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What the Oceans Remember

Searching for Belonging and Home

By Sonja Boon
Subjects Life Writing, Social Science, Women’s Studies, Emigration & Immigration, Multiculturalism
Series Life Writing Hide Details
Hardcover : 9781771124232, 336 pages, September 2019
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781771124256, 336 pages, September 2019
Paperback : 9781771125536, 336 pages, March 2022
Audiobook : 9781771124881, October 2020
Ebook (PDF) : 9781771124249, 336 pages, September 2019

Audiobooks available at


"Elegant as silk, tough as steel.” – Lisa Moore


Sonja Boon’s heritage is complicated. Although she has lived in Canada for more than 30 years, she was born in the UK to a Surinamese mother and a Dutch father. An invitation to join a family tree project inspired a journey to the heart of the histories that have shaped her identity, as she sought to answer 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.


  • Short-listed, Foreword INDIES (Multicultural) 2019
  • Short-listed, Foreword INDIES (Autobiography & Memoir) 2019
  • Long-listed, BMO Winterset Award 2019


“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. Unrelentingly honest, sometimes harrowing, steeped in rich and startling insight, and conveyed in transparent prose – elegant as silk, tough as steel.

- Lisa Moore, author of the story collection Something for Everyone