CI 250:
Truth - Reconciliation - Story

Truth and reconciliation processes - be they formal inquiries like those in South Africa and Canada, or more informal social evolutions - rely on story to express and make sense of the horrors of large-scale human rights abuses. In this course, we will examine and discuss the role of fictional narratives in contributing to the truth and reconciliation discourses of five countries.

Part of the new Cultural Identities minor at the University of Waterloo, CI 250 will be offered for the first time in Winter Term 2019. There are no prerequisites; all are welcome. Watch the trailer for an introduction by the course instructor, or scroll further down to find out more the novels that will be discussed in the course.

Questions? Comments? Direct them to Prof. James Skidmore (

How will the course be structured?

There will be an introductory week of lectures. After that, each novel will be discussed in two-week blocks. The final week of term we’ll pull it all together.

What assignments are planned for the course?

There will be four types of graded assignments:

  • Checkpoints: these are short, in-class tasks, e.g. you might be asked to write a short reflection on a particular point in the lecture. These will come up regularly in class. In these, good faith engagement with the material counts for more than “getting it right.”

  • Review: at the conclusion of each novel you’ll have a short writing assignment in which you address a particular issue about that novel.

  • Term Project: you will read a sixth novel during the course of the term, one of your own choosing, that deals with the same topic as the course. You will have checkpoints throughout the term to guide your study of the novel, and at the end of term you will produce a piece of public writing that explains your interpretation.

  • Textbook Creation Project: this is a brand new course, and as it’s being taught, I’ll be writing an open access textbook to accompany our study of the novels. Students will be invited to participate by providing “the student viewpoint” on the different novels - short reflections in written, audio, or video format that will help future students engage with the material.

There is also one non-graded assignment: reading! You are expected to read the novels plus any secondary literature assigned.


South Africa

Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer

Nobel-prize winner Nadine Gordimer’s novel about a white anti-apartheid activist, and the price the family pays for standing up to injustice.



My Fathers’ Ghost Is Climbing in the Rain by Patricio Pron

Argentina’s “dirty war” saw thousands of the country’s citizens “disappeared” by their own government. This novel, which bends the rules of genre, also bends our understanding of memory and forgetting.



The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Holocaust shattered the 20th century, and Germany has been coming to terms with its responsibility ever since. Schlink’s novel explores the generational responses to the worst case of genocide in human history.



Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

Written years before Canada’s own truth and reconciliation commission, Kiss of the Fur Queen brought to national attention the harm and heartbreak caused by the residential school system.


The United States

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Recent winner of the Man Booker Prize, Beatty’s satire illustrates in humorous fashion that the injustice of slavery in American history is still very much a contemporary issue.