Taylor Finalists Announced

Finalists for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction have been announced, and it’s an all-male and biography-heavy list. From the press release:

“The 2010 prize finalists are Ian Brown for his bookThe Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search For His Disabled Son, published by Random House Canada; John English for his book Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968 – 2000, published by Knopf Canada; Daniel Poliquin for his book René Lévesque, published by Penguin Canada; and Kenneth Whyte for his book The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst, published by Random House Canada.

The jury selected their four-book shortlist from 125 submissions, published between November 1, 2008 and October 31, 2009, and submitted by 34 publishers from across North America.”

WIthout wishing to dispute the quality of any of these books (none of which I’ve read in full, and two of which I haven’t even opened) I continue to feel uncomfortable about a list that suggests such a limited view of what literary nonfiction can do and be. I’d welcome others’ thoughts on this.

Having said that, the excerpts of Ian Brown’s book that I’ve read have been honest and moving. As someone who has also written about parenting in challenging circumstances, and who has faced some opposition to the very idea of doing so, I am glad to see a book on this subject receive recognition. And while I haven’t yet read Daniel Poliquin’s René Lévesque, I would like to read it, based on his highly intelligent and insightful conversation about the book during the Kingston WritersFest. Interesting, too, to see a “series” book nominated; that’s unusual.

Several of these titles have appeared on previous awards lists this this fall, but they failed to win the big prizes.

For more on this, see Steven Beattie’s “How to Make it as a Writer: Be a Man.” Like him, while I’d prefer to believe that the male-dominated nature of the big awards is mere coincidence, I smell a rat and its long tail is called sexism.

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