Barbados-born Canadian Author Austin Clarke passed away on June 26, 2016. Born in 1934, he grew up in Barbados and emigrated to Canada at the age of 21. An award-winning novelist, poet, journalist and teacher, he is known for his works that explore multiculturalism and the lives of Caribbean immigrants in Canada and their experiences with racism and discrimination.
His first two novels- The Survivors of Crossing and Amongst Thistles and Thorns are set in his home country Barbados and deal with subjects of race and racism in post-colonial Barbados; and poverty and blackness in the Caribbean culture. His series novels The Meeting Point, Storm of Furtune and The Bigger Light documents stories of early immigrants from West-Indies settling in Canada. He published several novels and numerous short stories.
Made a member of the Order of Canada in 1998, his contribution is recorded in the Order of Canada as follows:
He is a distinguished novelist and short story writer who has explored the immigrant experience with humour, compassion, happiness and sorrow. Through his prolific literary output he has recorded the changing face of the country, giving voice to the resilience, courage and loneliness often felt by people who come to Canada to start a new life. By his own example he has broadened the horizons for black writers, encouraging them to develop their creative talent. His contributions as a respected author, teacher and community activist have helped Canadians understand our diverse roots as well as our universal humanity.
His novel, The Polished Hoe, won the Giller Prize for fiction in 2002, and the Regional Commonwealth Prize for best book in 2003. Clarke also won the W.O. Mitchell Prize the Rogers Communication Writers Trust Prize and money other awards.
His latest memoir ‘Membering, published in 2015, centers around his own experience growing up in Barbados, emigrating to Toronto and the events in his accomplished professional life as a writer, journalist and teacher.
Photo by Andrew Currie