A history of one of Vancouver’s liveliest venues took home a top prize in this year’s B.C. Book Prizes. Prizes were awarded for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and more. The winners were announced on Saturday night in Vancouver.
Vancouver writer Aislinn Hunter took home the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for The World Before Us. Penelope Lively recently reviewed the novel in the New York Times.
The Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize went to local poet Cecily Nicholson for From the Poplars (Talonbooks). The collection looks at Poplar Island, an uninhabited island in the North Arm of the Fraser River. Located in the midst of major industry and shipping, it is central to the waterfront of the province’s original capital, New Westminster (now considered a suburb of Vancouver) and is passed by daily by thousands of SkyTrain commuters. The island is the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation, and is the location of one of British Columbia’s first “Indian Reserves.”
According to the Talonbooks website, it “is also a place where Indigenous smallpox victims from the south coast were forced into quarantine, substandard care and buried. As people were decimated the land was taken and exchanged between levels of government. The trees were clear-cut for industry, beginning with shipbuilding during the First World War. The island still serves as booming anchorage for local sawmills.”
The Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award is presented to the publisher and author(s) of the best book “in terms of public appeal, initiative, design, production, and content.” This award went to Aaron Chapman for Live at the Commodore: The Story of Vancouver’s Historic Commodore Ballroom (Arsenal Pulp Press), the Vancouver writer’s history of one of the city’s preeminent entertainment spots, the Commodore Ballroom.
Other winners include poet/writer Eve Joseph, who received the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize for In the Slender Margin: The Intimate Strangeness of Death and Dying (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd). Joseph grew up in North Vancouver before moving to Vancouver Island, where she’s worked in a hospice.
In a Globe Mail review, Emily Donaldson writes, “In the Slender Margin is intended as an exploration rather than a balm or solace, though it will no doubt be those things for some people. Its resonance comes, rather, from its intelligent open-endedness, its unflinching, simultaneous embrace of death’s reality and persistent mystery.”
The Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize recognizes the author(s) of the book that contributes most to the enjoyment and understanding of British Columbia. This year it went to Nanaimo-based editors/researchers Richard Beamish and Gordon McFarlane for their book The Sea Among Us: The Amazing Strait of Georgia (Harbour Publishing).
Sunshine Coast author Betty Keller, who won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.