Perfectly timed to kick off Black History Month, Barbados-born writer Cecil Foster recently spoke at Mount Allison and read from his newest novel.
Independence, titled for the 1966 Act that guaranteed Barbados’ independence from the United Kingdom, is a story about hope, multiculturalism and freedom.
Foster emigrated to Canada in 1979, where he began writing for the Toronto Star. Foster has released 11 other works of fiction and nonfiction, and he currently works a professor of sociology at the University of Guelph.
Much of Foster’s work depicts experiences with immigration and the Caribbean diaspora, presenting perspectives which challenge or complicate ideas of citizenship and nationhood. Foster reprises these themes in Independence, which is set in a small village in Barbados shortly after the Caribbean nation achieved independence. There, fourteen-year-old neighbours Christopher Lucas and Stephanie King live with their grandmothers and wait patiently to hear from their mothers who left the country in search of work.
“It’s about the relationship between the two left behind,” said Foster, regarding the novel’s plot. The book delves into the lives of two characters who are struggling with their own self-actualization while those around them are forced to make difficult decisions in pursuit of a better life.
The idea of tomorrow resonates prominently in Foster’s work. He explained how much of his writing focuses on groups of people working together towards a better future.
“Tomorrow was always the main focus of independence; each generation should have its own tomorrow to work towards,” said Foster during the talk.
Foster’s work examines the fluid nature of Canadian and Barbadian identity, delving into the many factors that shape individuals and nationhood. With Independence, Foster examines the precarious relationship between those who leave their home country, and those who remain behind. Foster takes this idea and applies it specifically to a Canadian context. By looking at the factors that shape and define each character’s identity, including their sense of place, Foster’s novel examines the idea of “home” and its relation to one’s belonging and self-actualization.
Foster spoke at The Owens Art Gallery on Feb. 3. The talk was sponsored and organized by the Centre for Canadian Studies at Mt. A, and was the second event of their winter lineup.