I certainly didn't expect to win anything.
—Méira Cook, author
Méira Cook said she was calmly enjoying herself at the 25th annual Manitoba Book Awards Sunday evening at the West End Cultural Centre when the unexpected happened: her novel The House on Sugarbush Road won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award.
"I was shaking," said the South-African born Cook, whose novel chronicling the relationship between a black family and white family in Mandela's post-apartheid South Africa is her first departure from poetry. "I certainly didn't expect to win anything."
The House on Sugarbush Road by Meira Cook (Great Plains)
Her expectations may have been kept down by stiff competition. The Book of the Year nominees included Imaging Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote by Esyllt W. Jones
, which walked away with Best Illustrated Book of the Year and heavy-hitter David Bergen's The Age of Hope
, which won the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction.
Kevin Mark Fournier won the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award for his dark, supernatural novel The Green-Eyed Queen of Suicide City
. It's set both in Winnipeg and the afterlife and tackles the issue of teen suicide. Fournier insisted he doesn't write for teens - he just writes novels - though he does find them compelling protagonists.
"It's an age when you're deciding who you are, when everything is important and dramatic and emotions are big," said Fournier, who is considering a followup novel. "You don't have the ironic distancing you do with adults."
At opposite ends of the career spectrum, poet Kristian Enright won both the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book by a Manitoba Author and the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer while Turnstone Press and Manitoba Writers' Guild co-founder Dennis Cooley was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The only sombre moment in the evening's celebrations was brought by Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) who, in bringing greetings from the City of Winnipeg, both downplayed Russ Wyatt's call for the elimination of Winnipeg Arts Council grants and called on Winnipeggers to defend arts funding.
"It's important for everyone to be vigilant," Gerbasi said.
Full list of winners:McNally Robinson Book of the YearThe House on Sugarbush Road
by Méira Cook, published by Enfield & Wizenty, an imprint of
Great Plains PublicationsAqua Lansdowne Prize for PoetryThe Politics of Knives
by Jonathan Ball, published by Coach House BooksBest Illustrated Book of the YearImagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote
, by Esyllt W. Jones, design by Doowah Design, published by University of Manitoba PressManuela Dias Book Design of the Year Warehouse Journal Vol.21
edited and designed by Nicole Hunt and Brandon Bergem, published by the University of Manitoba's Faculty of ArchitectureEileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First BookSonar
by Kristian Enright, published by Turnstone PressCarol Shields Winnipeg Book Award The Age of Hope
by David Bergen, published by HarperCollins CanadaLe Prix Littéraire rue-DeschambaultLa Révolution Tranquille par Raymond
- M. Hebert, publié par Les Éditions du Blé
Margaret Laurence Award for FictionThe Age of Hope
by David Bergen, published by HarperCollins CanadaAlexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-FictionCreation and Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art
by Darlene Coward Wight,
published by Douglas and MacIntyre and the Winnipeg Art GalleryJohn Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer
Kristian EnrightMary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba PublisherThunder Road
by Chadwick Ginther, cover design by Jamis Paulson, interior design by Sharon Caseburg, published by Ravenstone, an imprint of Turnstone PressLifetime Achievement Award
Dennis CooleyMcNally Robinson Book for Young People Award - Older CategoryThe Green-Eyed Queen of Suicide City
by Kevin Marc Fournier, published by Great Plains
Related:New book of photography reveals the history of Winnipeg