Dr. James Maskalyk's Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine is the winner of this year's Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
The announcement was made on Tuesday at the Writers' Trust Awards ceremony at Toronto's Glenn Gould Studio, where seven awards and more than $260,000 in prize purses were presented to writers across the country.
The memoir from Dr. Maskalyk was drawn from his experience at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and Black Lion Hospital in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. The jury praised the work for revealing the "compelling universal truths about the power, and limits, of medicine, the strength of human will, and the fragile, infinitesimal gap between dying and living."
The ER physician and author takes home the Trust's richest prize, $60,000, while the other four finalists (including Tanya Talaga, Ivan Coyote, Kyo Maclear and CBC Radio's Carol Off) receive $5,000.
David Chariandy of Vancouver received the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for Brother, a coming-of-age story about two sons of Trinidadian immigrants. The award, for the year's best novel or short-story collection, comes with a $50,000 prize – double the purse of a year ago. The jury noted Mr. Chariandy's "stunning lyrical writing, pitch perfect pacing, and unexpected humour."
The Writers' Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, in recognition of best short fiction published by an emerging writer in a Canadian literary magazine, went to Sharon Bala for Butter Tea at Starbucks. The story about sisters, postpartum depression and the politics of Tibet was published in the The New Quarterly. The jury singled out the Newfoundland-based Ms. Bala for writing that "wades unafraid into complexity and controversy."
Four awards were also presented to authors based on their body of work.
Louise Bernice Halfe received the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize, worth $25,000.
A former poet laureate of Saskatchewan, known for weaving Cree language and teachings into her works, Ms. Halfe was described by the jury as an "extraordinary storyteller."
Including last week's awarding of the Writers' Trust Fellowship, seven Indigenous authors have been honoured as nominees or winners by the Trust this fall.
The recipient of the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People is Ruby Slipperjack, a member of the Eabametoong First Nation, now $25,000 richer. She was hailed by the jury as a "trail-breaker" in the field of Indigenous literature and of children's literature in general.
Ms. Slipperjack recently retired as a professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, hometown of Diane Schoemperlen, winner of the Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life, worth $25,000. The novelist and short-story specialist was recognized for a career in which she "dissected not only genres, but words themselves."
Finally, Vancouver's Billie Livingston, a novelist, essayist and poet whose work is "masterfully crafted, jammed with vivid detail," received the $25,000 Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award, which goes to a writer in midcareer.
Last year's winner of that award was Eden Robinson, a novelist and member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations of British Columbia, who a week ago was named this year's recipient of the $50,000 Writers' Trust Fellowship.
For her novel Son of a Trickster, Ms. Robinson is also one of the five shortlisted novelists in contention for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize.
The winner will be announced on Nov. 20 and will be awarded $100,000, Canada's single richest literary prize.