Book on barricades nabs $25K political writing prize

A book by a Calgary writer that examines the people and cultures along international barricades has captured the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

A book by a Calgary writer that examines the people and cultures along international barricades has captured the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

Walls: Travels Along the Barricades by Marcello DiCintio blends reportage with travel as Di Cintio explores the world’s "most disputed edges."

The yearly prize is named after the late Shaughnessy Cohen, who was an outspoken MP from Windsor, Ont.

The jury — composed of politician Ed Broadbent, National Post columnist Tasha Kheiriddin and novelist Daniel Poliquin — hailed the book for its "beautifully written reportage":

"The author brings readers the personal stories — gripping, haunting, humorous and inspiring — of people living against walls around the world, from the 'peaceline' of Belfast to the l’Acadie fence of Montreal," said a statement from the jury.

In the book, Di Cinto delves into the people and cultures of fenced-in villages in northeast India, Arizona’s migrant trails, the Peace Lines of Belfast as well as Palestinian villages affected by Israel’s security barrier.

No stranger to prizes, Di Cintio’s first book, Harmattan: Wind Across West Africa, won the Henry Kreisel Award for Best First Book. His second book, Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey Into the Heart of Iran, won the Wilfred Eggleston Prize.

Walls was also longlisted for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-fiction and the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction.

The other four finalists for this year’s prize received $2,500 each:

  • Taras Grescoe for Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile.
  • Noah Richler for What We Talk About When We Talk About War.
  • Jeffrey Simpson for Chronic Condition: Why Canada’s Health-Care System Needs to be Dragged into the 21st Century.
  • Peter F. Trent for The Merger Delusion: How Swallowing Its Suburbs Made an Even Bigger Mess of Montreal.

Last year’s victor was Richard Gwyn for Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times.