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Kate Harris is the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize recipient for "Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road," during a gala luncheon at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Kate Harris’s Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road has won this year’s RBC Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction. Harris says she was always fascinated with the tales of Marco Polo and wanted to follow his footsteps in her debut work, which was published by Knopf Canada.

Jurors Camilla Gibb, Roy MacGregor and former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin read nearly every non-fiction book published in Canada in the past year, 110 of them. As juror and author Gibb says, “It’s a book club for masochists. ... All of us cared deeply about the narrative and that led us to our conclusion."

In Harris’s acceptance speech, she said that “asking questions about the world around us every day is what I want to do. And as writer Simone Weil said ‘Attention is a form of prayer’ and I feel that sincerely.”

Kate Harris has been awarded $30,000 as the winner of this year's RBC Taylor Prize for "Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road." The book's cover is shown in a handout photo./The Canadian Press

The other finalists for the prize also told personal stories.

Bill Gaston revisits childhood memories of his alcoholic father in Just Let Me Look at You: On Fatherhood, published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Canada.

Ian Hampton’s first book, published when he was 83 by Porcupine’s Quill, is a memoir with an unusual trait – it’s written in the third person, with Hampton referring to himself as the titular Jan (Yan) throughout.

Elizabeth Hay’s All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir has already won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. The book, published by McClelland & Stewart, describes an adult daughter’s care for her aging parents up to their lingering deaths, and analyzes all the family’s relations and power dynamics.

And Darrel J. McLeod’s debut, Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age, was awarded a Governor-General’s Literary Award. Mamaskatch, which means shared dream in Cree, was published by Douglas & McIntyre. In it, McLeod weaves together stories told by his mother, Bertha, when he was a boy in the tiny village of Smith, Alberta.

The RBC Taylor Prize awards $5,000 to each finalist and an additional $25,000 to the winner. The award was established almost two decades ago to honour former Globe and Mail journalist Charles Taylor. Previous winners of the prize include Wayne Johnston, Isabel Huggan and Charles Foran. Tanya Talaga won last year’s prize for her 2017 book Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City.

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