Saskatchewan's Candace Savage wins $60K non-fiction prize

Candace Savage of Eastend, Sask., has won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction for her book investigating the natural and anthropological history of the Cypress Hills.

A Geography of Blood investigates natural and human history of Cypress Hills

Candace Savage of Eastend, Sask., has won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for her book investigating the natural and anthropological history of the Cypress Hills.

A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, published by Greystone Books and the David Suzuki Foundation was named as winner Monday evening by prize sponsor Hilary Weston at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Savage moved to Eastend in the Cypress Hills in 2000 and spent a decade researching the history of the area and what happened to its indigenous peoples.

The Cypress Hills area "is a place that remembers things and organisms and events that the rest of the landscape around there and the Great Plains have forgotten," Savage told CBC News.

"Even though there is a heart of darkness, I’ve tried to tell the story with enough charm that we can bear to look collectively. It’s a story that’s hiding in the open. I’ve dragged details from the archive and I’ve put the pieces together in a different way," she said.

For A Geography of Blood, Savage said she drew on research she’d done for earlier books, including natural history works such as Prairie: A Natural History and human history titles such as Cowgirls. 

Her book was chosen by a jury including former Ontario Lt.-Gov. James Bartleman and writers Charlotte Gill and Marni Jackson.

The four other finalists for the award each receive $5,000. They are:

  • Kamal Al-Solaylee for Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes (HarperCollins Publishers).
  • Modris Eksteins for Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age (Knopf Canada).
  • Taras Grescoe for Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile (HarperCollins Publishers).
  • JJ Lee for The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit (McClelland & Stewart).

A resource booklet has been created to help Canadian high-school educators present the books in the classroom. School visits by the finalists will also be planned in the coming year.

Weston took over sponsorship of the non-fiction prize last year, working with the Writers' Trust of Canada, in an effort to give a higher profile to Canadian literary non-fiction.