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Reviewed by:
  • Margaret Laurence Writes Africa and Canada by Laura K. Davis, and: West/Border/Road: Nation and Genre in Contemporary Canadian Narrative by Katherine Ann Roberts
  • Mahesh Kumar Dey
Laura K. Davis, Margaret Laurence Writes Africa and Canada (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2017), 194 pp. Cased. $65.99. ISBN 978-1-77112-146-0. Paper. $29.99. ISBN 978-1-77112-147-7.
Katherine Ann Roberts, West/Border/Road: Nation and Genre in Contemporary Canadian Narrative (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018), 416 pp. Cased. $95. ISBN 978-0-7735-5322-4.

Laura Davis's reference book on Margaret Laurence and her works reveals how Canada is conceived as a cultural 'mosaic' and explores how the author displaces the idea that Canada is a multicultural nation that is a sum total of different cultures. She presents Canada as a nation constituted through continually changing social relations. This text is divided into two parts, one on 'writing about Canada' and the other on 'writing about Africa'. It consists of four chapters: the first two about Africa and the other two about Canada. The author explains the notions like writing, place, and their interrelationship in the introduction chapter. In the preface, she writes: 'Margaret Laurence Writes Africa and Canada provides a unique contribution to the field of Laurence studies because it considers her work in relation to African philosophies …; in relation to the Canadian government policies related to immigration and multiculturalism; and in relation to historical events on decolonisation' (p. x). She has analysed her six works, three based on her stay in Somaliland and the then Gold Coast, and three about Canada. The books on Canada deal with the events set in the fictional town of Manawaka and her hometown of Neepawa, Manitoba. The six titles are The Prophet's Camel Bell, This Side Jordan, The Tomorrow Tamer, The Stone Angel, A Bird in the House and The Diviners. She has used the term 'settler' for the British, Scottish, and Irish people as well as the French. For the First Nations people, she has used the commonly used label 'Aboriginal'. According to Davis, Laurence has shown her commitment to the politics of decolonisation, nation building, and multiculturalism. This book 'argues that Laurence re-imagined Africa and Canada and influenced changing ideologies of the Canadian nation itself' (p. 2).

Laurence is against imperialism and the colonisation of Africans by the British settlers. She supported the freedom movements of local tribes, and expresses her ideas regarding African nationhood and decolonisation of African people. Laurence connects herself with her own motherland and asserts: 'Writing … has to be set firmly in some soil, some place, some outer and inner territory' (p. 9). In the stranger's heart, it should be a place to stand on. Davis states, 'To consider how Laurence positioned herself in both Africa and Canada is to consider how she understood tensions within and among relations' (p. 18). With her mixed Scottish and Métis identity, Laurence has been influenced by the Canadian prairies, its landscape, and diverse immigrant population. She has become a part of Canadian nationalism, but simultaneously she is influenced by the global forces. This book demonstrates her role as an activist in the African landscape, being conscious of her status as a white colonial woman. It is a must-read book for all interested in Laurence studies, postcolonial studies, and African studies.

Katherine Ann Roberts' book West/Border/Road: Nation and Genre in Contemporary Canadian Narrative is a reference work that deals with each of these three topics. The first chapter is about Guy Vanderhaeghe's western trilogy, the second about Aritha Van Herk's West, the third about intelligence and the border by the CBC, the fourth about the [End Page 179] border songs, frozen river and Canada, the fifth about Quebec road narratives, and the last one about the Canadian road movie with Hollywood Canucks. These narratives are the selected examples of contemporary Canada's cultural engagement with three national genres. These three genres 'map out imagined places, circumscribe territory, defend and transgress boundaries and borders, travel along roads and routes' (p. 4). They offer a wealth of material from...