Books

Lindsay Nixon wins best first book prize at QWF Literary Awards, which honours Quebec English-language books

Lindsay Nixon won the Concordia University First Book Prize, a $3,000 award, for her memoir nîtisânak.
nîtisânak is a memoir by Lindsay Nixon. (Metonymy Press, Jackson Ezra/Writers' Trust of Canada)

Lindsay Nixon won the $3,000 Concordia University First Book Prize for her memoir nîtisânak at the 2019 Quebec Writers' Federation Literary Awards on Tuesday.

The QWF awards, which annually celebrate English-language writers in Quebec, also gave out prizes for translation, poetry, nonfiction, fiction and middle-grade/YA. Each winner receives $3,000.

Nixon's memoir nîtisânak explores the profound loss of their mother. Medicine and heartbreak are found in equal measure throughout this narrative, which tells stories of community, family and love. Nixon won the 2019 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers.

 "nîtisânak is a symphonic protest song, enraged, celebratory, multi-layered and genre-blurring as narrative art about being Indigenous and queer in what Nixon calls KKKanada. Sometimes it works as a book of essays, sometimes as a novel that teases out a bildungsroman, sometimes as poetic visions, sometimes as queer theory. The voice is not singular and it is always restless," said jury members Chantel Lavoie, Maurice Mierau and John Arthur Sweet in a press release.

Author Lindsay Nixon has been shortlisted for 2 Quebec Writers Federation prizes, The Concordia First Book and the Mavis Gallant prize for non fiction. They are also the winner of the Dayne Ogilvy prize as an emerging writer from the LGBTQ community. 54:00

Oana Avasilichioaei's translation of The Faerie Devouring, written by Catherine Lalonde, won the Le Prix de traduction de la Fondation Cole / The Cole Foundation Prize for Translation. The fable tells the story of the sprite and a group of fatherless boys being raised by a wicked faerie godmother named Gramma.

"With The Faerie Devouring, Oana Avasilichioaei doesn't only translate language, she translates a language. A language, because Catherine Lalonde clearly wrote La dévoration de fées in an idiom all her own, specific to herself and her motley cast of spectral characters... In other words, this is a most ambitious translation project," said jury members Bronwyn Averett, Simon Brown and Sonya Malaborza in a press release.

Tess Liem's Obits won the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Liem's book collects elegiac obituaries for people who haven't been fully mourned, including missing women and victims of mass killings. The book won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for a debut book of poetry in June 2019.

"Nothing — no grief or trauma or brief euphoria — ever stays buried in these poems, which constantly disinter and unearth and unerase, examining the moral imperatives of memory and memorialization," said jury members Amber Dawn, Ehab Lotayef and Catriona Wright in a press release.

David Homel's eighth novel The Teardown received the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. The Montreal author's book follows a freelance journalist named Phil Brenner, who grows increasingly irrelevant to both his career and family.

"A superb novel that courageously engages with timeless and timely themes, The Teardown is skillfully composed... telling an important and compelling story filled with interesting and complex characters," said jury members Tom Abray, Mark Frutkin and Zsuzsi Gartner in a press release.

"It directly engages with the cultural pre-occupations of our time in a manner that is refreshingly open-minded, observant and intelligent. With good intentions and gentleness, it ventures into territories that are dangerous and painful."

Susan Doherty's The Ghost Garden was awarded the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction. Doherty shares the stories of the patients at the Douglas Institute, a psychiatric hospital in Montreal where the author has been volunteering for a decade. One of the patients is a woman in her 60s named Caroline Evans (a pseudonym), whom Doherty has known since childhood.

"The Ghost Garden is nothing less than an act of courage, both on the part of Susan Doherty — who took an immense risk devoting herself to a subject so misunderstood and indistinct — and those who shared their stories with her," said jury members Mark Medley, Scott Moodie and Erin Wunker in a press release.

Susan Doherty has been volunteering to help people with severe mental illness for more than a decade. She's written about what she's learned in her new book The Ghost Garden: Inside the Lives of Schizophrenia's Feared and Forgotten. 23:46

Raquel Rivera's YA western novel Yipee's Gold Mountain won the QWF Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature. It tells the story of two friends, an orphaned Chinese ex-railway worker and an Apache warrior-apprentice.

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