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2021 Atlantic Book Awards Shortlist

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Representing the best in Atlantic writing, illustration and publishing, the Atlantic Book Awards Society is pleased to announce the shortlists for the fourteen different book prizes that make up the 2021 Atlantic Book Awards. The nominated titles represent a wide range of books from Atlantic Canada—everything from hard-hitting non-fiction to illustrated children’s books to adult fiction, and a new poetry award created in 2020 by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia in honour of the late celebrated African-Nova Scotian poet and teacher, Maxine Tynes. Missing from our list is KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF, by Tom Ryan; HUMANIMUS by David Huebert; I TALK LIKE A RIVER, by Sydney Smith; CAPTURING CRIME, by Carol Taylor;
Boy With a Problem
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
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Winter Road
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
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Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction; Nominated for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award – Fiction, sponsored by the family of John and Margaret Savage and Royden Trainor
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Annaka
Excerpt

It felt like hours, but I honestly had no idea how much time passed. Clay noticed I was breathing at a normal pace again and he asked, "You ready to go back home?"

"Not really," I said. "Can't we just stay here?" I felt embarrassed that Clay had seen me like that. But I was really grateful he took me away from it all.

"You could, but your mom would probably freak out," Clay said with a half grin.

"She's always freaking out these days," I sighed. "We should go back, I guess."

Clay snapped his fingers and the darkness began to fade away. The stars fizzed out and once everything was said and done, it didn't look much different at all. The moon was resting above us, while stars were all around the sky.

"How long were we there?" I asked.

"A while, but don't worry. Are you okay?"

"I don't know," I admitted. I got to my feet and wiped the grass off my jeans. How could I be okay after that?

I turned around and saw my truck still parked in the same spot. We pulled out of the area and went back the highway towards Yarmouth. I didn't want the road to end. I wanted to keep driving. Driving felt like I was finally in control of something for once in my life. Nobody could take that away from me. Not a stupid city, not Mom, not a stupid attendance sheet. We eventually made it back to the city and once we got close to the path Clay said, "I'm around if you need me."

I looked to my right and he was gone.

I had a feeling Mom would be waiting for me, and sure enough, she was on the front porch in her housecoat.

"Anna!" she whispered-yelled. "Where were you?"

When I saw Mom, I didn't know how to react. I kept thinking about her being the young woman in the grey hoodie, hanging out in that trailer where that man lived. I knew I couldn't bring it up; it would only make things worse.

"I was...at Tia's place."

"No you weren't," she cut in. "I called and you weren't there." She crossed her arms. "Not only that," she continued, "but I got a call from Ms. Anderson today. Why weren't you in class? Apparently this wasn't the first time, either."

"I—I...."

"Nothing to say for yourself? C'mon Anna. You're better than that. You're better than this."

How dare she say that? After I seen what I had seen, those words coming out of her mouth were like some sick joke. Her validation wasn't a hill I wanted to die on. She was the one who took me away from everything in my hometown and expected me to come back and pretend everything was normal. But this wasn't normal. Grampy dying without us here, and Mom expecting me to finish off grade eleven in the school he taught at wasn't normal. Abruptly moving back to my hometown with no timeline of our stay wasn't normal. Never mentioning my father and pretending he didn't exist wasn't normal.

There was nothing normal about any of this.

"Your grandfather worked so hard for everything he accomplished here," Mom was saying now. "He worked so hard for me, he worked so hard for you. I don't want you to go down this road. I don't want you to let him down."

That's when I lost it.

"Hold up!" I yelled. "Me letting him down?! You're the one who never visited in years. You never even saw him before he died!" I couldn't contain myself. "Then you have the nerve to hold me to some higher expectation after ripping me away from my hometown. Bringing me along to Halifax so you could study. I was fine here, Mom! I would have been fine, but no. You just had to take me along so you could say you did all by yourself while having a daughter!" I knew that last part wasn't fair, but I was done being nice. "You didn't even take into consideration my feelings when we left Yarmouth. You just left, and I never had a say!"

I didn't know where this furious energy was coming from, but I wasn't backing down.

"I'm not just some plot device in your story, Mom. I'm my own person. Now we're suddenly back here, and we're supposed to act like everything is normal? Are we supposed to act like Grampy being gone is normal? Am I just supposed to tighten my bootstraps and move on? Don't you think it hurts being in the school where he taught? Don't you think it hurts having Nan treat me like a stranger? Is that supposed to be normal? And do you think that we're supposed to pretend my dad doesn't still live in this town? Or do you just edit him out of the equation because it's easier for you, rather than having a conversation with your daughter?"

I could see the emotions shift on Mom's face. From angry to frustrated to disappointed to just...lost. I had never seen her like that before. I didn't know what else to say. I don't think there was anything else I could say after that. Who did she think she was? How was she acting any different now than Nan did when she broke curfew in the memory?

"Annaka, that's not a line you cross." Mom crossed her arms walking towards me.

"No. I'm just supposed to pretend the line isn't even there, right? I'm just supposed to accept things the way they are." I threw my hands up in exasperation. "We've been here for weeks, and you haven't even toyed with the idea of me meeting my dad."

That caused her to pause.

"Some people are better left in the past," Mom said quietly.

"And some people resent the ones who keep secrets," I shot back. "Where is he? Where is he, huh?"

Mom shook her head. "I'm not having this conversation with you."

"You never do."

"You're right, I never do," Mom agreed as she walked up the stairs. "You do what you want, it's your life after all. If you wanna be a high school dropout, if you want to fail and tarnish the good name of Rudy Brooks, then you do you."

"Oh, that's new," I spat. "You're making it about someone else for once."

That's when she looked back at me and I saw she was actually a little choked up. It was then I knew how hard my words had hit because she didn't reply, she just continued up the stairs.

Everything was silent. I stood there feeling a mixture of things, regret, anger, but mostly sadness. I didn't want that to go down the way it did, but it did. After a few minutes I walked upstairs to my room and lay in bed. I was trying to remember when things were easier. Before death, before grief, and before loss. Those were the ingredients that scrambled my whole world.

I lay in bed thinking. I couldn't believe I had seen my dad. That had to be him, right? His name was Blake Morrison. Could he still be in town? Could he be gone? Of course Mom wouldn't talk about it. I rolled over to look outside through a gap in the curtains; there were a lot of stars in the sky tonight. I decided I wanted a better view, so I grabbed my comforter and went outside. I climbed up to the treehouse, placing my head in my hands wishing I knew what I was looking for.

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Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature
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The Grey Sisters
Excerpt

It was nothing really. Her ears closed up and then she felt a discomforting pressure like a rough, heavy hand on the top of her head. She tried swallowing repeatedly to equalize the pressure in her ears and then rummaged in her bag for some gum. She didn’t find any. Instead, she discovered Floppy Monkey stuffed down at the bottom with a spare pair of thick woolen socks.
D must have snuck him into the bag and kept Floppy Giraffe with her. They were ancient stuffed toys knitted for them at birth by their Nonna. They normally lived on the bookshelf, but not when the girls were sick or one of them was traveling solo. Kat smiled to herself. He was almost as good as having her twin sister sitting right there beside her, and she wished she could cuddle with him unnoticed for a minute but that was unlikely. She touched her fingertip to her lips, pressed a kiss onto his poor worn head, and hid him away again.
It was a small plane, and the twenty-eight kids and two teachers filled it completely. That was half of the tenth grade; the other half were building houses for low-income families, but she’d done that in grade nine and quickly realized that she wasn’t compatible with power tools.
Next to her, Jonathan interrupted the contemplation of his heavy book and swept his gaze around the crowded airplane. “G-force,” he said, staring at her with his amber eyes. His heavy-framed glasses magnified them hugely. It was unsettling, like looking at a praying mantis close up. Funny how, even though he and his just-eleven-months-older sister, Spider, shared an undeniable family resemblance — same eyes and brows, same strong features and dark hair — Jonathan hadn’t grown into his face and body yet. It was as if he was wearing a skin suit a few sizes too big and it made him ungainly and awkward. Spider was the opposite of that, sure and graceful in her movements. “You know, gravity.”
Kat grunted. He was always saying weird things and then not explaining them. This time though, he continued. “But are we going up or down? Roller coaster?” He moved his hand in a wave motion and pursed his lips.
She had no answer, nor could she be sure he was even talking to her. More like at her. Spider always said Jonathan was on his own trip, and barely noticed other people. He even referred to them as humans for chrissakes, as if he were from outer space or something. And being so smart, he’d gone straight from eighth grade into tenth — their grade. It was something he never let any of them forget.
Still, they’d all grown up together on the same cul-de-sac and Kat got him, or at least more than most.
“Is your seat belt on?” he asked, poking at her upper arm.
She lifted the corner of her shirt to show him and returned her attention to the thick notebook open on her lap. It was her idea book, stuffed full of images and clippings. Everything and everyone she drew inspiration from. At the moment, she was totally in love with Mexican floral embroidery and Yayoi Kusama’s crazy polka dots. Sometimes when she was snuggled under the covers in her bed, she saw flowers and butterflies imprinted on everything. A glorious world of movement and color.
The plane dipped, propelling her stomach into her neck.
Two rows up, she could see the back of Henry Chen’s tousled head, John Brewster’s hand high-fiving him. The noise of chatter washed over her, transforming the cabin into an even smaller space.
Surely they must be getting close? She estimated they were somewhere near Spectacle Lakes. Her Nonna had told her that they were so blue they were like a slice of heaven.

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Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children’s Literature
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At the Ocean's Edge

At the Ocean's Edge

A History of Nova Scotia to Confederation
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback Hardcover
tagged : north america
More Info
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing, Sponsored by Marquis Book Printing
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The Miramichi Fire

The Miramichi Fire

A History
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged :
More Info
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing, Sponsored by Marquis Book Printing
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A Long Journey

A Long Journey

Residential Schools in Labrador and Newfoundland
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Why it's on the list ...
Nominated for the Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing, Sponsored by Marquis Book Printing
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