2017 Toronto Book Awards
B. Denham Jolly Wins 2017 Toronto Book Award
Businessman and black rights activist B. Denham Jolly is the winner of the 2017 Toronto Book Award for his memoir In the Black: My Life, published by ECW Press.
“We’re really pleased that Mr. Jolly’s book, In the Black: My Life, has been selected as the winner,” said Vickery Bowles, City Librarian. “The book gives voice to a unique kind of Canadian experience that has historically not been heard. Congratulations to Denham Jolly and all the other finalists.”
Jolly’s memoir was chosen from a list of finalists that included:
- I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, a memoir by Jen Agg, published by Doubleday Canada
- Scarborough, a novel by Catherine Hernandez, published by Arsenal Pulp Press
- Life on the Ground Floor, a memoir by James Maskalyk, published by Doubleday Canada
- Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer, a collection of essays edited by Jane Farrow, John Lorinc, et al., published by Coach House Books
The jury citation noted: “Black rights activist and entrepreneur Denham Jolly should be a household name. With humour and colourful anecdotes, In the Black shines a light on many of the hurdles faced by immigrants trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. From politicians to community leaders, no punches are pulled as Jolly recounts the hurdles that littered his path to business, personal and community success. In the Black recounts Jolly’s journey from a happy boyhood in Jamaica to business success in Toronto publishing Contrast and founding FLOW 93.5, Canada’s first Black-owned radio station.”
“Denham Jolly’s autobiography is a quintessentially Canadian success story,” said Councillor Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the City’s Economic Development Committee. “His memoir reveals how the lessons of his childhood in Jamaica enabled him to have an enduring and inspiring influence on Toronto’s business and cultural communities.”
More information on his book is available at ecwpress.com/products/in-the-black.
What the judges said…
Black rights activist and entrepreneur Denham Jolly should be a household name. With humour and colourful anecdotes, In the Black shines a light on many of the hurdles faced by immigrants trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. From politicians to community leaders, no punches are pulled as Jolly recounts the hurdles that littered his path to business, personal, and community success. In the Black recounts Jolly’s journey from a happy boyhood in Jamaica to business success in Toronto publishing Contrast and founding FLOW 93.5, Canada’s first Black-owned radio station.
Jen Agg is one of Toronto’s gutsiest and most innovative restaurateurs, contributing to the city’s growing food culture. She is also, as this fine memoir illustrates, a wonderful writer with a unique voice, who can reveal the Scarborough of her youth in one chapter, and recreate the swift ballet of table service in another. Agg writes candidly about both her successes and failures in business, the unique challenges she faces as a woman in a predominantly male industry, and along the way she reveals her abundant love for her family and Toronto. This book crackles with heart, smarts, passion, and verve.
Rooted from within the worldview and place it portrays, Scarborough is an intimate portrait of a community with all its nuances and desires deftly captured. Through this novel, Hernandez invites us to engage in both the subtle and the sharp, the ordinary and the extraordinary; which, at its best, is what Toronto is all about. Brick by brick, life by life, Scarborough delivers an orchestral impact, one small, beautiful voice at a time.
Full of desperate immediacy and evocative prose, Life on the Ground Floor, gives us a glimpse into a lifetime of pragmatic compassion. Dr. Maskalyk has a gift for distilling a pivotal life moment into almost painful clarity, capturing heartbeats of intermingled triumph and tragedy from a career that spans decades and continents. His journey takes us from Toronto’s St. Michaels Hospital to makeshift theatres in Ethiopia, Sudan and beyond, each step full of deeply human moments and piquant details. Maskalyk conjures something of the all-consuming addiction of the work, and his personal struggle to keep some part of his identity separate from his career. It’s at times an emotionally challenging read, but one well worth finishing.
This is an extraordinary book, and one of the most important collections of writing by Torontonians ever published. Editors John Lorinc, Jane Farrow, Stephanie Chambers, Maureen FitzGerald, Tim McCaskell, Rebecka Sheffield, Tatum Taylor, Rahim Thawer, and Ed Jackson have assembled contributions from members of Toronto’s LGBTQ2S communities, who tell the stories of their lives, often in the face of ostracization, alienation, and abuse. It is impossible to come away from this book without realizing that Toronto is a better city – more human, empathetic, and accepting – because of the people in this book.