Books

The finalists for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction

The finalists for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.
The 2020 finalists for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. (Canada Council for the Arts/CBC)

Here are the finalists for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

The Governor General's Literary Awards are one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious literary prizes. 

The awards, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, are given in seven English-language categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetryyoung people's literature — textyoung people's literature — illustrationdrama and translation. Seven French-language awards are also given out in the same categories.

Each winner will receive $25,000. The winners will be announced on June 1, 2021.

You can see the finalists in all seven categories here.

The nonfiction category was assessed by Deni Ellis Béchard, Helen Humphreys and Sally Ito.

Get to know the nonfiction finalists below.

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt

A History of My Brief Body is a book by Billy-Ray Belcourt. (Tenille Campbell, Hamish Hamilton)

Billy-Ray Belcourt was the youngest-ever winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize. He was also the first First Nations Rhodes scholar from Canada. But he was once a young boy, growing up in Driftpile Cree Nation in Alberta. A History of My Brief Body tells his story: how his family was impacted by colonialism and intergenerational trauma and yet still hold joy and love in their hearts and lives, how he came into his queer identity and how writing became both a place of comfort and solace and a weapon for a young man trying to figure out his place in the world.

Belcourt is a poet, writer and academic from Driftpile Cree Nation in northern Alberta. He is a Rhodes Scholar and earned his PhD in English at the University of Alberta. His debut collection of poetry, This Wound is a Worldwon the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize. He is also the author of the poetry collection NDN Coping Mechanisms

Billy-Ray Belcourt is the youngest-ever winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize for his debut poetry collection, This Wound is a World. In his debut memoir, A History of My Brief Body, he shares memories of his early life in the hamlet of Joussard, Alta., and on the Driftpile First Nation. He joined Tom Power to tell us more. 17:34

Disfigured by Amanda Leduc

Disfigured is a book by Amanda Leduc. (Trevor Cole, Coach House Books)

In most fairy tales, characters who have disabilities or look different are often mocked or are the villain. In DisfiguredAmanda Leduc looks at fairy classics, from the classic Brothers Grimm to the modern Disney films, and explores how the representation of disability has informed how we see the world around us from a very young age and makes a case for a new set of tales, ones that celebrate difference and inclusivity. 

Leduc is the communications and development coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) in Brampton, Ont. She is also the author of the novels The Miracles of Ordinary Men and The Centaur's WifeShe was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize.

Essayist and fiction writer Amanda Leduc on exploring the portrayal of disability in fairy tales in her book Disfigured. 15:11

Rebent Sinner by Ivan Coyote

Rebent Sinner is a nonfiction book by Ivan Coyote. (Emily Cooper, Arsenal Pulp Press)

Ivan Coyote is a filmmaker, storyteller and writer. Rebent Sinner is an essay collection from various aspects of Coyote's life: helping younger LGBTQ folks, paying homage to their heroes, dealing with legislation and governments and being part of protests. Rebent Sinner is about Coyote's journey and shares a message of resilience, inclusion and hope.

Coyote's previous memoir, Tomboy Survival Guidewas a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction in 2017. Their next book, a collection of pandemic correspondence called Care Of, will be published in summer 2021.

A mantra for the misgendered: Storyteller Ivan Coyote offers some 'armour' for trans kids

CBC Arts

11 months ago
5:11
Watch the prolific Coyote's moving performance from our virtual special Queer Pride Inside. 5:11

Shame on Me by Tessa McWatt

Tessa McWatt is a Guyanese-born Canadian writer based in London. (Christine Mofardin, Random House Canada)

Tessa McWatt was born in Guyana and came to Canada when she was three years old. She grew up in Toronto and spent years living in Montreal, Paris, Ottawa and London. Her heritage is Scottish, English, French, Portuguese, Indian, Amerindian, African and Chinese. Shame on Me is a memoir about identity, race and belonging by someone who spent a lot of time trying to find an answer to the question, "Who are you?" and who has endured decades of racism and bigotry while trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs.

Shame on Me was shortlisted for the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

McWatt is the author of several works of fiction. Her novels include Dragons CryVital Signs and Higher Ed. She is also the co-editor of the anthology Luminous Ink: Writers on Writing in Canada. Shame on Me is her first work of nonfiction.

The novelist Tessa McWatt on her award-winning memoir Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging 21:03

This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart by Madhur Anand

This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart is a book by Madhur Anand. (Karen Whylie, Strange Light)

This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart is the story of poet and ecology professor Madhur Anand's family. Her parents grew up in India. Her father had polio, which gives him a lifelong disability. Her mother loved education and chose it over marriage. They meet, marry and come to Canada after British India was divided in India and Pakistan. Anand grows up in Canada, but is influenced by her parents, their traumas, their values and their lived experiences. This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart poetically weaves all these narratives together to tell one story about truth, resilience, adaptation and love.

Anand is a poet and professor of ecology at the University of Guelph. She is also the author of the poetry collection A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes.

Madhur Anand on her experimental memoir, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart: A Memoir in Halves. 2:21

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