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Disorientation by Ian Williams

Disorientation by Ian Williams

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Bestselling, Scotiabank Giller Award-winning writer Ian Williams brings fresh eyes and new insights to today's urgent conversation on race and racism in startling, illuminating essays that grow out of his own experience as a Black man moving through the world.

With that one eloquent word, disorientation, Ian Williams captures the impact of racial encounters on racialized people--the whiplash of race that occurs while minding one's own business. Sometimes the consequences are only irritating, but sometimes they are deadly. Spurred by the police killings and street protests of 2020, Williams realized he could offer a perspective distinct from the almost exclusively America-centric books on race topping the bestseller lists, because of one salient fact: he has lived in Trinidad (where he was never the only Black person in the room), in Canada (where he often was), and in the United States (where as a Black man from the Caribbean, he was a different kind of only).

Inspired by the essays of James Baldwin, in which the personal becomes the gateway to larger ideas, Williams explores such things as the unmistakable moment when a child realizes they are Black; the ten characteristics of institutional whiteness; how friendship forms a bulwark against being a target of racism; the meaning and uses of a Black person's smile; and blame culture--or how do we make meaningful change when no one feels responsible for the systemic structures of the past. With these essays, Williams wants to reach a multi-racial audience of people who believe that civil conversation on even the most charged subjects is possible. Examining the past and the present in order to speak to the future, he offers new thinking, honest feeling, and his astonishing, piercing gift of language.

Ian Williams is the author of six books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His latest book, Disorientation, considers the impact of racial encounters on ordinary people.

His novel, Reproduction, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was published in Canada, the US, the UK, and Italy. His poetry collection, Word Problems, converts the ethical and political issues of our time into math and grammar problems. It won the Raymond Souster Award. His previous collection, Personals, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award. His short story collection, Not Anyone’s Anything, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada. His first book, You Know Who You Are, was a finalist for the ReLit Poetry Prize. He is a trustee for the Griffin Poetry Prize. 

Williams completed his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. After several years teaching poetry in the School of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Williams returned to the University of Toronto as a tenured professor of English. He was the 2014-2015 Canadian Writer-in-Residence for the University of Calgary’s Distinguished Writers Program. In 2022, he will be the Visiting Fellow at the American Library in Paris.