Emancipation Day

Paperback | July 30, 2013

byWayne Grady

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How far would a son go to belong? And how far would a father go to protect him?

With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It's World War II, and while stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and is desperate to see the world. They marry against Vivian's family's wishes--hard to say what it is, but there's something about Jack that they just don't like--and as the war draws to a close, the new couple travels to Windsor to meet Jack's family.

But when Vivian meets Jack's mother and brother, everything she thought she knew about her new husband gets called into question. They don't live in the dream home that Jack depicted, they all look different from one another--and different from anyone Vivian has ever seen--and after weeks of waiting to meet Jack's father, William Henry, he never materializes. 

Steeped in jazz and big-band music, spanning pre- and post-war Windsor-Detroit, St. John's, Newfoundland, and 1950s Toronto, this is an arresting, heartwrenching novel about fathers and sons, love and sacrifice, race relations and a time in our history when the world was on the cusp of momentous change.

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With so many fantastic Canadian stories being written every year, it takes a special kind of insight - and bravery - to stand out from the crowd. Wayne Grady does just that with this tender, troubling debut novel, a story of family, identity, and tragic self-deception. With an honest but sympathetic voice, Grady gives us the story of Jack a...

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From the Publisher

How far would a son go to belong? And how far would a father go to protect him? With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It's World War II, and while stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clif...

WAYNE GRADY is the author of fourteen highly-acclaimed books, including Breakfast at the Exit Cafe, Bringing Back the Dodo, and The Bone Museum. He is also the translator of fifteen novels from the French, and the editor of eleven anthologies of literary fiction and nonfiction. His writing has appeared in literary magazines, as well as...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6.28 × 0.91 inPublished:July 30, 2013Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385677669

ISBN - 13:9780385677660

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Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ordinary. ! read this book for our bookclub. I did not find it interesting or enoyable. Better suited for magazine article.
Date published: 2015-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ordinary. I was totally immersed in this book. The characters were very real to me and I much appreciated the description of life in Newfoundland and in Windsor. It made me realize how little I did know about Canada and black history, as well as the contributions and sacrifices that had to be made during WWII. Gave me a new perspective on our country and made me want to meet the characters in real life.... The best canadian book I have read in a long time.
Date published: 2014-08-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Emancipation Day Very much enjoyed this book. The subject matter shows a side of our history that many Canadians prefer to think did not exist in this country. It was an excellent read and very thought provoking.
Date published: 2014-05-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hmmmm..... Was expecting better and ended up being disappointed.  :(
Date published: 2014-02-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ordinary. A very good book travellling from the end of the 2nd World war in a view a have not read before from NFLD Canada. The post war era and the diversity of Canadians is covered well.
Date published: 2014-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ordinary. For starters, the cover is very intriguing! I believe it sums up the entire story in one picture. "Emancipation Day" is a historical fiction book set during WW2 in St.John's Newfoundland. Jackson Lewis is attractive, talented, and a band member in the army. He woos small town girl Vivian Clift and they embark on a whirlwind relationship. All the while, Jack has a deep family secret that he has kept from all he becomes close to. Only when Vivian has been married to Jack and returns with him to his hometown of Windsor, Ontario does she begin to discover pieces of his past, his family and his dark secret. An excerpt from goodreads: "...(a) heart-wrenching novel about fathers and sons, love and sacrifice, race relations and a time in our history when the world was on the cusp of a momentous change." This isn't a "feel good story" by any means, but one that is thought provoking and touching. Pros: Personally, I loved Wayne Grady's writing style! By the end of the story, I felt as if I knew the characters personally. Their thoughts, worries and fears were so relatable. It is such an original and different story than any I have read, but it seems to touch a familiar place in my heart. Cons: The one thing I did not like about the story, surprisingly was the main character. I didn't like his personality or how he treated those closest to him, but I admit he was still relatable. Even though you may not like him, you can't help but find pieces of yourself in him. The plot seemed slow at parts, perhaps because the story was being told by 3-4 different perspectives, all giving varying angle on the situation so it can be either a pro or con depending on the reader. Overall Book Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Date published: 2014-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Ordinary. A very readable book, the story never drags. The author does a very good job of depicting the issues so you can see it from both sides. Suitable for those interested in the topic of race and racism. As relevant today as in the times it was set in. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2014-01-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from So-so Interesting but kind of bland
Date published: 2014-01-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Emancipation Day Great story, great atmosphere! Nice to read a story that takes place in Canada.
Date published: 2014-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent book! I couldn't put it down until I finished it.
Date published: 2013-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A totally compelling story that cuts to the bone. With so many fantastic Canadian stories being written every year, it takes a special kind of insight - and bravery - to stand out from the crowd. Wayne Grady does just that with this tender, troubling debut novel, a story of family, identity, and tragic self-deception. With an honest but sympathetic voice, Grady gives us the story of Jack and Vivian, a couple who deserve a permanent place in our cultural memory. Vivian is a hopeful young woman in Newfoundland during World War II, and Jack is the dashing, Jazz-playing, sweet-talking sailor who promises her the world beyond the hills of St. John’s. But Jack isn’t honest with Vivian, because he can’t be honest with himself. Born with extremely light skin in an African-Canadian family, Jack has been passing as white since he was a child. His denial of himself and his family is a cage he’s built for himself, and the damage that ripples outwards spares no one. Emancipation Day never blinks in the face of hard truths, but it does have its moments of heart and beauty. Jack’s love for Vivian surprises even himself, and her love for him isn’t blind – it’s a choice she makes every day, which makes their story so much more powerful and real. This is a book that’s absolutely essential for anyone who wants to understand the devastating and continuing impact race has on the Canadian story. More than that, it’s a portrait of a far-from-perfect marriage that I know will linger in your heart like an old familiar song.
Date published: 2013-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read This is a wonderful read...insightful, compassionate and compelling. Very fast paced plot, strong realistic characterization and beautiful prose. A very important story for all Canadians to read and think about. A Giller winner for sure.
Date published: 2013-09-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent book! Takes place in St Johns and Windsor. Wasnt aware of alot that went on in Windsor. Good conversation with my Dad.
Date published: 2013-08-26

Extra Content

Editorial Reviews

Longlist - 2013 Scotiabank Giller PrizeAmazon.ca Editor’s Pick—July 2013“Grady’s novel reads with the velvety tempo of the jazz music of its day. Like a deft conductor, he seamlessly brings in his main characters’ voices in alternating chapters throughout the novel. . . . For Jack, the eternal dilemma is whether we can successfully carve out a future if we reject our past. The answer occupies a distinctly grey area, one Wayne Grady fearlessly explores to expose heated race relations and the masks we all assume.” —Chatelaine  “A stellar debut. This literary novel is set in the heart of the big-band era…. The music swings. So does the story. Though Grady portrays the complexities of race and racial politics, there's nothing overtly didactic here. It's a novel of ideas that succeeds precisely because it's also a good story.” —Winnipeg Free Press“It takes a careful writer to make science clear and engaging to the layperson, and here Grady uses his skills to keep his prose quiet, spacious and neat, showing us how his characters navigate racial politics without telling us what to think about it. . . . Emancipation Day is an engaging look at when and where true co-existence and polite tolerance dissolve into prejudice and power struggle. That’s a fully contemporary issue, and one that’s entirely Canadian.” —The Globe and Mail  “A masterwork of storytelling examining race relations, denial and misconceptions, and what they do to three generations of a Canadian family. Grady does not tie things up in a neat bundle for the reader here. Like life itself, Emancipation Day is gritty, messy, surprising and poignant. It is an unvarnished look at life in Canada in the middle of the last century and the profound influence our thoughts and actions have on the lives of others.” —Telegraph Journal“Grady—a skilled, careful and knowledgeable writer—does not miss a step. . . .[his] work is an absorbing, entertaining and informative look at love, marriage, men at war, family dynamics and, especially, race and racism in Canadian history.”—Literary Review of Canada"This finely wrought novel navigates the complexities of love, race, and loyalties of choice. With a deft hand, Grady convinces us that whatever appearances may suggest, nothing is ever black and white." —Vincent Lam, author of The Headmaster’s Wager and Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures“A haunting, memorable, believable portrait of a man so desperate to deny his heritage that he imperils his very soul.” —Lawrence Hill, author of The Book of Negroes “A brave book to challenge every reader's thinking on race, family, fear, and love. Profound and compelling.” —Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean and The Sweet Girl “Wayne Grady’s masterful novel is a compelling story about secrets and shame, denial and self-discovery, racism, and love that goes deeper than skin deep. Grady shows how the ties of family bind and also set us free. This novel is unforgettable.” —Lisa Moore, author of Alligator “Wayne Grady has created characters out of life, out of love, out of recognition and sympathy. They are not to be missed."—Linda Spalding, author of The Purchase