Sarah Polley wins 2022 Toronto Book Award

2022 Toronto Book Award winner Sarah Polley displays her trophy and winning book, Run Towards the Danger
2022 Toronto Book Award winner Sarah Polley displays her trophy and winning book, Run Towards the Danger

Sarah Polley has been awarded the 2022 Toronto Book Award for her memoir Run Towards the Danger, published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Random House Canada. The announcement was made at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon November 16, presented in conjunction with program partner, Toronto Public Library (TPL). The evening was hosted by CBC Radio’s Ismaila Alfa (Metro Morning).

The 2022 Toronto Book Awards volunteer jury described Polley’s novel as, “a brave, intelligent and sometimes funny book of essays.” It is a collection of autobiographical stories from the Toronto-based, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, director and actor who delves into her past to illuminate powerful truths about post-traumatic memory, our relationship to the body and how we tell our stories.

Run Towards the Danger was chosen from a list of finalists that also included:

This is the 48th year of the Toronto Book Awards. The annual awards offer $15,000 in total prize money. Each shortlisted finalist received $1,000, with $10,000 awarded to the winner. The 2022 Toronto Book Awards jury comprised author Ann Y.K. Choi (whose novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, was shortlisted for this prize in 2016), retired TPL librarian Margaret Henry, poet Khashayar “Kess” Mohammadi, author Phillip Dwight Morgan and Indigenous educator Brenda Wastasecoot.

This year, the Toronto Book Awards received 73 submissions. The jury noted the high quality of work and was delighted to have been able to include non-fiction, fiction, a play and essays on the shortlist.

Access the finalist books through the Toronto Public Library.

Congratulations to all this year’s finalists.

Book jacket, The Relatives by Camilla GibbThe Relatives is a beautifully-written exploration of family, loss, and love told through the interconnected lives of Tess, Emily, Lila, Adam, and Sofie. Their lives, much like their inner worlds, bristle with conflict, tragedy, and incertitude. Through their stories, Gibb invites readers into intimate places of her characters’ lives as they move through memories, across continents, and grapple with the vulnerability that belies their interdependence. With The Relatives, Gibb offers readers a novel that troubles their sense of obligation and stretches conceptions of the modern family—it is dark, tender, elegant, and full of surprises.

Book jacket, Two Indians by Falen JohnsonTwo Indians is about love, courage, and reclamation. Win leaves the rez to find her cousin Roe in Toronto. With the promise of the best view of the full moon, she lures her to a back alley, where they talk about the most difficult time of their lives. A family tragedy is uncovered, and Roe comes clean. Falen Johnson shows how Indigenous families have survived everything–residential schools, the sixties scoop, the current scoop of children–by supporting each other through it. Two Indians tells the stories of addiction and recovery, loss and reclamation, with humor and love. As the moon rises over the city, Win and Roe rise up to meet the challenges awaiting them back home. This book is a must read for students everywhere!

Book jacket, Wrong Side of the Court by H.N. KhanIn H.N. Khan’s debut novel, Wrong Side of the Court, fifteen-year-old Fawad Chaudry fantasizes about being the world’s first Pakistani NBA player. But he’s got a lot stacked against him, including family expectations, financial hardships, and gang violence. Set in Regent Park and nearby neighbourhoods, Khan skillfully spotlights Toronto’s diverse peoples, history and cultures, as integral to the story’s unfolding. From the delicious parathas that Fawad indulges in, to the play-by-play action on the basketball court, Khan engages us with a vivid writing style and a tenacious protagonist. A gritty and honest coming-of-age story, Wrong Side of the Court ultimately transports readers into the lives of Khan’s characters, shedding valuable insight into the life and challenges of a modern youth living in Toronto.

Book jacket, Run Towards the Danger by Sarah PolleyIn a brave, intelligent and sometimes funny book of essays, Toronto director, screenwriter and actor, Sarah Polley reflects on times in her life when she faced physical or psychological danger. She remembers how she felt and acted at the time and how “the power of my adult life informs the relationship to my memories.” After struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, Polley was advised by a specialist to engage her fears and run towards the danger. She does so with riveting clarity in this fine memoir, proving that she is as fierce as she is technical, as vulnerable as she is malleable, as strong as she is critical.

Book jacket, The Underground Railroad, Next Stop Toronto! by Adrienne Shadd, Afua Cooper, Karolyn Smardz FrostBefore and during the American Civil War, 30,000 to 40,000 freedom seekers from the United States escaped slavery and came to Canada. Three distinguished scholars of Black history tell that powerful story in this concise, readable and well-illustrated book, in a way that is accessible for students and general readers of many ages. The detailed social and political history is brought to life in dozens of remarkable profiles of the women, men and families who made that dangerous journey. We learn how they escaped, the terrible choices they often made to leave spouses and children behind, the jobs they found, the businesses they built and the ways they contributed to their new home. Originally published in 2002, this new edition retains the appealing format of the original but has been thoroughly revised and updated with much new information including a chapter on the archaeology of Toronto’s African Canadian past. The Underground Railroad enriches our understanding of the history of Toronto.

Other titles longlisted this year included:

Home of the Floating Lily by Silmy Abdullah (Dundurn Press)

Outdoor School (edited by) Diane Borsato and Amish Morrell (Douglas & McIntyre)

Work for a Million by Amanda Deibert and Selena Goulding (McClelland & Stewart)

My City Speaks by Darren Lebeuf, Ashley Barron (Kids Can Press)

Massey Hall by David McPherson (Dundurn Press)

My Face in the Light by Martha Schabas (Knopf Canada)

Fight Night by Miriam Toews (Vintage Canada)

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangozom Lama (McClelland & Stewart)