cover image Into and Out of Dislocation

Into and Out of Dislocation

C. S. Giscombe. North Point Press, $24 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-541-0

In a book part travelogue, part memoir, poet Giscombe embarks on a quest to plumb the mystery of America's vast northern neighbor, Canada, while researching the legend of John Robert Giscombe, the noted black Jamaican pioneer who crisscrossed the region during the last half of the 19th century, and who may or may not be related to the author. With his wife and daughter in tow, Giscombe goes on a winter sojourn into British Columbia, dogging the explorer's trail and pondering his own evolution from a crisis-filled childhood to a more emotionally stable African-American manhood. Giscombe's evocation of Canada, during both John's time and the present, is deeply affecting; he renders its people, history and culture with remarkable clarity and detail. He finds newspaper accounts of John's exploits and accomplishments, and retraces his steps through old mining towns, pioneer settlements and historic wilderness sites. An avid reader and film buff, Giscombe also presents an eclectic list of books and movies that have shaped his own view of the world as he has confronted racial prejudices and his handicap of a missing arm. Despite occasional spots where it becomes chaotic and unsettling, his stream-of-consciousness style provides many reflective gems, especially on the issues of race and culture. What makes this book such a substantial achievement is not so much Giscombe's confused start-stop search for his predecessor's essence, but his probing of our human ability to adapt to and endure the sometimes monumental challenges of otherness. (May)