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Meet the finalists for the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards

By Apartment613 on October 19, 2020

Winners of the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards will be revealed during a virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday, October 21 at 6pm. Register via Eventbrite.

Since 1985, the Ottawa Book Awards have recognized the top English and French books published by local authors in the previous year. Both official languages have categories for fiction and non-fiction, although an award will not be granted for French non-fiction this year, perhaps due to a small pool of entries.

All shortlisted finalists receive $1,000 and each winner receives a grand prize of $7,500 from the City of Ottawa.

Additionally, The Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry and le Prix AAOF de littérature jeunesse 2020 will also be presented at the ceremony.

2020 Finalists

English fiction category

Awarded for outstanding published works of fiction including novels, short stories, children’s literature and poetry.

Footprints of Dark Energy
by Henry Beissel (Guernica Editions Inc.)

The title poem of this collection takes us on an epic journey across past and present historical events and through spaces defined by the natural sciences, as it explores the challenges of being human in these troubled times. It is accompanied by a gathering of shorter poems that confront the dark forces in our world as they struggle for the light at the end of the tunnel. In stark imagery, these poems turn words into music to celebrate the anguish and the glory of being alive.

A finalist for the 2018 Ottawa Book Awards, Henry Beissel is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, translator and editor, with 44 books published.

Bad Ideas
by Missy Marston (ECW Press)

Loosely inspired by Ken Carter’s attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car during the 1970s, Bad Ideas paints an indelible portrait of people on the forgotten fringes of life. Witty and wise, it examines both the motivations for our questionable decisions — hubris, recklessness, desperation, blind optimism — and their consequences.

Missy Marston’s first novel, The Love Monster, was the winner of the 2013 Ottawa Book Award, a finalist for the CBC Bookie Awards, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice.

Shantallow
by Cara Martin (Cormorant Books Inc.)

Tanvi isn’t the girl of Misha’s dreams; she’s the girl from his nightmares. She has appeared in his chilling, prophetic dreams before he even meets her; when he does meet her, he falls for her. Their relationship turns stormy, bordering on abusive, and takes a dramatic turn when they are held captive by a group hoping to extract money from Tanvi’s wealthy family.

Cara Martin is a pseudonym for C.K. Kelly Martin, the author of several acclaimed novels for young people including Shantallow.

Crow Winter
by Karen McBride (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd)

Since coming home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, Hazel Ellis has been dreaming of an old crow. He tells her he’s here to help her, save her. From what, exactly? Sure, her dad’s been dead for almost two years and she hasn’t quite reconciled that grief, but is that worth the time of an Algonquin demigod?

Karen McBride is an Algonquin Anishinaabe writer from the Timiskaming First Nation in the territory that is now Quebec.

The Allspice Bath
by Sonia Saikaley (Inanna Publications & Education Inc.)

“You should’ve been born a boy,” Samira whispers to Adele shortly after her entrance into the world. As she grows, Adele learns there are certain rules Lebanese girls must follow in order to be good daughters. But Adele dreams of being an artist. Can she defy her domineering father? Will this unravel the binding threads of this close-knit Lebanese family? Crisscrossing between Ottawa, Toronto, and Lebanon, The Allspice Bath is a bold story about the cultural gap and the immigrant experience.

Sonia Saikaley was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada to a large Lebanese family. The daughter of a shopkeeper, she had access to all the treats she wanted. Her first book, The Lebanese Dishwasher, co-won the 2012 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest.

English non-fiction category

Awarded for outstanding published works of non-fiction including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays.

Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson
by Mark Bourrie (Biblioasis)

Pierre-Esprit Radisson was “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” His venture as an Artic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Sourced from Radisson’s journals, which are the best first-hand accounts of 17th century Canada, Bush Runner tells the story of this protean figure—and offers a fresh perspective on the world in which he lived.

Mark Bourrie is a historian, journalist, and student-at-law. He is the author of The Fog of War: Censorship of Canada’s Media in World War II and Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know.

Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise
by Charlotte Gray (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd)

On an island paradise in 1943, Sir Harry Oakes, gold mining tycoon, philanthropist and “richest man in the Empire,” was murdered. The news of his death surged across the English-speaking world, from London, the Imperial centre, to the remote Canadian mining town of Kirkland Lake, in the Northern Ontario bush. The murder became celebrated as “the crime of the century.”

Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s best-known writers and the author of ten acclaimed books of literary non-fiction. An adjunct research professor in the department of history at Carleton University, Gray is the recipient of the Pierre Berton Award, is a Member of the Order of Canada, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family
by Amanda Jetté Knox (Penguin Random House of Canada)

Jetté Knox was unprepared when the child she knew as her son came out as transgender. Knowing how important it was to support her daughter, Knox became an advocate for trans rights. A year later, her partner also came out as transgender. She found no positive examples of marriages surviving transition, so she determined that her family would become one.

Amanda Jetté Knox is an award-winning writer, human rights advocate, and public speaker. She was named a 2019 Chatelaine Woman of the Year.

Truth Be Told: My Journey Through Life and the Law
by Beverley McLachlin (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin offers an intimate and revealing look at her life, from her childhood in the Alberta foothills to her career on the Supreme Court, where she helped to shape the social and moral fabric of the country. McLachlin is a former Chief Justice of Canada, the first woman to hold that position.

Un-Canadian: Islamophobia in the True North
by Graeme Truelove (Nightwood Editions)

Un-Canadian: Islamophobia in the True North is a provocative warning to Canadians that the values they cherish are being eroded through a disturbing pattern of political, legal and social prejudice against Muslims.

Graeme Truelove authored the critically acclaimed biography Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics (New Star Books, 2013). He has worked on Parliament Hill since 2001. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and daughter.

French fiction category

Awarded for outstanding published works of fiction including novels, short stories, children’s literature and poetry.

Moi, Sam. Elle, Janis.
by Jean Boisjoli (Les Éditions David)

Sam, a life-beaten young man from an Ottawa working-class neighbourhood, shares his thoughts with a court-appointed psychiatrist to determine whether he was mentally ill at the time of the murder he is accused of committing. During his revelations, a second and then a third body are discovered. Between fabulation and truth, the reader follows this Kafkaesque tale with interest.

Jean Boisjoli was a professor, a CBC and SRC journalist, and then a lawyer. He published three collections of poetry and one novel, La mesure du temps, for which he won the 2017 Trillium Award. Moi, Sam. Elle, Janis. is Jean Boisjoli’s fifth book.

La maison aux lilas
by Maurice Henrie (Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa)

In these 27 short stories – whether fresh, brief, gentle or intense – Maurice Henrie moves from the unusual to the familiar, blurring the boundaries of fiction and his own experience and, with his usual inclination for humour and narration, leads us to laugh as much as to reflect.

A novelist, short story writer and essayist of some twenty literary works, award-winning author Maurice Henrie (Trillium Award, Prix des lecteurs Radio-Canada, Prix du livre d’Ottawa, Prix LeDroit, Prix de la Ville d’Ottawa) returns here with the short story genre after the University of Ottawa Press published two collections of his essays.

La sultane dévoilée
by Jean Mohsen Fahmy (Les Éditions David)

In this true saga, Jean Fahmy resurrects Chagarett el-Dorr, a fascinating character who will experience an outstanding destiny. This dazzling beauty managed to rise from the status of a slave to become sultana of Egypt and Syria in the 13th century. From the birth of Islam to the present day, she has been the only woman who has ever ruled an Arab-Muslim country.

Born in Cairo (Egypt), Jean Mohsen Fahmy was successively a journalist, teacher and senior public servant. He is the author of three children’s stories and six novels. La sultane dévoilée is Jean Mohsen Fahmy’s seventh novel.

Tadmor
by Marc-Alexandre Reinhardt (Groupe Nota Bene – Le lézard amoureux)

The poems feature different voices that inhabit the factual and fictional reality of the City of Palmyra. It is an architecture of voices through times: fragile and uncompromising, sometimes impersonal, intimate, psalmodic and imperative; this is the architecture of the archaeologist, the jihadist, the tourist… These writings are testing the disturbing current events of Palmyra, and are relentless, without any specific goal. A dedication that simply tries to ward off violence in spite of everything.

Marc-Alexandre Reinhardt is a writer, researcher and multidisciplinary artist. Since 2016, he has been leading ACTION DIRECTE, a variable membership group experimenting with ways of aesthetically re-appropriating public space.

Premier quart
by Véronique Sylvain (Éditions Prise de parole)

In Premier quart, the poet revisits the North, where she was born, through travels and memories. Throughout her journey, she attempts to understand the dramas and realities at work in the harsh Northern climate. She will therefore be brought back to her own struggles, solitude, sadness, anguish and the winter that prompts introspection. Nature and writing will help her enshrine her quest in an extensive family and literary heritage.

Originally from Northern Ontario, Véronique Sylvain lives in Ottawa, where she completed a master’s degree on the representation of the North in Franco-Ontarian poetry.


Winners of the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards will be revealed during a virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday, October 21 at 6pm. Register via Eventbrite.