McLeod up for major prize
September 17th, 2021
B.C. author, Darrel J. McLeod (at right) has been shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for his memoir Peyakow: Reclaiming Cree Dignity (Douglas & McIntyre $29.95).
With a purse of $60,000, this is the richest annual literary award for a nonfiction Canadian book.
“Peyakow is more than a story of overcoming adversity; it is a story of personal and political reclamation that explores the pain of living in a world controlled by agendas and priorities that exploit the people and the land itself,” the jury cited. “Where McLeod finds connection, he also finds obligation. In the end, he discovers that being part of a community is not a passive act. McLeod’s vibrant prose renders the world with tenderness and skill. His profound book is full of love and trouble that you won’t soon forget.”
The 2021 jurors were Kevin Chong, Terese Marie Mailhot and Adam Shoalts.
In Peyakow, McLeod begins with the story of his impoverished youth, beset by constant fears of being dragged down by the self-destruction and deaths of those closest to him as he battles the bullying of white classmates, copes with the trauma of physical and sexual abuse and endures painful separation from his family and culture. With steely determination, he triumphs as an elementary school teacher, principal, head of an Indigenous delegation to the UN in Geneva, executive in the Government of Canada and now a celebrated author. Peyakow—a title borrowed from the Cree word for “one who walks alone”—is an account of triumph against unimaginable odds.
About the Author: Darrel J. McLeod is Cree from Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. Previously, he has worked as an educator, chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government, and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. McLeod’s memoir Mamaskatch (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018) received a Governor General’s Literary Award for nonfiction and was shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize. He currently lives in Sooke, British Columbia.
Another author with close links to B.C. also shortlisted for the prize is Jordan Abel for NISHGA (McClelland & Stewart, $32)
Jury Citation: “NISHGA defies the boundaries and traditions of memoir to achieve something singular and necessary. Instead of striving to process information for the reader, Abel conscripts us into his endeavor by making central what is usually kept behind the curtain: research, found documents, even notes. The result is an active reading experience that conveys the stakes with a power that sticks to the bones. This work fully realizes the complexity of the self and home, and the way atrocity reverberates through generations.”
About the Author: Jordan Abel is a Nisga’a author of the poetry collections The Place of Scraps, Un/inhabited, and Injun. Abel has won the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. His writing has recently been anthologized in The New Concrete, The Next Wave, and Best Canadian Poetry, among others. Abel recently completed a PhD at Simon Fraser University, and is currently working as an assistant professor at the University of Alberta where he teaches Indigenous literatures and creative writing. Originally from Vancouver, he currently lives in Edmonton.