Vancouverites finalists for Canada’s most lucrative literary prize

John Vaillant and Angela Sterritt vying for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction

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Vancouver writers John Vaillant and Angela Sterritt have made the shortlist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction it was announced Sept. 20.

The most lucrative literary prize in the country will this year be awarding a prizewinner’s purse of $75,000 up from $60,000 last year.

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The winner will be announced on Nov. 21 at the Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.

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“This year’s shortlist has something for everyone,” said Charlie Foran, executive director of Writers’ Trust in a statement. “The range of subjects is remarkable, as are the approaches taken by these talented authors. What all the books share is great passion matched by great prose.”

A jury comprising Canadian nonfiction writers Eve Joseph, Michelle Porter, and Dan Werb selected this year’s five-person shortlist from 99 titles.

Vaillant caught the judges eye with his remarkable and beyond timely book Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast, which was also recently named to the longlist for the prestigious American National Book Awards.

“Fire Weather reveals to readers a character as ruthless, creative, and destructive as any in modern literature: fire itself,” said the jury in a statement. “Through dynamic prose, deep research, and a profound sense of the stakes on a planet beset by climate change, John Vaillant traces how Canada’s geological and economic history have converged to transform fire from a useful tool into an existential threat to our way of life.”

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Photo of Angela Sterritt
Vancouver’s Angela Sterritt has made the shortlist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction with her debut book Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Sterritt, host of the CBC podcast Land Back, lands on the list with her debut memoir Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls.

“Unbroken balances intergenerational trauma with hope that is authentic, hard-earned, and very, very real,” said the jury in a statement. “With the heart and instinct of a practised storyteller, as well as the research skills of a seasoned reporter who leaves no stone unturned, Angela Sterritt offers her own story as a light that shines on one of the darkest ongoing episodes in modern Canadian history.”

The other 2023 finalists are:

My Road from Damascus: A Memoir by Jamal Saeed (Kingston) translated by Catherine Cobham.

Ordinary Notes by Christina Sharpe (Toronto).

Ordinary Wonder Tales: Essays by Emily Urquhart (Kitchener).

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