Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada


246 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-00-200020-2
DDC 305.8'044'0092




Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


Lawrence Hill’s memoir draws on his experiences and those of his
“mixed race” interviewees for an enlightening discussion of racial
identity in Canada. The son of a white mother and a black father, Hill
grew up in an all-white suburb in Ontario during the 1960s. With
adolescence came Hill’s personal attempt to discover and define his
identity in a country where difference is, at best, studiously ignored.
Hill writes with humor and acuity about his and others’ experiences
with “hair issues,” intermarriage, and other elements of self and
racial definition.

Included in the discussion is the custody battle between
African-American basketball player Theodore Edwards and the mother of
Edwards’s child. Hill argues that, by avoiding the issue of race
during the custody battle, the “True North, Proud, and Vague”
ignored discussion of the distinct needs of biracial children and the
child’s needs for self-definition. While documenting issues of
marginalization in a world in which those of “mixed race” are not
white and yet not black enough, Hill writes that “[u]ltimately, the
struggle to find yourself, define yourself, carve out a sense of who you
want to be in this world is a good one.”

While Hill’s study is informal and unscientific, he thoughtfully
considers opposing views on such issues as interracial marriage and the
appropriation of “the N-word.” A valuable discussion of current
issues on race in Canada.


Hill, Lawrence., “Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024,