Eight outstanding books and their authors will be celebrated on Oct. 27 when York University once again hosts the the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards.
The awards, which recognize and reward the finest Canadian Jewish writing, are celebrating their fifth year of recognizing outstanding literary achievements.
Winners have been announced in eight categories, including: fiction, memoir, biography, history, scholarship, Holocaust literature, Yiddish, and books for children and youth.
The awards ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building, Keele Campus. All are welcome and admission is free. Authors will read from their works and a reception will follow with a meet-the-author and book signing event. The award-winning books will be available for purchase.
Award winners 2019
Jennifer Robson for The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding (HarperCollins)
This is an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the 20th century – Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown – and the embroiderers who made it. Told through the eyes of three women, one of them a Holocaust survivor, The Gown is a story of rebuilding friendship and family after the devastation of the Holocaust.
Ayelet Tsabari for The Art of Leaving (HarperCollins)
An intimate collection of essays, the book documents Tsabari’s travels around the world as she searches for her identity. As an Israeli of Yemeni descent in a country sometimes seen as devaluing her cultural traditions, Tsabari searches for a sense of belonging as she drifts from Thailand to India to Vancouver and Toronto before she rediscovers her heritage and embraces her family history.
Alexandra Popoff for Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century (Yale University Press)
A well-researched book that introduces, or reintroduces, readers to a significant writer whose stand against totalitarian ideology has taken on new relevance and urgency. Grossman’s epic novel, Life and Fate, was the first Soviet work to equate Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, pairing Stalinist anti-Semitism with Hitler’s campaign to annihilate the Jews. Popoff grippingly captures the stories behind Grossman’s stories, particularly of censors’ efforts to alter and limit them.
Matti Friedman for Spies of No Country: Behind Enemy Lines at the Birth of the Israeli Secret Service (Signal/McClelland & Stewart)
Canadian-Israeli journalist Matti Friedman introduces us to four unknown young Mizrahi Jews who became the nucleus of Israel’s nascent intelligence service. The tiny, amateur unit known as the “Arab Section” consisted of Jews from Arab countries who could pass as Arabs, thus allowing them to go undercover to gather intelligence, carry out sabotage and commit assassinations. More than a spy story, it sheds light on the complex nature of Israel – a country that many see as European, but where more than half of the population has Middle Eastern and North African roots and relates more to its Middle Eastern neighbours.
Anne Dublin for A Cage Without Bars (Second Story Press)
Dublin tells the story of Joseph and his younger sister Gracia who, along with hundreds of Jewish children, are abducted and sold into slavery in 1493 after the expulsion from Spain. They are shipped to the island of São Tomé, off the west coast of Africa, where they are forced to work on a sugar plantation under brutal conditions. Dublin recounts the horrors faced by these children in a way that is appropriate for her audience of young readers. This coming-of-age tale, filled with adventure, captures a little-known moment in Jewish history and fills a gap in historical fiction for young adults.
Chava Rosenfarb for Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays (McGill-Queen’s University Press)
Rosenfarb is one of the most celebrated Yiddish novelists who survived the Holocaust and settled in Montreal. Newly translated by her daughter, Goldie Morgentaler, these 13 essays offer personal accounts of a childhood imbued with Yiddish. They chronicle her experiences before and during the Holocaust as she strives to preserve the Yiddish literary canon from destruction by the Nazis. Later essays showcase the vibrancy of the post-Holocaust Yiddish literary milieu in Montreal. This collection marks the first time that Rosenfarb’s non-fiction essays have been presented together in English.
Michael Kater for Culture in Nazi Germany (Yale University Press)
This book, by a distinguished research professor emeritus of history at York University, examines the fate of the arts under Nazi rule. Modernism in music, expressionism in film, and the Bauhaus in architecture were all manifestations of the arts and culture of Germany’s Weimar Republic before the Nazis came to power. For the Nazis, the arts were only useful as political propaganda. They attacked the artistic movements that they felt were dominated by the Jews and leftist groups. Kater’s book examines how cultural life, including architecture, journalism, film, music, opera, theatre and the visual arts, became the means to control the minds of the people and the fate of the Jewish artists caught up in the social madness.
Leonard and Edith Ehrlich, Carl S. Ehrlich, editor, for Choices Under Duress of the Holocaust: Benjamin Murmelstein and the Fate of Viennese Jewry Volume I: Vienna (Texas Tech University Press)
A culmination of more than three decades of research by Leonard and Edith Ehrlich, and edited by their son, Carl S. Ehrlich, director of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, it chronicles the harrowing decisions Jewish communal leaders in Austria were forced to make while under Nazi occupation. It examines the decision-making process from both a historical and a philosophical perspective and investigates the actions of the controversial Rabbi Benjamin Murmelstein, who was leader of the Jewish community of Vienna between 1938 and 1942, and later Judenältester (Chief Jewish Elder) of Theresienstadt concentration camp-ghetto.
The Canadian Jewish Literary Awards are hosted and sponsored by the Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University.
The Canadian Jewish Literary Awards jury for 2019:
- Edward Trapunski – Chair, author of three books and winner of an ACTRA award as best writer;
- Rona Arato – award-winning children’s book author and author of 15 books;
- Alain Goldschläger – director of the Holocaust Literature Research Institute, professor of French at Western University, and former Chair of the National Task Force for Holocaust Education, Remembrance & Research;
- Sara Horowitz – professor of comparative literature and Jewish studies at York University, former director of the Golda & lsrael Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies and former president of the Association for Jewish Studies;
- Andrea Knight – editor and former co-publisher of the New Jewish Press, the publishing program of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto, and former managing editor of the Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs; and
- Michael Posner – award-winning author and playwright and former reporter for the Globe and Mail
To register for the awards ceremony, visit eventbrite.ca/e/canadian-jewish-literary-awards-2019-tickets-72744527841. For more information, visit cjlawards.ca.