A book of short stories set largely in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has won the City of Vancouver Book Award. The Beggar's Garden is the debut collection by Michael Christie, who spent six years as an outreach worker for homeless and mentally ill people in the troubled neighbourhood.
"I drew heavily upon my experiences working in social services to write and my own personal experiences as well," said Christie, 35, in Vancouver on Tuesday, shortly after the announcement.
"[But]it's very much a book about Vancouver. There are people from all different walks of life in the book."
An independent jury (bookseller Emilie Dierking, 2009 City of Vancouver Book Award winner Lee Henderson, and poet and editor Jim Wong-Chu) selected The Beggar's Garden because of its "compelling selection of well-crafted short stories," it wrote in a statement. "The jury thought that it was an exciting debut that presented a sensitive and playful portrayal of those working and inhabiting this part of Vancouver. Beautifully written, the book humanized the neighbourhood."
The book - parts of which formed Christie's thesis for his MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia - was also on the long-list for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Christie, also a former professional skateboarder, graduated from UBC in 2009 and now lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he was born. Since having a child - his son is two - he says Vancouver has become too expensive.
The other finalists for the $2000 award were Lynne Bowen's Whoever Gives us Bread: The Story of Italians in British Columbia; Wayde Compton's After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region; and Lesley McKnight's Vancouver Kids, a collection of 22 stories based on the real lives of Vancouver children.