Author says Toronto Book Award acknowledges his work

Rabindranath Maharaj accepts his Toronto Book Award prize at a ceremony on Oct. 13. Photo courtesy City of Toronto. (Maharaj Pic_E)

Last Thursday, when Rabindranath Maharaj won the 37th annual Toronto Book Award, he said he felt great. He admitted it was later, though, that the positive effects really sank in.

“My greatest pleasure was two days afterwards when I opened my laptop and I began to write,” Maharaj said. “It felt good because (the award) was an acknowledgment of my writing.”

Maharaj received the 2011 Toronto Book Award and its $11,000 prize for his novel, “The Amazing Absorbing Boy,” a story about a young Trinidadian immigrant in Toronto. The award ceremony too place at the Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon.

There were 78 submissions in the competition and five finalists. Five volunteer judges, who made up the 2011 Toronto Book Awards committee, selected the winner.

Now Maharaj, the author of four previous novels, has the opportunity to continue his writing with fewer worries on his mind.

“One of the things awards like this do is it kind of removes this anxiety about bills and what not,” he said. “What I intend to do with the money is pay off some of my bills and it will sort of give me more space and a better writing mood.”

“The Amazing Absorbing Boy,” was also awarded the 24th Trillium Book Award.

Karen Tisch, president of the Toronto Arts Council and one of the committee’s judges, agreed that winning the award provides a writers with a sense that their work is appreciated.

“I think sometimes it just makes the somewhat voluntary process of writing more manageable in the sense that they know that there’s an audience out there and is being well received,” Kirsch said. “It can make (the writer) that much more confident, but also sort of inspires them to continue on their path knowing that their work is touching people,” Kirsch said.

Maharaj said the assurance he gets from an award helps keep him productive and maintains a belief in his work.

“(The award) sort of drives you forward,” he said. “It removes some of the doubts that you have in your mind, or that you may have had in your mind, about the state of the industry.”