Sunday, May 05, 2024

Prize Watch: Kobzar Prize for Myrna Kostash

Happy to read that my friend Myrna Kostash has won the 2024 Kobzar Book Award, given biennially by the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation "for outstanding contributions to Canadian literary arts by authors who write on a topic with a tangible connection to Ukrainian Canadians" for her family history Ghosts in the Photograph. The Kobzar ($25,000) does not sort among genres. Nice to see a history and a nonfiction win this year.

Myrna's book started from a box full of family photographs and grew into a deep dive into her forebears both in Alberta and in Ukraine. Having always assumed that her Ukrainian connections had all been beaten down peasants liberated by the the opportunity to immigrate to Canada's Golden West at the start of the 20th century, she instead found Ukrainian Kostashes who were poets, journalists, radicals and much else, and deeply involved in centuries of Ukrainian events. 

She also revises the history of her Alberta Kostashes, having become aware that all that fertile land east of Edmonton that they took up and farmed had been home and land to Cree people, who had been concentrated on reserves barely fifteen years earlier. It is, that is, a more political, more thoughtful, and less entirely celebratory work than most family history turns out to be.

When she published the book, Myrna left out the photos that inspired it, concerned they would "compete" with her prose images.  Faced with a chorus of "Where are the pix????" she has made them available on a website.  

I wrote a bit about Ghosts in a Photograph previously on this site.  

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