The five finalists for the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction were announced by the Writers’ Trust of Canada on September 30—and two of the writers are from British Columbia.
The $60,000 prize is not only the largest monetary award for Canadian nonfiction writers but is the only national award for literary nonfiction for 2020—due to the discontinuation of the RBC Taylor Prize and the suspension of the Governor General’s Literary Awards for this year.
The award recognizes excellence in literary nonfiction, including essays, history, biography, memoir, commentary, and criticism. The winning book is chosen for a distinctive voice, and a command of tone, narrative, style, and technique.
Each of the finalists—chosen by a jury consisting of writers Helen Knott, Sandra Martin, and Ronald Wright—were chosen from 107 submitted titles (from 65 publishers) receives $5,000.
Carver, jeweller, painter, printmaker, photographer, and writer David A. Neel, who lives in Vancouver, was named for his memoir The Way Home (UBC Press), in which he details his effort to reconnect with his Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw culture that he was separated from after his Kwakiutl father died and survived abuse and trauma while growing up.
Poet Lorna Crozier of Vancouver Island was also chosen for her memoir Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats) (McClelland and Stewart), in which she grieves the death of her partner, poet Patrick Lane, by recollecting their 40 years and 40 books together.
Fiction and nonfiction writer and poet Steven Heighton, based in Kingston, Ontario, was selected for Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos (Biblioasis) about his experience volunteering at a transit camp during the Syrian refugee crisis in his mother’s homeland of Greece in 2015.
The 2019 RBC Taylor Prize for Emerging Writer Award winner Jessica J. Lee, who is originally from London, Ontario, and now lives in the U.K., made the list for Two Trees Make a Forest: Travels Among Taiwan’s Mountains and Coasts in Search of My Family’s Past (Hamish Hamilton Canada). In her genre-breaking memoir, Lee recounts her journey to her ancestral homeland of Taiwan where she examines how familial narratives and geographic history are interlinked.
Tessa McWatt, a Guyanese-born Canadian novelist in London, U.K., was included for Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging (Random House Canada), her personal examination of her own body to explore her multiracial history and identity and to question the social construct of race.
The winner will be revealed at a ceremony on November 18, viewable at the Writers’ Trust of Canada website.