BC Book Prizes

The BC Book Prizes took place on May 12, at the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema at SFU Woodwards, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.  I always enjoy this event probably because 1) I enjoy books a lot 2) because the books and the authors themselves address what it means to be Canadian and a British Columbian.  Even if they are writing about Paris or elsewhere… there is still as sense of pride that the authors are from BC, and they are addressing world issues, or simply creating joy for young readers.
Host Charles Demers poses with Brian Brett – winner of the Lt. Governors Award for Literary Excellence, while Alan Twigg snaps a picture for BC Book World.  Alan is one of the founders of the BC Book Prizes.   In 2010, Charles’ book “Vancouver Special” was a finalist for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.  It is a special book for me, because Charles writes about Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner and “Toddish McWong” in his section about Chinatown.
Grant Laurence, his wife Jill Barber, and Todd Wong.  Last year Grant won the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award for his book “Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound,” which was also a finalist for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize.   Last year, we tried to invite Grant to a Desolation Sound version of Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner in Okeover, while I was attending Okeover Ceilidh Weekend at the summer home of my friend Allan McMordie.  But a week later, Allan kayaked by Grant’s cabin, and they chatted.
JJ Lee strikes a pose with Linda Johnston, a board member for the BC Book Prizes. JJ’s book “The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit” was nominated for the Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize.   I have known Linda for many years, initially as a fellow board member for Canadian Club Vancouver.  I first met JJ when he was a member of the Hot Sauce Posse, a skit comedy troupe composed of writers and producers from CBC Radio in Vancouver.
Ann-Marie Metten, Todd Wong, JJ Lee and his wife Melissa.  Ann-Marie served on the board of the BC Book Prizes for many years.  In fact, she is the reason why I first attended in 2006.  We met in 2005 and joined forces to re-create and re-invigorate the Save Kogawa House committee.   In 2006, the house was saved from threat of demolition and purchased by TLC: The Land Conservancy of BC.  Now she is our volunteer Executive Director, and I am Chair of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society.  We work with the literary community and help to present events, and create the writer-in-residence program at Historic Joy Kogawa House.
Here is a list of winners and notable intercultural finalists:

Half-Blood Blues Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize Winner! Half-Blood Blues – by Esi Edugyan

this is notable because it tells the story of black-American jazz musicians in the salons of Paris and the cabarets of Germany in the 1940’s of WW2.

 Eating Dirt  Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize Winner! Eating Dirt – by Charlotte Gill

 Drink the Bitter Root  finalist -Drink the Bitter Root by Gary Geddes

this is notable because Gary Geddes traveled to Africa to explore the post-genocide, post-Somalia Affair and child soldier issues in Rwanda, Uganda, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Somaliland.  Gary won the Lt. Governor’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2008, and read at Historic Joy Kogawa House in 2009 with his friend and inaugural writer-in-residence at Kogawa House, John Asfour.

 The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit  finalist The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by JJ Lee

This is notable because JJ Lee tells the story of his Chinese immigrant father, and how he apprentices as a tailor at Vancouver Chinatown’s last tailor shop “Modernize Tailors”, run by my family friends Bill and Jack Wong.  This book was also a finalist for  Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction (2012) and Governor General’s Literary Award – Non-Fiction (2012).

 Something Fierce  finalist Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre

This is notable because Carmen writes about her childhood growing up as a revolutionary in Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile.  She describes fleeing Chile to Canada as a child, then returning to Chile to become part of the resistance movement.

crawlspace  Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize Winner! crawlspace by John Pass

Demeter Goes Skydiving  finalist Demeter Goes Skydiving by Susan McCaslin

This is notable because it conjures up all the gods, goddesses and demi-gods of ancient Greece.  And Susan used to teach Joy Kogawa’s book Obasan

Discovery Passages  Discovery Passages  by Garry Thomas Morse

This is notable because “With its continuous poetic dialogue of “discovery” and “recovery”, Discovery Passages sets out to recover the appropriated, stolen and scattered world of the author’s ancestral people, the Kwakwaka’wakw.”

The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver  Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize

Winner! The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver  by Chuck Davis

This is notable because the history of Japanese, Chinese, First Nations and South Asians are all included in the history of Metropolitan Vancouver, as well as the history of Scots, Irish, Italians, Jewish and English immigrants and descendants.


Blood Red Road  Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize Winner! Blood Red Road  by Moira Young


When I Was Small   Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize Winner! When I Was Small by Sara O’Leary – Illustrated by Julie Morstad




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