RBC Taylor Prize short list features personal tales
Ian Brown, author of "Sixty: The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?" is shown in a handout photo. Brown made the long list for the 2016 RBC Taylor Prize for non-fiction. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / ho-John Barber)
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2016 11:32AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 13, 2016 2:09PM EST
TORONTO -- From a memoir about divorce and depression to a tale of turning 60 and a story of a father and son reconciling, this year's RBC Taylor Prize short list is stacked with deeply personal tales that further solidify a growing trend in non-fiction.
"I think we've entered a new era -- the Oprah era," jury member Joseph Kertes said after the finalists for the $25,000 non-fiction prize were revealed Wednesday.
"People say the most personal things publicly now, so it's almost a new genre, I would say."
Among the five finalists is Toronto journalist Ian Brown, who won the prize in 2010 for his memoir "The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son."
This time he's on the list with "Sixty: The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?" (Random House Canada), in which he explores the physical, psychological and intellectual effects of entering his seventh decade.
Kertes, along with fellow jury members Susanne Boyce and Stephen J. Toope, called it "a smart, witty compendium of his thoughts and those of others."
Also on the list is "Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva" (HarperCollins Publishers) by Toronto's Rosemary Sullivan, which won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction in October. The jury called the story of a woman trying to escape her birthright "brilliant."
Toronto novelist Camilla Gibb is a finalist for "This Is Happy" (Doubleday Canada), about an unconventional family that formed after her divorce and a struggle with depression and bipolar disorder. The jury called it "exquisitely taut."
CBC personality Wab Kinew of Winnipeg is a contender with "The Reason You Walk" (Viking Canada), which follows his attempts to reconnect with his ailing father. "Brutally honest, original, funny, uncomfortable, and compelling," said the jury.
And Ottawa's David Halton made the cut for "Dispatches from the Front: The Life of Matthew Halton, Canada's Voice at War" (Penguin Random House Canada), which the jury said "is a loving but honest account of a father's triumphs and failings, written in lucid, urgent prose."
"They're searingly honest," prize founder Noreen Taylor said of the shortlisted authors. "To have the bravery to do this, I'm knocked out."
The jury said many of the 121 books they read from submissions by publishers also had personal narratives.
"Some of them are not well digested, if I may say, and you get a sense of a person working out inner demons," said Toope.
"What I personally liked about the ones that made it to the short list is that they're very heartfelt but they're also extraordinarily well-shaped and they are thoughtful in the way that they present their own personal challenges."
The winner of the prize, established in 1998, will be announced on March 7.