Tessa McWatt, a Guyana-born Canadian writer, is one of this year’s finalists for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
The Writers Trust of Canada last week announced the five finalists.for 2020. They are Lorna Crozier (Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats)), Steven Heighton (Reaching Mithymma: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Levos), Jessica J. Lee (Two Trees Make a Forest: Travels Among Taiwan ‘s Mountains & Coasts in Search of My Family’s Past), Tessa McWatt (Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging) and David A. Neel (The Way Home).
The jury citation states that McWatt ” masterfully explores the intersections of race, belonging, and body in Shame on Me. Through broad research and powerful storytelling, she travels through space and time to unravel false colonial narratives and reconstruct the stories of her grandmothers.
“She begins by transporting her global heritage of slavery, colonization, and economic migration to an all-white classroom in Toronto, where a mindless teacher demands: ‘What are you?’ That cruel question is at the heart of McWatt’s intelligent and provocative debunking of the economic and social roots of racism.
“Beautifully written and courageously told, McWatt’s memoir stitches together the fractured pasts of her ancestors with her own sense of displacement to create both a fuller understanding of herself and a path forward.”
McWatt, a professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia in England, was born in Georgetown, Guyana, and moved to Canada with her family when she was three years old. She studied English literature at Queens University and then earned her MA at the University of Toronto.
She is the author of six novels and two books for young people. Her fiction has been nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award, a City of Toronto Book Award, and the OCM Bocas Prize. .
The Trust says with the discontinuation of the RBC Taylor Prize, along with the postponement of this year’s Governor General’s Literary Awards, the Trust’s prize is the only national award recognizing Canadian writers who published literary non-fiction in 2020.
In all, 107 titles were submitted by 65 publishers for contention.
Finalists are given $5,000 with the eventual winner getting $60,000, which the trust says is the richest annual literary award for a book of non-fiction by a Canadian writer.
The winner will be announced on November 18.