Books

Kate Harris wins $30K RBC Taylor Prize for travel memoir Lands of Lost Borders

Lands of Lost Borders recounts a 10,000 kilometre cycling trip along the Silk Road, crossing into 10 countries, while exploring the political, cultural and environmental history of the places and people along the way.
Kate Harris won the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize for her travel memoir Lands of Lost Borders. (CBC)

Kate Harris is the winner of the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize for her travel memoir Lands of Lost Borders. The $30,000 prize annually recognizes the best in Canadian literary nonfiction.

In Lands of Lost Borders, Harris recounts her 10,000 kilometre cycling trip along the Silk Road, crossing into 10 countries — including Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Tibet — with her friend Mel Yule. Along the 10-month journey, Harris explores the political, cultural and environmental history of the places and people she encounters.

Harris grew up in Ontario and currently lives off-grid on the border of B.C. and the Yukon. 

"It's completely surreal," Harris told CBC Books after the win. "You never write a book hoping or expecting anything like this to happen. You just know you want to put your soul on the page and hopefully connect with others out there."

"From her vantage point of a student of the history of science, explorer and adventurer, Kate Harris presents a rare and unique vision of world, and explores the nature of boundaries.... Vivid descriptions of the places and people she meets inspire deep and eclectic reflections on the nature of the world, wilderness, and the struggle of humans to define and limit them," the jury, which was comprised of writers Camilla Gibb, Roy MacGregor and former chief justice Beverley McLachlin, said in a statement. "This is a book that changes how one thinks about the world and the human compulsion to define it." 

The 2019 jury read more than 115 books to select this year's finalists and winner.

The other finalists were Bill Gaston for Just Let Me Look at You, musician Ian Hampton for Jan in 35 Pieces, Elizabeth Hay for All Things Consoled and Darrel J. McLeod for Mamaskatch.

Harris will select an emerging writer to receive the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award. The prize is given to an up-and-coming Canadian writer, who receives $10,000 and is mentored by the RBC Taylor Prize recipient. 

In addition to the Emerging Writer Award, the RBC Taylor Prize runs a mentorship program. The five RBC Taylor Prize finalists are all mentoring an emerging writer

The 2019 honorees, all of whom are at work on a nonfiction manuscript, are Joshua WhiteheadBecky Blake, Helen Knott, Miles Steyn and Kirk Angus Johnson.

Whitehead will be mentored by Hampton, Blake will be mentored by Hay, Knott will be mentored by McLeod, Steyn will be mentored by Gaston and Johnston will be mentored by prize winner Harris.

The 2018 winner was Tanya Talaga for Seven Fallen Feathers

Other past winners include Carol Shields for her biography Jane Austen: A Life, Ian Brown for The Boy in the Moon and Thomas King for The Inconvenient Indian.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now