Jen Agg, Catherine Hernandez nominated for Toronto Book Awards

Jen Agg is nominated for her memoir I Hear She's a Real Bitch while Catherine Hernandez is a finalist for her novel Scarborough.
Jen Agg (left) and Catherine Hernandez are among the finalists for the 2017 Toronto Book Awards. (Nick Koza/Charm Torres)

The Toronto Book Awards have announced their 2017 shortlist, comprising five books — three memoirs, a novel and an anthology — recognized for their literary excellence and reflection of Toronto.

The grand prize, to be announced on Oct. 12, 2017 at the Toronto Reference Library, comes with a $10,000 prize. Each of the finalists will receive $1,000.

Restaurateur Jen Agg is shortlisted for her memoir I Hear She's a Real Bitch, a book that documents her life and success in Toronto's competitive food industry. Agg is the owner of several popular restaurants, including The Black Hoof and Rhum Corner.

Catherine Hernandez is a finalist for her breakthrough debut novel Scarborough, which tells the Toronto neighbourhood's story of resilience and triumph. The book landed Hernandez on CBC Books' 2017 writers to watch list.

Entrepreneur B. Denham Jolly is on the shortlist for his memoir In the Black: My Life. The book documents the blatant racism and discrimination Jolly endured while building a successful business in 1950s Toronto. Those experiences led Jolly to social activism and to founding the first black-owned radio station in the city, Flow 93.5.

The third memoir on the shortlist is Life on the Ground Floor by Dr. James Maskalyk, which chronicles his career treating patients in emergency rooms around the world. Dr. Maskalyk takes readers to hospitals in Toronto, Addis Adaba, Cambodia and Bolivia, all of which have their emergency rooms on the ground floor.

Rounding out the shortlist is an anthology of essays titled Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer, edited by Jane Farrow, John Lorinc, Stephanie Chambers, Maureen Fitzgerald, Tim McCaskell, Rebecka Sheffield, Tatum Taylor, Rahim Thawer and Ed Jackson. The book celebrates the voices of Toronto's queer residents and the ways they've shaped the city.

"This year, the Toronto Book Awards captivate us with intensely personal stories that reveal how Toronto's diversity is embodied through its residents," said Mayor John Tory.

The Toronto Book Awards will be held at the Toronto Reference Library and be hosted by CBC Radio's Gill Deacon.

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