Since 1985, the Ottawa Book Awards have recognized the top English and French books published in the previous year. Both languages have categories for fiction and non-fiction. All shortlisted finalists receive $1,000 and each winner receives a prize of $7,500.
Celebrate the talent and creativity of our authors past and present, and applaud their remarkable achievements on the world’s literary stage.
Announcement of 2020 finalists
The 2020 Ottawa Book Awards Finalists were announced on September 15, 2020. Please see below for their descriptions!
Winners of the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards were revealed during a virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at 6:00 p.m. To watch a recording of the event, please visit Ottawa Public Librairy's Facebook page!
Additionally, the following awards were presented at the ceremony:
The title poem of this collection takes us on an epic journey across past and present historical events and through spaces defined by the natural sciences, as it explores the challenges of being human in these troubled times. It is accompanied by a gathering of shorter poems that confront the dark forces in our world as they struggle for the light at the end of the tunnel. In stark imagery, these poems turn words into music to celebrate the anguish and the glory of being alive.
Henry Beissel is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, translator and editor, with 44 books published. Among his 22 collections of poetry are his epic Seasons of Blood and the lyrical Stones to Harvest as well as his celebration of Canada in Cantos North and the 364 haiku in What if Zen Gardens …, a finalist for the 2018 Ottawa Book Awards. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Arlette Francière, the literary translator and artist.
Jury Statement for Footprints of Dark Energy: Part Idyll, part love song and mostly about man in nature, Henry Beissel’s Footprints of Dark Energy approaches the sublime in its epic treatment of its subjects. The meditative undertones of the shorter poems coalesce into the epigrammatic wit of the long title poem, and all are bolstered by the narration’s majestic sweep.
Loosely inspired by Ken Carter’s attempt to jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car during the 1970s, Bad Ideas paints an indelible portrait of people on the forgotten fringes of life. Witty and wise, it examines both the motivations for our questionable decisions — hubris, recklessness, desperation, blind optimism — and their consequences.
Missy Marston’s first novel, The Love Monster, was the winner of the 2013 Ottawa Book Award, a finalist for the CBC Bookie Awards, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, and grew up outside of Iroquois, Ontario, down the road from Ken Carter’s ill-fated takeoff ramp.
Tanvi isn’t the girl of Misha’s dreams; she’s the girl from his nightmares. She has appeared in his chilling, prophetic dreams before he even meets her; when he does meet her, he falls for her. Their relationship turns stormy, bordering on abusive, and takes a dramatic turn when they are held captive by a group hoping to extract money from Tanvi’s wealthy family.
Cara Martin is a pseudonym for C.K. Kelly Martin, the author of several acclaimed novels for young people. A graduate of the Film Studies program at York University, Martin has worked many quirky jobs at multiple pubs and video stores, an electricity company, a division of the Irish post office, a London toy-shop, and an advertising analytics company. Martin currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario.
Since coming home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, Hazel Ellis has been dreaming of an old crow. He tells her he’s here to help her, save her. From what, exactly? Sure, her dad’s been dead for almost two years and she hasn’t quite reconciled that grief, but is that worth the time of an Algonquin demigod?
Karen McBride is an Algonquin Anishinaabe writer from the Timiskaming First Nation in the territory that is now Quebec. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in music and English, a Bachelor of Education from the University of Ottawa and a Master of Arts in creative writing from the University of Toronto.
“You should’ve been born a boy,” Samira whispers to Adele shortly after her entrance into the world. As she grows, Adele learns there are certain rules Lebanese girls must follow in order to be good daughters. But Adele dreams of being an artist. Can she defy her domineering father? Will this unravel the binding threads of this close-knit Lebanese family? Crisscrossing between Ottawa, Toronto, and Lebanon, The Allspice Bath is a bold story about the cultural gap and the immigrant experience.
Sonia Saikaley was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada to a large Lebanese family. The daughter of a shopkeeper, she had access to all the treats she wanted. Her first book, The Lebanese Dishwasher, co-won the 2012 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest. Her first collection of poetry, Turkish Delight, Montreal Winter, was published in 2012 and a second collection, A Samurai’s Pink House, was published in 2017 by Inanna Publications. She lives in her hometown of Ottawa.
English non-fiction category
Awarded for outstanding published works of non-fiction including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays.
Jury members: Deborah Gorham, Alan Morantz, Timothy Stanley
Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin offers an intimate and revealing look at her life, from her childhood in the Alberta foothills to her career on the Supreme Court, where she helped to shape the social and moral fabric of the country.
Beverley McLachlin is a former Chief Justice of Canada, the first woman to hold that position. Her first novel, Full Disclosure, was an instant national bestseller. Visit her at BeverleyMcLachlin.com.
Jury Statement for Truth be Told: McLachlin was the first woman to be named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. This engaging memoir is wide-ranging and, at the same time, intimate. McLachlin has much to say about women and the law and about feminism’s successes and remaining challenges.
Pierre-Esprit Radisson was “an eager hustler with no known scruples.” His venture as an Artic fur trader led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Sourced from Radisson’s journals, which are the best first-hand accounts of 17th century Canada, Bush Runner tells the story of this protean figure—and offers a fresh perspective on the world in which he lived.
Mark Bourrie is a historian, journalist, and student-at-law. He is the author of The Fog of War: Censorship of Canada’s Media in World War II, Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know, and The Killing Game: Martyrdom, Murder and the Lure of Isis.
On an island paradise in 1943, Sir Harry Oakes, gold mining tycoon, philanthropist and "richest man in the Empire," was murdered. The news of his death surged across the English-speaking world, from London, the Imperial centre, to the remote Canadian mining town of Kirkland Lake, in the Northern Ontario bush. The murder became celebrated as "the crime of the century.”
Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s best-known writers and the author of ten acclaimed books of literary non-fiction. An adjunct research professor in the department of history at Carleton University, Gray is the recipient of the Pierre Berton Award, is a Member of the Order of Canada, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Jetté Knox was unprepared when the child she knew as her son came out as transgender. Knowing how important it was to support her daughter, Knox became an advocate for trans rights. A year later, her partner also came out as transgender. She found no positive examples of marriages surviving transition, so she determined that her family would become one.
Amanda Jetté Knox is an award-winning writer, human rights advocate, and public speaker. She has been named a 2019 Chatelaine Woman of the Year. Her work has been featured on CBC, The Globe and Mail, Ottawa Family Living, and various other national and international publications, podcasts, and media outlets.
Un-Canadian: Islamophobia in the True North is a provocative warning to Canadians that the values they cherish are being eroded through a disturbing pattern of political, legal and social prejudice against Muslims.
Graeme Truelove authored the critically acclaimed biography Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics (New Star Books, 2013), which was shortlisted for a 2014 BC Book Prize and was also a BC Bookworld Bestseller. He has worked on Parliament Hill since 2001. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and daughter.
French fiction category
Awarded for outstanding published works of fiction including novels, short stories, children’s literature and poetry.
Jury members: Michelle Deshaies, David Ménard, Blaise Ndala
In Premier quart, the poet revisits the North, where she was born, through travels and memories. Throughout her journey, she attempts to understand the dramas and realities at work in the harsh Northern climate. She will therefore be brought back to her own struggles, solitude, sadness, anguish and the winter that prompts introspection. Nature and writing will help her enshrine her quest in an extensive family and literary heritage.
Originally from Northern Ontario, Véronique Sylvain lives in Ottawa, where she completed a master's degree on the representation of the North in Franco-Ontarian poetry. Her poems were released in À ciel ouvert and Ancrages magazines, in addition to the collective series Poèmes de la résistance (Prise de parole, 2019). Véronique is dedicated to various artistic projects, including songwriting, and is in charge of business development and communications at Éditions David.
Jury Statement for Premier Quart:Premier quart is a calm and peaceful long poem that skims the Northern Ontario cold weather to reinvent the Franco-Ontarian and contemporary female identity. The intensity and sweetness of the free verse in this collection capture and envelop us, taking us on a journey of ebbs and flows between the North's past and its present oriented toward an uncertain future, and between the northern landscapes and those of the city, where the narrator floats in the waves to the soul of the rural exodus. The North is inseparable from her and spreads like a magnificent healing and consoling balm on what is no longer, on the fragility of what is and on the troubled and complex relationship of a young adult to the French language.
Sam, a life-beaten young man from an Ottawa working-class neighbourhood, shares his thoughts with a court-appointed psychiatrist to determine whether he was mentally ill at the time of the murder he is accused of committing. During his revelations, a second and then a third body are discovered. Between fabulation and truth, the reader follows this Kafkaesque tale with interest.
Jean Boisjoli was a professor, a CBC and SRC journalist, and then a lawyer. He published three collections of poetry and one novel, La mesure du temps, for which he won the 2017 Trillium Award. Moi, Sam. Elle, Janis. is Jean Boisjoli’s fifth book.
In these 27 short stories – whether fresh, brief, gentle or intense – Maurice Henrie moves from the unusual to the familiar, blurring the boundaries of fiction and his own experience and, with his usual inclination for humour and narration, leads us to laugh as much as to reflect.
A novelist, short story writer and essayist of some twenty literary works, award-winning author Maurice Henrie (Trillium Award, Prix des lecteurs Radio-Canada, Prix du livre d’Ottawa, Prix LeDroit, Prix de la Ville d’Ottawa) returns here with the short story genre after the University of Ottawa Press published two collections of his essays.
In this true saga, Jean Fahmy resurrects Chagarett el-Dorr, a fascinating character who will experience an outstanding destiny. This dazzling beauty managed to rise from the status of a slave to become sultana of Egypt and Syria in the 13th century. From the birth of Islam to the present day, she has been the only woman who has ever ruled an Arab-Muslim country.
Born in Cairo (Egypt), Jean Mohsen Fahmy was successively a journalist, teacher and senior public servant. He is the author of three children's stories and six novels. His work has been awarded many literary prizes. La sultane dévoilée is Jean Mohsen Fahmy’s seventh novel.
The poems feature different voices that inhabit the factual and fictional reality of the City of Palmyra. It is an architecture of voices through times: fragile and uncompromising, sometimes impersonal, intimate, psalmodic and imperative; this is the architecture of the archaeologist, the jihadist, the tourist... These writings are testing the disturbing current events of Palmyra, and are relentless, without any specific goal. A dedication that simply tries to ward off violence in spite of everything.
Marc-Alexandre Reinhardt is a writer, researcher and multidisciplinary artist. Since 2016, he has been leading ACTION DIRECTE, a variable membership group experimenting with ways of aesthetically reappropriating public space. He is currently interested in new forms of performativities and sensory ethnography by engaging literature, as an artistic discipline, in an interdisciplinary creative process.
French non-fiction category
Awarded for outstanding published works of non-fiction including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays.
This category was not awarded in 2020.
2021 Program Guidelines
The Ottawa Book Awards recognize published books of literary excellence, written by authors residing in Ottawa. A prize of $7,500 is awarded annually in fiction and non-fiction categories in both French and English. Finalists receive a $1,000 prize.
Eligible entries must be:
published books of literary merit with an ISBN number
a minimum of 48 bound pages (except children’s books)
works of Fiction, including novels, short stories, children’s literature and poetry; or LiteraryNon-fiction,including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays
published in 2020
written in English or French
written by one or two authors. All authors must be 18 years of age or older and reside in the city of Ottawa* or who are Algonquin Anishinabe and live within 150 km radius of Ottawa**
* To meet the residency requirements, authors must live in Ottawa at the time of the award submission deadline and / or book publication, and a minimum of 12 consecutive months up to and including either or both dates. City staff reserves the right to ask for proof of Ottawa residency. Residency is established by a personalCCRA Notice of Assessment (the statement you are sent after filing an annual income tax return) for the previous year, indicating a current residential address in Ottawa.
**Those who do not have a status card must include a letter of acknowledgement from their Band Council.
anthologies and books with works by more than two authors
re-prints or republications of titles originally published at an earlier date
books submitted by City of Ottawa employees and elected representatives
A minimum of 5 eligible entries must be received each year in a given category and language. If this minimum is not reached, submissions will be forwarded to the following year’s competition.
Authors must complete the online submission form and attach all required information.
Four copies of each submitted title must be mailed to our offices. Either the author or publisher may send in an eligible title.
The City of Ottawa uses a peer review process to select the Ottawa Book Award laureates. In each language and category, a three-person jury composed of writers and literary arts professionals reviews the books and selects a short list of up to four finalists and one award recipient.
The criterion for selection is literary excellence. This is determined based on the following literary qualities:
Deadline for submission is Monday, January 4, 2021at 4 pm. All online submissions must be received by the deadline date. Late submissions will not be accepted.
Books must be mailed to:
City of Ottawa
Ottawa Book Awards
Cultural Funding Support Section (26-49)
100 Constellation Drive, 9th Floor West
Ottawa, ON K2G 6J8
Please note that books will not be returned.
Announcement of Finalists and Winners
A short-list of finalists will be announced in September 2020.
The names of award winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October 2020.