Ali-Mohammad by Nataly Shaheen
2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist
Nataly Shaheen has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Ali-Mohammad.
The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 24. The winner will be announced on Oct. 1.
Nataly Shaheen's love of stories drove her to study English literature, first in Lebanon and then in Canada when she immigrated in 2001. She now teaches English to newcomers to Canada at Sheridan College and she uses stories to help her students connect and build bridges despite their different backgrounds and experiences. She is currently working on her memoir and refining her craft by taking courses at the University of Toronto's creative writing program.
Entry in five-ish words
"My mother's courage in wartime."
The story's source of inspiration
"This story is an excerpt from my 'in-progress' memoir, titled Lost in Them, which in part explores the haunting effects and trauma of living through the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s and 1980s. The story's inspiration comes from a moment of courage and strength when my mother made difficult decisions in order to protect her family and her home from militiamen. My mother passed away 22 years ago, and many stories about me and my family are gone with her. I lost my father two years ago, and with him, more of my past is lost. I write about the flashes of memories that I have to keep a record for my sons, something to bring to life the world I lived in and what made me the mother they know. I also write because it is cathartic and therapeutic, because it helps me heal."
We had been living in Baba's office for a couple of years because our home in one of Beirut's suburbs was in a highly militarized area. Hamra, the part of Beirut where the office was located, had always been diverse and safe, the heart of cultural activity, with sidewalk French cafés, clubs, shopping centres, theatres, cinemas. But after the Israeli invasion in 1982 and the surge of refugees from Southern Lebanon, it was taken over by several militias that marked their territories with graffiti, armed men and undercover spies.
Baba's office happened to be where a militant Shiite group had decided to set up its headquarters. The building right across the street from ours. A block over toward the north, another militia group with more socialist leanings set up their base. It's funny that their homes were their headquarters, their living rooms stacked with weapons and sand bags.
The winner of the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.