Nino Ricci won’t be reading from his latest award-winning novel when he sets foot on Keele campus Thursday. He’ll be reading from his biography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, recently published by Penguin Canada as part of its Extraordinary Canadians series.
On April 30, the York grad will attend a celebration of his Trudeau book organized by York’s Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian-Canadian Studies. Open to the public, the two-hour event starts at 3:30pm in the Founders Senior Common Room, 305 Founders College.
Ricci is not known for non-fiction but his tangent into biography has already received admiring reviews. He told Maclean’s: “Penguin assumed I’d push the multicultural immigrant aspect of the Trudeau years, but the real interest to me was the coolness.” And, Maclean’s writer Brian Bethune noted in an April 10 piece, “[t]hat concentration on the coolness factor, balanced with Ricci’s own coolness to the man himself and his policies, makes for a particularly apt match of author and subject. And, not incidentally, one of the best volumes in Penguin’s series so far. It’s apparent from the start that Pierre Elliott Trudeau will not be a hagiography.”
Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series features biographies of famous Canadians by prominent Canadian authors. Joseph Boyden writes about Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont; David Adams Richards about Lord Beaverbrook; Mark Kingwell about Glenn Gould; M.G. Vassanji about Mordecai Richler; Rudy Wiebe about Big Bear.
Ricci accepted Penguin’s assignment because: "Extraordinary Canadians seems to me an essential project for a country like ours that is so quick to bury its heroes. I’m excited and honoured to be part of it, and believe it will make a vital contribution to our understanding of our cultural identity."
Right: Nino Ricci (photo by Edward Gajdel)
Born in Leamington, Ont. to parents from the Molise region of Italy, Ricci earned a BA in 1981 from York (see YorkU, Summer ’04 ) and an MA in creative writing from Concordia University and studied at the University of Florence. His first novel, Lives of the Saints, won international acclaim and a host of awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and Britain’s Betty Trask Award. In A Glass House and Where She Has Gone, which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize for Fiction, completed the trilogy, which was made into a television miniseries starring Sophia Loren, Nick Mancuso and Kris Kristofferson.
Testament, Ricci’s fourth novel, explored the life of Jesus. Co-winner of the Trillium Book Award, it was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Canada and the Caribbean and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His most recent novel, The Origin of Species: A Novel, won the 2008 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction.
Established in 1984 with an endowment from the Mariano Anthony Elia Charitable Foundation and matching funds from the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, the Elia Chair aims to promote knowledge of the Italian-Canadian experience and its contribution to the development of Canada through teaching, research and publication, public forums, conferences and community outreach.