PERSONAL: Born in Ontario, Canada; son of Daniel and Donna Hill. Education: Université Laval, B.A. (economics), 1980; Johns Hopkins University, M.A. (writing), 1992.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o Writer's Union of Canada, 40 Wellington St. East, Third Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5E 1C7. Agent—c/o HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Suite 2900, Hazelton Lanes, 55 Avenue Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5R 3L2. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Author, reporter, freelance writer and researcher, and teacher.
MEMBER: Writer's Union of Canada.
AWARDS, HONORS: Teaching fellowship, Writing Seminars, Johns Hopkins University, 1992-93; Ontario Arts Council works-in-progress grant and Canada Council "B" grant, 1994; Gold Award for Best Feature Article and Best Speech, Communicator's Forum, 1996; Canada Council established writer's grant, 2001, for work on Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada.
Some Great Thing, Turnstone Press, 1993.
Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African Canadians, Umbrella Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Women of Vision: The Story of the Canadian NegroWomen's Association, 1951-1976, Umbrella Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
Any Known Blood, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.
Contributor to newspapers, including Globe and Mail.
SIDELIGHTS: Son of a black father and a white mother, writer Lawrence Hill was born and raised in Don Mills, a suburb of Toronto, Canada, and has made the subject of racial identity one of his major themes. Indeed, Hill credits his own search for identity as the stimulus for his writing career. He was quoted in an article for Maclean's as saying, "Every time I wrote, my mind wandered into the lives of black characters. Slowly, I was developing a sense of myself."
In Some Great Thing, Hill's first novel, Afro-Canadian protagonist Mahatma Grafton returns to his native Winnipeg after completing graduate school in Toronto.
As he begins a career in journalism, he encounters both ethnic tensions and challenges to his professional ethics. According to Quill & Quire contributor Nancy Wigston, the book "encompasses not only the racial and ethnic conflicts of our time but also those fundamentally Canadian questions: who are we and what are we doing here? To Lawrence Hill's credit his first novel addresses these questions with compassion, irony, and wit."
Any Known Blood tells the story of a mixed-race man who struggles to find his identity. Langston V. Cane V has recently lost both his wife and his job. On his father's side of the family there is a history of exceptional accomplishment. His mother is white and this makes him uncertain about where he belongs. He has a more sympathetic connection with his black heritage, however, and his search for a clear identity drives him to look deeper into the family history. He travels to Baltimore in search of his roots and while he is there, he not only reconnects with his origins, he also has a few adventures. Critics have praised Hill's humorous and satiric examination of what has been referred to as "tribal identity," as well as his ability to bring history alive. In Quill & Quire Dan Bortolotti found the novel "consistently compelling and readable," noting that Hill avoids creating characters who are "stereotypes, caricatures, and martyrs." Canadian Literature reviewer George Elliott Clarke appreciated the novel's "wit, spirit, and style," and went on to point out its rich allusions to African-American history and culture. As Clarke showed, the book refers directly to such Harlem Renaissance figures as Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer, and is also influenced by David Bradley's novel The Chaneysville Incident and Ralph Ellison's masterpiece Invisible Man. Any Known Blood, Clarke concluded, "is satirical, hopeful, and . . . masterful. Hill writes with a lyric clarity and a witty lightness that accords all his intimations of grandeur a beautiful and graceful gravity."
Hill's nonfiction includes Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians, a survey of the history of black people in Canada. The book contains chapters on slavery in Canada, Caribbean Canadians, African-Canadian immigrants and the institutions that support the community. Women of Vision: The Story of the Canadian Negro Women's Association is the chronicle of a women's service organization in Canada.
Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada addresses the identity difficulties that Canadians of mixed race heritage experience. Hill includes thirty-four interviews with mixed race Canadians, seven with blacks, and two with whites. He emphasizes the importance of having an awareness of history, a theme he has also developed in his fiction. In Books in Canada, James Allan Evans found that Hill conflates the experience of Canadian and U.S. blacks to a problematic degree, noting that in many cases these histories were significantly different. Yet Evans acknowledged Black Berry, Sweet Juice as a "readable, gracefully written book" that addresses a subject too often ignored.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, March, 1993, Douglas Hill, review of Some Great Thing, p. 52; James Allen Evans, review of Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada, p. 36
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1996, Joseph Leydon, review of Women of Vision: The Story of the Canadian Negro Women's Association, p. 4286.
Canadian Literature, fall, 1994, Ron Jenkins, review of Some Great Thing, p. 236.
Canadian Materials, March, 1993, Barbara J. Graham, review of Some Great Thing, p. 52; September, 1993, Gerri Young, p. 155.
Maclean's, August 27, 2001, review of Black Berry,Sweet Juice, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1998, review of AnyKnown Blood, p. 57.
Quill & Quire, December, 1992, Nancy Wigston, review of Some Great Thing, p. 16; April, 1993, Phyllis Brooks, review of Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians, p. 33; September, 1997, Dan Bortolotti, review of Any Known Blood, p. 67; October, 2001, Hugh Hodges, review of Black Berry, Sweet Juice, pp. 39-40.
Lawrence Hill's Web site,http://www.lawrencehill.com (April 28. 2003).*