David A. Robertson wins two 2021 Manitoba Book Awards for memoir Black Water

The 11 prizes celebrate local writers, book designers, illustrators and publishers.

The 11 prizes celebrate local writers, book designers, illustrators and publishers

David A. Robertson is the author of Black Water. (Amber Green, HarperCollins Publishers)

David A. Robertson is the winner of two 2021 Manitoba Book Awards. The Swampy Cree author and graphic novelist from Winnipeg was recognized for his memoir Black Water

He was given both the $3,500 Alexander Kennedy Isbister Award for Non-Fiction, which honours the best adult nonfiction title by a Manitoba writer, and the $5,000 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, which is given to the book that contributes to the appreciation and understanding of Winnipeg.

Black Water tells the story of Robertson's relationship with his father and the journey they take to his father's trapline outside of Norway House Cree Nation. The memoir chronicles a young man looking to understand his father's story, make peace with his anxiety and piece together his own blood memory.

Robertson has published 25 books across many genres, including Will I see?, Sugar Falls, Strangers, and Governor General Literary Award winning picture book When We Were Alone. He hosts the CBC Edmonton podcast Kiwew.

Lara Rae's play Dragonfly won the $1,000 Chris Johnson Award for Best Play by a Manitoba Playwright, a biennial prize given to the best play published or produced in Manitoba by a Manitoba playwright.

Rae is a writer, comedian, and the co-founder and former artistic director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. In January 2021, She was one of the recipients of Manitoba's 150 Women Trailblazer Awards. She was also a performer on the CBC Radio comedy series The Debaters.

Dragonfly details Rae's journey from a boyhood in Glasgow to her current life as a transgender woman in Winnipeg. The play premiered in a Theatre Projects Manitoba production and is a "one person" autobiographical show with two performers. Dragonfly was also published as a book last year.

Canadian novelist and short story writer David Bergen was given the $2,000 McNally Robinson Book of the Year award for Here the Dark, a book of novellas and short stories on what it means to be lost — and how, through grace, we can be found. 

Here the Dark was on the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist and his 2005 novel The Time in Between won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Bergen's book The Age of Hope was defended by Ron MacLean on Canada Reads in 2013.

The Lightning of Possible Storms by Jonathan Ball won the $3,500 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction, which honours the best book of adult fiction by a Manitoba Writer. The collection of short stories follows Aleya as she delves into a strange book she finds at a cafe. The more she reads, the less real the world around her seems. 

The Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book, worth $2,500, recognizes the best debut English language book. This year, the award was given to Andrew Unger for Once Removed, a novel about a frustrated ghostwriter struggling to make ends meet in a small Mennonite community in the process of gentrification. 

Cree Métis Duncan Mercredi and Anishinaabe Lenard Monkman won the Manitowapow Award, which is worth $500 and is presented biennially to two Indigenous writers or oral performers who demonstrate excellence in writing, storytelling or spoken word and who also actively support Indigenous verbal arts in Manitoba. 

Mercredi is currently Winnipeg's poetry laureate and the author of mahikan ka knot, a poetry book about the urban Indigenous experience, cultural resurgence and steadfast connections among different generations. Monkman is Anishanaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. 

Three books won the Manuela Dias Design and Illustration Awards, which recognize the best in book design and illustration.

The Book Design award was given to Becoming our Future edited by Julie Nagam, Carly Lane and Megan Tamati-Quennell. The original front cover design is by Johnson Witehira, and the design and layout is by Relish New Brand Experience.

I Will See You Again by Lisa Boivin won the illustration award, and comic book anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold won the graphic novel award.

Magdalene Redekop won the $1,000 Mary Score Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher for Make Believe: Questions About Mennonites and Art

The $1,000 McNally Robinson Book for Young people award — this year honouring books for readers aged nine to 18 — was given to Colleen Nelson for her YA novel Harvey Comes Home.

Boussole Franche by Amber O'Reilly won the $3,500 Le Prix littéraire Rue-Deschambault, which is given to the best French-language book by a Manitoba writer.

Last year's winners include Jean Teillet, Lauren Carter and Jenny Heijun Wills.

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