Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction World War Ii

Emancipation Day

by (author) Wayne Grady

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Nov 2014
World War II, Sagas, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2013
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2014
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


"Grady's novel reads with the velvety tempo of the jazz music of its day. . . . Grady fearlessly explores heated race relations and the masks we all assume." —Chatelaine

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 Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and longs to see the world. They marry against Vivian's family's wishes—there's something about Jack that they just don't like—and as the war draws to a close, the 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 husband gets called into question. They don't live in the dream home Jack depicted, they all look different from one another—different from anyone Vivian has ever seen--and after weeks of waiting to meet Jack's father, 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.

About the author

Wayne Grady is the general editor of this series of literary anthologies devoted to the world's natural wonders. One of Canada's foremost popular science writers and the winner of three Science in Society awards from the Canadian Science Writers' Association, he is the author of twelve nonfiction books on such diverse adventures as hunting dinosaurs in the Gobi Desert, investigating global warming at the North Pole, and discovering the wild in an urban metropolis. His books include the bestselling Tree: A Life Story, written with David Suzuki, and Bringing Back the Dodo. His most recent book is the award-winning The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region. He lives near Kingston, Ontario.

Wayne Grady's profile page


  • Nominated, Scotiabank Giller Prize

Editorial Reviews

Winner of the 2013 First Novel Award
Longlisted for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize
Named the 2017 One Book One Community selection for Waterloo Region
A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2013
A CBC Best Book of 2013

"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 startling book, one that will likely be celebrated come awards season." —National Post
"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
"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 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. . . . Grady's 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

"A haunting tale of shame, denial, racism and the intricacy of family relationships." —The News (UK)

"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 has created character out of life, out of love, out of recognition and sympathy. The characters are not to be missed." —Linda Spalding, author of The Purchase

"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

"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 Flannery and Something for Everyone

Other titles by Wayne Grady