, really?”
This is a question that Canadians of all walks of life are often asked. Part of our identity as Canadians is that we all come from somewhere else, and no matter how long ago, it is a defining part of who we are.
But for many people, this question is about more than where their family came to Canada from. For many, it brings about a question of home and belonging. These are the ideas that Esi Edugyan explored in her 2013 Henry Kreisel Memorial Lecture, Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home. Born in Canada to parents from Ghana, Esi Edugyan has travelled to and lived in various countries, all the while searching for her identity and coming to understand the meaning of home.
As an author, Edugyan also reflects on Canadian literature and the notion of the “Canadian story.” Her wildly successful novel, Half-Blood Blues, was set outside of Canada, and something she often heard was that it was not a typical Canadian novel. But as Edugyan points out in her lecture, the beauty of our country is that it is made-up of stories from all over the world, and that our literature reflects that. It’s not the setting that makes a book Canadian, it’s the author and their story.
This is exactly what I feel Canadian literature is all about. When I declare something a “truly Canadian novel,” it’s not that the book is set in the country or that the characters have spent their lives within our borders. It’s about the way the story comes across - quiet but bold, unassuming but boundary-pushing, brave and assured - the same as our people.
About The Henry Kreisel Memorial Lecture
The Henry Kreisel Memorial Lecture is the CLC’s most prestigious annual public event. The lectures are co-published in the “Kreisel Series” by the Canadian Literature Centre and the University of Alberta Press. For 2015, the CLC has invited Lynn Coady. She is a Canadian novelist, journalist and TV writer, originally from Cape Breton Island, NS, now dividing her time between Edmonton and Toronto. Her collection of short stories Hellgoing won the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
For more information visit the Canadian Literature Centre