Canada's literary heritage is full of talented Jewish authors, including granddaddy (or, perhaps most aptly, zaide) Mordecai Richler, as well as acclaimed writers like Matt Cohen, Irving Layton, and many more.
Each year, the Koffler Centre of the Arts honours that legacy with the Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature. The 2016 prizes considered 91 submissions published from 2014 and 2015, which is why some seemingly older titles appear on the shortlist — including previous Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Us Conductors by Sean Michaels. Prizes are awarded in four categories (fiction, non-fiction, history, and children's literature), and each prize carries a $10,000 purse for the winner. In addition, 2016 will see the presentation of a poetry prize, which is awarded once every three years.
The 2016 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature Shortlists:
- David Bezmozgis for The Betrayers (Harper Collins)
- Joseph Kertes for The Afterlife of Stars (Penguin Books)
- Sean Michaels for Us Conductors (Random House Canada)
- Mireille Silcoff for Chez L’Arabe (House of Anansi Press)
- Bob Bossin for Davy the Punk (The Porcupine’s Quill)
- Mark Celinscak for Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp (University of Toronto Press)
- Daniel J. Levitin for The Organized Mind (Penguin Books)
- Dr. Joe Schwarcz for Monkeys, Myths and Molecules (ECW Press)
- Beverley Chalmers for Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices under Nazi Rule (Grosvenor House Publishing)
- Andrew Cohen for Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours that Made History (McClelland & Stewart)
- Maria Noriega Rachwal for From Kitchen to Carnegie Hall: Ethel Stark and the Montreal Women’s Symphony Orchestra (Second Story Press)
- Ira Robinson for A History of Antisemitism in Canada (Wilfred Laurier University Press)
- Daniel Goodwin for Catullus’s Soldiers (Cormorant Books)
- Seymour Mayne for Cusp Word Sonnets (Ronald P. Frye and Co.)
- Ruth Panofsky for The Collected Poems of Miriam Waddington (University of Ottawa Press)
- Rachel Zolf for Janey’s Arcadia (Coach House Books)
- Emil Sher for Young Man with Camera (Scholastic Inc.)
- Shelly Sanders for Rachel’s Hope (Second Story Press)
- Eva Wiseman for The World Outside (Tundra Books)
- Frieda Wishinsky (with illustrations by Willow Dawson) for Avis Dolphin (House of Anansi Press)
The jury praised the "sixteen titles that reflect the rich and diverse traditions of narrative both about and from the Jewish community", noting that it "was an absolute pleasure to see the diversity of stories explored - from YA accounts of coming of age and bullying to in-depth historical studies and poignant works of fiction."
The 2016 jury is comprised of Pierre Anctil, a member of the Royal Society of Canada and a professor at the University of Ottawa, Devyani Saltzman, a Canadian writer and the Director of Literary Arts at the Banff Centre, and Laurence Siegel, an independent television producer, performing artist manager, and dramatic arts teacher with the Toronto District School Board.
The Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature is made possible by the Lillian and Norman Glowinsky Family Foundation to support Canadian Jewish literature, a tradition they established with the original awards in 2004, building on the founding of the Canadian Jewish Book Awards, created in 1988 by Adam Fuerstenberg.
Winners will be announced on September 29, 2016. Stay tuned to Open Book for the announcement of the winners
Grace O'Connell is the Contributing Editor for Open Book: Toronto and the author of Magnified World (Random House Canada). She also writes a book column for This Magazine.
For more information about Magnified World please visit the Random House Canada website.