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Press Release

Finalists named for BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Canada NewsWire

VANCOUVER, Dec. 8, 2011 /CNW/ -The 2012 shortlist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction was announced today by Keith Mitchell, chair of the BC Achievement Foundation. Founded in 2004, the BC Award is one of the largest non-fiction book prizes in the country.

The finalists for the $40,000 prize are Brian Fawcett for "Human Happiness," Charlotte Gill for "Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe," Andrew Westoll for "The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery," and Joel Yanofsky for "Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism."

"This award is British Columbia's opportunity to highlight the important contribution Canada's best non-fiction makes to our national conversation," said Mitchell. "We thank the jury for its diligence in selecting this outstanding shortlist from the field of 134 books nominated for this year's prize."

The shortlist was chosen by jury members Paul Whitney, who served as City Librarian at Vancouver Public Library until his retirement in 2010; Patricia Graham, the former editor-in-chief of The Vancouver Sun and current Vice President, Digital, for Pacific Newspaper Group; and award-winning author and editor Shari Graydon. The jury will announce the winner of the 2012 prize at a special presentation ceremony in Vancouver in February, 2012.

The finalists are described in the following citations from the jury:

Brian Fawcett
Human Happiness
Brian Fawcett brings the tenderness of a lover and the precision of a surgeon to his examination of his parents and their marriage: Rita, an intelligent, loving, emotionally alive woman trapped in the role of housewife in a loveless marriage, and Hartley, a creative, domineering, highly successful alpha male possessed of a breathtaking emotional deficit.  Fawcett's attempt to understand his parents turns the story of a stereotypical post-war nuclear family into a tale of heartwarming and heartbreaking humanity. His study of the familial domain provides us with a clear-eyed meditation on the nature of happiness; Rita and Hartley's ability to be happy within the confines of their dysfunctional marriage is at times startling, but ultimately teaches us that happiness is to be found at source, and is in the end an uncomplicated matter of will and choice.

Charlotte Gill
Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe 
Charlotte Gill delivers an insider's perspective on the grueling, remote and largely ignored world of that uniquely modern-day "tribe", the tree planter. In the process, she enlivens the boom and bust history of logging and its environmental impact, questioning the ability of conifer plantations to replace complex ecosystems of naturally evolving old growth forests. Gill's astonishingly lucid prose evokes a visceral experience of the frequently wet, often dangerous, yet surprisingly exhilarating hard labour of those working to mitigate the clear-cut collision between human beings and nature. And although by the end of each tightly crafted chapter, you're desperate for your own 2,000-calorie meal, hot shower and insect-free bed, you're compelled to read on. She writes the forest like Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven painted it: bringing it vividly to life in all its mythic grandeur with striking details and evocative analogies, using intelligence, verve and humour to illuminate the dangers that live within, and threaten from without. 

Andrew Westoll
The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery
Primatologist Andrew Westoll traded working in the jungle of the Amazon for a Quebec sanctuary for chimpanzees rescued from an American biomedical research lab. This is the amazing story of those who saved the chimps and work to help them heal from decades of invasive medical testing and abuse. Never dull, Fauna Sanctuary at times resembles "a maximum security prison, a Zen retreat, an old folk's home, and a Montreal deli during the lunchtime rush." The founder and force behind the sanctuary is Gloria Grow and her courage and persistence are central to Westoll's story. But it is the chimps with their individual personalities and resilience who engage the reader just as they captured Westoll's affection and respect during his residency. A deeply moving and occasionally disturbing book, Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary forces us to reconsider our relationship with animals we've exploited for our own ends, especially the apes, who are like us in many ways.

Joel Yanofsky
Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism 
In Bad Animals Joel Yanofsky offers a uniquely skeptical, darkly humorous and original take on autism. Forced to abandon fantasies of one kind of father-son future upon learning of his son's diagnosis, Yanofsky describes himself casting about in a panicky, pessimistic fog, urgently seeking treatments that will permit his beloved Jonah to succeed against dire predictions of a future marked by uncertainty and unfulfilled promise. It's an unflinchingly honest and intimate self and family portrait that paints the author's wife Cynthia (in part through her own italicized interjections), as patient and mature, and the innocently exuberant Joshua as delightful and exasperating by turns. This very personal memoir is immeasurably enriched by Yanofsky's incisive snapshot reviews of other significant books written about children 'on the spectrum', and by the cultural resources - from Dr. Seuss to Shakespeare and the Rolling Stones - that he employs to engage, cajole and connect with his son. Boasting hilarity and insight in equal measure, Bad Animals transcends its genre and speaks poignantly to the challenges inherent in all human relationships.

The British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction is an annual national prize established by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation, an independent foundation endowed by the Province of British Columbia in 2003 to celebrate excellence in the arts, humanities, enterprise, and community service.

For more information on the BC Award and this year's finalists, please call 604-618-6949 or visit

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