This week’s edition of our summer reading series brings you three incredible stories of men and women facing unexpected, shocking and painful adversity.
We’ve grouped these under a theme of “Wrongfully Imprisoned” because, well, two of the stories involve innocent Canadians finding themselves in a faraway jail cell (one, an artist, in Cairo; the other, a fisherman, in Spain), while the third is about a woman who found herself battling another sort of imprisonment–of painful immobility–when she shattered her leg during CrossFit.
All of these stories won Gold Medals at the 2015 National Magazine Awards.
“My friend, we’ve got real problems here,” yelled Fletcher at Berkey as the men on the boats started shooting.
Synopsis: On a choppy winter morning off the coast of Spain, a retired Canadian coast guard vessel, en route to its new private owner, is assaulted by gunfire from a pair of motorized inflatable boats. The word “pirates” is uttered, but as the assailants board the vessel it soon becomes clear that they are Spanish police, the vanguard of a multinational investigation into maritime drug smuggling. The ship’s first mate, a former scallop fisherman from Digby, N.S., named Philip Halliday, is unwittingly caught up in the affair, implicated in the smuggling of 1.5 tons of cocaine, and spends the next four years as an innocent man in a Spanish prison, desperately seeking justice.
National Magazine Award winner Noah Richler takes readers inside the incredible story of the man, the boat and the unfathomable international caper, with illustrations by up-and-coming Toronto artist Min Gyo Chung. Read the story.
A Spanish prisoner taught him how to write the tickets to acquire what he needed from the prison store. Another helped him make his first call home, and after that he made a point of keeping some paper in his pocket to jot down anything he might want to tell the family. “I have to try Not to cry around all these Men. Some o them have Ben here a long time,” he wrote in the first of scores of letters home.
Bonus read: The silver medallist in One of a Kind, Michel Arsenault’s story “Un bateau pour l’enfer” (L’actualité), which follows the dangerous maritime migration of African refugees from Libya to Italy and asks what role Canada should play.
To an outsider, a CrossFit workout can look nuts. Participants heave 60-pound kettlebells high over their heads in repetitions of 50.
Synopsis: Looking to embrace a new fitness regime that was both trendy and extreme, the author and her partner took up CrossFit, a gym-based gauntlet of heaving, lifting, running, slamming, hoisting, launching, clean-and-jerking…, until one winter morning she landed from a routine box jump and heard and felt her leg shatter; “like the sound of gunfire.”
During her long recovery and rehab, National Magazine Award winner and THIS Magazine editor Lauren McKeon began to investigate more closely the far side of the CrossFit world, charting its origins, talking to its gurus and critics, examining what medical science has to say about such extreme exercise, putting the fitness fad under painful scrutiny while reflecting on her own regret, or lack thereof, at taking up CrossFit. Read the story.
The doctor told me I’d need three months of physical therapy just to relearn how to walk. Trying to digest this news on the way home from the hospital, I confessed out loud to Andrew for the first time: “You know, I knew something bad was going to happen.” And then in a whisper: “But I jumped anyway.”
Bonus read: The silver medallist in Personal Journalism is “Lost in the Barrens” (The Walrus) by the late, iconic Canadian writer Farley Mowat, who won his first National Magazine Award posthumously for a memoir of his travels in England in the 1960s.
“The whole time I was thinking, ‘We’ll be out in 24 hours.’ Oh, were we ever wrong.”
Synopsis: Two summers ago, Toronto artist, filmmaker and LGBTQ activist John Greyson travelled to Cairo to document the journey of a Palestinian-Canadian doctor, Tarek Loubani, who was headed for Gaza to deliver innovative technical supplies to a hospital. An unlucky combination of timing and Egyptian political unrest landed the two of them in prison, without charge, on suspicion of international terrorism. For 50 days, the two Canadians endured a harrowing ordeal that would have broken their spirits were it not for their steadfast belief in justice and the camaraderie of their fellow inmates, while back home their family and friends rallied international support for their release.
National Magazine Award winner Jason McBride draws an intimate, well-rounded literary portrait of the man and his mission, with photography by NMA winner Nigel Dickson. Read the story.
Greyson’s fellow inmates weren’t criminals, but construction workers, blacksmiths, professors and students, all rounded up at the protest and many in jail for the first time. Though some were grandfathers, he was the oldest person in the cell. They were, as Greyson recounts, unfailingly kind. Right after Greyson was beaten and couldn’t sit up, one man, whom he nicknamed Kettle after he somehow manufactured a crude teakettle out of a couple of nails and bottle caps and some wire, cradled Greyson’s head in his lap.
Bonus read: The Silver Medallist in Profiles is “The Long Journey of Nathan Phelps” (Marcello Di Cintio, Swerve), a portrait of the son of the controversial pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church who made a new life in Calgary.
Did you know? You can download and read all of the National Magazine Awards finalists and winners for FREE in our online archive, at magazine-awards.com/archive.
Stay tuned for another Summer Magazine Reading Series edition next Thursday. Click here for previous summer reading editions.