For the second year, York University’s Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies will host the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, taking place Oct. 30 at 2pm in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building.
Eight outstanding books have been selected to receive Canadian Jewish Literary Awards for 2016 and will be honoured during the gala awards ceremony.
Chosen from 60 submitted works on Jewish themes by Canadian writers, winners have been declared for fiction, memoir/biography, history, scholarship, Jewish thought and culture, Holocaust literature, Yiddish, and children and youth fiction.
“The depth and breadth of the submissions shows the vibrancy of the culture and the appeal of Jewish themes for fiction and non-fiction writers, both Jewish and non-Jewish,” said Edward Trapunski, chair of the jury.
The winning authors will be present to speak and to autograph books. All are invited and admission is free.
The Mystics of Mile End (Freehand Press), a first novel by former Montrealer Sigal Samuel, captures the spirit of the duality of one of the world’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. At once an exploration of Kabbalah, queer culture and physics, the book is a family saga that grapples with the tensions between science and faith. To discover a new writer with so much talent and potential is a singular thrill.
When she was 19, cultural historian, poet and biographer Agata Tuszynska discovered she was Jewish. In A Family History of Fear (Knopf), she comes to terms with her Jewish identity, explores her family roots and considers the often-troubled relationship between the Jews and Poles that forced her family to keep its roots secret. Tuszynska lives in Warsaw, Paris and Toronto. The book has been acclaimed in Polish and French, and has just been published in Canada in English.
Howard Akler’s memoir, Men of Action (Coach House Press), is a small, powerful gem of a book that chronicles the death of his father. Written much like a diary, the book shifts backward and forward in time as Akler processes his father’s life, his strengths and weaknesses, and their sometimes fractious relationship. With his father in a coma after brain surgery, he also navigates the uncertain terrain of consciousness and identity.
Children and Youth Fiction
With 44 Hours or Strike! (Second Story Press), Anne Dublin creates a sharp portrait of the interior lives of two Jewish sisters who find themselves on a picket line during the failed Toronto Dressmakers’ Strike of 1931. The book illuminates the lives of the young women and their widowed mother struggling to survive as an immigrant family during a time of anti-Semitism during the Great Depression.
Canadian historian Michael Marrus has been studying the Holocaust for more than 30 years. With Lessons of the Holocaust (University of Toronto), Marrus examines what, if anything, we can take away from the singular catastrophe of the 20th century that would provide a measure of perspective. Can we really learn anything from horror and brutality? This book wins in the History category because it defines the role of the Holocaust in the historical process.
Vilna, My Vilna: Stories by Abraham Karpinowitz, (Syracuse University Press), a translation from Yiddish by Vancouver translator Helen Mintz, is a portrait of the Jerusalem of Lithuania. The stories of fishwives, cobblers, criminals and roustabouts preserves the particular language of Vilna’s working-class Jews. In this deft depiction of a now-vanished world, Mintz gracefully maintains the colourful idiomatic Yiddish for Englishlanguage readers.
Jewish Thought and Culture
H.G. Adler: Life, Literature, Legacy (Northwestern University Press), edited by Julia Creet, Sara R. Horowitz and Amira Bojadzija-Dan, is the first collection of essays in English dedicated to the life and work of German-language author H. G. Adler. The essays examine Adler’s writing in relation to his life, especially his memory as a survivor of the Nazi death camps. Historian Simon Schama says that Adler’s work deserves a place beside other 20th century witnesses of the concentration camps such as Primo Levi. This is not only the first collection of essays in English dedicated to Adler’s life and work, it is an important volume that will be a standard reference in many fields for years to come.
In Calypso Jews: Jewishness in the Caribbean Literary Imagination (Columbia University Press), Carleton University scholar Sarah Phillips Casteel explores a relatively unexplored territory – the not-accidental presence of Jewishness in Caribbean writing. Jews have been living and thriving in the Caribbean since the expulsion from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and it remained a sanctuary through the Holocaust. Many Judaic ideas and values have been absorbed into the islands’ culture and put to use in works of fiction, poetry and art. Casteel’s remarkable work of scholarship has finally brought much of this fascinating story of cultural penetration to light.
About the awards
The Canadian Jewish Literary Awards was founded by a group of prominent writers, editors and scholars to celebrate the vibrancy of Jewish literature and culture in Canada. The awards are hosted and sponsored by the Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, with the co-sponsorship of a consortium of other programs, including Western University’s Holocaust Literature Research Institute, the Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies, the journal Parchment in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University, McGill’s Department of Jewish Studies, and the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.
Organizers of the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards would like to express gratitude for the support of The Gerald Sheff & Sanitha Kachan Charitable Foundation, the lead benefactor for the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, and to the major donors. They thank all the members of the community who have contributed to the sustenance of Jewish literature and thought in Canada.