Book awards celebrate Toronto spirit

Readers looking for a better sense of Toronto have five new books to choose from.

Mayor David Miller announced the shortlist for the Toronto Book Awards at a conference in the Toronto Reference Library on Sept. 9.

The books, published in 2007,  range from novels by Barbara Gowdy (Helpless) and David Chariandy (Soucouyant), to a biography by Elspeth Cameron (And Beauty Answers: The Life of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle).

The shortlist includes a collection of short stories by Elyse Friedman (Long Story Short) and poetry by Glen Downie (Loyalty Management). Miller spoke about the importance of these books to Torontonians.

“In a city as diverse and multicultural (as Toronto) and with so many first- and second-generation Canadians, myself included, it’s so important to learn about other people,” Miller said.

To make the shortlist, authors needed to submit a book that evoked Toronto. The jurors read 68 books before choosing the five finalists.

Of Downie’s Loyalty Management, the jurors wrote “Undeniably Torontonian, Downie’s poems travel nimbly through our old Victorian homes, up the trees in our yards, down our streets and into other lands…These poems are richly textured and utterly readable.”

Writer Downie moved to Toronto in 1993 and some of his poetry comes from that time.

“The first part (of the book) especially is about finding my bearings in a new city,” Downie said. “A city’s not real to me until I’ve walked it. When you walk it, you own it. The neighbourhood becomes yours.”

Downie’s poems range from trips to Chile to fatherhood and they explore the idea of managing loyalty to people and places. The early years of his 12-year-old daughter Emma provided inspiration for some of the poems.

“After her mom had six months of maternity leave, I stayed at home with her.” Downie said. “I stayed at home with her as she learned to do all those things, to walk, to talk. I reflected a lot during that period.”

Readers can hear the authors read from their books on Sept. 28 in the City of Toronto tent at The Word on the Street book and magazine fair. The authors will also sign and read excerpts at the Palmerston branch of the Toronto Public Library on Oct. 7.

The winner of the Toronto Book Award will be announced at a ceremony on Oct. 17 at the Toronto Reference Library.

The Toronto Book Awards’ splits $15,000 among the authors. The finalists will receive $1,000 each, with the winner receiving the remaining $11,000.

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