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A Map to the Door of No Return

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  563 ratings  ·  62 reviews
A Map to the Door of No Return is a timely book that explores the relevance and nature of identity and belonging in a culturally diverse and rapidly changing world. It is an insightful, sensitive and poetic book of discovery.

Drawing on cartography, travels, narratives of childhood in the Caribbean, journeys across the Canadian landscape, African ancestry, histories, politi
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 25th 2001 by Random House of Canada Ltd
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  563 ratings  ·  62 reviews

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Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"I have not visited the Door of No Return, but by relying on random shards of history and unwritten memoir of descendants of those who passed through it, including me, I am constructing a map of the region, paying attention to faces, to the unknowable, to unintended acts of returning, to impressions of doorways. Any act of recollection is important, even looks of dismay and discomfort. Any wisp of a dream is evidence."- Dionne Brand, A Journey to the Door of No Return

There's a short list of bo
Stephanie Spines
Oct 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
The easiest 5 stars.

Brand is a literary genius.
"One is mislead when one looks at the sails and majesty of tall ships instead of their cargo."
Essays, ruminations, and meditations on finding something you know you can never find, because you never lost it, because you never had it, because it was taken from you before you were born. Personal, philosophical, poetic, political. This book has some of the most beautiful and deep prose I've read this year, and probably ever, and I love love loved every word of it. I've been wanting to write a revie
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I want to give this book infinite stars. Part travelogue, part cartographic/geographic history, simultaneous unraveling/definition of diasporic Blackness, this book is gorgeous and brilliant and required.
Shivanee Ramlochan
Nov 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If there is a book that might call you to yourself, across the vast and wild and violent years of your life, then let it be this one. It will not be tender or merciful. But it will tell you your name every time, as clear and sharp as a bone kissing another bone.
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is given to its reader as a precious gift. It is, as stated, a map. The subtitle, "Notes to Belonging," announces this counterintuitive project. Brand writes, "Too much has been made of origins. All origins are arbitrary. This is not to say that they are not also nurturing, but they are also coercive and indifferent" (64). She goes on, "Too much has been made of origins. And so if I reject this notion of origins I have also to reject its mirror, which is the sense of origins used by th ...more

The five stars have no meaning.

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Mar 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book took my breath away. Lyrical, philosophical, and simply poetic, Brand is an extraordinary writer. I had to pause so many times while reading this book because it was filled with a plethora of profound gems. My entire book is practically underlined! I can’t wait to check out more of Dionne Brand’s work ❤️
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm grateful for my colleague who pushed me to read more Dionne Brand after I'd initially disliked Theory. This was a captivating read. ...more
Gregory Duke
Redundant and a bit long regardless of the shorter length, but it still holds a sense of power. The literary criticism is the most substantial for me, even if some of it feels underbaked and underevidenced.
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I limited by rating to three stars because I felt differentially engaged with each half of the book: the first half, which somehow seems less personal, more theoretical, is beautifully (poetically) written and thought-provoking, though it certainly does help to be familiar with the figures and works she discusses. The second half, which struck me as far more autobiographical, held me at more of a distance--somehow I was less engaged with this half of the work, and spent much more time grappling ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a dweller at the Door of No Return, from a slightly different context (a Canadian, with heritage from India via indentured laborers brought to Caribbean Trinidad), Brand’s book spoke to me not only from an academic level, but an intimate level that at times discomforts. A Map to the Door of No Return is beautiful, tragic, bleak yet stunning in its ability to capture poetry, memoir, travelogue, non-fiction, essay and slippages between languages, while also demarcating what does locationality a ...more
Aug 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: habit, 2015, canlit
Some lingering ambivalence about the door metaphor.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
on my list of 5 texts if i was teaching a course on Black studies through poetics
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. Evocative, startling, lyrical.
Hannah Thiessen
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My prof! Super cool lady, amazing poet
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Apr 17, 2022 rated it it was amazing
A great memoir filled with philosophic, artistic, anthropologic, and historic observations written in wonderfully lyrical prose. Map to the Door of No Return features a series of vignettes, snapshots of her, her friends, her idols, and strangers lives, which she has collected during the course of her travels around the world, as well as a discourse on history and how it influences future generations.

The sea is a recurring theme throughout and gives shape to the narrative. The tide rises and rec
Nov 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“My grandfather came from a people whose name he could not remember. His forgetting was understandable; after all, when he was born the Door of No Return was hardly closed, forgetting was urgent.”

“Does all terror become literary? These are the places that made everyone who went through forget their names. Here, walls ate the skin, footsteps took the mind. My grandfather’s forgetting was not personal. It had been passed on to him by many, most especially the one in my family who stepped through t
Kevin Krein
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
i came across this book thanks to a quote from it being used in the information from a video by rapper/producer slauson malone, for "smile #2." the quote is: "In the Diaspora, as in bad dreams, you are constantly overwhelmed by the persistence of the spectre of captivity."

a sprawling, disjointed narrative that takes you from her youth in the caribbean, to her adulthood in canada, and other places in between, i'm not sure i am smart enough for this book; it took me longer than it should have to r
Apr 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
This book had been on my list for quite some time, and when I purchased it, it lived on the shelf for a while, too. Delight and disappointment lie in the anticipated and the actual.
I had hoped to learn more about belonging. Learn as in: find some truths (clearly, belonging is a thing for me. Abstract and desirable - I guess). The book, full of beautiful prose delves deep into the African diaspora, and Dionne adds anecdotes in a memoir kind of style. The bits and pieces are that: notes on belong
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Attempting to explain the affect of the Door of No Return on Blacks in the Diaspora and how us as descendants of those who physically walked through that door continually navigate that door mentally, spiritually and geographically and to approach it just as dynamic and complicated as it is; could only be done by a poet- Brand. In fact, she equated complicating a matter as desire, beauty- see, who in this Cosmic universe would do that except a poet, certainly not an essayist or historian. This bo ...more
Jan 19, 2022 added it
Shelves: read-in-2022
This is a poetic and challenging read.

“Too much has been made of origins. And so if I reject this notion of origins I have also to reject its mirror, which is the sense of origins used by the powerless to contest power in a society.”

“The overstrong arguments about “culture,” which are made both by defenders of what is “Canadian” as well as defenders of what is labelled “immigrant.” These are mirror/image-image/mirror of each other and are invariably conservative. Because they must draw very def
Kelsey Hlavaty (readingwithkelsey)
I feel like I'm in the minority of general feelings towards this book. I definitely felt engaged with this novel and was entertained throughout the first part. It was interesting and lyrical, which I really enjoyed. But the latter half of the novel felt so distant. It was autobiographical - which might be the reason for this. But still, I have read autobiographies where I had a similar situation and still found myself identifying with it. This book definitely presents a challenge to its readers ...more
Jacob Wilson
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this felt like following Brand's meandering maps through portals to a profound Nowhere-in-Particular. The nameless places long ancestral memories intentionally repress loom large and provocatively in the background of the text, and Brand's confessional, intimate style sketches out a dense but pleasant web of metaphors which lead the way there. Brand occasionally gobsmacked me with a profound and clever turn of phrase, but she always guided me there with a wit and brilliance I've come to ...more
Sonia Adams
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brand’s text is a multi-genre, complex text which explores the intricacies and dynamics of the Black Diaspora and its people. The text incorporates personal and familial narratives historical travel narratives, sociopolitical commentary, literary criticism, hemispheric studies, nautical history, postcolonial and critical race theories, fiction, and poetry to explore facets of migration, nationhood, blackness, gender, and class that impact the lives of black diasporic people.
Dec 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Writers do not lead, they follow, however prescient their works might seem at times. It is only that they, unlike most people, cannot shut up. They gush out what they see - whatever thought they have, and everyone around them is startled because they’ve said what everyone has been thinking. Sometimes they see too early, sometimes too late. Sometimes they gush out their fears, and then sometimes they blurt out their affinities.”
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A breathtaking look at the various sites and geographies that comprise the author’s life as well as her encounters with others in the diaspora. The conceit of the book is a mix of poetic maps, compasses, coordinates and more that take on the rigorous work of deepening inquiry into the many locales of blackness.
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: masters-year-1
Beautiful prose poetry about the heartbreak of wanting to know what has long ago been erased, of constructing a map to a place that may no longer exist, of trying to piece together something personal from what has been commodified.
Paul Lemcke
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'll call this 3 1/2 stars, and I'll round up because I enjoyed the first half so much. The first half was more free-flowing narrative, almost random at times, and the second half was more like a typical memoir. ...more
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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 Wom ...more

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