Writing a Ukrainian saga at this time

“Diana Stevan (left) tells how the onset of the war waged in Ukraine by Russia coincided with the completion of her Ukrainian family saga and brought her closer to her ancestors.FULL STORY



Ryga Award shortlist

March 23rd, 2021

The five B.C. authors shortlisted for the 2021 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature are:

Jean Barman for On the Cusp of Contact (Harbour Publishing).
A career’s worth of essay reflections on B.C.’s history of contact with Indigenous people.

Emma Hansen for Still: love, loss, and motherhood (Greystone Books).
Profoundly affecting memoir on grief over a stillborn child and coming to terms with the tragedy.

Geoff Mynett for Service on the Skeena: Horace Wrinch, Frontier Physician (Ronsdale Press).
How one man brought medical care to northern B.C. in an examination of the nature of economic justice in B.C.’s evolution as a province and how northern communities especially had to fight for growth and survival.

Benjamin Perrin for Overdose: Heartbreak and Hope in Canada’s Opioid Crisis (Viking Books).
A well-researched and penetrating look at opioid drug addiction, which kills more people in B.C. than the Covid-19 virus.

Maureen Webb for Coding Democracy: How Hackers are Disrupting Power, Surveillance, and Authoritarianism (MIT Press).
A surprising treatise that rehabilitates hackers’ bad reputations, arguing that they can be vital disruptors.

The George Ryga Award is an annual literary prize for a B.C. writer who has achieved an outstanding degree of social awareness in a new book published in the preceding calendar year. The award comes with a $2,500 prize and publicity in BCBookLook and BC BookWorld.

The 2021 winner will be announced on March 31.

Judges for the Ryga Award were author & poet Trevor Carolan, VPL librarian Jane Curry and BCBookWorld publisher Beverly Cramp. The award is sponsored by Yosef Wosk.



Chief Dan George featured on the book jacket of Ryga’s book as well as starring in the play.

George Ryga (pictured at the top right) is considered one of British Columbia’s greatest playwrights.

“More than any other writer,” said theatre director John Juliani, “George Ryga was responsible for first bringing the contemporary age to the Canadian stage.”

Ryga was, as playwright Charles Tidler once put it, “Canadian theatre’s eloquent plea for the defence.”

The turning point for Ryga — and for Canadian drama — was his lyric documentary play about a young First Nations woman named Rita Joe who comes to the city only to die on Skid Row. Commissioned as a work for Canada’s Centennial celebrations, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is easily one of the most moving plays that Canada has ever produced.

With its circular structure and Brechtian use of a singer outside of the action, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, for Ryga, was more than a reflection of a local case of racial prejudice. It was his attempt to express his universal disdain and intolerance for injustice. “This issue is the burning issue of our time,” he said. “It is what the Congo, Bolivia, Vietnam are about. People who are forgotten are not forgetting. To overlook them is a dangerous delusion.”

The play first starred Frances Hyland as Rita Joe; Chief Dan George as her father; Ann Mortifee as the singer; Robert Clothier as the priest; and August Schellenberg as Jaimie Paul. It was directed by George Bloomfield. It premiered on November 23, 1967 at the Vancouver Playhouse.

George Ryga died on November 18, 1987, in Summerland, B.C.

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