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What the Oceans Remember

Gender studies professor pens archive-based memoir

Research | Books at Memorial

Author Dr. Sonja Boon’s heritage is complicated.

Although she has lived in Canada for more than 30 years, she was born in the U.K. to a Surinamese mother and a Dutch father. Dr. 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?

Archival research and scholarship

Dr. Boon’s archival research — in Suriname, the Netherlands, the U.K. 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 published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

About Dr. Boon

Dr. Boon researches in the areas of feminist theory (corporeal feminisms), life writing (auto/biography), autoethnography, and women’s history. At a broad level, her work considers the intersections between life writing, bodies, citizenship and theory.

More specifically, she is intrigued by the possibilities of writing the body; that is, of narrating a form of corporeal autobiography or body story, in which the workings of the body, and one’s experiences of those workings, are key ingredients in the stories of the self.

Dr. Boon is also a professional early musician who has performed and recorded as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician across North America, as well as in Europe and Japan.

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