Charles Taylor Prize 2013: Interview with winner Andrew Preston

andrew-preston-win-220.jpgAndrew Preston has been awarded this year's Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction for his book Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. You can read an excerpt from the book here. The author spoke to CBC about his win following Monday's award ceremony in Toronto. You can learn more about the rest of this year's finalists -- and listen to interviews and readings on As It Happens -- at our special Charles Taylor Prize page.

Q: So, how does this feel?

A: I feel shock. I'm still in shock. It means everything, it's the highlight of my career so far. A lot of people say that, but I really didn't think I was going to win. And I'm still a bit stunned, as you can probably tell.

Q: What does winning this award mean to you?

A: I think it's good that the Charles Taylor Prize, a Canadian award, can recognize a Canadian who's not writing about Canadian history. And so I think that speaks to the confidence of the award, and the confidence of Canadians, because there's not much Canada in my book. There's not much at all. And I didn't write a Canadian book, and I didn't set out to write a Canadian book, so I'm just grateful that I've been recognized in this way.

Q: Why was it important to you to explore this topic?

A: Out of curiosity really -- a little bit personal but mostly professional. My students asked me, during the George W. Bush administration, where religion comes from in American foreign policy, and I really didn't have an answer for them ... It was a journey that took quite a while to answer their question.
Q: What was the most important thing you learned in that journey?

A: That American religion is more complex and more multifaceted than simply the religious right, which was my assumption when I began the book. There's a very rich religious life on the left, on the right, in the middle, from all sorts of different denominations -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, that complexity really surprised me. And I think it would surprise most Canadians.

We have more with Andrew Preston and his award-winning book, including a recent interview with As it Happens.

A video interview:

Highlights from this year's Charles Taylor Prize: