Highway of Tears book in the running to win final RBC Taylor Prize

A book about the Highway of Tears through northern B.C. is in the running for the final RBC Taylor Prize.

Canadian literary legend Margaret Atwood named the five finalists vying for the honour, which comes with a $30,000 cheque, at a Toronto event Wednesday morning.

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B.C.-based journalist Jessica McDiarmid has been shortlisted for Highway of Tears about the northern stretch of Highway 16 from Prince George to Prince Rupert where dozens of Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing.

"This riveting exposé of the national scandal of Indigenous women and girls murdered on Highway 16 in north-western British Columbia reads like crime fiction. But this is true crime, and many of the killers have not been brought to justice," the jury said of its selection.

"McDiarmid's scrupulously documented account tells some of these women's stories and recounts the anguish of their damaged communities. Highway of Tears is a wake-up call for Canada. It challenges not only the police and the government, but all citizens to find a way forward from this legacy of racism, sexism and violence."

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Other non-fiction reads about topics ranging from the Me Too movement to mosquitoes are also in the running for the Prize.

Globe and Mail investigative reporter Robyn Doolittle is nominated for Had It Coming about justice in the age of #MeToo.

Historian Timothy Winegard received a nod for his look at one of humanity's deadliest pests, The Mosquito, while science writer Ziya Tong is nominated for puncturing preconceptions in The Reality Bubble.

Rounding out the short list is journalist Mark Bourrie for Bush Runner, a biography of swashbuckling fur trader Pierre-Esprit Radisson, who helped found the Hudson's Bay Company.

Fort St. John author Helen Knott had made the longlist for the Prize, announced in December, for her memoir, In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience.

In My Own Moccasins was published by University of Regina Press and had its local release in August 2019. The memoir chronicles the personal challenges Knott faced as a young Indigenous woman, and sheds light on spaces traditionally kept in the dark – violence against women, addiction, and cultural identity.

The 12 longlisted reads were billed as “a dozen essential titles that should be on every Canadian's reading list this year.”

The RBC Taylor Prize was first awarded in 2000 to recognize excellence in literary non-fiction, and commemorate the Canadian writer Charles Taylor, an author of four books and former correspondent and editorial board member for The Globe and Mail.

The 2020 Taylor Prize will be the last after 20 years of celebrating Canadian literary non-fiction. The winner will be announced at a Toronto luncheon on March 2.

Founder Noreen Taylor said the record 155 books submitted for the 2020 prize shows that her husband's vision has been fulfilled.

"It's absolutely thrilling for all ... the people involved in this process to realize we reached every goal we wished to for a branch of literature we felt had been underrecognized." 

— with files from the Canadian Press

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

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