Dionne Brand was born January 7, 1953, in Guayguayare, Trinidad. After attending a girls’ high school, she moved to Toronto in 1970 to continue her education. She received a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of Toronto (1975) and an M.A. in educational philosophy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (1989). She participated in many social, labour, and community organizations and programs, including the Black Education Project, the Immigrant Women’s Centre in Toronto, and the Ontario Federation of Labour. She also founded Our Lives, Canada’s first black women’s newspaper. In 1983 she went to Grenada and worked as an information officer for the country’s Agency for Rural Transformation — her book of poetry Chronicle of the Hostile Sun (1984) is a response to the U.S. invasion of Grenada, which occurred while she was working there. She has taught at the universities of York, Toronto, British Columbia, and Guelph and at numerous writing programs across Canada; she was Ruth Wynn Woodward Professor of Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University from 2000 to 2002.
She is a prolific, cross-genre artist, with multiple forays in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and film. Her 1996 novel In Another Place, Not Here was shortlisted in 1997 for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Trillium Book Award. Land to Light On (1997) won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1997 and the Trillium Book Award in 1998. Her poetry collection thirsty (2002) won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award from the League of Canadian Poets in 2003 and was also nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize and Trillium Book Award in 2003. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006.
Brand’s work reflects her interest in the politics surrounding gender, sexuality, class, and race. She says of herself in a Ciberkiosk interview, "I count myself in that tradition of writers who take up the hard questions, who are never satisfied with our condition, who want to see equality in the world and who will push their ideas and their language and their minds to embrace that". More specifically, her writings often address the marginalization of women, especially African-Caribbean women and lesbians. For example, her 2001 book A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging contains her assessment of the black African diaspora, including the status of diasporic blacks in Canada; in that sense the book is also in part an autobiography. (Vivian Zenari)
Updated February 12 2015 by Student & Academic Services