Wednesday 14 January 2015

Five of Canada's best named to Taylor prize finalist list today

Noreen Taylor, founder of the RBC Taylor Prize, announces  the five books that have been named to the Prize's 2015 Finalist List.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 • Toronto, Ontario: For immediate Release 
Shortlisted authors based in Ontario, Quebec and London, England

AT A NEWS CONFERENCE, held on Wednesday, January 14th, in Toronto, jurors Ms. Kevin Garland, Martin Levin, and Andrew Preston, named five authors as this year’s finalists for The 2015 RBC Taylor Prize.
The five finalists and their books are: They Left Us Everything by PLUM JOHNSON (Toronto, Ontario), published by Penguin Canada; One Day in August:The Untold Story Behind Canada’s Tragedy at Dieppe by DAVID O'KEEFE (Montreal, Quebec), published by Random House Canada; The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times by BARBARA TAYLOR (London, England), published by Hamish Hamilton Canada; And Home Was Kariakoo: A Memoir of East Africa by M. G. VASSANJI (Toronto, Ontario), published by Doubleday Canada; Boundless by KATHLEEN WINTER (Montreal, Quebec), published by House of Anansi Press.
“These five books represent not only the finest non-fiction written in Canada today but also represent the topics that Canadians find interesting,” said Prize founder Noreen Taylor. "Taken collectively, they present a fascinating glimpse of the lens we look through when we view ourselves, our history, and the world beyond our borders.”
"RBC Wealth Management is honoured to be the title sponsor of Canada’s most prestigious non-fiction prize,” said Vijay Parmar, President, RBC PH&N Investment Counsel. “The RBC Taylor Prize fosters literary excellence and aligns with RBC’s overall commitment to the arts. We strongly believe that art has the power to enrich our lives and enhance our communities and therefore are thrilled to play a part in helping to raise the profile of those writers who make an indelible mark on Canadian literature.”
The RBC Taylor Prize recognizes excellence in Canadian non-fiction writing and emphasizes the development of the careers of the authors it celebrates. All finalists will be supported by extensive publicity and promotional opportunities over the next two months. The five authors will take part in a free Round Table discussion at the Toronto Reference Library in downtown Toronto on Thursday February 26th at 7:00 pm. This public author event is sponsored by the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), The Toronto Public Library and The Globe and Mail newspaper. As well, they will appear on stage at The Globe and Mail / Ben McNally Authors’ Brunch on Sunday, March 1st at the Omni King Edward Hotel. For
This will be the fourteenth awarding of The RBC Taylor Prize. The prize consists of $25,000 and a crystal trophy for the winning author and $2,000 for each of the runners-up as well as extensive national publicity and promotional support to help all books stand out in the national media and book retailers across the country. The winner of this year's prize will be announced at a gala luncheon and awards ceremony at The King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto on Monday, March 2nd.
Sharing a commitment to emerging Canadian artists, The Charles Taylor Foundation and RBC will also grant the second annual RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writers Award. Shortly after the March 2nd luncheon an emerging author will be selected by the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize winner.
At the Wednesday morning News Conference each jury citation for the five finalists and their books was read out. Those citations are as follows:
Plum Johnson for They Left Us Everything, published by Penguin Canada
The jury notes: “Beautifully observed and written with great warmth and wit,They Left Us Everything is an absorbing memoir of grief, growth, and decluttering. Plum Johnson must deal not merely with the legacy of her difficult, ill-matched parents, but is handed the burden of disposing of the seemingly endless contents of their 23-room Lake Ontario home, which becomes a character on its own in the telling. The task, which she initially thinks manageable, proves Herculean, far more complex than she’d imagined, involving understanding her past and packing up its contents, both literal and metaphorical. A story of love, loss, and legacy, written with compassion and humour, it subtly evokes T.S. Eliot’s lines: ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’”
David O’Keefe for One Day in August: The Untold Story Behind Canada’s Tragedy at Dieppe, published by Random House Canada
The jury notes: “Ever since news of its failure rippled across the Atlantic 72 years ago, the Dieppe raid has been a staple of Canadian history and a touchstone of our national identity. It is difficult to imagine that a historian could have anything genuinely new to say about it, yet David O’Keefe shows a new side to the story. Highly original and bracingly revisionist, One Day in August is that rare book that is able to say something new about something so familiar. Based on extensive research in official records in Canada and Britain, many of them previously undiscovered or long-forgotten, One Day in August is historical writing at its best: engrossing, revealing, and enlightening. It should be required reading for all Canadians.”
Barbara Taylor for The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times, published by Hamish Hamilton Canada
The jury notes: “A work of major substance and shocking honesty, The Last Asylum is a haunting tale of madness in the modern age. In this beautifully written memoir, Barbara Taylor uses her own harrowing experiences in psychoanalysis not only as a vehicle for personal discovery but as a prism through which to view contemporary attitudes towards mental illness. But Taylor is also a noted scholar of modern British culture and society, and her investigative powers as a historian are also on full display in this book. She explores Friern, an insane asylum first built by the Victorians where she received extensive treatment and which serves as the backdrop for her painful but revealing personal journey. Exquisitely crafted, The Last Asylum is an intellectual and stylistic tour de force.”
M. G. Vassanji for And Home Was Kariakoo: A Memoir of East Africa, published by Doubleday Canada
The jury notes: “In And Home Was Kariakoo, novelist M. G. Vassanji has written both an evocative memoir of his childhood in East Africa and a searching look at Tanzania and Kenya today. Returning in his sixties to his old neighbourhood in Dar es Salaam, and then embarking on a journey that takes him on local buses over rutted, barely passable roads to villages and ghost settlements, he changes the lens through which we view Africa. Vassanji casts a cool and unsparingly critical eye over the slave trade, colonialism and leftist revolutionaries, over the “beggar” mentality that pervades these countries and donor celebrities courting publicity. At the same time, he evokes the teeming aliveness of east Africa, its heat, its smells, its exotic foods and the surprising joyfulness of its people. In his journey, the reader too uncovers an Africa deserving respect rather than pity.”
Kathleen Winter for Boundless, published by House of Anansi Press
The jury notes: “In this evocative travel memoir, Kathleen Winter joins an expedition through the North West Passage as official trip “writer.” Thus begins her very personal voyage. As the ship sails into the Canadian Arctic, following the path of the doomed Franklin expedition, she reflects on the extraordinary life her parents chose as British emigrants settling in the wilds of Newfoundland. The events of the voyage are interwoven with her childhood memories, her struggles with adulthood and aging, her often intense engagement with fellow travelers, and breathtaking descriptions of the arctic light, the sea, the ice, the stark landscapes, and the people. The impact of climate change, and Canadian policies and inattention to First Nations are clearly and judiciously presented. The deep impact of this unplanned voyage on Winter’s connection to our natural world is beautifully and poetically told.”

About the RBC Taylor Prize :
The RBC Taylor Prize is awarded annually to the author whose book best combines an excellent command of the English language, an elegance of style, quality of thought, and subtlety of perception. The Prize consists of $25,000 for the winning author and $2,000 for each of the runners up.
The Emerging Writer’s award was established in 2013 to provide recognition and assistance to a Canadian published author who is working on a significant writing project, preferably but not limited to literary non-fiction. Through mentorship from the nominating author, and a $10,000 cash award, it is intended that the writer will be able to progress toward the creation of a first draft work.
The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation are: Michael Bradley (Toronto), Vijay Parmar (Toronto), David Staines (Ottawa), and Noreen Taylor (Toronto).
The presenting sponsor of the RBC Taylor Prize is RBC Wealth Management, its Major Sponsor is Metropia, its media sponsors are The Globe and Mail (exclusive newspaper sponsor), CNW Group, The Huffington Post CanadaMaclean’s magazine, and Quill & Quire magazine; its in-kind sponsors are Authors at Harbourfront Centre, Ben McNally Books, Event Source, Kobo Inc., The Toronto Library Board, and The Omni King Edward Hotel.
For more information visit:
For more information about the finalists visit
Visit RBC Taylor Prize on Twitter at
Follow us on Facebook at

— 30 —

Media contact: Stephen Weir & Associates

To download high-resolution images of the jury, finalists, and shortlisted titles, please go