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2018 Hilary Weston Prize Shortlist

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One of Canada's top prizes for nonfiction.
Antigone Undone

Antigone Undone

Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo van Hove, and the Art of Resistance
edition:eBook

In 2015 Will Aitken journeyed to Luxembourg for the rehearsals and premiere of Anne Carson’s translation of Sophokles’ 5th-century BCE tragedy Antigone, starring Juliette Binoche and directed by theatrical sensation Ivo van Hove.   In watching the play, he became awestruck with the plight of the young woman at the centre of the action. “Look at what these men are doing to me,” An­tigone cries, expressing the predicament of the dispossessed throughout time. Transfixed by the strange and …

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All Things Consoled

All Things Consoled

A daughter's memoir
edition:Hardcover

From Elizabeth Hay, one of Canada's most beloved novelists, comes a startling and beautiful memoir about the drama of her parents' end, and the longer drama of being their daughter.

Jean and Gordon Hay were a colourful, formidable pair. Jean, a late-blooming artist with a marvellous sense of humour, was superlatively frugal; nothing got wasted, not even maggoty soup. Gordon was a proud and ambitious schoolteacher with a terrifying temper, a deep streak of melancholy, and a devotion to flowers, ca …

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Excerpt

     My mother came home the next day. The residence doctor dropped by in the afternoon, sturdy, energetic, reassuring. We had learned he was from Aberdeen, a fact that only endeared him further to my parents, for the Hays traced their origins back to the same part of Scotland. My mother greeted him cheerfully, and he said, “So you’ve come back.”
     She had. She had come back to us.
     Then once again, around the middle of March, she lost her words and twenty-four hours later showed no signs of recovering them. “I’m thinking—throne—thinking—th.” Starting on a word with an opening sound like “th,” she could not escape it, any more than a month earlier she had been able to escape “window—whether.”
     After I got her lying down, I went into the living room to talk to Dad, who was staring out one of the windows that overlooked the road and the canal beyond. Without turning, he said, “I don’t think she’s suffering, she’s just lost.” He choked up, as he did so very easily, before going on. “We just have to hope, or maybe hope is the wrong word. If she doesn’t make it, maybe it’s for the best.”
     The next day, “It’s snowing snowing snowing snowing,” she said, as we sat on a bench in the glowing sunshine.
     Certain words were no problem for her: yes, okay, right, super, thank you, well, son of a gun, really. Over the telephone, I told Sochi about the automatic responses that still issued loud and clear from her grandmother. Sochi laughed and remarked that they were all affirmatives; someone else’s might have been shit, goddammit and fuck. My mother’s “son of a gun” was as close as she came to an expletive and it was always said with good humour.
     Then the next morning, when I walked out of the late-winter sunshine into their living room, exclaiming what a beautiful day it was, my mother stopped me in my tracks by replying from the chesterfield, “Yes, it is a beautiful day.”
     Lazarus was back from the land of the mute. Open in her lap was the book I had brought to them several days before about Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, and now she said how interesting she thought it was. Sitting beside her, washed over by relief and excitement, I flipped to the page with the photograph of ice flowers, delicate white rosettes blanketing the surface of newly frozen sea water on February 16th, 1915—four years before she and my father were born. I told her about seeing them in patches on the canal last winter and on a pond at the arboretum. And we made conversation. “Your words have come back!” She nodded and smiled and talked, and everything she said made sense.
     But Dad was less excited by her recovery than he was upset with her for having wet the bed. “And who is going to wash the sheets?” he wanted to know. I asked him what happened to the diaper I had helped her into before leaving the night before. Well, in getting her into her nightgown, he had taken it off. Then immediately on the offensive again, he lit into me about her bone-strengthening medication. Had she had it or not?
     “A nurse is supposed to give it to her early Sunday morning,” I said, “which is today.”
     “You haven’t answered my question!” he thundered, only to back off a heartbeat later. “All right,” he admitted. “Somebody came in and gave it to her.” Only to blast me again, “But then she fell asleep! She’s not supposed to fall asleep after she gets it!”
     He took things hard and he made them harder. There would come a day when he declared that the nursing care in this place wasn’t “worth coon shit.”
     I liked “coon shit.” Never in a million years would I have imagined those words coming out of his mouth. We went down for coffee, and then Mom and I went outside into the open air and abundant sunshine while he remained behind in the library reading Maclean’s.
     In the flooding light we walked to the corner. “Did you have wrens nesting in the garden in London last spring?” I asked her.
     “I am forced to confess that I do not remember,” she said, speaking in her old formal way. Her teachers at Renfrew Collegiate had been sticklers for grammar and well-formed sentences, and my mother had been an excellent student.
     “What was it like for you, the last couple of days, when you couldn’t find your words?”
     “It was unsettling. But it’s been unsettling for a while.”
     We walked on. I asked her what she was thinking about.
     “I’m thinking about what the future holds.”
     “Are you worried about that?”
     She said something vague about no one knowing what the future holds, or perhaps I said that.
     I had pulled from the wastebasket in their rooms another of her efforts at a letter, one she had been working on somedays before, wanting it, she said, to be “a reasonable letter from a reasonable person.” She intended to have it do yeoman’s service for all of the friends she hadn’t yet written to.

There must be a way in the English Landwich to say to
your English speaking friends a great deal more emphatic?
I’ve tried many ways but the best I’ve managed is

Thank you so very much from all of us
The Hays

     Around this time, I remember her taking several bananas—the three on the counter and the one from inside their little fridge—and lining them up on the seat of her walker, then pushing her walker into the living room. I didn’t follow for a moment, washing dishes in their kitchenette. Then when I went into the living room, the bananas were nowhere in sight. “Where are they, Mom? Dad, did you see what Mom did with the bananas?”
     “Sure I did.”
     “Where are they?” Looking around.
     “Well, just don’t sit on the chesterfield,” he said.
     I checked under the cushions and there they were: fourbananas lined up in a row.

They reminded me of characters out of Beckett. A pair of solitaries who had always headed out to the studio, in my mother’s case, or downstairs to his study, in my father’s (each to his own lair) were now sharing two rooms. They were like the aged parents trapped in dustbins in Endgame. Like Laurel and Hardy in another fine mess. Or like old Joshua Smallweed in Bleak House throwing cushions at his imbecile wife.
     “Oh the weather,” my mother said to me, “the weather now is the pits of wet roses.” She had been reading in the newspaper, she said, about a woman in her thirties “who came down under the overburden of blankets and probably isn’t going to live.”
     Her turns of phrase rather confirmed my view that poetry issues from the holes in our head, that whatever faculty produces the startling contractions and coinages and leaps in logic that we call poetry is also available on an unconscious and uncontrollable level to someone suffering dementia. One morning on the telephone, ever solicitous about my sleep, she asked, “How did you severe the night?” Blending the words “fare,” “survive” and “persevere” so deftly that a lifetime of labour in the sleep mines got summoned up and summed up. “Dad’s behind a shave,” she added, “but I think he’ll come to the phone.”
     Later, when I went over to see them, “Do you know what I had for breakfast?” she said to me.
     “What?”
     She leaned forward. “Too much.”
     But that was her sense of humour. Like her abundant hair, it was her lasting glory.

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Heart Berries

Heart Berries

A Memoir
edition:Hardcover

*New York Times Bestseller
*National Bestseller
*Finalist for the 2018 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction
*Finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards
*Named one of the most anticipated books of 2018 by: ChatelaineEntertainment Weekly, ELLECosmopolitan, Esquire, Huffington Post, B*tch, NYLON, BuzzFeed, Bustle, The Rumpus and Goodreads
*A New York Times Editor's Choice 
*Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018 
 
Guilele …

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In Praise of Blood

In Praise of Blood

The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front
edition:Hardcover

A FINALIST FOR THE HILARY WESTON WRITERS' TRUST PRIZE: A stunning work of investigative reporting by a Canadian journalist who has risked her own life to bring us a deeply disturbing history of the Rwandan genocide that takes the true measure of Rwandan head of state Paul Kagame.

Through unparalleled interviews with RPF defectors, former soldiers and atrocity survivors, supported by documents leaked from a UN court, Judi Rever brings us the complete history of the Rwandan genocide. Considered by …

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Excerpt

The UN documents leaked to me amount to historical vindication for Kagame’s victims. They also stand as a testament to the courage of young Tutsis who had been part of a brutal regime yet broke free, risking censure and death to tell the truth. Kagame has grossly miscalculated the mix of fury and shame that many of his men felt after committing acts of depravity. A soldier who was part of a mobile killing unit in Ngondore told me that before they were shot, dozens of Hutu men, women and children were tied up and forced to sit on the edge of a steep hill near a tea plantation, their backs facing the soldiers. He admitted that, day after day, it was the same operation: he and the other soldiers methodically unloaded their guns into the bodies of a total of two thousand civilians on that hill in April 1994. The memory of these executions has never left him.

In 1997 I went to Congo and met refugees in the forests south of Kisangani and in transit camps. I traveled to the equatorial town of Mbandaka then down to the capital, Kinshasa. Then I went back to Goma and crossed the border on foot to Gisenyi, Rwanda, before going through Ruhengeri to Kigali and its surrounding rural areas. That trip, in particular my foray into the Congolese jungle, was a crucible where I discovered a level of suffering that overwhelmed me. For a very long time, I doubted if I could ever truly tell the story of what I heard and saw.

It took me two decades to reorient myself, to shake down the emotions and observations from that trip. But I continued to speak to victims and observers of the violence that has gripped the region. Over the last five years I have devoted myself full-time to understanding the dynamics of Kagame’s violence prior to, during and after the genocide. What has inspired me throughout my reporting is the power of memory and the way it works to conquer fear. This book is a testament to the courage of some two hundred direct and contextual witnesses of RPF crimes, including officials who worked at the UN tribunal set up in the aftermath of the genocide. I am grateful to all those who shared their stories and let me into their profound inner world. As their testimony reveals, Kagame did not commit these crimes alone. He operated—still operates—with significant political cover. I continue to be astonished by all the ways he has got away with it.

Violence is never abstract for the victim or the perpetrator. In Praise of Blood puts a human face on the violence in Rwanda and Congo. It names those alleged to have orchestrated the most heinous of crimes. For reasons of safety, however, I cannot identify by their real names most of the witnesses who talked to me or provided me with documents for this book. Kagame remains a powerful, protected and dangerous figure.

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The Woo-Woo

The Woo-Woo

How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family
edition:Paperback

Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust of Canada Prize for Nonfiction

In this jaw-dropping, darkly comedic memoir, a young woman comes of age in a dysfunctional Asian family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons when they should really be on anti-psychotic meds.

Lindsay Wong grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic grandmother and a mother who was deeply afraid of the "woo-woo" -- Chinese ghosts who come to visit in times of personal turmoil. From a young age, she witnessed the woo-woo …

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