“... Hill dives full bore into the subject, following the blood trail through social and scientific history, exploring it as a powder keg of contradiction. ”
— The Globe & Mail
Lawrence Hill offers a provocative examination of the scientific and social history of blood, and on the ways that it unites and divides us today. Blood: The Stuff of Life is a bold meditation on blood as an historical and contemporary marker of identity, belonging, gender, race, class, citizenship, athletic superiority, and nationhood.
In 2013, Lawrence Hill gave the Massey Lectures – Canada’s best known public lecture series — based on Blood: The Stuff of Life. The five hour-long lectures were broadcast on CBC Radio and the accompanying book was published by House of Anansi Press.
A panel discussion with Lawrence Hill and guests Priscilla Uppal, Karina Vernon, Hayden Taylor, and moderated by CBC Ideas host Paul Kennedy on November 4, 2013: Is Race a Fiction?
One summer morning, when I was a child, I was on all fours, playing hide-and-seek on a Toronto schoolyard, when my left wrist began to tingle. I looked down and noticed a broken beer bottle. Turning my hand, I saw more blood than seemed right. It was pouring out of me. I stood, let out a cry, crossed the street, and began running. We lived ten houses up the street, less than two hundred metres away. I got ready to shout out for my mother just as soon as she could hear me. Would I have to go to the hospital? How many stitches would it take to impress my friends? This was a deep cut. Lots of blood. Perhaps I would need twenty stitches. Maybe thirty. Three or four wouldn’t earn bragging rights. As I ran, I held out my left arm to direct my splashing blood onto every single sidewalk panel, each one just over a metre long. I slowed, when necessary, to ensure that the bright red trail remained unbroken. Later, I wanted to be able to walk with my friends up and down the street and say, “Look! That’s my blood!” Once I reached 20 Beveridge Drive, I turned into the driveway, forgot about the trail of blood, and began screaming. By now, I was hyperventilating. I terrified my mother when I burst into the house with blood still flowing out of me. She drove me to the hospital.
Looking back, I wonder about the mad impulse to hold out my arm and splash every sidewalk panel. I wanted to mark the earth with my own sacred fluid. Look here! This is me! This is proof of my very life, here in this long line of bloody splotches on the sidewalk. The blood had appeared so hot, fresh, and significant when it was spilling from me. But hours later, when it had been downgraded to a mud-brown trail, my accident could no longer be heralded as special or sacred, because the trail I had left no longer looked like blood.