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Posted September 2, 2011


Shortlist announced for the 2011 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

WATERLOO – Three books have been shortlisted for the 2011 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. The $10,000 award, administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, encourages and recognizes Canadian writers for a first or second work of creative non-fiction that includes a Canadian locale and/or significance. The award is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, coinciding with Laurier’s centennial.

Award juror and Laurier professor Tanis MacDonald said the books shortlisted for this year’s award are different from each other in tone, style and subject matter, but similar in that they all address issues of defining or redefining the self through a search for family.

“All three authors focus on a determined search for cohesive community that is complicated by missed – or missing – connections. Their search for meaning and value in contemporary life is haunted by the histories that have been ignored, buried or shrugged away,” said MacDonald. “Each book in its own way is about finding space for history and finding oneself inside that history.”

The books on the 2011 shortlist are:

Jew and Improved: How Choosing to be Chosen Made Me a Better Man by Benjamin Errett. A thoughtful narrative about the experience of converting to Judaism in contemporary Canada, Errett’s Jew and Improved is thorough in its examination of culture and gently humorous about the ways that belief defines us. From his decision to convert upon his engagement to a Jewish woman, through his conversion classes and first-time participation in the high holidays, to the wedding ceremony beneath the chuppah, Errett considers the mix of traditions, texts and histories of which Judaism is composed, and writes of his entry into them as into the spirit of family.

Adventures in Solitude by Grant Lawrence. Adventures in Solitude is Lawrence’s recollection of growing up in British Columbia and visiting his family’s cabin in Desolation Sound. His childhood resentment of these forced excursions into the wilderness led to him alienating himself from family and cabin. Lawrence tells the story of how he learned to reconnect with his family through the landscape, and as the boy matures into adulthood he at last claims the cabin as his own. Narrated with humour and compassion, and enhanced with historical details about both captains Cook and Vancouver charting the waters off the coast of British Columbia, Adventures in Solitude is a compelling personal memoir.

Letters from the Lost: A Memoir of Discovery by Helen Waldstein Wilkes. At age 60, Waldstein Wilkes opens a small box that was left by her father in their southern Ontario home. The box holds “letters from the lost” – letters from family members left behind in Nazi- occupied Czechoslovakia. The author follows the letters’ trail back to Europe to discover that “the lost” – homeland, past and family – are part of her self. Letters from the Lost weaves letters, imaginary conversations and Waldstein Wilkes’ search for answers into a cathartic narrative of what it means to be a Jew, a survivor and a family member without a family.

The winner of the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction will be announced Sept. 7, 2011.

The award will be presented at a special centennial ceremony Oct. 4, 2011, in Waterloo, with author readings planned for the Brantford campus and Toronto office.

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