Bestselling, Scotiabank Giller Award-winning writer Ian Williams brings fresh eyes and new insights to today’s urgent conversation on race and racism in startling, illuminating essays that grow out of his own experience as a Black man moving through the world.
- Finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize
- CBC’s top pick for Canadian nonfiction, fall 2021
- Best of fall 2021 nonfiction list, Quill and Quire
- One of 35 books you need to know about in fall 2021, Toronto Star
With that one eloquent word, disorientation, Ian Williams captures the impact of racial encounters on racialized people—the whiplash of race that occurs while minding one’s own business. Sometimes the consequences are only irritating, but sometimes they are deadly. Spurred by the police killings and street protests of 2020, Williams realized he could offer a perspective distinct from the almost exclusively America-centric books on race topping the bestseller lists, because of one salient fact: he has lived in Trinidad (where he was never the only Black person in the room), in Canada (where he often was), and in the United States (where as a Black man from the Caribbean, he was a different kind of “only”).
Inspired by the essays of James Baldwin, in which the personal becomes the gateway to larger ideas, Williams explores such things as the unmistakable moment when a child realizes they are Black; the ten characteristics of institutional whiteness; how friendship forms a bulwark against being a target of racism; the meaning and uses of a Black person’s smile; and blame culture—or how do we make meaningful change when no one feels responsible for the systemic structures of the past. With these essays, Williams wants to reach a multi-racial audience of people who believe that civil conversation on even the most charged subjects is possible. Examining the past and the present in order to speak to the future, he offers new thinking, honest feeling, and his astonishing, piercing gift of language.
“Disorientation is a formally inventive and searing meditation on race and Blackness,” said the jury. “Both topical and literary, Williams’ essay collection juxtaposes personal stories about racial profiling and microaggressions alongside discussions about the murders of George Floyd and Eric Garner and readings of Black writers like Audre Lorde and James Baldwin. His writing moves, by turn, from tenderness to despair to anger, yet remains clear-eyed and intellectually rigorous throughout. In an age of hot takes and condemnation, Williams’ essays reflect, explore, and illuminate.” — JURY, Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize
“Disorientation is so honest, vulnerable, courageous and funny that it left me dying to sit down over a long coffee with Ian Williams. Make that two lattes, and I’m buying!” — LAWRENCE HILL, author of The Book of Negroes
“In Disorientation, Ian Williams captures the impact of racial encounters on racialized people, especially when one’s minding their own business. Sometimes, the consequences are only irritating, but sometimes they are deadly. Driven by the police killings and street protests of 2020, Williams realized he could offer a Canadian perspective on race. He explores things such as, the unmistakable moment when a child realizes they’re Black, the ten characteristics of institutional whiteness, how friendship helps protect against being a target of racism and blame culture.” — CBC BOOKS, top non-fiction pick for fall 2021