Where Beauty Survived
An Africadian Memoir
George Elliott Clarke
A vibrant, revealing memoir about the cultural and familial pressures that shaped George Elliott Clarke’s early life in the Black Canadian community that he calls Africadia, centred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
As a boy, George Elliott Clarke knew that a great deal was expected from him and his two brothers. The descendant of a highly accomplished lineage on his paternal side—great-grandson to William Andrew White, the first Black officer (non-commissioned) in the British army—George felt called to live up to the family name. In contrast, his mother's relatives were warm, down-to-earth country folk. Such contradictions underlay much of his life and upbringing—Black and White, country and city, outstanding and ordinary, high and low. With vulnerability and humour, George shows us how these dualities shaped him as a poet and thinker.
At the book’s heart is George’s turbulent relationship with his father, an autodidact who valued art, music and books but worked an unfulfilling railway job. Bill could be loving and patient, but he also acted out destructive frustrations, assaulting George’s mother and sometimes George and his brothers, too.
Where Beauty Survived is the story of a complicated family, of the emotional stress that white racism exerts on Black households, of the unique cultural geography of Africadia, of a child who became a poet, and of long-kept secrets.