A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging


230 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-385-25865-8
DDC C818'.5409





Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


A Map to the Door of No Return is a series of personal, philosophical,
and historical vignettes drawn together by the African Diaspora. The
door, she writes, “is a place, real, imaginary and imagined. The door
out of which Africans were captured, loaded onto ships heading for the
New World.” The door is beyond living memory and cannot be reopened;
nonetheless, its existence is imprinted on the collective memory of the
descendants of the enslaved.

Through meditations on media, cartography, and her own personal
recollections, Brand returns again and again to the Diaspora’s
attempts to come to terms with the door. As a girl, she pestered her
grandfather for the name of the people from whom they were descended.
Although some elements of the door, like the remains of the
slave-trading forts of West Africa, are tangible, visits to such places
do not erase the sense that the Black “inheritance in the Diaspora is
to live in [an] inexplicable space. That space is the measure of our
ancestors’ step through the door toward the ship. One is caught in the
few feet in between.” In this space, “home” and “identity” are
complex notions that must be continually negotiated.

Readers who have read Bread Out of Stone will find this book of
fragments more contemplative but no less thought provoking.


Brand, Dionne., “A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7095.