We bet few of you have been to the Toronto Archives. We didn’t even know where it was until last night, when we attended theToronto Book Awards. But stepping into the foyer to be greeted by a room covered in photos and maps of our city’s history, it struck us at just how fitting it is to hold the ceremony here — books honoured for their fluent portraits of Toronto stories in a building that houses the same.
First handed out in 1974, the award is presented to “authors of books of literary or artistic merit that are evocative of Toronto”. The kitty this year was $15,000 (with each finalist getting a thou…so really, the winner only gets $11,000) and a six-month membership to the Toronto Writers’ Centre.
Previous winners include Michael Ondaatje, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood (obviously –is there any Canadian lit. award she hasn’t won?), Joe Fiorito and last years’ winner, David Bezmozgis.
This years’ finalists were: Howard Akler for City Man (Coach House), Stephen Marche for Raymond and Hannah (Doubleday), Dionne Brand for What We All Long For (Knopf), M.G. Vassanji for When She Was Queen (Doubleday), Jason McBride and Anna Wilcox, editors, for uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto.
Literary types were out in full force, with their shabby chic style and wine glass in hand.
Crudités platters and pitas for dipping were laid out all fancy like. Howard Akler wore sneakers. Writers, while somewhat socially awkward (writing is a pretty solitary gig), still try to out-clever each other with witty banter. And then, spotlight on Mayor Miller, who came to MC and present the award.’
The Mayor spoke about the importance of literary Toronto, the great talent ( and great fodder) our city produces and just how important reading is to Torontonians (did you know we have the most used library system in the world?! That’s hot.). He announced the winner and a stunned and smiling Dionne Brand took the podium.
Dave: Dionne, would you like to say a few words?
Dionne: A few words…that’s difficult for me…got an hour?
Brand praised the grit of Toronto, and cited the unglamorous, true city as her main source of inspiration for her book (read more about What We All Long For here)