Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Emancipation Day” as Want to Read:
Emancipation Day
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Emancipation Day

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,227 ratings  ·  175 reviews
How far would a son go to belong? And how far would a father go to protect him?

With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It's World War II, and while stationed in St. John's, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled, romantic Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Doubleday Canada
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Emancipation Day, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Emancipation Day

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,227 ratings  ·  175 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Emancipation Day
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very slow start. Great writing and great story!!!
Steven Langdon
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: super
Canada is becoming a grand melange of colours and cultures. In my own family, for instance, my daughters have Chinese origins, two grandchildren have African-Asian and Anglo roots, my wife's mother comes from a middle-eastern family and my daughter-in-law is Ghanaian.

But this comfort with diversity was much less common in our country's past. We have a sad history of blocking Chinese immigration, refusing Jewish refugees, forcing Indians onto reservations and into residential schools, interning
May 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: can-con, 2014
I remember my mother-in-law once telling me about how the singer/actress Dinah Shore gave birth to a black baby, and although it nearly broke up her marriage, her white husband ended up accepting the boy was his (although they did secretly give the baby up for adoption) after it was discovered that Shore had a black ancestor somewhere along the line. My mother-in-law wasn't telling me this story because she was horrified by the image of a white woman having a black baby -- she was simply sharing ...more
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Emancipation Day is written by a Canadian author; it is a novel inspired by the author's parents and his own life. The settings in the story are mainly Canadian -Newfoundland, Toronto, and Windsor - but there are many references to Windsor's neighbouring US city, Detroit. It is easy to enjoy a book which reflects sights and places one is familiar with; therefore reading Emancipation Day was pure joy. When Hiram Walker was first mentioned in the book, I did not have to contemplate whether Hiram W ...more
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-library

I loved how Mr. Grady flowed the story with the characters, as if it happened , so believable.

I live near a Black historical museum and the whole history of it's race is sad to hear, I was born at Grace hospital in Windsor, so I totally was not putting this book down till it was finished .. 2 days. It kept me wondering , what the characters would do with theirs lives as there history unraveled on the pages. thanks for writing this book , and giving it to me to read, I am thankful to goodreads
Jo Davies
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
A quick read about race and identity, as odd as that sounds. Who we think we are and who others think we are is often not one and the same, and Emancipation Day examines this through several points of view. The main character is Jack (Jackson to his family) Lewis, a sailor in the Canadian Navy during WWII. He meets and marries Vivian, a pretty young volunteer at the Knights of Columbus hall where his band plays. Vivian sees Jack as a Frank Sinatra-type crooner, and it isn't until they marry and ...more
Karen Gallant
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although I felt Vivian's character's reactions to situations were somewhat unlikely I did very much enjoy the book. Good insights to race relations and struggles of the period. Not sure I understand the strength of conviction of Della's view towards the end of the book that society's reaction to inter-marriage etc was seen as all ok now (as it wasn't then and still is not really) and whether that was the authors view or whether he was just demonstrating the diversity of opinion then and now. It ...more
Mary Soderstrom
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very good book, one I should have read when it came out. I'd put it on the list for one of my library book clubs, but only got around to reading it this week. Kept me awake, both because the story is so compelling and well-written, and because it deals with some of the most important themes of our time. Belonging. Race. Creation. Love.

I won't say any more about what the story covers, because that could spoil readers' enjoyment. But I heartily recommend it.
Denise Berube
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a very unique piece of work, about the inability of one to find himself and his place within society and the lack of acceptance of his heritage. I found that I struggled through the first few chapters of this novel, but as the story started to develop, I was eager to read on and found myself absorbed in the lives and relationships of those in the novel.
Hilary Scroggie
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
One of the most devastating final sentences of any book I ever read.
Shirley Schwartz
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a book that was recommended to me, and when I read that it was set around WWII and steeped in the jazz and be bop movement that was popular at that time, I just couldn't resist it. When I found out that it was also a book that made the 2013 Giller prize long list and was nominated a Globe and Mail Best Book, I knew I had to read it. The book is about much more than WWII and the big band and jazz era. It is a book about families, and father and son relationships. It's a book about Canada ...more
Vanessa Shields
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I met Wayne at a writer's conference and the first thing he asked me when he met me was: did you read my book? to which i responded: did you read mine? Since that day, i've been thinking about Wayne, and promising myself that I would read his book (at least one of them!) so that if/when we meet again, I can tell him, 'yes, why, yes, I did read your book.'. I started with Emancipation Day because it takes place in the Windsor, my home city. I quite like Grady's pulled me along and fo ...more
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
At times I thought this book was just okay. Many times I was confused by where the author was going with the story line....going back and forth between present and past. However, upon finishing the book I must say it was brilliant. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in another races skin? Jackson, the main character in this novel, pretty much does just that. The final chapter, and even more so, the final line (dialogue) in this novel is epic. I thought at first I would rate thi ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Jack Lewis, a Navy musician stationed in St. John’s, Nfld, during WWII, meets Vivian and marries her despite her family’s misgivings. After the war, they set off for Windsor, Ont., to meet Jack’s family before they decide where they will live. It is in Windsor that Vivian starts discovering that there is much Jack has not told her and that much of what he has is not the truth.

Jack’s biggest secret, revealed to the reader in the first quarter of the book, is that he is passing as white. His entir
A struggle for me to finish and am wondering if, as the author noted "early versions were long & unwieldly" I would have finished the book as I was hoping for more of a history on Emancipation Day and not so much a story I could not always get into.

I wondered if both Jack and Vivian had some sort of "problems" since Jack wanted to hide the fact he was black despite he had black friends and music fans & Vivian for seemingly being insecure throughout her dating and marriage to Jack.

Still trying t
Alyssa Arundell
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received an advanced reader copy of this book through the Goodreads first giveaways and I am so happy that I won a copy of this novel by Wayne Grady!

The book just drew me in right away and kept me wanting more as I read on. there are so many highs and lows when it comes to the emotional ties you make with the characters in this story. Wayne Grady depicts the struggles that were faced in the early post second world war years and how a young couple who barely knew each other were able to make it
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it
This story started out as a 5 star read, until I got about half way through. It became a bit unbelievable.

Young Jack is a navy musician and is stationed in Newfoundland during WWII. He meets Vivian and they marry against her family's wishes. There is something about Jack that they don't like, but can't really pin point the reason.

The couple travels to Windsor where Jack's family lives. Vivian is very anxious to meet his family and when she is introduced to his mother and siblings, she becomes a
Zoë Danielle
I read Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady over just a couple days, following a pretty lengthy reading slump. I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but Grady's book had rave reviews, including a Giller nomination, so I decided to try it out. Despite taking place during the 1940s and 50s, Emancipation Days is extremely current with the tackling of race issues. In it, Jack Lewis meets Vivian Clift while stationed in Newfoundland, and the two fall in love and marry, despite her family's disapproval ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I know that Canada as we know it today didn't become fully formed until long after our departure from England. And I know that WWII impacted the world in myriad ways and places, but at the same time I think of WWII almost exclusively as Europe. And when I think of racial issues in Canada, I think about residential schools, internment camps and head taxes. This story, told through alternating POV, reminds you that Canada as a country did not include Newfoundland until almost 1950, and that we wer ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Often I find that books start off really strong, but then they drag or the end is disappointing. Emancipation Day was the opposite for me. I found the beginning a bit slow and the first third quite ordinary. But the book got better and better -- especially when Vivian and Jack go to Windsor and we get far more insight into the complex race relations at the heart of the story. And without giving anything away, the last chapter -- especially the last few paragraphs -- is brilliant, sad and especia ...more
May 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I received a free copy of Emancipation Day via a Goodreads giveaway. I enjoyed this book. I found it sad how someone could have such hatred for their ethnic heritage but since this story is set in a time I don't understand, a time when the colour of a person skin made a significant difference in lifestyle and opportunities there could be merit to those feelings. Thank-you Goodreads and thank you Wayne Grady. ...more
Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked this story, and the way the author moved from character to character, and his descriptive language was really good.
And, perhaps my favorite part of the book, was the ending.....and the fact that, in this case, the author did not tie everything up in a pretty bow but left me pondering.
Well done Mr Grady.
Donald Macivor
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
An intelligent well written powerful book. Sure it is about race and World War 2 and jazz but it ends up being about very real people brought to life by this first time novelist ( albeit, an accomplished experienced writer). Strongly recommended.
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book shows very well the Canadian experience vis-a-vis race, segregation and discrimination at the time. Wayne Grady is an excellent writer, and he captures not only the times but also the feelings and perspectives of the characters.
J. Stephen
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wayne Grady's writing style is wonderful – every word seems to be well chosen, pulling visuals into the reader's mind.

A story of belonging and not belonging, full of surprises.

Jack/Jackson navigates through a life of lies.
Kathleen Nightingale
I just finished reading this book, Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady. It only came on my Reading radar due to One Book One Community in Waterloo Region. What a thought provoking book!!! This book comes on the heels of the explosion regarding ones heritage and ethnicity. We have had several articles recently regarding this issue in social media, newspapers and television, etc. From Joseph Boyden (Boyden writes superbly on Native American heritage -- One Day Road, Through Black Spruce and The Orenda ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I grew up in a small town. Think 800 people. Think rural Ontario. Think white. For a couple of elections, we were the only riding to vote for a Reform Party (the precursor to the Conservative party) candidate in all of Ontario. So imagine the Stop Racism! campaign in my elementary school: when all of my class, including the two black kids in the school (siblings), staged an assembly to declare to the rest of the school that we were stopping! racism! And I really did feel like we were – united – ...more
Dec 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Full review posted on Worn Pages and Ink.

I can’t say that I connected with any of the characters in Emancipation Day and that’s why I’ve given it 3 stars. I found Jack charming at first, but he quickly becomes sullen, withdrawn, isolated, and all around unlikable. His story is certainly hard to stomach sometimes, but it’s difficult to feeling any sympathy for him. I do feel some compassion to his wife Vivian, because she ends up marrying a man who she really doesn’t know, but she too falls flat.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a well written, realistic novel.It is about lies people tell and the consequences for themselves and others. It deals with themes of denial of heritage, miscegenation, secrecy, racial relations, and how one's prejudices are passed on to the next generation.The story takes place in St. John's, Newfoundland, Windsor, Ont., Toronto and Detroit. The time is from just before the end of WW@ up to several years before the Civil Rights Movement began.
Jack is a navy musician/singer stationed in
Feb 15, 2015 rated it liked it
"The story depicts the life of black Canadians in Windsor, Ontario in the 1940's- the focus being the various shades of colour & their social effect. It follows a black family- William Henry Lewis the father, a poor plasterer who likes to be plastered, his wife & 2 sons. The oldest Benny is easygoing & fond of drink, but the youngest Jack(son) is born white, and a such is rejected by his father as illegitimate & the product of his wife's infidelity with a white man. It drives Jack to leave home ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Us Conductors
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
  • The Innocents
  • Five Little Indians
  • Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations
  • Starlight
  • Coldheart Canyon
  • Certainty
  • No Name in the Street
  • Natasha and Other Stories
  • Moon of the Crusted Snow
  • How to Pronounce Knife
  • Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club
  • Radicalized
  • Promises to Keep
  • Sweetness in the Belly
  • Two Solitudes
  • Frying Plantain
See similar books…
Wayne Grady is the award-winning author of Emancipation Day, a novel of denial and identity. He has also written such works of science and nature as The Bone Museum, Bringing Back the Dodo, The Quiet Limit of the World, and The Great Lakes, which won a National Outdoor Book Award in the U.S. With his wife, novelist Merilyn Simonds, he co-authored Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels Through America ...more

News & Interviews

Care to travel to past times for some serious drama? Check out this season's biggest historical fiction novels and be transported to tales of...
48 likes · 19 comments