RBC Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction Announces its 2014 Shortlist

January 15, 2014

Jurors nominate five masterfully written and important works on subjects
ranging from a Victorian murder, society’s misunderstanding of native
peoples, a new approach to our planet’s ecology, Canada in Afghanistan
and a biography of an iconic architect

TORONTO, Jan. 15, 2014 /CNW/ – 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
(HarperCollins); Thomas King (Guelph, Ontario) The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North
(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
, 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
, 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

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.

To download high-resolution images of the jury, finalists, and
shortlisted titles, please go to: www.thecharlestaylorprize.ca/2014/photogallery_14.asp

SOURCE RBC Taylor Prize

Source: PR Newswire

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