Books

Omar Mouallem, Jaspreet Singh and Glen Huser among winners of the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Alberta Literary Awards, which recognize excellence in writing by Alberta authors.
Writers Omar Mouallem, left, Jaspreet Singh and Glen Huser are among the winners of the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards. (Alberta Literary Awards)

Journalist Omar Mouallem, novelist and poet Jaspreet Singh, and author and educator Glen Huser are among the winners of the 2022 Alberta Literary Awards.

The Writers' Guild of Alberta administers the annual Alberta Literary Awards, the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, all of which recognize the best literary works by Alberta authors.

Omar Mouallem won the $1,500 Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction for his debut book Praying to the West, which the jury called "a thought-provoking book, written in clear prose and from a position of deep empathy and accommodation."

In Praying to the West, Mouallem examines how his faith has shaped him, and more broadly, how Islam has shaped the Americas — and vice versa.

Mouallem is an award-winning writer, editor and documentary filmmaker based in Edmonton. He also runs the Pandemic University School of Writing, which was founded to support writers affected by the COVID-19 fallout and continues as a skill-building resource for both established and emerging writers.

Jaspreet Singh won the $5,000 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, a partnership between the Writers' Guild of Alberta and the City of Calgary, for his memoir My Mother, My Translator.

The book stemmed from a pact he made with his mother that he would give her the go-ahead to publish her significantly altered translation of one of his stories — if she promised to write her memoirs. After she died in 2012, Singh decided to take up the memoir she had started.

The result is a deeply personal exploration of a complex relationship, as well as a family history and a reckoning with the inherited trauma of Partition and anti-Sikh violence of the 1980s.

Singh is the Calgary-based author of the novels ChefFace and Helium; the story collection Seventeen Tomatoes; and the poetry collections November and How to Hold a Pebble. His nonfiction has appeared in Granta, Brick, Alberta Views, and the New York Times.

The $10,000 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize went to Glen Huser for his novel Burning the Night, which the jury commended for "artfully blending the present and the past, the personal and historical."

The novel follows Curtis, a man from small-town Alberta who travels to Edmonton to obtain a teaching degree and forms a close bond with his elderly Aunt Harriet. Through reading the diary Harriet's intended husband Philip kept before his death during World War One, Curtis begins to examine parallels to his own life — including his desire to be an artist and his awakening as a gay man.

Huser, now based in Vancouver, was a lecturer in children's literature, information studies and creative writing at University of Alberta in Edmonton for many years, as well as at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His first novel, Grace Lake, was shortlisted for the 1992 W.H. Smith Books in Canada First Novel Award, and he is also the author of several books for young adult readers, including the Governor General's Award-winning Stitches.

Listen | Glen Huser on Radio Active

We talk to Glen about his book Burning the Night, and hear how his struggle with sexuality inspired the novel.

Here is the complete list of winners:

  • R. Ross Annett Award for Children's Literature: When You Least Expect It by Lorna Schultz Nicholson
  • James H. Gray Award for Short Nonfiction: The Wounded Man by Lisa Martin
  • Howard O'Hagan Award for Short Story: Malady Head by Rod Moody-Corbett
  • Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry: Tell the birds your body is not a gun by Rayanne Haines
  • Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Award: In Defense of Grief by Jessica Waite
  • Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama: Love is Magic by David van Belle
  • Short Story Collection Award: Vermin by Lori Hahnel
  • Memoir Award: Lookout: Love, Solitude, and Searching for Wildfire in the Boreal Forest by Trina Moyles
  • Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction: Praying to the West by Omar Mouallem
  • Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction: The Shade Tree by Theresa Shea
  • Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize: Burning the Night by Glen Huser
  • The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize: My Mother, My Translator by Jaspreet Singh

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the Alberta Literary Awards, which were created by the Writers' Guild of Alberta — the largest provincial writers' organization in Canada — in 1982 to recognize excellence in writing by Alberta authors.

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