Professor David Chariandy named to Royal Society of Canada

September 06, 2022

Writer and SFU English professor David Chariandy has received Canada’s highest academic honour—a Royal Society of Canada (RSC) fellowship. He is one of two SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences professors elected to the RSC in 2022.

“I work with many extraordinary writers and scholars, and so I feel very honoured but also humbled about being named to the RSC,” says Chariandy. “I am grateful to professor emeritus Carole Gerson and professor Deanna Reder for nominating me.”

An award-winning and internationally celebrated author, Chariandy has written two novels, Soucouyant (2007) and Brother (2017), as well as a work of non-fiction entitled I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (2018). He has also co-founded a small press, co-edited special editions of journals, mentored emerging writers, and written academic articles, book chapters, personal essays, and reviews.

Collectively, his writings have had a major impact upon the field of Black Canadian literature. They have also animated broader public and scholarly discussions of diasporic identity, cultural memory, urban space, economic precarity, and racism. His books have been published throughout the world and translated into a dozen languages.

His novel Brother has just been made into a film, which will premiere this month at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and be screened in the fall at film festivals across Canada and internationally (including the Vancouver International Film Festival) before its theatrical release. Chariandy has yet to see the movie, though he did visit the set once to observe director and screenwriter Clement Virgo filming a scene.

“I saw Clement reshooting a very short scene over and over again, obsessing over fine and, for me, almost invisible little details, creating hours of film that would then be edited and adjusted for many more hours to eventually glean only a few short seconds of action,” says Chariandy. “I have very little experience with film, so I was mesmerized and a bit puzzled by the whole process, until I suddenly got it: ‘Oh,’ I thought, ‘He’s writing a novel!’”

I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You marked a change in genre for Chariandy, as he moved into non-fiction explicitly written for his (then) 13-year-old daughter.

“This was a different sort of book for me, an effort to speak honestly and without affectation about my own life growing up as a means of encouraging an intergenerational dialogue about the politics of race and belonging today,” he says.

Chariandy is currently working on a novel provisionally entitled Da Costa, in part about an early 17th century Black interpreter. He is kept busy as an editor of Brick Magazine, a prominent literary journal.  He has also just finished co-editing a special issue of The Journey Prize Anthology with fellow writers Esi Edugyan and Canisia Lubrin. The Anthology will showcase many of the most talented emerging Black writers in Canada.

Chariandy has taught literature and creative writing for two decades at SFU. He hopes to continue working with students and colleagues in advancing Black and broader decolonial studies. He also hopes to organize more literary and cultural events, and to support both creative writing and creative research methods across disciplines at the university.

Read about all of SFU's RSC winners this year.