Books

Tanya Talaga, Alicia Elliott shortlisted for $60K Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction

Talaga is nominated for All Our Relations, which is based on her 2018 CBC Massey Lectures, and Elliott is a finalist for her essay collection, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground.
Tanya Talaga (left) and Alicia Elliott are shortlisted for the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. (Steve Russell, Ayelet Tsabari)

Tanya Talaga's All Our Relations and Alicia Elliott's A Mind Spread Out on the Ground are among the five books shortlisted for the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

The $60,000 prize is awarded annually to the best Canadian work of nonfiction.

For the first time in the prize's history, all five finalists are women. Three of the books are debuts.

Here are the finalists:

The shortlist was selected by the jury panel comprised of Ivan Coyote, Trevor Herriot and Manjushree Thapa. They chose the five books from 99 titles submitted by publishers.

The winner will be announced at the Writers' Trust Awards ceremony in Toronto on Nov. 5, 2019.

Elizabeth Hay won the prize in 2018 for her memoir All Things Consoled.

Other past winners include Rosemary Sullivan, Naomi Klein and Charles Foran.

Keep reading to learn more about each of the finalists.

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott is the author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. (Doubleday Canada, Ayelet Tsabari)

Elliott explores the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples across Canada through the lens of her own experiences as a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River. Elliott examines how colonial violence, including the loss of language, seeps into the present day lives of Indigenous people, often in the form of mental illness. Elliott, who lives in Brantford, Ont., won gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2017 for the essay this book is based on.

The jury described Elliott's collection of essays "a much-needed pail of cold water upon Canada's self-satisfied response to the call for Reconciliation."

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a memoir by Anna Mehler Paperny. (Random House Canada)

Anna Mehler Paperny is a journalist who has struggled with depression her entire life. After a suicide attempt in her 20s, she decided to look into her disease: how it's caused, treated and talked about. Part memoir, part investigation, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is an examination of an illness that is far too common and far too little understood. 

The jurors praised the book for "casting much-needed light on one of the most persistent and mystifying diseases of our times."

All Our Relations by Tanya Talaga

All Our Relations is the 2018 Massey Lectures. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star/House of Anansi)

Talaga investigates the alarming rise in youth suicides in Indigenous communities. All Our Relations — part of the 2018 Massey Lectures and based on Talaga's Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series — is a call for action and justice for Indigenous communities and youth.

Jurors describe Talaga's book as "a call to action and a testament to the strength and tenacity of Indigenous people around the world."

The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari

The Art of Leaving is a memoir by Ayelet Tsabari. (CBC Radio/Sinisa Jolic, HarperCollins Canada)

After finishing her two mandatory years in the Israel Defense Forces and in the midst of grieving her father's death, Tsabari leaves Tel Aviv to travel through India, Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Moving quickly through homes and cities, Tsabari eventually starts making trips back to Israel and digs deep into her Jewish-Yemeni background and Mizrahi identity in ways she'd never done before.

Tsabari was a finalist for the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize and won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her short story collection The Best Place on Earth.

The jurors praised The Art of Leaving for being "pitch-perfect in bearing the full tension and complexity of what it is to be a young Mizrahi Jew in self-imposed exile." 

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. by Jenny Heijun Wills

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related is a memoir by Jenny Heijun Wills. (McClelland & Stewart)

Jenny Heijun Wills was born in Korea, but was adopted by a Canadian family and raised in a small town. When she was in her early 20s, she decided to travel back to Korea to meet her extended birth family and other young people who were adopted from Korea and raised abroad. 

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. shares Wills's journey and also explores the impact of being raised by a family of a different ethnicity and culture.

The jury describes the book as "finely observed, meticulous and candid."

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