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Celebrated Cree writer and musician Tomson Highway, was last year's recipient of the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction for his book 'Permanent Astonishment: A Memoir.'  Photo: Courtesy of Devour! Food Film Fest

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Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction

The winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize. / BY Mike Crisolago / September 21st, 2022


The 2022 finalists for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction were announced on Wednesday, a shortlist that the Writers’ Trust of Canada touts as comprising books on “climate change, terminal illness, the politics of race and identity and the pandemic.”

 

The finalists include:

The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change, by Geoff Dembicki

Nothing Will Be Different: A Memoir, by Tara McGowan-Ross

The Long Road Home: On Blackness and Belonging, by Debra Thompson

The Invisible Siege: The Rise of Coronaviruses and the Search for a Cure, by Dan Werb

Making Love with the Land, by Joshua Whitehead

 

The finalists were selected from among 103 submissions by a jury of three Canadian writers: Mark Bourrie, Cheryl Foggo, and Jessica McDiarmid.

In a statement, Charlie Foran, the executive director of the Writers’ Trust, said, “This year’s shortlist is a timely and accurate representation of topics that have likely crossed, in some cases dominated, our thoughts in recent years. If we look for books that speak to our circumstances, both shared and individual, this shortlist gives us exactly that. Congratulations to all finalists.”

Each finalist receives $5000 and the winner of the $60,000 prize — the richest in Canadian non-fiction awards — will be announced at the Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony hosted at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on November 2. Click here for more information.

The Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction is “given annually for excellence in the category of literary nonfiction, which includes essays, history, biography, memoir, commentary, and criticism.”

Last year’s winner, Cree writer and musician Tomson Highway, won for his book Permanent Astonishment: A Memoir. The jury citation for the book said, “Permanent Astonishment is a mesmerizing story rich in detail about growing up in a Cree-speaking family in Northern Manitoba and later in a residential school. Highway’s writing delights in tales of eating muskrat tails, speaking Cree (and learning English), preparing for a Christmas concert, and listening to Hank Snow on a transistor radio. While unstinting about the abuse he and others suffered, Highway makes a bold personal choice to accentuate the wondrousness of his school years resulting in a book that shines with the foundational sparks of adolescence: innocence, fear, and amazement.”

Read on for the jury citations for this year’s five finalists.

The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change, by Geoff Dembicki

“In The Petroleum Papers, Geoff Dembecki shows us how the petroleum industry has known about the risks to the climate for more than sixty years. This is a book that connects the dots between the industry, politicians, lobbyists, fake grassroots groups, media, and corrupted think tanks. Basing his arguments on grounded research and using clear, accessible prose, Dembicki explains the players and the game. The stakes are the planet itself.”

Nothing Will Be Different: A Memoir, by Tara McGowan-Ross

“In Nothing Will Be Different, Tara McGowan-Ross unravels history and present in raw, unflinching prose that is at once funny, heartbreaking, and lyrical. A coming-of-age reflection that is searing in its honesty, energy, and depth, McGowan-Ross treads difficult topics such as death, loss, addiction, and grief with wryness, wit, and depth. With an intense voice resolutely and unapologetically her own, McGowan-Ross dares readers to come along on a death-defying, life-affirming journey.”

The Long Road Home: On Blackness and Belonging, by Debra Thompson

“Through direct and evocative prose, Debra Thompson skillfully leads the reader into a rare perspective on the world of Canadian and American Black life. Navigating the space between her father’s ancestors who fled enslavement and her own life as one of very few Black women working in the field of political science, Thompson breaks ground in both countries. Engagingly personal and crisply political, The Long Road Home illuminates how the experience of Blackness cannot be explained by drawing a line at the 49th parallel.”

The Invisible Siege: The Rise of Coronaviruses and the Search for a Cure, by Dan Werb

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive event in world history since the Second World War. More than one million people have died, the global economy has been shaken, anti-science populist extremism has become a potent force, and other issues like climate change have been overshadowed by the debate over public health measures. Dan Werb tells us how we got here through an authoritative, scientific explanation of coronaviruses. The Invisible Siege is a scientific detective story that leaves the reader frightened that the villain is still on the loose, and maybe in the house”

Making Love with the Land, by Joshua Whitehead

“A collection that summons the reader into moving explorations of care and kinship with the land and with one another, Making Love with the Land is a lyrical, personal journey to be savoured. Refusing the demands of categorization, Whitehead’s beautiful book is equal parts arresting, inviting, and challenging. He writes with fluid dexterity in the English language, while acknowledging the complexity of creating and living in a language that is not always enough.”

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