Jour­nal­ist wins award for mem­oir on son

Vancouver Sun - - ARTS & LIFE - by re­becca WiGoD

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.

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