Naturally Woman: The Search for Self in Black Canadian Women’s Literature


by Sharon Morgan Beckford

Print: 978-1-926708-12-6 – $22.95
ePUB: 978-1-926708-31-7 – $12.99
PDF: 978-1-77133-011-4 – $12.99

292 Pages
May 01, 2011

Black Canadian women must constantly incorporate changes to their identities to face the challenges of living in a multicultural society. Naturally Woman: The Search for Self in Black Canadian Women’s Literature examines the ways in which Black immigrant women must adapt to survive in a multicultural country such as Canada without losing their sense of self. The author examines the texts of five major modern/contemporary Canadian writers: Dionne Brand, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Tessa McWatt, Claire Harris, and Makeda Silvera, through prismatic criticism and by applying and extending a number of feminist discourses concerning Black women writing: identity, literary representations of female sojourn in Canada (as simultaneously aboveground and underground), feminist archetypal/myth criticism, and the discourse of mother/daughter/grandmother/substitute mother relationships. The book argues that there is a universal central myth on which the writings of these marginalized women are based and shows how some of the challenges of multiculturalism can be overcome, and how multiculturalism can become a site for creativity and innovation.

This groundbreaking book demonstrates how Black women writers in Canada retell the Demeter myth as ways of explaining the issues associated with change, migration, and individuation. The book claims these stories as neo-mythic narratives of African Diasporic epic journeys, and as part of the narrative of the wider Great Migration of Blacks in the Americas.


Sharon Morgan Beckford is a faculty member in the Department of English at Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York. She received her Ph.D. in English from York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her dissertation (Un)Recovered Persephones: The Gendered Quest for Individuation in a Selection of Literature by Black Canadian Women Writers won the 2006 Mary McEwen Ph.D. Dissertation Award for the best dissertation in Women’s Studies from the Centre for Feminist Research, York University, Toronto, Canada. Sharon teaches courses in the literatures and cultures of the Black Diaspora. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, nationally and internationally.




Chapter One
Myth Criticism: A Rationale

Chapter Two
Aesthetics of Now and Here: A Poesis of Nowhere: Dionne Brand’s In Another Place, Not Here

Chapter Three
Speaking the Unspeakable: From Silence to Voice in Marlene NourbeSe Philip’s She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks

Chapter Four
Beginnings, Origins, and First Principles: Tessa McWatt’s Out of My Skin

Chapter Five
“La Diablesse in Waiting”: Identity in Claire Harris’s Drawing Down a Daughter

Chapter Six
The Heart Does Not Bend: It Breaks Desire and Defeat in Makeda Silvera’s The Heart Does Not Bend


2 reviews for Naturally Woman: The Search for Self in Black Canadian Women’s Literature

  1. InannaWebmaster

    “In Naturally Woman Sharon Morgan Beckford nimbly explores the fiction and poetry of Canadian-Caribbean writers—Dionne Brand, Tessa McWatt, Claire Harris, Marlene NourbeSe Philip and Makeda Silvera. She shows how these disaporic stories, meld African, Caribbean and Amerindian tales with the European mythologies inherited from colonization to produce a spirited (and inspirited) literature. This is a book that deserves a wide readership. ”
    —Pamela McCallum, Professor of English, University of Calgary

  2. InannaWebmaster

    Naturally Woman is a welcome and refreshing addition to Black Canadian Literary Studies. The book offers a brilliantly provocative revision of the Demeter/Persephone myth that locates black women writers of Caribbean descent as the unexpected avatars of a specifically Canadian literary tradition. By revealing the intersections between Western and African Caribbean mythologies and the ways these are reinterpreted in black women’s poetry and fiction, the book deepens our understanding of the complex relations at play in a culturally diverse Canada.”
    —Andrea Davis, Deputy Director, CERLAC and Associate Professor, Humanities, York University

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