Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Prize Watch: Metatawabin and Sullivan

At the Speaker's Book Award at the Ontario Legislature,awarded last night, there was heavy metal. And not just for the winner. All us also-rans got silverware.

The winner, the rightful winner, I would say, was Edmund Metatawabin for his terrific residential school survivor's memoir Up Ghost River, published by Knopf Canada. This was definitely one of the books of 2015 for me, as I wrote in Canada's History last fall. It was an honour to meet Edmund Metatawabin and see him recognized last night.

Speaker Dave Levac is a former high school principal, a missionary for books and literacy.  And this award fills a niche. The shortlisted books make an impressive group of titles, mostly pretty much unnoticed elsewhere. The full shortlist is here -- a lot of terrific works -- but let me note the six historical works on the list of ten:

  • Craig Heron's Lunch Bucket Lives, handsomely published by Between The Lines, is the product of Heron's almost forty year engagement with the history of working people in Hamilton.
  • John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg and Tatum Taylor, The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood -- also from Between the Lines.
  • Cecelia Morgan, Creating Colonial Lives: History, Memory and Commemoration in Southern Ontario 1860-1980 (University of Toronto Press). Cecelia could not make it last night. Congratulations, Cecelia.
  • Françoise Noël, Nipissing: Historic Waterway, Wilderness Playground (Dundurn Press). I came across this book while idling in a pottery/craft outlet near Lake Nipissing last summer, and while browsing through it I found myself thinking, "This is a good book." Nice to have backup. Good history is where you find it.
  • Plus Up Ghost River and my own Court of Appeal for Ontario  -- about which the jurors were kind enough to say that although it is a scholarly work, it's actually quite readable, even entertaining in parts. Thanks!
In other prize news, more extensively covered than the Speaker's prize, Rosemary Sullivan won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction for her much - and deservedly -- honoured Stalin's Daughter.  This is a prize hat trick, since the book also won the Hilary Weston and the BC National prizes.  (And unlike the Speaker's, those all have cash attached!)

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