Books

Jennifer Robson, Ayelet Tsabari among winners for 2019 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards

The prizes honour books that explore Jewish themes or which were written by Jewish Canadians. Each category winner receives $1,000.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson (left) and The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari have won 2019 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards. (CBC)

Jennifer Robson's royal wedding-inspired historical novel The Gown and Ayelet Tsabari's memoir The Art of Leaving were two of eight winners celebrated at the 2019 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards on Oct. 27, 2019.

The prizes annually honour books that explore Jewish themes or which were written by Jewish Canadians. Each category winner receives $1,000.

Robson won the fiction category. The Gown takes place across two timelines, alternating between the stories of the making of Princess Elizabeth's wedding gown in 1947 and an embroiderer's granddaughter who discovers a priceless keepsake in 2016.

"Told through the eyes of three women, one of them a Holocaust survivor, The Gown is a story of rebuilding friendship and family after the devastation of the Holocaust," said the jury in a press release.

The memoir/biography category is normally awarded to one book, but jury members felt the submissions were "so rich this year" that they've split it into two prizes.

Tsabari's The Art of Leaving won for best memoir and Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century by Alexandra Popoff received the prize for best biography.

Tsabari's book covers a lot of ground, exploring the writer's grief of losing her father at a young age as well as her identity as an Israeli. The Toronto-based writer is a finalist for the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

She was also shortlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize in 2018 for her story Green.

Popoff's biography describes the life and impact of Soviet Jewish dissident writer Vasily Grossman, whose manuscript for the novel, Life and Fate, a sharp rebuke of Stalinism, was seized by the KGB before being posthumously published. Popoff is a former journalist from Moscow.

Here are the other winning books:

  • History: Spies of No Country by Matti Friedman
  • Children/Youth: A Cage Without Bars by Anne Dublin
  • Yiddish: Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays by Chava Rosenfarb
  • Scholarship: Culture in Nazi Germany by Michael Kater
  • Holocaust: Choices Under Duress of the Holocaust by Leonard H. Ehrlich and Edith Ehrlich, edited by Carl S. Ehrlich

This year's seven-member jury panel included Edward Trapunski, Rona Arato, Miriam Borden, Alan Goldschläger, Sara Horowitz, Andrea Knight and Michael Posner.

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