Sonja Boon is a researcher, writer, teacher, and flutist living in St. John’s. Passionate about stories and storytelling, she is the author of What the Oceans Remember: Searching for Belonging and Home (WLU Press, 2019), a memoir that traverses five continents and spans more than two centuries. In this memoir, she explores archives, family stories, and her memories in a quest to understand the stories that lie behind her Dutch name, Canadian passport, British birth certificate, and mixed-race inheritance. Sonja’s creative non-fiction essays appear in published collections as well as in Geist, The Ethnic Aisle, and ROOM, among others. In addition to her literary work, Sonja has published three scholarly books and numerous articles and book chapters on a range of topics, from eighteenth-century medical life writing to breastfeeding selfies, and craftivism. For six years, Sonja was principal flutist and a frequent soloist with the Portland Baroque Orchestra (Oregon).
Visit Sonja’s website.
From the publisher of What the Oceans Remember
Although she has lived in Canada for more than thirty years, she was born in the UK to a Surinamese mother and a Dutch father. Boon’s family history spans five continents: Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and North America. Despite her complex and multi-layered background, she has often omitted her full heritage, replying “I’m Dutch-Canadian” to anyone who asks about her identity. An invitation to join a family tree project inspired a journey to the heart of the histories that have shaped her identity. It was an opportunity to answer the two questions that have dogged her over the years: Where does she belong? And who does she belong to?
Boon’s archival research—in Suriname, the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada—brings her opportunities to reflect on the possibilities and limitations of the archives themselves, the tangliness of oceanic migration, histories, the meaning of legacy, music, love, freedom, memory, ruin, and imagination. Ultimately, she reflected on the relevance of our past to understanding our present.
Deeply informed by archival research and current scholarship, but written as a reflective and intimate memoir, What the Oceans Remember addresses current issues in migration, identity, belonging, and history through an interrogation of race, ethnicity, gender, archives and memory. More importantly, it addresses the relevance of our past to understanding our present. It shows the multiplicity of identities and origins that can shape the way we understand our histories and our own selves.
“What the Oceans Remember is breathtaking in scope. Reaching across continents, oceans and histories, it shows us what it means to live in the shadow of freedom while unfree; how the colour of a person’s skin can determine if they are seen or invisible; how the word home can exclude; how the beauty of music can be a balm; how the invaluable quiet of an archive can quake with unearthed voices.”Lisa Moore, author of Something for Everyone
“Boon’s exploration of the seductive spaces of the archives and the crossing of various kinds of borders brings to mind the work of Saidiya Hartman (Lose Your Mother), Maggie Nelson (The Argonauts), and complements the work of writers like Sara Ahmed as well.Minelle Mahtani, author of Mixed Race Amnesia: Resisting the Romanticization of Multiraciality
“Timely, compelling and illuminating in equal measure, What the Oceans Remember, which scrutinizes the lives and legacies of several generations of slaves and indentured labourers in Suriname, also confronts the rights and responsibilities we bear in relation to our ancestors.”Lydia Syson, author of Mr Peacock’s Possessions