||A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. (June 2010)|
Dionne Brand was born in Guayaguayare, Trinidad and Tobago. She graduated from Naparima Girls' High School in 1970, and immigrated to Canada, to attend the University of Toronto, where she earned a BA in 1975. Brand later attained a MA (1989) from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).
Brand has held several prestigious academic positions, including:
- Writer-in-Residence, University of Toronto (1990–91)
- Assistant Professor of English, University of Guelph (1992–94)
- Ruth Wynn Woodward Professor in Women's Studies, Simon Fraser University (2000–02)
- Writer-in-Residence, University of Guelph (2003–04)
- Distinguished Visiting Scholar and Writer-in-Residence, St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York (2004–05)
- Distinguished Poet for the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Chair, Vancouver Island University (2006)
- Program Faculty in the Writing Studio, Banff Centre (2007; 2009)
- Brand is currently Professor of English at the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph where she also holds a University Research Chair.
Brand frequently explores themes of gender, race, sexuality and feminism in her writing. In "Bread Out of Stone", Brand uses personal experiences and strong metaphoric language to expose racism, white male domination, injustices and the moral hypocrisies of Canada with its own assessment as being "not like the United States".
As a show of support of women solidarity, Brand has participated in many anthologies and writing opposing the violent killings of Black men and women and specifically pointing out the massacre of fourteen women in Montreal and the racism and inequality experienced by Aboriginal women of Canada, particularly Helen Betty Osborne's death in the Pas.
Many scholars have analyzed Dionne Brand's work. In his book Black Like Who?, Rinaldo Walcott includes two essays ("A Tough Geography": Towards a Poetics of Black Space(s) in Canada and "No Language is Neutral": The Politics of Performativity in M. Nourbese Philip's and Dionne Brand's Poetry) that deal with Brand's poetry and take up the overarching themes of her work. Brand herself had previously used a line from Derek Walcott to title her collection No Language is Neutral (nominated for Governor General's award), in which she "uses language to disturb" in poetry that is filled with biographic meanings and ancestral references, including contemporary inequality issues and racism. As a Marxist and feminist, Brand believes that "by addressing real power can we begin to deal with racism", that is, engaging in both economic and political power.
Rivers Have Sources, Trees Have Roots
In Rivers Have Sources, Trees Have Roots (1986), Brand and co-author Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta interviewed a hundred people from the Canadian Native, Black, Chinese, and South Asian communities about their perspectives of racism and how it has impacted their lives. From these stories and recollections of childhood to workplace experiences, the authors critiqued the existence and commonality of racism, disparities and resistance. They argue that two themes exist where racism prevails in the lives of the interviewees and these themes are through "the culture of racism" and through the structural and institutional ways. Consequently, economic hardship, lack of employment and career choices and opportunities are some of the experiences identified by the minority, ethnic groups and immigrants.
Brand recognizes that there are also different forms of struggles and visions to combat racism. This book attempts to give each individual a voice, an opportunity to speak about their personal and immigration stories as part of a historical validation and as part of a third in a series of anti-racism literature. Women and men spoke of their anger, resentments, and complaints of racial tensions of abuse, isolation, staring, name calling and being treated as different and inferior. Brand addresses how racism is used as a powerful tool to censor oppositional voices and she opposes the media report that racism occurs in isolated cases or unusual crisis.
St. Mary Estate
The use of personal experience and ancestral memory  can be found in Brand's writing strategies such as in a short story fiction, "St. Mary Estate", which is taken from Brand's book, Sans Souci and Other Stories, pp. 360–366, Brand begins the chapter "Maps of Memory: Places Revisited" by describing the colonial oppression that her fictional characters experienced in a place called "St. Mary Estate."
The narrator and her sister revisit the cocoa estate, the place of their birth and childhood and recall past experiences of racism and shame. The old place is filled with painful memories including the summer beach house that were used by rich 'white' people who the narrator refers to as "they" and whose big quarters were scrubbed and cleaned by her father who works as the overseer slave. The narrator recalls the beach house was empty two months of the year forbidden for them to use.
Through the narrative, Brand illustrates the discrimination and poverty issues because the families were cramped into their barracks made of thin cardboards with newspapers walls. Brand also employs various stylistic devices including the use of repetitive language and the use of anger and obscene language to expose the poor segregated quarters of slave barracks, overseer's shack, and estate workers barracks that depict the physical, social and psychological degradation endured by the slaves who were denied the basic human rights and freedom.
Other topics addressed in her poetry and novels include sexual exploitation of African women, and what Brand refers to as "a pandemic scourging the Diaspora" and declares, "We are born thinking of travelling back", which is suggestive of the individual and historic travelling and returning as experienced by her ancestors. As Brand writes: "Listen, I am a Black woman whose of ancestors were brought to a new world laying tightly packed in ships. Fifteen million of them survived the voyage, five million of them women; millions among them died, were killed, committed suicide in the middle passage." 
Brand has received many awards and her ongoing intellectual contribution are appreciated by the Black communities and women who find inspiration in her social activism and her writing among other women writers of African descent as expressed by writer Myrian Chancy that she found "it possible ...to engage in personal/critical work which uncovers the connections between us as Black women at the same time as re-discovering that which has been kept from us: our cultural heritage, the language of our grandmothers, ourselves."
Many of the first critics and scholars to evaluate Brand's early work regularly framed her writing in discourses of Caribbean national and cultural identity and Caribbean literary theory. Barbadian poet and scholar Edward Kamau Brathwaite referred to Brand as "our first major exile female poet." Academic J. Edward Chamberlain argued that she is "a final witness to the experience of migration and exile" whose "literary inheritance is in some genuine measure West Indian, a legacy of [Derek] Walcott, Brathwaite and others." Their gesture toward a literal border crossing, from the Caribbean to Canada, speaks to the increasingly profound engagement with the idea of her own and others’ shifting locations, both literal and theoretical, evident in Brand's work.
Peter Dickinson argues that "Brand 'reterritorializes' … boundaries in her writing, (dis)placing or (dis)locating the national narrative of subjectivity … into the diaspora of cross-cultural, -racial, -gender, -class, and –erotic identifications." These profound shifts in the way Brand conceptualizes national and personal affiliations to and boundaries around Caribbean and Canadian locations speak to what Dickinson calls "the politics of location [which] cannot be separated from the politics of 'production and reception.'" Critic Leslie Sanders argues that, in her ongoing exploration of the notions of "here" and "there", Brand uses her own "statelessness" as a vehicle for entering "'other people's experience'" and "'other places.'" In Sanders’ words, "by becoming a Canadian writer, Brand is extending the Canadian identity in a way [Marshall] McLuhan would recognize and applaud." Her work, then, according to Dickinson, Sanders and others, has been instrumental in changing the way that Canadian literature is ultimately constituted. Nevertheless, Dickinson concedes, "Because Brand's 'here' is necessarily mediated, provisional, evanescent – in a word 'unlocatable' – her work remains marginal/marginalizable in academic discussions of Canadian literary canons."
In her book, Redefining the Subject: Sites of Play in Canadian Women's Writing, Charlotte Sturgess suggests that Brand employs a language—in the short story collection Sans Souci (1988) and the novel In Another Place, Not Here (1996), in particular—"through which identity emerges as a mobile, thus discursive, construct." Echoing Dickinson's theory that Brand's work both dislodges and disturbs the borders safeguarding narratives about fixed national identities, Sturgess argues that Brand's "work uses language strategically, as a wedge to split European traditions, forms and aesthetics apart; to drive them onto their own borders and contradictions." The work Brand's writing performs is, Sturgess insists, at least two-pronged: it "underline[s] the enduring ties of colonialism within contemporary society;" and it "investigates the very possibilities of Black, female self-representation in Canadian cultural space."
Speaking specifically of Brand's considerable body of poetry, Italian academic and theorist Franca Bernabei writes in the preamble to Luce ostinata/Tenacious Light (2007), the Italian-English selected anthology of Brand's poetry, that "Brand's poetic production reveals a remarkable variety of formal-stylistic strategies and semantic richness as well as the ongoing pursuit of a voice and a language that embody her political, affective, and aesthetic engagement with the human condition of the black woman—and, more exactly, all those oppressed by the hegemonic program of modernity." On the back cover of the same collection, editor and critic Constance Rooke calls Brand "one of the very best [poets] in the world today", and goes on to "compare her to Pablo Neruda or—in fiction—to José Saramago."
Awards and honours
Brand's work has garnered multiple literary awards and honours and her contribution to literature has been recognized by both Canadian and international literary communities:
- 1990: Shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Poetry for No Language is Neutral (1990)
- 1997: Won the Governor General's Award for Poetry and the Trillium Book Award for Land to Light On (1997)
- 1997: Shortlisted for the Chapters Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Trillium Book Award for In Another Place, Not Here (1996)
- 2003: Won the Pat Lowther Award for thirsty (2002)
- 2003: Shortlisted for the City of Toronto Book Award, the Trillium Book Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize for thirsty (2002)
- 2006: Won the City of Toronto Book Award for What We All Long For (2005)
- 2006: Won the Harbourfront Festival Prize in recognition of her important contribution to literature
- 2006: Shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Poetry and the Trillium Book Award for Inventory (2006)
- 2006: Made a Fellow of the Academies for Arts, Humanities, and Sciences of Canada (formerly the Royal Society of Canada)
- 2007: Shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award for Inventory (2006)
- 2009: Appointed Poet Laureate of Toronto
- 2011: Winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries
- 1978: Fore Day Morning: Poems. Toronto: Khoisan Artists, ISBN 0-920662-02-1
- 1979: Earth Magic. Toronto: Kids Can Press, ISBN 0-919964-25-7
- 1982: Primitive Offensive. Toronto: Williams-Wallace International Inc., ISBN 0-88795-012-4
- 1983: Winter Epigrams and Epigrams to Ernesto Cardenal in Defense of Claudia. Toronto: Williams-Wallace International Inc., ISBN 0-676-97101-6
- 1984: Chronicles of the Hostile Sun. Toronto: Williams-Wallace, ISBN 0-88795-033-7
- 1990: No Language is Neutral. Toronto: Coach House Press, ISBN 0-88910-395-X; McClelland & Stewart, 1998, ISBN 0-7710-1646-8
- 1997: Land to Light On. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, ISBN 0-7710-1645-X
- 2002: thirsty. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, ISBN 0-7710-1644-1 (shortlisted for the 2003 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize)
- Excerpt from thirsty, online at CBC Words at Large
- 2006: Inventory. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, ISBN 978-0-7710-1662-2
- Excerpt from Inventory, online at CBC Words at Large
- 2010: Ossuaries - 2010 (McClelland & Stewart, ISBN 978-0-7710-1736-0) (shortlisted for the 2011 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize and Pat Lowther Award)
- 1988: Sans Souci and Other Stories. Stratford, ON: Williams-Wallace, ISBN 0-88795-072-8 and ISBN 0-88795-073-6
- 1996: In Another Place, Not Here. Toronto: Knopf Canada, ISBN 0-394-28158-6
- 1999: At the Full and Change of the Moon. Toronto: Knopf Canada, ISBN 0-394-28158-6
- 2005: What We All Long For. Toronto: Knopf Canada, ISBN 978-0-676-97693-9
- 1986: Rivers have sources, trees have roots: speaking of racism (with Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta). Toronto: Cross Cultural Communications Centre, ISBN 0-9691060-6-8
- 1991: No Burden to Carry: Narratives of Black Working Women in Ontario, 1920s-1950s (with Lois De Shield). Toronto: Women's Press, ISBN 0-88961-163-7
- 1994: Imagination, Representation, and Culture
- 1994: We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History (with Peggy Bristow, Linda Carty, Afua P. Cooper, Sylvia Hamilton, and Adrienne Shadd). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-5943-0 and ISBN 0-8020-6881-2
- 1994: Bread Out of Stone: Recollections on Sex, Recognitions, Race, Dreaming and Politics. Toronto: Coach House Press, ISBN 0-88910-492-1; Toronto: Vintage, 1998, ISBN 0-676-97158-X
- 2001: A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging. Toronto: Random House Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-25892-0 and ISBN 0-385-25892-5
- 2008: A Kind of Perfect Speech: The Ralph Gustafson Lecture Malaspina University-College 19 October 2006. Nanaimo, BC: Institute for Coastal Research Publishing, ISBN 978-1-896886-05-3
- Older, Stronger, Wiser. Dir. Claire Prieto. Assoc. Dir. Dionne Brand (Part I, Women at the Well trilogy). National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1989
- Sisters in the Struggle. Dirs. Dionne Brand and Ginny Stikeman (Part II, Women at the Well trilogy). National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1991
- Long Time Comin'. Dir. Dionne Brand. Perf. Faith Nolan and Grace Channer (Part III, Women at the Well trilogy). National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1991
- Listening for Something: Adrienne Rich and Dionne Brand in Conversation. Dir. Dionne Brand. National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1996
- Beyond Borders: Arab Feminists Talk About Their Lives ... East and West. Dir. Jennifer Kawaja. Narr. Dionne Brand. National Film Board of Canada, 1999
- Under One Sky: Arab Women in North America Talk About the Hijab. Dir. Jennifer Kawaja. Narr. Dionne Brand. National Film Board of Canada, 1999
- Borderless: A Docu-Drama About the Lives of Undocumented Workers. Dir. Min Sook Lee. Narr. Dionne Brand. KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, 2006.
- 2007: The Journey Prize Stories: The Best of Canada's New Stories (with Caroline Adderson and David Bezmozqis, comps. and eds). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, ISBN 978-0-7710-9561-0
- Amin, Nuzhat et al. Canadian Woman Studies: An Introductory Reader. Toronto: Inanna Publications and Education Inc. 1999.
- Brand, Dionne. "Bread out of Stone", in Libby Scheier, Sarah Sheard and Eleanor Wachtel (eds), Language In Her Eye, Toronto: Coach House Press. 1990.
- Brand, Dionne. No Language is Neutral. Toronto: Coach House Press. 1990.
- Brand, Dionne. Rivers Have Sources, Trees Have Roots: Speaking of Racism (1986) with Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta. Toronto: Cross Communication Centre 1986.
- Brand, Dionne. "St. Mary Estate," in Eva C. Karpinski and Ian Lea (eds), Pens of Many Colours: A Canadian Reader (1993), Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Canada Inc. 1993.
- Brand, Dionne. "Just Rain, Bacolet"
- Kamboureli, Smaro. Making A Difference: Canadian Multicultual Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press. 1996.
- O'Toole, Megan (30 September 2009). "Dionne Brand is city's new poet laureate". National Post. Retrieved 1 October 2009.
- "Dionne Brand: Biography", Canadian poetry online, University of Toronto Libraries.
- "Dionne Brand, Biography / Criticism", Voices from the Gaps, University of Minnesota.
- Brand, Dionne. "Bread out of Stone", in Libby Scheier, Sarah Sheard and Eleanor Wachtel (eds), Language In Her Eye, Toronto: Coach House Press, 1990.
- Walcott, Rinaldo. Black Like Who? Toronto: Insomniac Press, 1997.
- Brand, Dionne. No Language is Neutral. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1990.
- Kamboureli, Smaro, Making A Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature, Toronto: Oxford University Press. 1996.
- Brand, Dionne, Rivers Have Sources, Trees Have Roots: Speaking of Racism (with Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta). Toronto: Cross Communication Centre. 1986.
- Dionne Brand. "St. Mary Estate", in Eva C. Karpinski and Ian Lea (eds), Pens of Many Colours: A Canadian Reader (1993), Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanvich Canada Inc. 1993.
- Brand, Dionne, "Just Rain, Bacolet". In Constance Rooke (ed.), Writing Away: the PEN Canada Travel Anthology, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc. 1994.
- Amin, Nuzhat et al. Canadian Woman Studies: An Introductory Reader. Toronto: Inanna Publications and Education Inc. 1999.
- Brathwaite, Edward Kamau (1985). "Dionne Brand's Winter Epigrams" in Canadian Literature 105. p. 18.
- Chamberlain, J. Edward (1993). Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, p. 266; p. 269.
- Dickinson, Peter; Veronica Strong-Boag, et al. (eds). (1998), "'In Another Place, Not Here': Dionne Brand's Politics of (Dis)Location" in Painting the Maple: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Construction of Canada. Vancouver, UBC Press, p. 114.
- Dickinson, Peter. (1998), 117
- Sanders, Leslie (1989). "'I am stateless anyway': The Poetry of Dionne Brand" in Zora Neale Hurston Forum 3 (2), p. 20.
- Sanders, Leslie (1989), p. 26.
- Sanders, Leslie (1989), p. 20.
- Dickinson, Peter (1998), pp. 119-120.
- Sturgess, Charlotte (2003). Redefining the Subject: Sites of Play in Canadian Women's Writing. Amsterdam and New York: Éditions Rodopi B.V., p. 51.
- Sturgess, Charlotte (2003), p. 53.
- Sturgess, Charlotte (2003), p. 58
- Bernabei, Franca (2007). "Testimonianze/Appreciations" in Luce ostinata/Tenacious Light. Ravenna, IT: A. Longo Editore snc, p. 6.
- "Dionne Brand, Griffin Poetry Prize 2011, Canadian Winner".
- Mark Medley, "Dionne Brand, Gjertrud Schnackenberg win Griffin Poetry Prize", Afterword, June 1, 2011.
- "Dionne Brand among Griffin poetry finalists". CBC News. 5 April 2011.
- In Constance Rooke (ed.), Writing Away: the PEN Canada Travel Anthology, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc. 1994.
- Canadian Poetry Online: Dionne Brand - Biography and two poems (I from Thirsty and II from Inventory)
- Dionne Brand's entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Griffin Poetry Prize biography
- Griffin Poetry Prize readings, including video clips