Kamal Al-Solaylee has won this year's Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), it was announced Wednesday.
He receives $25,000 for winning the prize, which was awarded during the Politics and the Pen gala in Ottawa.
A work that blends reportage and memoir to explore race in the modern world, Brown has garnered critical acclaim and a number of awards nominations, including the Governor-General's Literary Award, since it was published last May. Al-Solaylee, a former Globe and Mail theatre critic who currently teaches at Ryerson University, is also the author of Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes.
"Kamal Al-Solaylee's book dares to propose and define and emerging racial category, drawing on a lifetime's travel and inquiry to discuss the common experience and the awkward status of the Latin, Asian and Mediterranean peoples of the fast-rising global south," read the jury's citation. "Thoughtful and refreshing, Brown has a chance to become a made-in-Canada intellectual landmark."
This year's jury was composed of CBC correspondent and author Nahlah Ayed, National Post columnist Colby Cosh, and former Member of Parliament Megan Leslie.
The other finalists, who receive $2,500 each, were Ian McKay and Jamie Swift for The Vimy Trap: Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Great War; Christie Blatchford for Life Sentence: Stories from Four Decades of Court Reporting – Or, How I Fell Out of Love with the Canadian Justice System (Especially Judges); Noah Richler for The Candidate: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail; and James McLeod for Turmoil, as Usual: Politics in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Road to the 2015 Election.
The Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, established after the death of the Windsor, Ont., MP, is annually awarded to "a book of literary non-fiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on Canadian political life." Previous winners include Roméo Dallaire, Jane Jacobs and John Ibbitson, who won last year's prize for his biography of Stephen Harper.