Announcing Alchemy by Knopf Canada, New Publishing Program Led by Dionne Brand and Lynn Henry


News from Martha Kanya-Forstner, Publisher, Knopf Canada, Vice President, Penguin Random House Canada: It gives me such pleasure to announce the launch of an exciting publishing program, Alchemy by Knopf Canada, under the editorial direction of internationally acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and essayist Dionne Brand, working in close partnership with Knopf Canada’s Publishing Director Lynn Henry.

A few years ago, Dionne and Lynn began exploring a creative collaboration towards books that might challenge and illuminate the urgency of the moment, highlighting perspectives that offer new ways of seeing and understanding narrative and space. Over the past months, I have gratefully joined their conversation. Again and again I have been reminded of a lecture Dionne gave at the Barnard Center in 2017, and of this observation in particular: “I do not write toward anything called justice but against tyranny, and toward liberation.” Those words, their necessity and meaning, ignite the imaginative possibilities of Alchemy by Knopf Canada.

Alchemy’s mandate will be to create books that remake what is literary; books that reimagine genre; books that reposition our thinking about how we know what we know. Fiction and non-fiction, ambitious in style and content, Alchemy books will decenter colonial models of literature and thought. They will speak about our times, about precipitous climate catastrophe, about social and political reckoning. Alchemy will explore the state and stakes of living in the contemporary world and imagine a radical vision of the future.

Of the publishing initiative, Dionne says, “I am looking forward to this collaboration/experiment in Alchemy with Lynn and Martha. It’s my sense that how books might intervene in the present world, and what complex thinking is required to meet that world, are two important and urgent questions. And so, for me, this collaboration will foster brilliant writers doing the most brilliant thinking in fiction and non-fiction for the world to come.”

Lynn adds, “Alchemy began as a casual conversation on a walk with Dionne several years ago. I feel so fortunate to have been able to continue that conversation and to witness how what was sparked back then has, through the alchemy of Dionne’s extraordinary vision, gradually transformed into something both more specific and more expansive. It is this spirit of continual exchange of ideas and experience, and what arises out of reframing and reimagining what we think we know, that gives such life and energy to this project.”

With Dionne as its editorial director, Alchemy will release two to three carefully chosen titles each year. It will also be anchored in an annual publication, The Alchemy Lectures, a signature event for York University and presented in partnership with Knopf Canada. Spearheaded by the Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities, The Alchemy Lectures will bring together three to four distinguished visual and performing artists, researchers, scholars, writers, architects, and makers from Canada and around the world to engage in revelatory conversation about topics of social and political reckoning. The Alchemy Lectures will culminate in the publication of a book, extending the public lecture and building on its alchemical form. The first Alchemy Lectures will be published in Fall 2023.

Dionne’s publishing relationships – with Knopf Canada for her fiction and non-fiction, McClelland & Stewart for her poetry, and Doubleday Canada for her memoir – are long and deep. Few authors are as beloved or revered. Please join me now in welcoming Dionne as a colleague, and in celebrating her and Lynn on the launch of this inspiring initiative.

My best,


Dionne Brand, Photo credit: Samuel Engelking

Lynn Henry


Posted: June 2, 2022