Just finished Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For. Devastating and amazing. It begins in the 1970s with a Vietnamese family losing their youngest son as they board a boat for a refugee camp. But it is mostly about a group of brown, twenty-something friends negotiating relationships– to family, to one another, to art, to politics, to love and most of all to the city of Toronto. The voice of the lost boy, Quy, is wrenching. Reminds me of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. He is brutalized and brutal, cynical and lacking in trust, completely innocent and completely lacking innocence at the same time. It is the voice of the Other coming at us direct, everything we are guilty of, everthing we want to forget, everything we long for.
I want to think about this as an Asian Canadian novel. Himani Bannerji’s question “Who speaks?” has become interesting in a whole new way.