No Reason to Apologize by W.L. Liberman: A Book Review

Title: No Reason to Apologize: The Resilient Legacy of Viola Desmond
Author: Adapted by W.L. Liberman
Illustrator: Tajliya Jamal
Publisher: TEACH Magazine, 2022
Grade Range: High School and up due to content- see notes below
Location: Nova Scotia

Book Summary

In 2018, Viola Desmond’s likeness appeared on the Canadian ten-dollar bill, leading many people to wonder about her story. Who was she and why is she an important figure? Viola was a stubborn, entrepreneurial woman who stood up against racial discrimination. Denied a floor seat in the whites-only section at a cinema in 1946, she was forcefully removed, arrested, and convicted of tax evasion. She owed a single penny. Viola fought for her rights in court, even appealing her case to the Supreme Court of Canada, but was unfortunately denied.

Her actions sparked controversy among the Black community at the time, and her career, reputation, and relationships were all impacted. In the end Viola chose to leave her family and friends in Nova Scotia and move to New York City to start over. Tragically, it was there that she died, alone and far from her loved ones, at the relatively young age of fifty. It wasn’t until the year 2010 that Viola Desmond received a full pardon for her supposed “crimes” and conviction. Today, her struggle for justice and her contribution to the modern civil rights movement is widely recognized.

Thoughts About No Reason to Apologize

Do your high school age kids prefer reading graphic novels? Do you want them learning more about Canadian History? Check out the new book by TEACH Magazine, No Reason to Apologize: The Resilient Legacy of Viola Desmond. This newer book published in 2022 is written in a graphic novel style (which, if you’re not familiar with, is similar to a comic book in it’s style). The book tells the story of Viola Desmond. Viola Desmond was a Black Canadian civil and women’s rights activist as well as a businesswoman.

The graphic novel starts out with some background about Viola Desmond’s story. This is important because the reader gets to see that Viola wasn’t known just for the one event but there are other historic events and injustices against Black people that lead up to her work for equality. The story continues to document Viola’s life and the trials she faced. The book ends with more modern-day scenes about the government’s pardon for Viola in 2010 as well as the 2018 $10 bill that commemorates her life.

I really like the idea of learning about Canadian history through the graphic-novel format. The artwork is very detailed and well-done. Graphic novels are a unique approach to reading that appeals to both eager and reluctant readers.

Why Am I Recommending No Reason to Apologize for High School Age

I think that this book is best suited for older kids (high school and up) who can handle some of the more difficult scenes or situations that might confuse younger children. At times, some parents might want to be aware of word choices that are used in the book (the use of the word “damn” twice, the use of God’s name or prayer in a confusing manner and the use of the start of a racial slur.) There are also some other scenes involving arguing and abuse between Viola and her husband and eventually Viola leaves her husband. Also, there are some other scenes that show her boss touching her face which in modern day would be sexual harassment. The ending scene about Viola’s death is also confusing and leaves a lot of questions. These issues aren’t addressed in the book but merely presented.

Parents will want to be aware of these sections so they can further discuss it with their children, especially for those who are more sensitive, or with kids who haven’t previously discussed these topics. All that said, if the book is read by a high school age child and/or the book is read in connection with a parent-child discussion, the book offers a lot of insight into what happened to Viola. These scenes show an accurate picture of the great injustice that Viola faced because she was Black. As parents, we do need to teach about these issues at an appropriate stage.

Overall I think that No Reason to Apologize: The Resilient Legacy of Viola Desmond is a unique approach to learning about Canadian history. It does a great job portraying the racism and prejudice against Viola and Black people. However by giving a big picture of the many injustices that Viola faced, the book includes words and scenes that parents need to be aware of so they can discuss it with their children or gauge what age they feel their child can read it independently.

TEACH Magazine is offering a 20% discount for homeschoolers until the end of April 2023 on No Reason to Apologize, Golden Boys: The Winnipeg Falcons of 1920 and Suffrage: Canadian Women and the Vote. Enter code HOMESCHOOL20 on their website.

Learn More About Viola Desmond, Featured in No Reason to Apologize

Check out our other book review about Viola Desmond, which is meant for a younger audience, or have a look at our compilation of Canadian Black History resources!

Love Learning History through Literature?

Check out our Canadian History Through Living Books List! Over 100 pages of books to choose from… all about Canadian history – picture books, chapter books, to books for high school. Includes books with diverse perspectives and experiences all organized into time periods or historical events. Now available in the store!

Cover of Canadian History Through Living Books

Although I was given a copy of this book for the purpose of review, all opinions are my own.

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