I'd Rather Live in Buxton


151 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-88924-242-9
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Julie Rak

Julie Rak is a Ph.D. candidate in English at McMaster University.


This memoir chronicles some aspects of life in Canada’s oldest black
community in Canada (the only Canadian black community settled before
the American Civil War still in existence). It celebrates what the
author calls “the spirit of the place, that special quality that draws
people to return, and compels them to think of it, fondly and always as
home.” Shadd-Evelyn’s way of evoking Buxton’s spirit—from its
founding in 1849 by a former slave owner and his 15 freed slaves to the
present-day lives of its sixth-generation members—consists of short
stories, vignettes, photographs, and poems.

The history of Buxton’s founding and building makes interesting
reading. The author portrays Buxton as a unique place, a community with
a sense of pride in its accomplishment, from its exemplary one-room
school system (where white neighbors asked to send their children) to
its communally built museum and annual Labour Day parade.
Shadd-Evelyn’s writing is particularly evocative when she describes
her first encounter with racism at the hands of a white friend at
school, and the death of an elderly blind woman.

Unfortunately, fine moments like these are interspersed with amateurish
poetry and stories lacking background. In addition, Buxton is not placed
geographically (the reader is left to guess that it must be near
Chatham, Ontario), and none of the photographs have captions. It is
difficult at times to identify whether the stories are fictional or not,
which is important since most take place when the author was a child in
Buxton; the nostalgic glow cast over most recollections leans toward
sentimentality. The author’s desire to portray the success of the
community leaves much about its inner workings unexplored.

Despite these problems, I’d Rather Live in Buxton is a very readable
addition to our knowledge of Ontario’s local history, and to the
history of black community in Canada.


Shadd-Evelyn, Karen., “I'd Rather Live in Buxton,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6130.