Journalist wins award for memoir on son
B.C.’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction — with its $40,000 cheque, the country’s richest prize for creative nonfiction — has been won by Ian Brown.
The Toronto journalist’s memoir, The Boy in the Moon, tells the heart-rending story of his son, Walker, a 13-year-old who was born with cardio-faciocutaneous syndrome, caused by a genetic mutation so rare that only about 300 people in the world share his affliction.
At Friday’s elegant downtown Vancouver ceremony, at which B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell spoke, a gratified Brown said he started writing it 10 years ago.
“ I started keeping a diary about Walker because I had to keep his medical appointments straight,” Brown said.
The preteen is undersized, can’t speak and wears diapers.
“ I began to realize,” said Brown, “that the way to write this book was to be with Walker and just pay attention to what he paid attention to.
“He can’t convey things, except emotionally. I wanted to know whether he had an inner life and, if he did, whether it was better than my inner life.”
Also nominated for the annual award — given six times, so far, by the B.C. Achievement Foundation — were Karen Connelly, Eric Siblin and Kenneth Whyte. They each received $2,500.
Connelly lives in Toronto and in Greece. Her book, Burmese Lessons: A Love Story, is an account of her participation in the struggle for democracy in Burma — and of falling in love with one of the guerrilla leaders.
Justice Kathryn Neilson of the B.C. Court of Appeal praised its honesty in a brief speech, while Connelly pointed out that since she is one of only two women on four Canadian creative nonfiction shortlists this year, she felt especially honoured.
Also a finalist was Eric Siblin, author of The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece, a bestseller for much of last year. And Kenneth Whyte, who has helmed the National Post and Maclean’s, was nominated for The Uncrowned King, his biography of U.S. newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.
The jury — Andreas Schroeder, Philip Marchand and Vicki Gabereau — read a total of 155 books.
All four writers praised the premier, an omnivorous reader, for founding the award, which draws attention to a genre traditionally not as glamorous as fiction.
However, many B.C. writers are less enthusiastic. Some had planned to walk out of the ceremony because of recent funding cuts to BC BookWorld and the Association of Book Publishers of B.C., but in the end that didn’t happen.