5 writers make the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize shortlist
The winner will receive $6,000, attend a writing residency and have their work published on CBC Books
Five writers from across Canada have made the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize shortlist.
The finalists are:
- Funhouse Mirrors by Alison Hughes (Edmonton)
- Northern Spring by Barbara Mackenzie (Yellowknife)
- Umbrella by Chanel M. Sutherland (Montreal)
- My Summer Body by Lee Thomas (Fredericton)
- A Borrowed Husband by Sarah Van Goethem (Bothwell, Ont.)
The remaining four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.
All five finalists had their work published on CBC Books. You can read their stories by clicking on the links above.
This year's finalists were selected by a jury comprised of Jenny Heijun Wills, M.G. Vassanji and Tim Cook. They will also select the winner.
The shortlist for the French-language competition has also been revealed. To read more, go to the Prix du récit Radio-Canada.
Get to know the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize English-language finalists below.
Alison Hughes has published 18 books, with translations into Korean, Dutch, Turkish and French. She was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text and won the Writers' Union of Canada Writing for Children Award and the Alberta Literary Awards' R. Ross Annett Award. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for the Writers' Union Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers and longlisted for the 2011 CBC Short Story Prize. She has degrees in English and law, works as a university writing advisor and editor and is currently working on a novel of interlinked stories.
Why she wrote Funhouse Mirrors: "I spent almost a year in chemotherapy after a cancer diagnosis years ago. The chemotherapy unit was fascinating — a place where strangers bonded and veterans counselled newbies, where people cried and laughed and raged and small-talked, alternately incredibly stoic and at their very lowest ebb.
It was fraught with expectations and assumptions.
"It was fraught with expectations and assumptions; sometimes it was as banal as a Tim Hortons and at other times it was filled with existential dread. This story covers a period of perhaps 10 minutes of interaction and observation on one particular day that I thought encapsulated some of these contradictions."
Barbara Mackenzie is retired and living in a small houseboat on Great Slave Lake, N.W.T. She spent over 40 years working and living with the Dene, Cree and Blackfoot, including stints as camp cook, commercial fisher and trapper, self-employed adult educator and teacher, manager and executive secretary. She has done extensive writing through her work and has written three books. The most long-lived and profound lessons she learned are about her deep symbiotic relationships with the land.
I have been inspired by those close observations of my environment needed to survive the powerful and sometimes challenging but always awesome North.
Why she wrote Northern Spring: "I have been inspired by those close observations of my environment needed to survive the powerful and sometimes challenging but always awesome North. This knowledge seems to require more than what my five senses and a limited English language can tell me but the process of trying to find the words is uplifting and inspiring."
Chanel M. Sutherland is a writer and product marketing director living in Montreal. She was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and moved to Canada when she was 10 years old. She holds a BA in English literature from Concordia University. She is currently working on a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the complex relationships and experiences of life in a small Caribbean village.
Why she wrote Umbrella: "The story comes from a lifetime of uncomfortable moments where I was reminded ― whether with direct intentions or not ― of my 'otherness.' As a Black woman, racial microaggression is nothing new to me, but somehow I am always shocked when it occurs. I tend to step around these errant comments or behaviours and seethe in silence. A silence born from being told too many times that 'they didn't mean it that way' or 'it's just a harmless joke.'
I wanted to write a story that confronts racial microaggression head on by stripping away the subtleties that it often hides behind.
"I wanted to write a story that confronts racial microaggression head on by stripping away the subtleties that it often hides behind. That's why I chose to open with the line 'Do you like being Black?' There's nothing covert about this statement, and some readers might find it jolting and uncomfortable ― much like the victim of a racist act. There are more subtle moments of racism within the story, some masquerading as jokes, as I was forced into an uncomfortable moment with a crush on a soccer field."
Lee Thomas is a private practice therapist based in Fredericton. They hold an honours bachelor of arts from the University of New Brunswick and a Master's of clinical social work from the University of Calgary. They were shortlisted for the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize for True Trans. They are a peer support volunteer, overbearing dog parent and occasional writer.
It wasn't funny enough to tweet about, so I wrote this instead.
Why they wrote My Summer Body: "When I returned to New Brunswick after graduate school, I went on a series of extremely disappointing dates, despite being at my maximum hotness. It wasn't funny enough to tweet about, so I wrote this instead."
Sarah Van Goethem was born in Chatham-Kent, Ont. Her novels have been in PitchWars and longlisted for both the Bath Children's Novel Award and CANSCAIP's Writing for Children Competition. She also writes short stories, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, many of which are published in anthologies. Sarah is a nature lover, a wanderer of dark forests and a gatherer of vintage. You can find her at auctions, thrift stores and most definitely trespassing in anything abandoned.
Why she wrote A Borrowed Husband: "Love. How love is messy and unpredictable and not always easy. I like to hide behind fiction, but my mom is always insisting I write my story. After my first husband died, I spent the next year writing a journey through grief that no one has ever seen. In doing so, I learned that the harder you love, the harder you grieve.
I learned that the harder you love, the harder you grieve.
"I avoided writing this story for a while, because I knew it would hurt. But in the end, it is also a love story. Just a different one than most people imagine. I wrote it to the first wife because it is her story, too. Just like my late husband, she holds a piece of this story we all share."