What the judges said about the 2012 shortlist:
Dave Bidini - Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972
(McClelland & Stewart)
What do you do if you are writing a biography and your subject won't participate? When the famously private Lightfoot refused to speak to him, author/musician Bidini forged ahead, creating a book less about the iconic musician and more about the week leading up to the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival on Centre Island (attended that year by Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell). Writing Gordon Lightfoot provides a glimpse of Toronto that week within the context of all that was going on in the rest of the world, including a total eclipse of the sun, the Fischer/Spassky chess match, the building of the '72 Canadian hockey team, and a jailbreak from Millhaven. Bidini's interspersed "letters to Gord" speculate about what was happening in Lightfoot's life from the perspective of a fellow musician ‑ and an obvious fan. Unique, fresh, and funny, Writing Gordon Lightfoot is a cross-section of one week in the '70s of Lightfoot's life and of life in Toronto.
Andrew J. Borkowski - Copernicus Avenue
(Cormorant Books Inc.)
Copernicus Avenue is Toronto's Roncesvalles Avenue reimagined. Borkowski writes what he knows and so brings us deep into the heart of Toronto's diverse and storied Polish community. Copernicus Avenue speaks with a voice that rings true across the generations; to those forced to leave a life behind, to those who live under the shadow of the past, and those unsure of their place in the future. The clarity and economy of Borkowski's language conjures every familiar smell and streetscape in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. This collection of subtly interwoven short stories reaches into the soul of all who have struggled through adversity and continued to persevere.
Farzana Doctor - Six Metres of Pavement
Farzana Doctor's poignant Six Metres of Pavement brings together three very different Torontonians ‑ a recently widowed woman struggling to come to terms with her new identity; a young queer activist thrown out by her parents; and a man whose tragic mistake years ago cost him just about everything ‑ and unites them in their loneliness. In the complex weaving of their journeys, Doctor skillfully captures an essential quality of contemporary Toronto: a city of geographic, cultural, and emotional communities in constant flux. But it is in these spaces between ‑ some perhaps just six metres wide ‑ that the characters find renewed hope for love and acceptance.
Michele Landsberg - Writing the Revolution
(Second Story Press)
Michele Landsberg began as a "blue jean rebel." Chafing at the confines of late‑1950s sexism, she found her voice at Chatelaine in the '70s and then spent more than 25 years writing passionate and unapologetically activist columns for the Toronto Star. Writing the Revolution is a fascinating look back at those columns and at Michele's role as the high priestess of Canadian feminism. Her unwavering support for the rights, well‑being, and safety of women and children has served as a powerful force for social change. An inspirational read, Writing the Revolution is also a cautionary tale for those who feel that feminism as a movement need no longer exist.
Suzanne Robertson - Paramita, Little Black
Suzanne Robertson is a surgeon of a poet. In Paramita, Little Black she pulls back concrete and penetrates intersections to expose a poignant emotional geography of Toronto. Presenting the city as both vulnerable backdrop and vibrant organism, she captures a unique visceral reality that lingers far beyond the last poem.