As a young girl growing up in Trinidad, Dionne Brand submitted poems to the newspapers under the pseudonym Xavier Simone, an homage to Nina Simone, whom she would listen to late at night on the radio. Brand moved to Canada when she was 17 to attend the University of Toronto, where she earned a degree in Philosophy and English, a Masters in the Philosophy of Education and pursued PhD studies in Women’s History but left the program to make time for creative writing.
Dionne Brand first came to prominence in Canada as a poet. Her books of poetry include No Language Is Neutral, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, and Land to Light On, winner of the Governor General’ s Award and the Trillium Award and thirsty, finalist for the Griffin Prize and winner of the Pat Lowther Award for poetry. 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. What We All Long For was published to great critical acclaim in 2005. While writing the novel, Brand would find herself gazing out the window of a restaurant in the very Toronto neighbourhood occupied by her characters. “I’d be looking through the window and I’d think this is like the frame of the book, the frame of reality: ‘There they are: a young Asian woman passing by with a young black woman passing by, with a young Italian man passing by,” she says in an interview with The Toronto Star. A recent Vanity Fair article quotes her as saying “I’ve ‘read’ New York and London and Paris. And I thought this city needs to be written like that, too.”
In addition to her literary accomplishments, Brand is Professor of English in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph.
“With her amazing gaze and extraordinary skill, Dionne Brand has once again given us a collection of poetry both complex and unerring in its vision, integrity, sense of history. Brand understands the vivacity of the past, the strength of ancestral voices, and integrates these in a poetry astonishing in its ability to sing to us, to move us, to make us remember. A major work by a brilliant poet.” –Michelle Cliff
“Dionne Brand’s voice is unique, elegiac…she uses language to disturb. As water in a pool is, by a stone’s throw, disturbed, distorted. English unleased.” –Dorothy Livesay
“No Language Is Neutral is a gathering of thoughtful meaning and of strong beautiful images which cannot leave anyone neutral” –Nicole Brossard