Books

Tyler LeBlanc, Alison Taylor among 2021 Atlantic Book Award winners

Winners also included Afua Cooper, Morgan Murray, Sydney Smith and Silver Donald Cameron. The awards recognize books from Atlantic Canada including poetry, illustrated children's books, adult fiction and nonfiction.

The 2021 winners were announced at a virtual ceremony on May 13

Canadian authors Tyler LeBlanc (left) and Alison Taylor are recipients of a 2021 Atlantic Book Award. (Goose Lane Editions, alisontaylor.com/@alieisnerphotography)

Nova Scotia's Tyler LeBlanc and New Brunswick's Alison Taylor are two of the winners of the 2021 Atlantic Book Awards, a coalition of 13 different book prizes. 

The awards, managed by the Atlantic Book Awards Society, recognize books from Atlantic Canada including poetry, illustrated children's books, adult fiction and nonfiction.

LeBlanc won two awards for his book Acadian Driftwood. He was given the $2,000 Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award, which honours the best nonfiction titles by Nova Scotian Writers, and the $2,000 Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing, which is for an outstanding work of nonfiction that promotes appreciation for an aspect of the history of the Atlantic provinces.

Growing up on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, LeBlanc was only vaguely aware of his family's Acadian roots. But after investigating, he learned that his family lived through the Acadian Expulsion in the mid-1700s. Hundreds of Acadians were deported from the Maritimes to the United States, Britain and France. Some tried to settle into their new lives, while others returned to the Maritimes. In Acadian Driftwood, LeBlanc traces his family history and the legacy of this traumatic event.

LeBlanc is a writer from the South Shore of Nova Scotia. His work has appeared in This Magazine, Modern Farmer and the Coast. Acadian Driftwood is his first book.

Taylor's book Aftershock won the $2,500 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for fiction, which is given to the best first book published by an Atlantic Canadian writer. 

The novel follows the parallel journeys of Chloe and her mother Jules. After Chloe drops out of university to travel for a year, Jules's OxyContin dependency quickly worsens. Jules tries to take control of her life back while Chloe goes travelling off the map. Aftershock deals with a mother and daughter addressing old secrets and reconciling with each other, and themselves.

Alison Taylor is a writer from Fredericton. Aftershock is their first novel and was on the CBC Books Fall 2020 Reading List.

The Atlantic Book Awards also includes the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, one of Canada's largest book prizes. Worth $25,000, the prize honours the work of fiction writers in the Atlantic region and provides 'the gift of time and peace of mind' that is essential for creating new work.

This year, the award was given to Anne Simpson for her novel Speechless. It chronicles the story of Sophie MacNeil, who writes an article about A'isha Nasir, a Nigerian teenager who has been charged with adultery and sentenced to death. But when the article sets off outrage and violence, MacNeil must come to terms with her naivete and realize who can — and should — tell a story.

Simpson is a Nova Scotian author of five books of poetry and three novels. Her poetry collections have won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Gerald Lampert Memorial Prize and the Atlantic Poetry Prize. Her novel Falling won the Dartmouth Award for Fiction. 

Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association's Best Atlantic-Published Book Award recognizes a book that showcases excellence in the publishing process. $1,000 is awarded to the author while $3,000 is awarded to the publisher. 

The prize was given to Morgan Murray's Dirty Birds, a coming-of-age, rom-com and crime-farce thriller about a 20-something from rural Saskatchewan battling his crippling mediocrity by seeking purpose in art, money, power, crime and sleeping in all day.

Murray is a writer from Alberta who now lives in Nova Scotia. Dirty Birds was on the Canada Reads 2021 longlist

The $2,000 J.M. Abraham Poetry Award for the best book of poetry by an Atlantic Canadian was won by Afua Cooper for Black Matters. Cooper, Halifax's Poet Laureate, collaborated with Wilfried Raussert on this book of poems and photographs focused on everyday Black experiences.

Julie Curwin won the $1,000 Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction for her first book The Appendage Formerly Known as Your Left Arm, a collection of short stories about a gaggle of eccentric characters who embody the human condition.

The Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children's Literature is a $2,000 prize that recognizes the best Atlantic Canadian children's book. Tom Ryan won for Keep This to Yourself, a YA mystery thriller about the search for a serial killer who terrorized the sleepy town of Camera Cove. 

Sydney Smith won the $1,000 Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration for his art in the picture book I Talk Like a River, written by Jordan Scott. 

I Talk Like a River is a picture book about a young boy who has trouble communicating and is feeling lost and alone. His father takes him for a walk by the river, where he helps him find his voice.

The book is also a finalist for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for young people's literature — illustrated books.

A Long Journey: Residential Schools in Labrador and Newfoundland by Andrea Procter took home the Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing. The $1,000 dollar award is presented to a book with a significant literary, social and academic impact. 

Lesley Crewe won the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction for The Spoon Stealer, a historical novel about a charming and loud old woman looking back on her life through a memoir she wrote.

Garry Leeson won the $2,500 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for nonfiction for the book The Dome Chronicles

The Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award, worth $1,000, was given to Tammy Armstrong's fifth poetry collection Year of the Metal Rabbit

The $2,500 Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award for nonfiction was presented posthumously to Silver Donald Cameron for Blood on the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes. The book recounts the 2013 murder of Philip Boudreau, a notorious outlaw who was killed while vadalizing the lobster traps of three Cape Breton fishermen. Cameron passed away in June 2020.

Last year's winners include Michael Crummey, Ami McKay, Marina Endicott and Lucas Crawford.

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