"But Where Are You Really From?"


133 pages
ISBN 1-896705-20-0
DDC C810.8'0355




Edited by Hazelle Palmer
Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is an associate professor in the Faculty of General
Studies at the University of Calgary and the author of Dance of the
Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro.


The contributors to this anthology of poetry and short prose pieces are
nonwhite and largely female (one male is represented) writers from cross
Canada. The editor, whose mission is to explore her own identity and the
identities of others of colour, recognizes that there are parallels
between the experiences of white women and those of women of colour, but
she chooses not to include writing by the former. As she explains in her
introduction: “Our colour makes us visible and this visibility
contributes to people making assumptions about our identity. It is
difficult for me to imagine that it is the same for Eastern European or
other white women or that these women will ever know what it is like to
be discriminated against because of race, for they are visibly part of
the mainstream.” This slim volume is organized around the themes of
where people come from, assimilation, visual perception, isolation,
language and identity, and finding “home.”

The strength of this book rests with the cumulative effect of the
writers’ voices; their lived emotions of anger, frustration, shame,
humor, and isolation are strongly felt, tangible, contemporary
narratives of marginalization and racism. Although this volume, like
earlier anthologies of Native women’s writing, has a therapeutic
sensibility, there are pieces here of literary interest, penned by
professional writers. At the same time, the exploration of ethnic and
racial identity is limited by the standards of the longstanding
traditions of ethnic literature and immigration history, and their
academic study, in Canada. The question of the hyphenated Canadian, for
example, presented in the introduction as a new problem of naming, is
one that has been thoroughly discussed during the last 20 years and
philosophically resolved by many creative writers and scholars in ethnic
studies through the removal of the hyphen.

It is the general reader who will probably derive from this book the
most understanding about what it is like to be visibly nonwhite in
Canada. The anthology may also be useful as a secondary-school textbook.


“"But Where Are You Really From?",” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/3071.