Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature


317 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations
ISBN 1-55152-118-0
DDC C810.8'08960711





Edited by Wayde Compton
Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


Like other anthologies of African-Canadian literature, Bluesprint is an
attempt to recover, and in the process create, a previously ignored
tradition. Like fellow anthologist George Elliott Clarke, Wayde Compton
gathers together the works of an assortment of poets, playwrights,
novelists, storytellers, and diarists in order to “[trace] a sort of
phantom lineage—a succession of Black B.C. writers who did not
necessarily know they had ancestors or would have descendants, but which
I regard as a lineage nonetheless.” One of those included is Sir James
Douglas, born in British Guiana to a Scots father and a “free woman of
colour.” Douglas’s 1843 record of the founding of Victoria is part
of the official history of British Columbia. Because his writing was
official and impersonal, however, it is not clear if Douglas himself
identified as Black. His inclusion does not make up for the paucity of
19th-century authors who have yet to be discovered.

The majority of writers in Bluesprint are contemporary, although
Compton does include early and mid-20th-century oral histories collected
from some longtime residents. His efforts to be inclusive, however, do
not always serve his material well: while David Nandi Odhiambo’s
vignettes and other authors’ poems lend themselves to this format,
transplanted Québécoise Lorena Gale’s Je Me Souviens should really
be read in its entirety.


“Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,