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Releasing My Critical Chatter: An Autobiographical Narrative from the Black Diaspora: A Review


Mary Louise McCarthy is a Ph.D. student at OISE/University of Toronto, an Employment Counselor with the government of New Brunswick, a mother of an adult son, and a fifth-generation African-Canadian. McCarthy was born in New Brunswick, and discussions of race were silenced in her household. McCarthy was often silenced – both in childhood, as well as in her adulthood. This book brings back the important voice of an African-Canadian woman, whose critical chatter can be shared by many.

“Am I naïve to think that my words will be sought and read with enthusiasm especially when compared to Nelson Mandela or Oprah Winfrey? Not at all. My hope is that I can illustrate my own life experiences as a woman from the Black Diaspora and minds will shift a small bit.” (McCarthy, 2011, p. 8).

The theme of the book encompasses the stereotypes and misconceptions that are often perpetrated against African-Canadian women. McCarthy skillfully shows how these misconceptions hurt the author, who is also the representative of the voice of many African-Canadian women. The book is like a tapestry of poetry, memorable moments on the part of the author, as well as theory – interwoven into a carpet of words that creates a path of enlightenment.

In a book divided into five chapters, McCarthy begins the dialogue that was often robbed of her. Her hope is achieved. She discusses how she is the single mother of a son whose father from another part of the diaspora was not interested in his child’s upbringing. She scatters the book with her poems and moments from her past. Here is one of her poems on children:

Children of the African Diaspora
We call to our children
Our descendants of mother Africa
Black sisters, how we raise them
Must prepare them for this land
My black brothers stand together
As our children need to see
That as Parents of the Black Diaspora
Our true “Connection” is our “Key.” (McCarthy, 2011, p.12).

Some of McCarthy’s memorable moments from childhood include when she had a white friend and was going to her house. Once she reached the house with her friend, the mother of the white child slammed the door in her face and said people like her were not allowed in her house. Since racism was not discussed in McCarthy’s household, she had nowhere to have her critical chatter on the subject, but inside herself.

Chapter Two is called “Joining the Diaspora – A Place I Call Home.” McCarthy begins the chapter with a poem about privilege:

Is There Privilege in the Black Diaspora?
Which is your Discourse
When we speak of privilege – Who gets to Define
Are you a member of the privileged group
The English language is so excluding
I am not a woman of your privilege; my skin colour is my definition
I am a woman of the Black Diaspora
The colonial powers have designed privilege, as well as designed the constitution
And my history comes from Africa; My history is silent and ever-growing inside of me…(McCarthy, 2011, p. 19)

The first day McCarthy allowed herself to feel the pain of how she had been silenced from the racism she has experienced, was after sharing similar experiences with a South Asian woman while doing her master’s degree. McCarthy has had a myriad of experiences, including dealing with racism on the job, as well as sexism. She ends her book with a call to action to have an end to racism by people picking up books, videos, combating racist jokes and working on it a “moment” at a time. Reading this book is definitely a move in the right direction to hear the valued voice of a woman from the Black Diaspora.

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