College of Arts and Science brings author Lawrence Hill to the U of S

By in Culture

On Nov. 21, well-known author of The Book of Negroes and The Illegal, Lawrence Hill, will be speaking at the University of Saskatchewan for the annual College of Arts and Science book club presentation. The Sheaf met with Peta Bonham-Smith, interim dean of the College of Arts and Science, to discuss the event.

The book club began five years ago and aims to bring a cohesiveness to the college by choosing a book that will be of interest to as many students as possible — as the college has over 70 different programs that vary from sciences to humanities and fine arts. The club hopes to bring all students together to discuss a book that is both interesting and relevant, no matter their area of study.

Lawrence Hills book The Illegal tells the trials and tribulations of being an illegal immigrant.

“As a big college, we sometimes lack that cohesiveness that smaller colleges have with their students. So we thought one way of trying to provide an element of cohesiveness within the college was to try a book club,” Bonham-Smith said.

Early every winter, the club committee accepts nominations from students for next year’s book. The book needs to appeal to the students across the college and needs to speak to a relevant issue in society.

“We would get together and select a book that we thought would be appealing across the disciplines, appealing to our students, appealing to our staff and faculty, and pick a book that has been written by a living author because once we pick the book, we would like it to be used, if possible, in as many of the courses as we can across the college,” Bonham-Smith said.

This year’s book, The Illegal, meets this criteria perfectly — this book was published in 2015 and won the Canada Reads Award in 2016. It tells the story of Keita, a long distance runner who has to seek refuge from his country and live as an illegal immigrant in a new country.

“It’s an excellent read and Lawrence Hill is a very noted author right now. It’s also very topical in that it is based on an illegal immigrant and the trials and tribulations of an illegal immigrant who happens to be a very good long distance runner as well,” Bonham-Smith said.

This book gives readers an inside perspective on the life of an illegal immigrant and the emotions and experiences that come with that. 

“What Mr. Hill has done is taken something from society right now, and taken one character and really shown us the trials and tribulations of one person, one illegal immigrant, that you get to know very well, and by doing that you really get the sense of what this mass of people are going through,” Bonham-Smith said.

There will be two presentations by Hill on Nov. 21 — one at 1:30 p.m., which will be a discussion about the book and the other at 7:30 p.m., which will be about the author himself and his journey as a writer. Both events will be at Convocation Hall in the Peter MacKinnon Building and are open to all students across the U of S, as well as the general public. If you are unable to attend in person, don’t worry — the evening presentation will be livestreamed through the College of Arts and Science website.

“Our students benefit from the author and that interaction. They can ask questions, particularly our students who are interested in a writing career,” Bonham-Smith said.

For students who would like to get involved in next year’s book club, keep an eye on the College of Arts and Science website where the call for nominations for the next book will be posted. The call will be put out later this year, and both students and alumni can nominate a book that they have enjoyed and believe will be a good choice for next year.

Lyndsay Afseth

Photo: Lisa Sakulensky / Supplied