Finding Edward (Cormorant Books)

“In lucid, scintillating prose, suffused with mystery and everyday magic, Sheila Murray delivers one of the most penetrating dramas of Black experience in all of Canadian literature. This tale of a lonely Jamaican student enrolled at Ryerson University follows his obsession with the life of a struggling Black boy in Depression-era Toronto. A parallel portrait of two Black bi-racial men, Finding Edward expands to enfold a sweeping history of Blacks in Canada. This beautiful, necessary novel will become a touchstone.” — Donna Bailey Nurse, author of What’s a Black Critic to Do? ​ “Murray’s rich narrative offers mystery, but it also spans decades of Canadian history, differentiating Finding Edward from the typical immigrant story. The prospect of better understanding Edward’s life in Canada offers Cyril an escape from his own excruciating isolation. Murray triumphs in capturing the undeniable and unmistakable ache of severe loneliness.” — Quill & Quire


"The struggle was enormous for just about everyone," Murray says, when asked about life in depression-era Toronto, one of the more harrowing aspects of the novel's setting. "A desperate daily grind to get the necessities of life." Murray's novel covers a much needed area, a gap even, in Canadian literature's look into the Black Canadian experience. With ongoing violence towards Black people only getting more prevalent, Finding Edward's struggle for Cyril is a microcosm of a global crisis. "Cyril has only one experience with direct, personal violence, and it undermines his confidence, causing him to withdraw rather than fight." —​The Miramichi Reader.

Jamaican-born Cyril arrives in the city in 2012 after his mother and adoptive grandfather have died. While coming to terms with their deaths, he studies at a university, working two jobs to make ends meet. Cyril finds a trove of letters and photographs from a White woman who gave up her mixed-race baby, Edward, in the 1920s. Cyril becomes determined to track down Edward, who he believes might still be alive. Murray, a native of England who moved to Toronto as a teenager, wrote part of the book in Jamaica, where she was vacationing with family. The novel was informed by her social-justice advocacy and her academic background in immigrant and settlement studies. “Finding Edward is, in part, an exploration of what it means to be biracial in an alien culture,” Murray told Kirkus. “The book’s central character, Cyril, is a young, Jamaican, mixed-race man, newly arrived in Toronto. In his determination to discover what happened to Edward, his research (and mine) revealed the remarkable achievements of Blacks in Canada over centuries—histories buried beneath the mainstream narratives that frame our understanding of Canada. Fully grasping the implications of those hidden histories has been a very welcome revelation for me.”​—Kirkus Review

"My mother was English and white, my father was Black Jamaican, and I was born and raised in England," Murray explains. "My starting point with Finding Edward was to explore what it is to be mixed race, and the tensions that affect those of us who are racialized by the cultures we’re raised in. We should be able to claim our place as equally rooted in both colours, but that’s impossible in today’s world. We don’t get to choose our ‘racial’ identity. If we are darker skinned, rather than lighter, then Canadian and American cultures identify us as ’Black.’ I identify as Black when there is not an optional mixed-race box to check. Racialized people experience a litany of disadvantages in Canada and the USA. An obvious response to all of this, is that everyone should be treated equally— but this is patently not the case."
—​James Strecker Reviews the Arts

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