Wednesday was a big day for Canadian literary non-fiction, with the shortlist announced for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the long list revealed for the RBC Taylor Prize. Not a single book made it to both lists.
There were four books shortlisted for the $40,000 BC National Award. They include One Hour in Paris: A True Story of Rape and Recovery, which draws on the harrowing personal experience of author Karyn L. Freedman, a philosophy professor at the University of Guelph. The jury (Globe and Mail arts editor Jared Bland, journalist and writer John Fraser and author and Simon Fraser University chancellor Anne Giardini) called the memoir a powerful book that "has the potential to catalyze the kind of dialogue that can lead to social change."
The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day That Almost Was by journalist Chantal Hébert with Jean Lapierre was cited by the jury as a "clear-eyed, often gripping account" and "a major contribution to our almighty national conundrum on what exactly constitutes Canada."
Alison Pick's Between Gods: A Memoir – about the novelist and poet's discovery of her father's hidden Jewish past – was called by the jury "a page-turner of a book … humorous, personal and engaging."
James Raffan's latest – both a travelogue and a lament – rounds out the list. Circling the Midnight Sun: Culture and Change in the Invisible Arctic "fully deserves recognition as a book that encourages important national conversations and expands our shared knowledge of the increasingly complex world we inhabit," wrote the jury.
Noticeably absent from the list were the finalists for the Governor-General's Award for English language non-fiction, including the winner, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris.
Harris's book was one of 12 on the long list for the Taylor Prize, also announced Wednesday, along with Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction earlier this year. Two other books on the Weston Prize shortlist also made the Taylor Prize long list: Charles Montgomery's Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design; and Kathleen Winter's memoir Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage. Novelist M.G. Vassanji was also on the long list for And Home Was Kariakoo: A Memoir of East Africa.
Tim Cook (who won the 2009 Taylor Prize for Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War, 1917-1918 and was a finalist in 2013 for Warlords: Borden, Mackenzie King and Canada's World Wars) was on the long list for the 2015 prize for The Necessary War, Volume One. (Montgomery is also a previous Taylor Prize winner, for The Last Heathen: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia in 2005.)
Also on the 2015 Taylor Prize long list: They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson; Berlin: Imagine a City by Rory MacLean; One Day in August: The Untold Story Behind Canada's Tragedy at Dieppe by David O'Keefe; Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler, and the Warsaw Uprising by Alexandra Richie; Puckstruck: Distracted, Delighted and Distressed by Canada's Hockey Obsession by Stephen Smith; and The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times by Barbara Taylor.
The jury for the $25,000 Taylor Prize is made up of National Ballet of Canada executive director Kevin Garland, former Globe and Mail Books editor Martin Levin, and Andrew Preston, who won the 2013 Taylor Prize for Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy.
The BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction will be awarded in Vancouver in February. The Taylor Prize shortlist will be revealed Jan. 14, 2015, and the winner announced March 2.