Noreen Taylor Announces the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction Shortlist
Today, Noreen Taylor, prize founder and chair of the Charles Taylor Foundation announced the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize Shortlist before a breathless, standing-room-only crowd of publishers and journalists. The following five shortlisted books were culled from 12 titles on the RBC Taylor Prize Longlist which was released in December. The longlist was selected from 124 Canadian-authored non-fiction books submitted to this year's Prize by 45 publishers in 2013.
In alphabetical order the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize finalists are: Charlotte Gray (Ottawa, Ontario) The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial That Shocked a Country (HarperCollins); Thomas King (Guelph, Ontario) The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada); J.B. MacKinnon (Vancouver, BC) The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be (Random House Canada); Graeme Smith (Afghanistan) The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan (Alfred A. Knopf Canada); and David Stouck (Vancouver, BC) Arthur Erickson: An Architect's Life (Douglas & McIntyre)
Mrs. Taylor noted that since the inception of the Prize, "the depth and breadth of Canadian literary non-fiction writing has matured to such a degree that the mission of our jurors has become much more difficult. We appreciate their time and reflection in deriving such a strong Shortlist from an incredible Longlist that, in its entirety, represents a coming of age for our country's literary non-fiction writers."
New to the RBC Taylor Prize this year is the addition of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award, to be given to a promising Canadian author of non-fiction selected by the winner of the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize. The recipient of the Emerging Writers Awards will receive $10,000 and the opportunity to be mentored under the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize winner.
"RBC Wealth Management is thrilled to continue its longstanding support of Canada 's most prestigious non-fiction prize," said Vijay Parmar, President, RBC PH&N Investment Counsel. "RBC is deeply committed to supporting talented young writers and their passion for literary excellence in Canada.The addition of this new award will help enable an emerging author to fully explore their talents and pave the way to a strong career in the arts."
The task of determining the best of this year's literary non-fiction submissions was undertaken by a trio of jurors with sterling credentials. Together British-based university professor and critic, Coral Ann Howells; editorial director, author and professor, James Polk; and author, English and creative writing instructor and former Charles Taylor Prize winner Andrew Westoll - reviewed all 124 books, submitted by 45 publishers from around the world.
Mr. Polk and Mr. Westoll each took turns introducing each of the finalists with the following citations:
Charlotte Gray for The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial That Shocked a Country, published by HarperCollins
The jury notes: "In 1915, a teenaged domestic servant shoots and kills her master, a scion of the rich and redoubtable Massey family in Toronto. Historian and biographer Charlotte Gray takes this incident as the starting gate for a fascinating tour not only of the sensational trial in post-Edwardian Toronto, but also of the social currents of the period: feminism, nationalism, imperialism, immigration, inequality of rich and poor -issues which reverberate today. Gray brilliantly creates a double narrative, with the famous trial intensively researched and re-enacted, and the state of the nation shown to mirror and complement the courtroom imbroglio. The Massey Murder is many things - a crime novel, a family history, a societal x-ray, set in the early months of World War One - all under the firm control of a masterful historian, researcher, and prose stylist."
Thomas King for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, published by Doubleday Canada
The jury notes: "Histories of North America's Native Peoples abound, but few are as subversive, entertaining, well-researched, hilarious, enraging, and finally as hopeful as this very personal take on our long relationship with the "inconvenient" Indian. King dissects idealized myths (noble Hiawatha, servile Tonto, the Sixties nature guru) against the tragic backdrop of real Indians abused in mission schools, penned together on reserves, and bludgeoned by vicious or ham-fisted government policies. A sharp, informed eye is cast on Riel, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull, on the dark and tangled stories of Native land claims, on Alcatraz, Will Rogers (a Cherokee), and the maid on Land o' Lakes butter; on Batoche, on Wounded Knee. In this thoughtful, irascible account, and in characteristically tricksterish mode, King presents a provocative alternative version of Canada's heritage narrative."
J.B. MacKinnon for The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be, published by Random House Canada
The jury notes: "With beautifully lyrical prose, impeccable research, and a menagerie of natural-history lore, this is a completely original meditation on the status of our natural world and its future. MacKinnon takes us deep inside the fascinating field of historical ecology to lay bare an uncomfortable fact: that the nature we claim to love has never really been. Flora and fauna are in a constant state of flux, and we are just one of the many players in its ongoing evolution. A thought-provoking and intensely personal new analysis of our ecological reality, The Once and Future World is top-class nature writing, offering a modest proposal for the health of our planet that every Canadian can embrace."
Graeme Smith for The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan, published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada
The jury notes: "Veteran foreign correspondent Smith delivers an evocative, on-the-spot, compassionate, and ultimately devastating report from the front-line of Canada's confused mission in southern Afghanistan. This is a grim, maddening, and entirely compelling account of an international debacle, told with dry humour, stoic prose and a gallery of memorable, resilient characters. As Canada leaves Afghanistan, Smith analyzes our achievements there and what exactly we left behind in the dust. 'We lost the war', Smith laments, 'and it broke my heart.' "
David Stouck for Arthur Erickson: An Architect's Life, published by Douglas & McIntyre
The jury notes: "Biographer Stouck brings a subtle yet distinct narrative flair to this study of the whirlwind, colorful life of Canada's most famous architect. The genius behind Simon Fraser University, Roy Thomson Hall, and many other private and public gems was a complicated man with more tragic flaws than a Greek drama. Through deeply sensitive portrayals of Erickson's idealistic philosophy of art, his creative and financial troubles, his charisma, his arrogance, and his sexual identity, Stouck demonstrates the empathy and rigour of a truly fine biographer. His full-length portrait also reveals much about the cultural life and personalities of Vancouver in the 1940s and 50s. This book tells all, and in the telling is a work of art in itself."
About the RBC Taylor Prize :
2014 marks the thirteenth awarding of Canada's most prestigious award for non-fiction works. Awarded annually to the author whose book best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception, the Prize recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing and emphasizes the development of the careers of the authors it celebrates.
The prize commemorates the life and work of the late Charles Taylor, one of Canada's foremost essayists and a prominent member of the Canadian literary community. Charles Taylor was a foreign correspondent with The Globe and Mail and the author of four books: Radical Tories; Reporter in Red China; Six Journeys: A Canadian Pattern; and Snow Job.
The winner of the RBC Taylor Prize receives $25,000 and the remaining finalists each receive $2,000. Finalists will be supported by extensive publicity and promotional opportunities, and will appear at The Globe and Mail / Ben McNally Authors' Brunch on Sunday, March 9th. For tickets visit: www.benmcnallybooks.com.
The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation are Michael Bradley (Toronto), Judith Mappin (Montreal), David Staines (Ottawa), and Noreen Taylor (Toronto). The Foundation gratefully acknowledges the support of RBC Wealth Management as its presenting sponsor; along with its major sponsor Metropia; and greatly appreciates the support of its media sponsors The Globe and Mail; Maclean's Magazine, CNW Group; The Huffington Post Canada and Quill & Quire magazine; and in-kind sponsors: Authors at Harbourfront Centre, Ben McNally Books, Event Source, Indigo Books and Music, The Omni King Edward Hotel.
The winner of the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize will be announced at a gala luncheon celebrating each of the finalists at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto on Monday, March 10th. For more information visit: www.thecharlestaylorprize.ca and follow us at www.twitter.com/taylorprize.