Spanning five generations, sweeping across a century and a half of almost unknown history, this acclaimed and unexpectedly funny novel is the story of a man seeking himself in the mirror of his family's past.
There were Canes in Canada before the United States erupted into civil war. Their roots are deep, their legacy is rich, but Langston Cane V knows little of his heritage. He is thirty-eight, divorced, and childless and has just been fired for sabotaging a government official's speech. The eldest son of a white mother and prominent black father, Langston feels more acutely than ever the burden of his illustrious family name and his racially mixed heritage. To be black in a white society is hard enough; to be half-black, half-white is to have no identity at all. Or so Langston believes. After a run-in with his father, Langston takes off for his feisty aunt's house in Baltimore, where he embarks on a remarkable quest for his family's past.
It's said that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, but to Langston, history offers not condemnation but reprieve. For when he stumbles across a treasure trove of family documents, he sets off on a journey through time that will lead him back to the famous antislavery raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and the great-great-grandfather who fought beside John Brown. He rediscovers the long line of relatives who have battled for racial justice, decade after decade. He finds passion, dignity, and courage--and, at last, by unearthing and giving voice to those who came before him, he finds himself.
Rich in historical detail and gracefully flowing from the slave trade of nineteenth-century Virginia to the present, Any Known Blood gives life to a story never before told, a story of five generations of a black Canadian family whose tragedies and victories merge with the American experience.
About the author
LAWRENCE HILL is a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph. He is the author of ten books, including The Illegal; The Book Of Negroes; Any Known Blood; and Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. He is the winner of various awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, and is a two-time winner of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. Hill delivered the North America-wide 2013 Massey Lectures, based on his non-fiction book Blood: The Stuff of Life. He co-wrote the adaptation for the six-part television miniseries The Book of Negroes, which attracted millions of viewers and won eleven Canadian Screen Awards. The recipient of nine honorary doctorates from Canadian universities, Hill served as chair of the jury of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is a volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates and the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, and is an honorary patron of Crossroads International, for which he has volunteered for more than thirty-five years and with which he has travelled to Niger, Cameroon, Mali, and Swaziland. A 2018 Berton House resident in Dawson City, he is working on a new novel about the African-American soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway in northern B.C. and Yukon in 1942–43. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and in 2019 was named a Canada Library and Archives Scholar. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, and in Woody Point, Newfoundland.