../Morning Post
Posted November 9, 2009
Book Review

Russell Wangersky wins 2009 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

WATERLOO – Russell Wangersky has won the 2009 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction for his memoir Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself. A reception for Wangersky will take place November 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Paul Martin Centre on the Waterloo campus of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Wangersky’s book offers a crystal-clear portrait of a man who, through his career as a firefighter, becomes addicted to the rush of danger. In a narrative stacked with house fires, car wrecks and various other human tragedies, Wangersky portrays the emotional contingencies and lingering trauma that slowly begin to pull his life apart. This is a powerful book that illuminates the darker natures of those whom we trust with our lives.

“Burning Down the House is a memoir in the truest definition of the word: a book that explores memory as both a creative and destructive force,” said Tanis MacDonald, award juror and assistant professor in Laurier’s Department of English and Film Studies. “The ironic title captures the camaraderie and dark humour of the firehouse, and its cautionary subtitle warns of the psychological price of serving society as an emergency rescue worker whose skills are absolutely essential and absolutely impossible to leave behind when the shift is over.”

Wangersky lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is the editorial page editor for the daily newspaper The Telegram. Burning Down the House is his second book.

In addition to Burning Down the House, the shortlist for the 2009 Edna Staebler Award also included: The Darien Gap: Travels in the Rainforest of Panama (Harbour Publishing) by Martin Mitchinson; Lost: A Memoir (Key Porter Books) by Cathy Ostlere; and The Riverbones: Stumbling After Eden in the Jungles of Suriname (McClelland & Stewart) by Andrew Westoll.

“Each year the longlist for the Edna Staebler Award contains books from a wide range of non-fiction subgenres: creative journalism, food writing, science and nature writing, biographies, and political, historical and archival writing, among others,” said MacDonald. “This year the longlist contained four memoirs that asked compelling questions about the problems of being human in the modern world, and the jury was pleased to be able to include all four of these memoirs on the shortlist.”

The Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction was launched in 1991 and is administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, the only university in Canada to bestow a nationally recognized literary award. The $10,000 award encourages and recognizes Canadian writers for a first or second work of creative non-fiction that includes a Canadian locale and/or significance.

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