Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

Literary Archives

Previous | Table of Contents | Next

List of Fonds and Collections


Dionne Brand fonds. - [1973]-2002. - 3.75 m of textual record and other material.

Biographical Sketch

Through her writing, poet, fiction writer and essayist Dionne Brand explores themes of exile; lesbian erotics; black identity and cultural constructions; racism; revolution; socialism and black women's history.

Dionne Brand's published writing includes eight books of poetry 'Fore Day Morning: Poems (1978), Primitive Offensive (1982), Winter Epigrams and Epigrams to Ernesto Cardenal in Defense of Claudia (1983), Chronicles of the Hostile Sun (1984), No Language is Neutral (1990, nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award), Earth Magic (1993), A Land to Light On (1997, winner of the Trillium Award and the Governor General's Literary Award) and Thirsty (nominated for the Griffin Prize 2002). Her writing also includes a collection of short stories Sans Souci and Other Stories (1988); two novels At the Full and Change of the Moon (1999) and In Another Place, Not Here (short-listed for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Trillium Award, 1996); as well as prose works including essays Bread Out of Stone and Map to the Door of No Return (2002) a work of creative prose reflecting on the black diaspora. Her work is widely taught and frequently anthologized.

Brand has been instrumental in oral history projects concerning black women's history including "The Lives of Black Working Women in Ontario" written with Lois de Shield. Later she developed this oral history work into No Burden to Carry and the film Older Stronger Wiser. Brand also worked on a history of the Canadian Negro Women's Association (CANEWA); a project later completed and published by Laurence Hill. Brand has directed a number of documentary films for the National Film Board of Canada, including Older Stronger Wiser (1989), Sisters in the Struggle (1991), Long Time Comin' (1993), and Listening for Something: Adrienne Rich and Dionne Brand in Conversation (1996), which portrays Brand's dialogue with American poet Adrienne Rich.

Born in Guayguayare, Trinidad, in 1953 and raised there by her grandmother, Brand immigrated to Canada in 1970, settling in Toronto. She was active in the Black Power Movement in the 1970s: an experience, as she later notes, that helped her counter racial oppression but not sexual repression. Brand received a BA in English and Philosophy from the University of Toronto (1975) and an MA in History and Philosophy of Education from the University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) (1989). In 1983, during the revolution in Grenada, Brand worked for 10 months in the Agency for Rural Transformation and was airlifted out of Grenada during the American invasion. This experience altered her profoundly and surfaces particularly in her writing of In Another Place, Not Here, Chronicles of the Hostile Sun and in her essay "Nothing of Egypt" published in Bread Out of Stone.

Brand has worked extensively within the black and feminist communities. She was a counsellor at the Immigrant Women's Centre, a founder and editor of Our Lives (Canada's first black women's newspaper), she chaired the Women's Issue Committee of the Ontario Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, was a facilitator for the Ontario Federation of Labour's (OFL) Women's Committee, she was on the organizing committees of the OFL Workers of Colour Conference and the Metro Labour Council Anti-Racism Conference, she worked on the Black Education Project in Toronto, she was Information Officer for the Caribbean Peoples' Development Agencies and served on the board of a shelter for abused immigrant women.

In 1988, Brand submitted her masters thesis, A Conceptual Analysis of How Gender Roles Are Racially Constructed: Black Women, to OISE at the University of Toronto. She began working toward a PhD in women's history focusing on the work of Mary Ann Shadd (-Cary) editor of the Provincial Freeman and Weekly Advertiser, but quit the PhD program and left an assistant professorship in the English department at the University of Guelph in order to write full-time. In the 1990s, Brand lived for a brief period at Burnt River, Ontario, later returning to live in downtown Toronto.

Brand has taught courses in black literature, literature by women and creative writing as an assistant professor of English at the University of Guelph and at York University. Brand was writer-in-residence at the Halifax City Regional Library and the University of Toronto (1990-1991) and she held the Ruth Wynn Woodward chair in Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University (2000-2002). She also taught poetry at the West Coast Women and Words and through the Humber School for Writers. Brand took part in the New Nation Writers Conference in South Africa (1991) and participated in the Writing Thru' Race Conference (1994) and the Transitional Identities Conference in Mainz, Germany (2000). She toured England and Scotland with Canadian writers Barbara Gowdy, Nicole Brossard and Lee Maracle in 1992 and was a juror for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002.

Scope and Content

The fonds contains manuscripts, research material, copy-edited typescripts and proofs from Dionne Brand's published works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction prose including Sans Souci and Other Stories; At the Full and Change of the Moon; In Another Place, Not Here; Land to Light On; Thirsty; Map to the Door of No Return and Bread Out of Stone. Also included is material from oral history projects, film projects, interviews and teaching; photographs; notes from travel, appearances and awards; and professional and personal correspondence and memorabilia. The fonds documents Brand's activities, graduate studies and writing career from her arrival in Canada up to 2002.

The various series in the fonds are interconnected as Brand was working on many of these projects at the same time or in conjunction with others. The themes which enliven Brand's work thread back and forth between her poetry, fiction, film, research work and non-fiction prose. Brand's work with oral histories of black Canadian women informs her poetry, novels, prose and film work; as does her past, her experiences coming to Canada, her experiences in the Black Power Movement in Toronto and her work in Grenada. The fonds demonstrates Brands movement from a poet on the scene in the 1970s much involved with grass roots community work to her increasing recognition and critical attention. The fonds also elaborates Brand's connections to other writers, in particular Adrienne Rich with whom she corresponded and from whom she received feedback concerning her writing. Brand has corresponded with George Elliot Clarke, Austin Clarke, Marlene NourbeSe Phillip, Claire Harris, Michael Ondaatje, Michelle Cliff and numerous other writers.

Most of the material derives from periods when Brand lived in Toronto, although material from the 1990s also includes work composed in Burnt River, Ontario. Certain of the photographs and other material document the period when Brand was in Grenada, or working with Adrienne Rich in California, return trips to Trinidad and Tobago, and conferences or tours in South Africa and Europe. The fonds is divided into the following series: 1. Poetry stories and novel manuscripts; 2. Oral history, black history: manuscripts and research material; 3. Non-fiction Prose: manuscripts of writings on feminism, race, racism and literature; 4. Correspondence and memorabilia; 5. Teaching; 6. Interviews; 7. Conferences, professional appearances and awards; 8. Filmmaking: transcripts, visuals, planning and correspondence; 9. Social action work; 10. Notebooks.

Immediate Source of Acquisition: acquired from Dionne Brand in September 2002.

Language: material in the fonds is in English.

Restrictions: some restrictions on consultation.

Finding Aid: finding aid available.

Previous | Table of Contents | Next