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Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book

An Anatomy of a Book Burning

by (author) Lawrence Hill

Canadian Literature Centre / Centre de littérature canadienne, The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2013
Author lives in Ontario
This eBook meets EPUB Accessibility 1.0 specification and W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 A, at a minimum.
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    Publish Date
    Mar 2013
    List Price

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Censorship and book burning are still present in our lives. Lawrence Hill shares his experiences of how ignorance and the fear of ideas led a group in the Netherlands to burn the cover of his widely successful novel, The Book of Negroes, in 2011. Why do books continue to ignite such strong reactions in people in the age of the Internet? Is banning, censoring, or controlling book distribution ever justified? Hill illustrates his ideas with anecdotes and lists names of Canadian writers who faced censorship challenges in the twenty-first century, inviting conversation between those on opposite sides of these contentious issues. All who are interested in literature, freedom of expression, and human rights will enjoy reading Hill's provocative essay. Introduction by Ted Bishop.

About the author

LAWRENCE HILL is a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph. He is the author of ten books, including The Illegal; The Book Of Negroes; Any Known Blood; and Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. He is the winner of various awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, and is a two-time winner of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. Hill delivered the North America-wide 2013 Massey Lectures, based on his non-fiction book Blood: The Stuff of Life. He co-wrote the adaptation for the six-part television miniseries The Book of Negroes, which attracted millions of viewers and won eleven Canadian Screen Awards. The recipient of nine honorary doctorates from Canadian universities, Hill served as chair of the jury of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is a volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates and the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, and is an honorary patron of Crossroads International, for which he has volunteered for more than thirty-five years and with which he has travelled to Niger, Cameroon, Mali, and Swaziland. A 2018 Berton House resident in Dawson City, he is working on a new novel about the African-American soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway in northern B.C. and Yukon in 1942–43. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and in 2019 was named a Canada Library and Archives Scholar. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, and in Woody Point, Newfoundland.

Lawrence Hill's profile page


  • Winner, AAUP Book, Jacket & Journal Show - Book Design / Trade Typographic
  • Short-listed, Book Design of the Year - Alberta Book Publishing Awards

Editorial Reviews

"Hill delivered a lecture on the incident to the Canadian Literature Centre which has recently been published by The University of Alberta Press. In Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book he offers a thoughtful, sometimes comical, very personal meditation on literary censorship. Far from an isolated incident, the subject of censorship has been a recurring theme in his life." Donna Bailey Nurse, Toronto Star, April 26, 2013 [Full post at]

"Those who engage this work, subtitled "An Anatomy of a Book Burning," will find much to like, not least Hill's generous capacity for integrating autobiography - around the racial and cultural experiences of three generations of his own family - with historical commentary on book-burning and censorship campaigns, and also on the institution of slavery, specifically in its Dutch and British Empire-era Canadian versions as well. He pays particular attention to the racial textures and even blasé racism that informs some Dutch words to this day." Randy Boyagoda, National Post, May 13, 2013 [Full post at]

"The essay locates itself in a long tradition of correctly reminding readers about the multiple pitfalls of book censorship. But Hill is historically minded and thoughtful enough to not just produce anti-censorship arguments outside of other historical concerns. He presents the ethical dilemmas of racist literature as a backdrop to working out how he comes to his positions on anti-censorship." Rinaldo Walcott, Literary Review of Canada, July/August 2013

“[Burning the book cover serves] as the point of departure for a meditation on book burnings and censorship and it forms the basis for an impassioned plea for freedom of expression, even in cases when one can understand the undeniable hurt experienced by some readers.”

Canadian Literature

"Lawrence Hill's approachable and thought-provoking book takes censorship as its main topic. Its inspiration was an incident in which the cover of Hill's novel The Book of Negroes was burnt in protest.... Hill takes the original incident as a starting point to discuss large topics of power, communication and conflict. The overarching message of the text is that censorship and racism are complex issues which require further discussion." Lian Beveridge, CM Magazine, August 2013. [Full review at]

# 5 on the Edmonton Journal's Bestsellers list (Edmonton Nonfiction) for the week of August 2, 2013.

"In this great read, Hill explores the idea of censorship in the modern world..." LitFest 2015

LitFest 2015