Books

Samra Habib, Desmond Cole, Vivek Shraya longlisted for $10K Toronto Book Awards

A dozen books have been longlisted for the 2020 Toronto Book Awards, which celebrates books that are evocative of Toronto.
Samra Habib, Desmond Cole, Vivek Shraya are among the writers longlisted for the 2020 Toronto Book Awards. (CBC, Chris Young/Canadian Press, Vanessa Heins)

We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib, The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya and The Skin We're In by Desmond Cole are among the 12 books longlisted for the 2020 Toronto Book Awards, an annual $10,000 prize that goes to the book that best evokes the city of Toronto.

We Have Always Been Here is an exploration of the ways we disguise and minimize ourselves for the sake of survival.

As a child, Habib hid her faith from Islamic extremists in Pakistan and later, as a refugee in Canada, endured racist bullying and the threat of an arranged marriage. In travelling the world and exploring art and sexuality, Habib searches for the truth of her identity. 

Amanda Brugel won Canada Reads 2020 defending We Have Always Been Here.  

The Skin We're In is journalist and activist Desmond Cole's first book, and it explores life in Canada as a Black person. When it was published in February 2020, it became one of the bestselling books in the country.

The Skin We're In looks at one year, 2017, and chronicles Cole's personal journalism, activism and experiences alongside stories that made the headlines across the country.

The book examines accounts of refugees crossing the Canada-U.S. border in the middle of winter and the death of Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi at the hands of the Ottawa police. 

CBC Books named Cole a 2020 writer to watch. 

Multidisciplinary artist and writer Vivek Shraya is also nominated for novel The Subtweet.

In The Subtweet, Neela Devaki's song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini. When the two musicians meet, a transformative friendship begins. But, as Rukmini's star rises, jealousy creeps in, and Neela sends out a highly-destructive tweet that blows up their friendship. 

Here is the full longlist:

The shortlist for the Toronto Book Awards will be announced on Nov. 2, 2020, followed by the winner named in a virtual presentation on Nov. 30, 2020.

The 2020 jury is comprised of Kate Cayley, Michael Fraser and Liz Howard.

The 2019 winner was Theory by Dionne Brand

Other past winners include David Chariandy for his novel Brother, B. Denham Jolly for his memoir In the Black, Kamal Al-Solaylee for his memoir Intolerable, Charlotte Gray for her nonfiction book The Massey Murder and Anne Michaels for her novel Fugitive Pieces.

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