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What We All Long for (05 Edition)by Dionne Brand
Synopses & ReviewsPlease note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.
“They were born in the city from people born elsewhere.”
What We All Long For follows the overlapping stories of a close circle of second-generation twenty-somethings living in downtown Toronto. There’s Tuyen, a lesbian avant-garde artist and the daughter of Vietnamese parents who’ve never recovered from losing one of their children in the crush to board a boat out of Vietnam in the 1970s. Tuyen defines herself in opposition to just about everything her family believes in and strives for. She’s in love with her best friend Carla, a biracial bicycle courier, who’s still reeling from the loss of her mother to suicide eighteen years earlier and who must now deal with her brother Jamal’s latest acts of delinquency. Oku is a jazz-loving poet who, unbeknownst to his Jamaican-born parents, has dropped out of university. He is in constant conflict with his narrow-minded and verbally abusive father and tormented by his unrequited love for Jackie, a gorgeous black woman who runs a hip clothing shop on Queen Street West and dates only white men. Like each of her friends, Jackie feels alienated from her parents, former hipsters from Nova Scotia who never made it out of subsidized housing after their lives became entangled with desire and disappointment.
The four characters try to make a life for themselves in the city, supporting one another through their family struggles.
There’s a fifth main character, Quy, the child who Tuyen’s parents lost in Vietnam. In his first-person narrative, Quy describes how he survived in various refugee camps, then in the Thai underworld. After years of being hardened, he has finally made his way to Toronto and will soon be reunited with his family – whether to love them or hurt them, it’s not clear. His story builds to a breathless crescendo in an ending that will both shock and satisfy readers.
What We All Long For is a gripping and, at times, heart-rending story about identity, longing and loss in a cosmopolitan city. No other writer has presented such a powerful and richly textured portrait of present-day Toronto. Rinaldo Walcott writes in The Globe and Mail: “… every great city has its literary moments, and contemporary Toronto has been longing for one. We can now say with certainty that we no longer have to long for a novel that speaks this city’s uniqueness: Dionne Brand has given us exactly that.” Donna Bailey Nurse writes in the National Post: “What We All Long For is a watershed novel. From now on, Canadian writers will be pressed to portray contemporary Toronto in all its multiracial colour and polyphonic sound.”
But What We All Long For is not only about a particular city. It’s about the universal experience of being human. As Walcott puts it, “Brand makes us see ourselves differently and anew. She translates our desires and experiences into a language, an art that allows us to voice that which we live, but could not utter or bring to voice until she did so for us.”
A breakout novel for Dionne Brand: a story of heart-stopping suspense from the acclaimed author of At the Full and Change of the Moon, that is also a hymn to youth and life in the city.
What we all long for opens with an unforgettable scene: desperate Vietnamese families are fleeing the country in open boats. In the confusion and darkness, six-year-old Quy, carrying his family’s life-savings of diamonds sewn into his belt, loses his grip on his mother’s hand and, in the crush of people, follows the wrong pair of trousered legs into another boat. His family manages to get to Canada soon after, but Quy, trapped in the refugee camps in Thailand, is seemingly lost to them.
Some twenty years on in Toronto, in the summer of 2002, Quy’s mother still lives in hope of finding him. Her daughter Tuyen, an aspiring artist, and her friends are typical Canadian kids getting by in the city — afire with their desire for independence, they’re selling used clothes, bike couriering, sponging off their parents. At night they blast John Coltrane and drum ’n’ bass, get high and try to find the passion they believe will galvanize their lives. Meanwhile Quy, now a dangerous criminal, is finding his way to Canada and to a gripping, unexpected encounter with his lost family.
In this beautiful novel that is both a hymn to life in the city and to youth, the mounting tension of Quy’s journey is skilfully played out against the rhythms and excitements of Toronto from the seventies to the present.
Excerpt From What We All Long For
The muscles of highway and streets met down at the lake. All along the underpasses graffiti marred the concrete girders. She recognized the tags. The kids who lived across the alleyway from her apartment were graffiti artists. Kumaran’s grinning pig, Abel’s ‘narc’ initial, then Keeran’s desert and Jericho’s lightning bolt. She felt slightly comforted though she had asked them often enough to paint something else if they were going to paint the whole city over. Something more. They had practically filled all the walls of the city with these four signs, and she would have liked them to paint a flowering jungle or a seaside, the places where her mother Angie had always dreamed of going but never went. But she loved the city. She loved riding through the neck of it. . .She loved the feeling of weight and balance it gave her.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Born in Trinidad, Dionne Brand has lived in Canada since 1970, and is renowned as a poet. Her books of poetry include No Language Is Neutral (1990), a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, and Land to Light On (1997), winner of the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Award. Brand is also the author of the acclaimed novels In Another Place, Not Here, which was shortlisted for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Trillium Award, and At the Full and Change of the Moon. Her works of non-fiction include Bread Out of Stone and A Map to the Door of No Return. Dionne Brand lives in Toronto.
From the Hardcover edition.
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