Amber Dawn’s book How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir has won the 2013 City of Vancouver Book Award. The book recounts – in poetry and prose essays – her years making a living as a sex worker in Vancouver.
“This book in its entirely feels like a relief to me. I’m glad the story is out. A decade I’ve been carrying these stories around. Now it’s just out there,” Ms. Dawn told The Globe and Mail during an interview earlier this fall.
The book recounts Ms. Dawn’s life – from her upbringing in small town Ontario, to working the streets and brothels of Vancouver, to discovering poetry, going back to school, and becoming a published author. (She has now returned to those post-secondary institutions as a teacher of poetry.) Other books on the shortlist include: former Vancouver poet laureate Brad Cran’s poetry collection Ink on Paper; Jancis M. Andrews’s poetry collection The Ballad of Mrs. Smith; Exploring Vancouver – The Architectural Guide by Harold Kalman and Robin Ward, a book of photographs and text; and Sean Kheraj’s Inventing Stanley Park, an environmental history of the iconic park, which combines text with illustrations.
When Ms. Dawn was nominated for the $2000 prize, she was positively giddy about it.
“It’s so ballsy to say: I really want it,” Ms. Dawn, whose first book Sub Rosa won a Lambda Literary Award in 2011, told The Globe, laughing, shortly after being nominated. “I usually don’t say I want to win something, but I really want this.”