Buljol, business and books

A friendship formed over a plate of bake and buljol has resulted in the establishment of A Different Booklist, a Canadian bookstore

  • From right, A Different Booklist owner and children`s author Itah Sadu, with choregrapher Tamala Matthews and her husband Dwayne Morgan, author and award-winning poet. Photograph courtesy Ron Fanfair

It started over a plateful of roast bake and buljol and evolved into a business relationship and friendship, which still includes a standing order for the tasty meal. (Buljol, by the way, is made from shredded saltfish, green seasoning and tomatoes.)

Patricia Charles, the business development director of A Different Booklist (ADB), a bookshop on Bathurst Street, Toronto, met Itah Sadu, a professional storyteller, children’s writer and now one of the owners of the bookstore, at a fundraiser for impoverished South African children more than seven years ago. The two immediately hit it off. What they had in common was a mutual love of books and a desire to heighten awareness of the Caribbean’s literary talent.

Sadu recognised Charles’ networking skills and felt her management background would be an excellent addition to the bookstore, helping to market their inventory not only to the Caribbean but also to the world.

Sadu and her husband, Trinidadian Miguel San Vicente, have run ADB since 1998. Sadu has always been an entrepreneur, and got involved with publishing through her work as a storyteller.

Sadu was born in Canada but raised in Barbados. Charles has lived in Canada for more than 30 years, but recently decided to return to Trinidad, though as she put it in an e-mail interview, “I consider myself as always living in Trinidad [even when I’m] working abroad.”

Along with her job at A Different Booklist, where her role is to introduce its diverse stock to Caribbean people, Charles has also worked in management in the Caribbean. Most recently she has been project manager for the National Gender Policy document for Trinidad and Tobago.

The bookstore aims to give writers of African and Caribbean descent an opportunity to explore their cultural identities and to enhance the Canadian literary scene. Among the writers who have launched books there are Lorna Goodison, Rachel Manley, Colin Channer, Johnnie Cochran and Professor Patricia Mohammed. Some of the bookstore’s clients are equally well known: they include Queen Latifah, Rita Marley and David Rudder.

Though A Different Booklist is a business, it’s also a labour of love, taking its books to the people at festivals, carnivals and other community events. The bookstore also gives back to the community by sponsoring a variety of community events, as well as the Toronto champion steelband Pan Fantasy and the dance company Collective of Black Artists.

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ADB is very involved in the Caribbean Canadian Literary Expo, which this year has the theme World Waves: Four Generations of Caribbean Writers and Books.

The bookshop has also partnered with various publishers and bookstores, such as Lexicon (Trinidad), the Caribbean Publishers’ Network (CAPNET), Miller Publishing and the University of the West Indies.

Its plans for the future include increasing its online presence, and finding ways to get young people interested in reading for pleasure.

And if you stop by A Different Booklist you may get a chance to sample not only new Caribbean books, but also Charles’s bake and buljol.

For more about A Different Booklist, check out their website at www.adifferentbooklist.com, e-mail info@adiffentbooklist.com or telephone (+ 416) 538-0889