Writers’ Trust Names Best Books of the Year

Prizewinners for fiction and nonfiction revealed

Toronto – November 18, 2020 – The Writers’ Trust of Canada celebrated the best fiction and nonfiction books of the year through the presentation of two of the country’s richest literary awards and $150,000 in prize money.

The announcements were made this afternoon during the Writers’ Trust Awards: Books of the Year Edition digital event, hosted by author and Writers’ Trust director Kamal Al-Solaylee.

Jessica J. Lee (London, UK) was awarded the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family’s Past Among Taiwan’s Mountains and Coasts, a memoir that encompasses history, travel, and nature to demonstrate how geographical forces are interlaced with family stories in the author’s exploration of her Taiwanese heritage.

Gil Adamson (Toronto) received the $50,000 Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for Ridgerunner, a vivid historical novel set in the Rocky Mountains in 1917 that follows a thief and his quest to steal enough money to secure his 12-year-old son’s future.

This year’s Writers’ Trust Awards: Books of the Year Edition is made possible by presenting partner The Humber School for Writers as well as numerous corporate, foundation, and individual sponsors. Media partner The Globe and Mail provides additional support as do project partners CBC Books and Indigo Books & Music. The project is partially funded by the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage.

For more information about recipients, and to watch the event video featuring winner acceptance speeches, visit writerstrust.com/WTAwards. Photos of the finalists and winners are available to download.

The shortlisted titles are available in accessible formats for different types of print disability through the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).


Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction ($60,000)

Awarded for the year’s best book of literary nonfiction.

2020 winner: Jessica J. Lee for Two Trees Make a Forest: In Search of My Family’s Past Among Taiwan’s Mountains and Coasts (Hamish Hamilton Canada)

A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather propelled the author to travel to Taiwan where she unearthed surprising parallels between her ancestors and their beloved island. Said the jury:

“Jessica J. Lee shares her knowledge of linguistics and environmental history as she hikes the fault lines of her own family’s story in sentences that make you gasp in admiration. Hers is a tale of political disruption, civil war, displacement, environmental ravages, and intergenerational trauma. This book will haunt you.”

Lee’s first book, Turning, chronicled her journey swimming 52 lakes in a single year. She received the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award and has a doctorate in environmental history and aesthetics. Originally from London, Ontario, Lee now lives in the United Kingdom.

Finalists:

  • Lorna Crozier for Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats) (McClelland & Stewart)
  • Steven Heighton for Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos (Biblioasis)
  • Tessa McWatt for Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging (Random House Canada)
  • David A. Neel for The Way Home (UBC Press)

Each finalist received $5,000. The winner and finalists were chosen by a jury composed of authors Helen Knott, Sandra Martin, and Ronald Wright. They read 107 titles submitted by 65 publishers. The prizewinner was announced by The Hon. Hilary M. Weston and is funded by the Weston Family Foundation.


Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize ($50,000)

Awarded for the year’s best novel or short story collection.

2020 winner: Gil Adamson for Ridgerunner (House of Anansi Press)

Part literary western, part historical mystery, the novel is touched with humour and loss and follows a solitary drifter who, following the death of the boy’s mother, tries to provide for the welfare of his son by any means necessary.  Said the jury:

“Adamson sinks readers into a Wild West never before seen in an adventure as sprawling and impeccably rendered as the land itself. She explores notions of good and evil as ubiquitous as gun smoke and just as nebulous, along with the reminder that all which is fought for comes at a cost.”

The novel is a sequel to Adamson’s debut novel The Outlander, for which she received the Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing and the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and was a finalist for CBC Canada Reads. Adamson lives in Toronto and is the author of four previous books of fiction and poetry.

Finalists:

  • Zsuzsi Gartner for The Beguiling (Hamish Hamilton Canada)
  • Michelle Good for Five Little Indians (Harper Perennial)
  • Thomas King for Indians on Vacation (HarperCollins)
  • Maria Reva for Good Citizens Need Not Fear (Knopf Canada)

Each finalist received $5,000. The winner and finalists were chosen by a jury composed of authors Elisabeth de Mariaffi, Waubgeshig Rice, and Yasuko Thanh. They read 123 titles submitted by 61 publishers.


About the Writers’ Trust of Canada

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs including ten national literary awards, a fellowship, financial grants, career development initiatives for emerging writers, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada’s writers receive more financial support from the Writers’ Trust than from any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country. Additional information is available at writerstrust.com.