NMA winners among finalists for BC Book Prizes

This week the West Coast Book Society announced the finalists for the annual BC Book Prizes, which celebrate achievement by British Columbia writers in 7 categories. Winners are announced on April 29.

3 of the 5 finalists in the Non-Fiction category are National Magazine Award winners, as well as one of the finalists in Poetry.

Mark Leiren-Young’s The Killer Whale Who Changed the World

Killer whales had always been seen as bloodthirsty sea monsters. That all changed when a young killer whale was captured off the west coast of North America and displayed to the public in 1964. Moby Doll—as the whale became known—was an instant celebrity, drawing twenty thousand visitors on the one and only day he was exhibited. He died within a few months, but his famous gentleness sparked a worldwide crusade that transformed how people understood and appreciated orcas. Because of Moby Doll, we stopped fearing “killers” and grew to love and respect “orcas.”

Mark Leiren-Young is a journalist, filmmaker, and author. The magazine article that grew into this book, “Moby Doll” (The Walrus), was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.


Deborah Campbell’s A Disappearance in Damascus

“Did I find her or did she find me?” writes Deborah Campbell in her new book, A Disappearance in Damascus (Knopf Canada), winner of the Writers’ Trust Award. Her is in reference to Ahlam, Campbell’s ‘fixer’— journalist jargon for a foreign correspondent’s interpreter or guide. An Iraqi mother and humanitarian, Ahlam is of invaluable assistance to Campbell throughout her Middle-East reportage, and when she gets taken by secret agents, the journalist, who has reported from countries including Egypt, Qatar and Russia among others, can’t help but take the blame for her disappearance. Campbell spends months in search of her friend in the perilous city.

Deborah Campbell is the winner of two National Magazine Gold Awards for her articles in The Walrus—The Most Hated Name in News” and “Iran’s Quiet Revolution”— published in 2009 and 2006 respectively. She has written for many publications, including Harper’s, The Guardian and Foreign Policy, and has spent over a decade reporting abroad.


The Marriott Cell, by Mohamed Fahmy, with Carol Shaben

Just over one year ago, Egyptian-born Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was awaiting bail from behind bars of an Egyptian maximum security prison. He, along with two other Al-Jazeera journalists, were sentenced to 7-10 years, accused of reporting false news, after police raided their makeshift studio in the Marriott Hotel in Cairo. According to Human Rights Watch, the trial of Fahmy was a “miscarriage of justice based on zero evidence.” Despite this, the three spent over a year in prison before making bail following a presidential pardon.

Now, finally free and back in Canada, Fahmy is an adjunct professor at UBC, and he’s just published The Marriott Cell (Random House), a book on his harrowing experience in Egypt. The book is a collaboration of efforts by Fahmy and Carol Shaben, a former NMA winner.

Carol Shaben is the winner of two National Magazine Awards for her story, “Fly at Your Own Risk” (The Walrus), about the deficiencies of Canada’s smaller aviation aircrafts and companies. She has written one other book, Into the Abyss, and lives in Vancouver.


In the poetry category, the finalists include:

poemw, by Anne Fleming

In poemw, the third finger of the left hand hits ‘w’ instead of ‘s’ and makes up a new kind of poem, the sort-of poem, the approxi-lyric, the poem that doesn’t want to claim poemness. Poemw are about daily things—graffitti, hair, sea gulls, second-hand clothes—and rarer things—dead crows, baked mice, ski accidents, Judith Butler. They’re jokes-and-not-jokes, cheeky, goofy. Tender.

Anne Fleming has been nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards, winning the award for Fiction in 2002 for her work in The New Quarterly. She has an MFA from UBC and teaches at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna. Her first book, Pool-Hopping and Other Stories, was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the Danuta Gleed Award.


Check out all the finalists for this year’s BC Book Prizes. The winners are announced on April 29.

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