In May 2015, the cover story of Toronto Life magazine shook Canada’s largest city to its core. Desmond Cole’s “The Skin I’m In” exposed the racist practices of the Toronto police force, detailing the dozens of times Cole had been stopped and interrogated under the controversial practice of carding. The story quickly came to national prominence, went on to win a number of National Magazine Awards and catapulted its author into the public sphere. Cole used his newfound profile to draw insistent, unyielding attention to the injustices faced by Black Canadians on a daily basis: the devastating effects of racist policing; the hopelessness produced by an education system that expects little of its black students and withholds from them the resources they need to succeed more fully; the heartbreak of those vulnerable before the child welfare system and those separated from their families by discriminatory immigration laws.
Both Cole’s activism and journalism find vibrant expression in his first book, The Skin We’re In. Puncturing once and for all the bubble of Canadian smugness and naïve assumptions of a post-racial nation, Cole chronicles just one year–2017–in the struggle against racism in this country. It was a year that saw calls for tighter borders when Black refugees braved frigid temperatures to cross into Manitoba from the States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, police across the country rallying around an officer accused of murder, and more.
In a month-by-month chronicle, Cole locates the deep cultural, historical and political roots of each event so that what emerges is a personal, painful and comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality. Urgent, controversial and unsparingly honest, The Skin We’re In is destined to become a vital text for anti-racist and social justice movements in Canada, as well as a potent antidote to the all-too-present complacency of many white Canadians.
Join Desmond for an insightful, charged, and necessary discussion about his new book at the February 2020 edition of Writers at the Rose.
DESMOND COLE is an award-winning journalist, radio host and activist in Toronto. His writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, The Walrus, NOW Magazine, Ethnic Aisle, Torontoist, BuzzFeed and the Ottawa Citizen. He hosts a weekly radio program every Sunday on Newstalk 1010.
I found the FOLD very well organized and put together. I enjoyed attending the panels and was fortunate to meet several other like-minded authors during panels of my own. One of my most rewarding experiences was the Teen Track event, where I had the opportunity to connect with young writers from schools. The FOLD brings together all that is great in Canadian literature, with artists from multiple experiences and backgrounds. I am sure that, with its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, the festival will only grow better in the years to come.
Tanaz Bhathena, author of A Girl Like That
The FOLD is a remarkable and wonderful event for authors and attendees alike. What an amazing community, dedicated to the vital need for inclusive stories and the critical role they play in building a better world
L Soraya Chemaly, author of Rage Becomes Her
This book [Field Guide to the North American Teenager] is my first novel and FOLD was my first Canadian literary festival. While American and Canadian culture overlap quite a bit, especially when it comes to bookshelves, Canadian literature is unique and I was very heartened by to be embraced by that community I consider home despite residing in the US. It was a homecoming I didn’t know I needed!
Ben Philippe, author of Field Guide to the North American Teenager
The Festival of Literary Diversity was an absolute joy–the organizers thought of *everything* and by anticipating authors’ needs, they freed us to focus on connecting with the audience and each other. There was no pretension, no posturing–just very genuine conversations with invested writers and engaged readers.
Zetta Elliott, author of Dragons in A Bag
I have been to a lot of writers festivals and the FOLD is definitely near the top of the list of those I want to be invited back to.
Harold Johnson, author of the memoirs Clifford and Firewater
I felt this festival was very special. Being part of such a clearly diverse, inclusive and mutually respectful group was thrilling and inspiring: a glimpse of a better world.
Kathy Page, author of Dear Evelyn, winner of the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
Wherever I go in Canada and find another writer of colour, we eventually end up gushing about how great the FOLD is, how by normalizing diversity it liberates us to talk to audiences about craft. It’s hard to imagine the literary landscape returning to a prehistoric pre-FOLD era.
Ian Williams, winner of the 2019 Giller Prize
FOLD is a festival experience unlike any other I’ve had. The FOLD team strive to create a space that’s welcoming and engaging, while allowing for curiosity, ingenuity and the fostering of real community – and they succeed, every year.
Alicia Elliott, author of A Mind Spread Out On The Ground
The FOLD is one of the most important literary events on this continent. By focusing on diverse voices and giving authors space to share their stories and speak their truths, it is revolutionizing the writing and storytelling realm as we know it. I’ve been fortunate to participate in the FOLD twice now, and each experience has been a major highlight of my literary career. I felt right at home!
Waubgeshig Rice, author of Moon Of The Crusted Snow
Being part of the FOLD community has provided me with a strong sense of belonging. I can’t understate how much sharing diverse stories and listening to different voices that broaden my understanding of the world has impacted me as a person and motivated me as a writer. My sincerest thanks to everyone at the FOLD for championing diverse authors and stories!