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Myra Lee Virgil
Becoming a Black Canadian and the Rendering of Other Superpowers

Becoming a Black Canadian and the Rendering of Other Superpowers by Myra Virgil is the first book to take an unfiltered account of growing up Black in modern-day Western Canada. It weaves anecdotes with cultural analysis, which together explore coming-of-age as a curious paradox of loss, courage, curiosity, achievement and insider-outsider experiences.

When asked with genuine interest and sincerity, “What was it like – no, really – growing up for you in Canada?”, an early memory of the author’s youngest brother Malcolm’s accident is triggered. The author’s response comes in the form of an inquiry into how people of colour deploy an unsung set of superpowers. There’s joy in the face of adversity, might, grit, magnetism, passive activism, graciousness in defeat, composure under fire and camaraderie as a choice. One might not be familiar with these superpowers. Though dubious to some, they are rendered into existence as the ways they help their owners occupy their places in Canada.

In this five-part memoir, readers are introduced to Myra. Everyone Myra comes across as she makes her way around her neighbourhood in Richmond, BC comes to wield a set of superpowers – not of the commercialized, laser-gazing, super-strength ilk, but those borne of strife and success. Flashing back to the 1950s, the author interrogates how her parents, two black professionals, come to find themselves making a life in Western Canada after an ironic upset to her father’s career path. And then, what it took for them to create an environment for their kids that danced, literally, between growing black, Afro-Caribbean culture in the form of Black picnics and Black Associations and their own version of the ‘just work hard’ narrative, to augment the spirit of multiculturalism that Canada strives to invoke. That her father could balance a standing baby in one hand, an ultimate icebreaker, was a bonus feat.

The story then jumps to the 70s and 80s, girl and city coming of age and into themselves as Myra develops a sense that she too can become powerful in her own right. In the final sections of the book, Myra is ready to re-examine her identity as a black Canadian while pursuing a career that abets in this soul-searching. A vivid reflection on growing up Black in Western and Eastern Canada, I Thought You’d Never Ask will resonate with people who have emerged from unconventional families in places and spaces where aspirations are meant to flourish. Readers will find themselves reminiscing about Expo 86 while reflecting on their own family dynamics, gender, and cultural differences, and the pursuit of excellence at a cost– all aided by contemplative, often humorous commentary on an unusual emigration experience.

Malcolm survives the accident and his story sets the stage for the sharing of others. And each chapter features a theme song that will evoke memories for readers of any origin or race.

A superpower playlist can be found at https://www.myraleevirgil.com/team-4.

Myra Virgil is the CEO of a philanthropic organization, a social worker, and a recovered civil servant. Born in Canada to Bermudian and American parents, she lives and writes from Bermuda, which she considers home. She is a Commonwealth Short Story Prize long-lister (2022) and Fiddlehead Creative Nonfiction Prize finalist. In 2023, she was honoured by His Majesty The King, Charles III, with a King’s Certificate for services to Bermuda. She hopes her life stories grow social consciousness and inspire people to explore their own voices and super qualities. Memoir writing competes with pickleball for her spare time.

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