Writer Thomas King, magazine journalist J.B. MacKinnon and former foreign correspondent Graeme Smith are among the nominees for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
The Writers' Trust of Canada, which administers the annual literary honour, revealed a short list of five titles today in Toronto. The award is the richest prize celebrating a Canadian book of nonfiction.
This year's contenders are:
- King, the writer, broadcaster and first aboriginal Massey lecturer, for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.
- MacKinnon, the 100-Mile Diet author, for his book The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be.
- Smith, the former Globe and Mail foreign correspondent, for his The Dogs are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan.
- Fiction editor and author Andrew Steinmetz for This Great Escape: The Case of Michael Paryla.
- Poet, playwright and writing professor Priscila Uppal for her memoir Projection: Encounters with my Runaway Mother.
Noted aboriginal author and professor King said he tapped into his own background — from his study of history and work teaching native history to his experience as a native affairs activist — to write The Inconvenient Indian.
"I know that people have generally very little bits and pieces of Native history that they understand, but they really do not understand the arcs of Native history," he told CBC News.
"I thought: 'You know what? I'm in a fairly decent position to write a book like that' — and so that's what I did. And it was a lot of fun and it was fairly painful, too," he added.
"Whenever you go back into your past and look at the history that you've been part of, when you look at history that happened before you were born, to the people you're a part of, it hits spots that are fairly painful."
Digging into history and exploring past tensions was also part of Uppal's memoir. In Projection, she recounts a 10-day trip to Brazil to meet the mother who had abandoned her when she was still a child.
"When we hear about people re-uniting with estranged family members, we want it to have this amazing Oprah moment — where everyone gets together and they hug and they cry and they have a barbecue and everything is forgiven," she said.
"That's wonderful if that happens, but I think it happens very rarely and I wanted a book for the rest of us."
The finalists were chosen — from more than 100 submissions — by a three-member jury comprising writers Hal Niedzviecki, Andreas Schroeder and Candace Savage, who was the 2012 winner.
The trio will be joined by two additional jurors — War Child Canada founder Samantha Nutt and CBC host Evan Solomon — to select this year's winner.
The winner of the $60,000 prize will be announced at a gala at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario on Oct. 21. Finalists will also receive $5,000 each.