Lawrencia’s Last Parang: A Memoir on Loss and Belonging as Black in Canada is a snapshot of the author’s life immediately after the passing of her grandmother Lawrencia, the woman who raised her. Written in the style of patchwork quilt that takes the reader back and forth between the present and the past, she examines her grief from the perspective of a Canadian-born Black woman of Caribbean descent, and she begins to question her identity and what it means to be a Black Canadian in new ways. This means exploring her childhood in Trinidad and her adult life in Kingston, Ontario, a predominantly white city, her experience of raising a mixed-raced child, and the meaning of her interracial marriage.
Given love and protection by the grandmother who raised her in Trinidad, she belongs to Trinidad, but she was born in Canada to biological parents who were either absent or inadequate. Thus, she occupies what she describes as a third space, needing both Trinidad and Canada, loving both, and belonging fully to neither. In Canada, in Kingston, she has a white husband from a famous family and a bi-racial daughter, and she struggles with issues of racism almost on a daily basis—everything from “where are you from?” to nurses who come to see the Black woman who gave birth to a white baby, to resentful students at the university where she teaches. Within the academy she is again in a kind of third space as a “sometimes professor,” where archetypes of the Black body (mammy, jezebel, matriarch, and welfare mother) that her students read about, clash with the position of authority she holds in the classroom.
Simultaneously a memoir, a eulogy, and an academic analysis of race in Canada, the book offers an insightful exploration of race in Canada, one that complicates these issues through the lens of identity and loss, but also through a prism of privilege.