Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Release Date: March 31, 2020
A powerful, moving memoir about what it’s like to be a student of colour on a predominantly white campus.
A booksmart kid from Toronto, Eternity Martis was excited to move away to Western University for her undergraduate degree. But as one of the few Black students there, she soon discovered that the campus experiences she’d seen in movies were far more complex in reality. Over the next four years, Eternity learned more about what someone like her brought out in other people than she did about herself. She was confronted by white students in blackface at parties, dealt with being the only person of colour in class and was tokenized by her romantic partners. She heard racial slurs in bars, on the street, and during lectures. And she gathered labels she never asked for: Abuse survivor. Token. Bad feminist. But, by graduation, she found an unshakeable sense of self—and a support network of other women of colour.
Using her award-winning reporting skills, Eternity connects her own experience to the systemic issues plaguing students today. It’s a memoir of pain, but also resilience.
They Said This Would Be Fun is my first nonfiction book about being Black in Canada. I’ve read a few books that centered around the American experience, so when I discovered They Said This Would Be Fun I knew I had to read it.
The first thing I’ll say is that, spoiler alert, the Canadian experience of being Black is not any better than the American experience.
I connected with Martis immediately simply because I was attending university at the same time she was. I also almost went to Western, but ultimately decided to say closer to home for financial reasons. They Said This Would Be Fun focuses on Martis’ experience as a biracial woman in what is considered an alt-right stronghold in Canada. I was completely unaware of this, so this came as a shock. Martis’ anecdotes are disgusting and horrifying. Her experiences and the those of others she goes into detail about throughout They Said This Would Be Fun are no different than those we hear from The United States of America.
“It is a privilege to not worry about looking stupid or getting too drunk. It is a privilege to misbehave or engage in criminal acts in public, and have people see it as non-threatening that there’s no need to call the cops. It is a privilege to get a “slap on the wrist.” Meanwhile, young Black people are being stopped by police across North America for walking, sleeping, swimming, selling lemonade, going to class, picking up garbage. Killed for putting their hands in their pocks or for simply being in their home. For being “suspicious-looking,” White people can be suspects, they are hardly ever viewed as suspicious.”
Martis makes it glaringly obvious that Canada lacks stats concerning people of colour. There were too many instances where Martis is unable to compare how Canada is doing relative to The United States since Canada does not keep track of those specific statistics. How are we supposed to identify and address these problems if we can’t prove they exist?
Overall, Martis’ memoir about attending university in a city known for its whiteness is harrowing. Her strength and candor make They Said This Would Be Fun a must read. It often made me reflect on my own university experience and I realized how few negative experiences I endured. Sure, I faced my fair share of sexism, but never did I feel scared for my physical safety. Never did I think twice about the space I was in or the space I was entering.
Have you read They Said This Would Be Fun? What did you think?