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Desmond Cole Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Desmond Cole is a freelance journalist and award-winning activist based in Toronto. He has worked for prominent publications such as “Ethnic Isle,” “Toronto Star,” “Torontoist,” “Toronto Life,” “NOW Magazine,” “Walrus,” and “VICE” among many others. Cole has been a proponent of social justice in Toronto for years and has written a lot about the experiences of black people in the city. He has also worked with the Canadian Black Lives Matter movement and has also been involved in the drive to remove the police from TDSB schools. His efforts to address justice for the youth, housing, civic engagement, integration, and social support have made him one of the most prominent voices for social justice in Canada. Desmond Cole authored his bestselling novel “The Skin We’re In” 2020. The novel is a retelling of his year as a Black civilian, black journalist, and black activist as he dismantles and exposes the notion of race-blind or post-racial Canada. The novel analyses the current quest for migrant justice, the fight against police brutality, and indigenous sovereignty.

Desmond Cole first came to prominence as a black journalist and activist when he wrote the “Toronto Life” article “The Skin I’m In.” The article detailed how he had been stopped by the cops in more than fifty instances and asked to provide ID as part of a controversial carding practice. In his new novel “The Skin We’re In” he specifically focuses on the year 2017. It was a year when Ottawa police brutally attacked John Samuels, the year of the beating of Dafonte Miller, huge protests at the Toronto Police Services Board meetings, and the emerging prominence of the Black Lives Matter Toronto. In a conversation with Deborah Dundas the “Books Editor,” Cole asserted that he wrote the novel primarily for Black people. He needed to have the black experience chronicled and reflected accurately in a non-fiction work that he hoped would go mainstream. It was highly improbable that the book would go anywhere but Cole was pleasantly surprised when it became a bestseller. The “Toronto Life” article that gave birth to the novel was never intended to be about his experience. However, he had recently come back from Ferguson, Missouri, where he had gone to journal the riots following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. The experience was eye-opening and life-changing as he saw the military deployed to occupy a Black town by the American government. Black people would be arrested for standing and walking on the streets and had guns pointed in their faces but they fought back hard.

In the “Toronto Life” magazine article that made the cover, Desmond Cole focused on the racist acts of Canadian police, particularly in Toronto. He tells of the many times he was stopped and taken in for interrogation when he had done nothing wrong. The story blew up almost immediately and became a national topic of conversation as it shook the country to its core and catapulted Cole into the public sphere. Cole took full advantage of his prominence to draw attention to the travails of ordinary Black Canadians that are sometimes treated as unwelcome second class citizens. Both his journalism and activism found expression in “The Skin We’re In” his debut novel. The nonfiction work punctured the bubble that most Canadians had lived in for decades. Most people had a naïve and smug assumption of the country as a post-racial paradise. Cole makes use of the happenings of just one year to showcase just how wrong people can be. It was a year in which there were calls to tighten border controls when Black refugees managed to breach the borders after braving frigid temperatures to get into Manitoba from the US. It was also a year when Indigenous water and land protectors protested against Canada celebrating its 150th birthday, even as Canadian police rallied around a colleague that was accused of cold-blooded murder.

2017 was the year when Desmond Cole in his efforts to combat inequality and injustice experienced profound professional and personal ramifications for his actions. He would attend the Toronto Police board meeting in April and demand that all data collected via carding be discarded and destroyed. He was at the time working for the Toronto Star and he was summoned by the opinions editor soon after and reprimanded for violating company policy. Instead of limiting his efforts and focusing only on Black Lives activism, Chose decided to resign from the paper. He would later attend another police board meeting in July and demanded answers from the case of the brutal assault of Dafonte Miller. The man had been beaten up by a police officer who was off duty and it seemed the police were keen to cover up the story. Getting no answers he refused to leave and was subsequently arrested. His arrest became big news as he was escorted out handcuffed and flanked by police which just served to further destroy the relationship between the Black community and the police force in Toronto. Documenting his experiences month by month, Desmond Cole writes a comprehensive tale of systemic and entrenched inequality. It is an unsparingly honest, controversial, and urgent work that promises to be a vital work for the social justice and anti-racist movements in Canada. It may also be the strong antidote required to make the many complacent Canadians wake up from their reverie.

Desmond Cole’s “The Skin We’re In” deconstructs the myth of Canada as a welcoming, inclusive country that celebrates diversity more as compared to the United States. Cole writes by breaking down his experiences in twelve months of the year 2017. In it, he breaks down and interrogates the white supremacist establishment of the law enforcement, legal and Canadian government system. Canada is not an equal society and Black Canadians are intimidated, harassed, monitored by the police, and experience violence just like Black Americans. They will also get stopped more regularly, get carded and lose their jobs since they are too dark. They experience physical assault from the police without having done anything to warrant the brutal treatment. Through the work, Cole shows that the police are no better than thugs on government contracts to monitor dangerous bodies. He goes deep into the black experience and demonstrates how the media hides the fact of brutality against black people. Apart from the black experience, Desmond Cole also writes about the struggles of indigenous communities. He recognizes that the white people occupied Canada which has become a settler nation that oppresses political dissidents and the indigenous people.

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