May 18, 2023
For Immediate Release
WATERLOO — A trio of books have been shortlisted for the 2021 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction as Wilfrid Laurier University continues to catch up on presenting the prestigious $10,000 award after two years of postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Established and endowed by writer and award-winning journalist Edna Staebler in 1991, the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction recognizes a Canadian writer of a first or second published book with a Canadian locale or significance. The award is administered by Laurier, the only university in Canada to bestow a nationally recognized literary award.
The following authors have been shortlisted for the 2021 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction for the following books: Rachel Matlow for Dead Mom Walking: A Memoir of Miracle Cures and Other Disasters; Vicki Laveau-Harvie for The Erratics; and Jessica J. Lee for Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts. The winner will be announced in late May.
“Creative non-fiction was very personal to Edna,” said Harry Froklage, an award juror and friend who helped edit Edna Staebler’s letters. “During her lifetime, she and the winners of her award often became great friends. As I read this year’s shortlisted books, I thought of her often and wondered what her assessment might be. Of the 2021 shortlist, I think she would be very pleased and gratified at the range of topics and generational voices, young and old.”
By Vicki Laveau-Harvie (Doubleday Canada)
The Erratics is a clear-eyed account of how and where to draw the line with the people we love and survive the aftermath. In this slim memoir, Laveau-Harvie describes returning from Australia to her childhood home in Alberta to check on her aging parents, who disowned her and her only sister years earlier. She worries that her mother — a long-standing toxic and dangerous presence in her life — is trying to kill her blithely acquiescent father. Despite its troubling subject matter, The Erratics is a darkly humorous and deeply engaging read that leaves an indelible, haunting impression.
By Jessica J. Lee (Penguin Random House Canada)
The discovery of her grandfather’s notes about his years as a pilot in the Chinese Nationalist air force, before he and her grandmother escaped to Taiwan and eventually immigrated to Canada, lured Jessica Lee into exploring both her family’s background and the island of Taiwan, her mother’s birthplace. The result is Two Trees Make a Forest, a fascinating interweaving of family history, geopolitical events linking China and Taiwan, and the author’s own extraordinary immersion in the flora, fauna, and geography of Taiwan itself.
By Rachel Matlow (Penguin Random House Canada)
Dead Mom Walking is structured as a mystery. Why would a smart, life-embracing woman defy the advice of doctors and the pleas of her daughter by refusing medical treatment for a deadly form of cancer? Why would she breezily pursue an eccentric range of homeopathic and holistic remedies until far too late? While she struggles to provide love and support in a bewildering situation, Matlow seeks to solve this mystery, pursuing a deeper understanding of the woman who is her mother, their family, and herself. Their journey is dramatized in a narrative that is powerfully emotional, intimate and leavened with unexpected flashes of humour.
“This year’s shortlisted authors are all memoirs about family, but they demonstrate a remarkable range of style, focus and approach,” said Bruce Gillespie, an award juror and professor in Laurier’s User Experience Design program. “What they share is a commitment to unravelling the complex and often complicated nature of our closest relationships in a way that will keep readers glued to the page.”
The winner of the 2021 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction will be announced during the week of May 22-26.
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Lori Chalmers Morrison, Director: Integrated Communications, External Relations
Wilfrid Laurier University