Toronto Book Awards finalists share stories

Six authors read from their work at the S. Walter Stewart library

Think of it like Toronto’s American Idol, but with books.

On Tuesday, the six finalists for the Toronto Book Awards, which acknowledge authors who write books about the city, took to the stage at S. Walter Stewart library in East York to read excerpts from their work. They’ll find out which one of them wins the coveted $10,000 first-place prize on Oct. 12 at the Toronto Reference Library. Finalists will receive $1,000.

In I Hear She’s A Real Bitch, Jen Agg writes about being a woman in the male- dominated restaurant industry. She owns several restaurants, the most notable being the Black Hoof.  When asked what she’d do with the prize money if she won, she said she’d donate it to Alzheimer’s research in honour of her father.

The next author to read was Catherine Hernandez, who performed an excerpt from her book Scarborough. It was inspired by her own experiences growing up in the eastern part of the city.

“I wanted to write a book that was speaking about my truths… I wanted to commit that to paper,” she said.

Presenting his book In The Black: My Life, B. Denham Jolly read with conviction. He spoke about the struggles he has faced as a black man in Toronto, and his thoughts on society today. His book is biographical and serves as a testament of his life to future generations.

“I wanted to document principles we should all live by…I’ve been fighting all my life,” Jolly said.

Next came James Maskalyk, who read from his book Life on the Ground Floor. It documents his experiences working in an emergency room in Ethiopia. When asked what he’d do with the prize money, he said he’d use it to supplement a teaching award that’s part of a leadership conference he is hosting in Ethiopia in two weeks.

Finally, Jane Farrow and Jennifer Coffey presented their anthology Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer. Coffey read her piece in the book, And The Stars Look Very Different Today, which was about her experiences serving drag queens at Fran’s Restaurant in the 1970s.