Home Books The Hilary Weston Prize for outstanding Canadian non-fiction

The Hilary Weston Prize for outstanding Canadian non-fiction

by Carly-Ann

At this time of year – book prize time – the Hilary Weston Prize isn’t the first one that pops into people’s mind. It isn’t that it isn’t an important or well loved prize, it’s just that the bigger and glitzier fiction prizes seem to draw people’s focus over their way.

The Hilary Weston Prize is the prize awarded by the Writers’ Trust to the authour of the best non-fiction book written by a Canadian, published professionally during the period of the past year beginning on October 1st.

From the prize’s webpage:

The Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction is given annually for excellence in the category of literary nonfiction, which includes essays, history, biography, memoir, commentary, and criticism. The winning book demonstrates a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique. The prize has been sponsored by The Hon. Hilary M. Weston since 2011 and is funded by the Weston Family Foundation.

The Writers’ Trust was founded in 1976 by Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, Margaret Laurence, and David Young. Its purpose remains to be to ensure that Canadian literature continues to thrive. There is no other charity of its kind in the world and its sole purpose is to make it possible that writers can continue to write so that readers can continue to read. Bless them! ?

Read more about the origin and mission of the Writer’s Trust here.

In total, the Writers’ Trust gives out eleven awards per year that each fall into one of three categories: Emerging Writers, Books, and Career. The Hilary Weston Prize is one of the Book prizes as are these others:

I’m always interested to see new books that are garnering attention so if you are, too, I strongly recommend taking a look through those pages. I definitely added a few to my TBR.

I was thrilled to receive the collection of Hilary Weston Prize nominees this year and am really excited to share them with you. When they arrived to me, it was less than two weeks before the winner would be announced, but I was excited to see that two of the nominees are books that were already familiar to me.

The five shortlisted books are:

The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change by Geoff Dembicki

The title says a lot about what to expect from this one and readers will get exactly what is promised.
The jury citation reads: “In The Petroleum Papers, Geoff Dembecki shows us how the petroleum industry has known about the risks to the climate for more than sixty years. This is a book that connects the dots between the industry, politicians, lobbyists, fake grassroots groups, media, and corrupted think tanks. Basing his arguments on grounded research and using clear, accessible prose, Dembicki explains the players and the game. The stakes are the planet itself.”
The Petroleum Papers was published by Greystone Books in partnership with the David Suzuki Institute.

Nothing Will Be Different: A Memoir by Tara McGowan-Ross

Nothing Will Be Different is one of the books that I already had on my shelf. I’d first got my hands on a copy back in January and I was happy to see it come back into view this fall with the Hilary Weston nod.
The jury citation reads: “In Nothing Will Be Different, Tara McGowan-Ross unravels history and present in raw, unflinching prose that is at once funny, heartbreaking, and lyrical. A coming-of-age reflection that is searing in its honesty, energy, and depth, McGowan-Ross treads difficult topics such as death, loss, addiction, and grief with wryness, wit, and depth. With an intense voice resolutely and unapologetically her own, McGowan-Ross dares readers to come along on a death-defying, life-affirming journey.”
Nothing Will Be Different was published by Dundurn Press.

The Long Road Home by Debra Thompson

I got to see Debra Thompson speak on a panel at Whistler Writer’s Festival earlier this month and she was an authour who made one of the most lasting impressions on me at the time. I had picked up a copy of her book before I left the festival and was thrilled to see it again when I opened up this box of nominated books.
The jury citation reads: “Through direct and evocative prose, Debra Thompson skillfully leads the reader into a rare perspective on the world of Canadian and American Black life. Navigating the space between her father’s ancestors who fled enslavement and her own life as one of very few Black women working in the field of political science, Thompson breaks ground in both countries. Engagingly personal and crisply political, The Long Road Home illuminates how the experience of Blackness cannot be explained by drawing a line at the 49th parallel.”
The Long Road Home was published by Scribner Canada.

The Invisible Siege: The Rise of Coronaviruses and the Search for a Cure by Dan Werb

In light of everything that we have been through over the last several years, I find it interesting to access some longer length information related to coronaviruses and everything we know about them.
The jury citation reads: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive event in world history since the Second World War. More than one million people have died, the global economy has been shaken, anti-science populist extremism has become a potent force, and other issues like climate change have been overshadowed by the debate over public health measures. Dan Werb tells us how we got here through an authoritative, scientific explanation of coronaviruses. The Invisible Siege is a scientific detective story that leaves the reader frightened that the villain is still on the loose, and maybe in the house.”
The Invisible Siege was published by Crown.

Making Love With the Land by Joshua Whitehead

When it comes to Whitehead’s work, I am most familiar with his novel Jonny Appleseed. This collection of ten pieces and brings the same sharp and thoughtful observations in a non-fiction arena.
The jury citation reads: “A collection that summons the reader into moving explorations of care and kinship with the land and with one another, Making Love with the Land is a lyrical, personal journey to be savoured. Refusing the demands of categorization, Whitehead’s beautiful book is equal parts arresting, inviting, and challenging. He writes with fluid dexterity in the English language, while acknowledging the complexity of creating and living in a language that is not always enough.”
Making Love With the Land was published by Knopf Canada.

Thank you so much to the team at the Writers’ Trust for sharing this phenomenal and fascinating selection of books with me. The jury will have their work cut out for them picking just one to win the $60 000 prize.

The announcement of the winners of all the Writers’ Trust Book prizes as well as the Career prizes will take place on November 2nd. The event will be available to the public via the livestream which can be found here.

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