“…a short book full of pointed, poignant and powerful observation…It jolts you out of any smug apathy you may want to feel about race in Canada…”
— The Globe and Mail
“an uncomfortable but unputdownable read … a bitter reminder that when it comes to race, we still have much to rage against.”
— The Toronto Star
Lawrence Hill begins Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada with personal stories about how his parents met and married, what it was like growing up in an otherwise entirely white Toronto suburb, and how his own children are beginning to see themselves in a country where issues of racial identity are ignored. But Hill also looks beyond the personal, sharing his coast-to-coast interviews with Canadians of black and white parentage, and examines subjects such as romance between blacks and whites, racial terminology and Ku Klux Klan activity in Canada.
Lawrence Hill created an exhibit at the Ontario Archives, which explores public and personal life of his father, The Freedom Seeker: The Life and Times of Daniel G. Hill.
When I was seventeen, I decided it was high time to do something about the wild mop that was sprouting in all directions from my head. It had become completely uncontrollable ... I announced that I wanted to get my hair fixed and that I had decided to get an afro, or as close an approximation as my loosely curled hair would permit. Who helped me line this up? My white mother! In retrospect, I find this fascinating.
My father, who is prominent in the black community, could easily have set me up with someone. But do you know who was cutting his hair? Corrado Accaputo, the owner of a two-chair Italian barbershop. My mother refused to set foot in the joint because it was wallpapered with Playboy pinups. My father had been going to see Corrado for as long as I could remember. And when my brother and I were children, he took us to the local barber down the street from our house in Don Mills. That barber, too, was Italian. Dan and I hated him. We came out of his barbershop looking like wannabe whites, with our hair plastered down over our heads with water or grease, and combed pancake flat. Of course, the flatness would last approximately thirty minutes – the time it took us to get home, go outside to play and discover that our curls were beginning to reassert themselves, gesturing up like random weeds. So when my father heard that I was planning to get an afro, he suggested Corrado Accaputo one last time and then fell silent.