In this year’s CBC Massey Lectures, bestselling author Lawrence Hill offers a provocative examination of the scientific and social history of blood, and on the ways that it unites and divides us today.
Blood runs red through every person’s arteries and fulfills the same functions in every human being. The study of blood has advanced our understanding of biology and improved medical treatments, but its cultural and social representations have divided us perennially. Blood pulses through religion, literature, and the visual arts. Every time it pools or spills, we learn a little more about what brings human beings together and what pulls us apart. For centuries, perceptions of difference in our blood have separated people on the basis of gender, race, class, and nation. Ideas about blood purity have spawned rules about who gets to belong to a family or cultural group, who enjoys the rights of citizenship and nationality, what privileges one can expect to be granted or denied, whether you inherit poverty or the right to rule over the masses, what constitutes fair play in sport, and what defines a person’s identity.
Blood: The Stuff of Life is a bold meditation on blood as an historical and contemporary marker of identity, belonging, gender, race, class, citizenship, athletic superiority, and nationhood.
Lawrence Hill is the author of several novels and works of nonfiction, including Some Great Thing, Any Known Blood, and the award-winning national bestseller The Book of Negroes. He also wrote the memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada and co-authored, with Joshua Key, The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq.