CBC Literary Prizes

Pictures in the 'sad chapters' of Canadian history by Jennifer Matsunaga

Jennifer Matsunaga has made the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Pictures in the 'sad chapters' of Canadian history.

2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist

Jennifer Matsunaga has made the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Pictures in the “Sad Chapters” of Canadian History. (Chris Snow Photography)

Jennifer Matsunaga has made the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Pictures in the "sad chapters" of Canadian history.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Matsunaga is an assistant professor in the school of social work at the University of Ottawa, unceded Algonquin territory. As a Japanese Canadian, the stories of her family's and community's internment and redress motivate much of her writing, research and community work. In her writing, Jennifer reflects on themes of truth telling, reparation, assimilation and colonization, and she is passionate about using her genealogy to connect with and understand these complex processes. Her work has been published in The Bulletin: A journal of Japanese Canadian community, history + culture. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys photography and singing.

Entry in five-ish words

"Personal stakes and historical photographs."

The story's source of inspiration

"Two things were the inspiration behind this story. First, I hope to contribute to keeping these stories about internment and residential schools alive. The second inspiration is the man who I describe in the piece under 'Picture #2.' That moment caused me to look at residential school pictures and survivors from a new perspective. It also caused me to examine, for the first time, my own internal experience with pictures of the internment. I also wanted to encourage these stories about the internment and residential schools to be thought about in relation to one another within the broader context of Canadian history and governance, rather than in siloes or chapters, as expressed in the piece."

First lines

Encounter: Verb. To come upon or meet unexpectedly or casually.

In Canada, there is a tendency to refer to historical injustices, such as the internment of Japanese Canadians and Indian residential schools, simply as sad or shameful chapters in our history. On the day that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney gave his official apology to Japanese Canadians in 1988, one Member of Parliament declared that this day "closes the chapter of what was a very sad and sensitive memory in our history." Similarly, in June 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that "the treatment of children in Residential Schools is a sad chapter." Seven years later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized to residential school survivors in Newfoundland and Labrador declaring that "the treatment of Indigenous children in residential schools is a dark and shameful chapter." Some want to close these chapters and arrive at tidy conclusions. For others, the effects of these chapters reverberate through generations despite official apologies. The black and white photos that mark each of these chapters can sometimes trigger those reverberations.

About the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize

The winner of the 2019 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 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.

The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 18, 2019. The winner will be announced on Sept. 25, 2019.

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