Ottawa Book Awards

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About the Ottawa Book Awards

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 2021 finalists

The 2021 Ottawa Book Awards finalists were announced on September 15, 2021. 

Public Service Announcement: City announces 2021 Ottawa Book Awards finalists 

Announcement of 2021 winners

Winners of the 2021 Ottawa Book Awards were revealed during a virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, at 6:00 p.m.  

Additionally, the following awards were presented at the ceremony:

A special thank you to our partner, Ottawa Public Library / Bibliothèque publique d'Ottawa, for hosting the event. 

2022 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 Literary Non-fiction, including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays
  • published in 2021
  • 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 personal CCRA 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.

Ineligible entries

  • translations
  • posthumous nominations
  • anthologies and books with works by more than two authors
  • ghost written books
  • unbound manuscripts
  • works published solely in an electronic format
  • textbooks, catalogues, cookbooks, reference books, academic theses, technical manuals
  • 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.

Submission Procedure

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.

Selection Process

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. 

Assessment Criteria

The criterion for selection is literary excellence. This is determined based on the following literary qualities:

  • Narrative Flow
  • Style/Technique
  • Tone/Voice
  • Perspective/Innovation
  • Ideas/Research
  • Significance

Submission Deadline

Deadline for submission is Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 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

The short-list of finalists will be announced in September 2022.

The names of award winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October 2022.

Application forms and contact information

Contact Information

For more information, or to discuss eligibility, contact Yasmina Proveyer, Cultural Funding Officer, by phone 613-227-3265 or by email at yasmina.proveyerllopiz@ottawa.ca.

For general information and technical support, contact infoculture@ottawa.ca

2021 Finalists and Winners

English fiction category

Awarded for outstanding published works of fiction including novels, short stories, children’s literature and poetry.

Jury members: Ben Ladouceur, Kagiso Lesego Molope, Ian Roy 

*** WINNER *** 

We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite
by Conyer Clayton

(Guernica Editions) 

In her debut collection of poetry, Conyer Clayton hovers in the ether, grasping wildly for a fleeting sense of certitude. Through experiences with addiction and co-dependence, sex and art, nature and death, she grapples for transcendence while exploring what it means to disengage.

Image of Conyer Clayton with book
Conyer Clayton

Conyer Clayton is an Ottawa-based artist and gymnastics coach, originally from Louisville, Kentucky. She is the winner of Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize and the Capilano Review's 2019 Robin Blaser Poetry Contest. Her debut full-length collection of poetry, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions), was published May 2020.

Jury Statement for We Shed of Skin Like Dynamite: We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite is a poetry collection that truly values its reader’s time and ear. Every page brims with the sort of insight and restraint that most debut collections only give brief flickers of. Clayton furnishes poems about loss, pain, autonomy and healing with the little things of life: dirty pans, breakfast grains, “the field / behind - hazy with black butterflies.” In every word and every patch of blank space, Clayton demonstrates a poetic wisdom - that brevity can be expansive, that vulnerability can be power.  

Why Birds Sing 
by Nina Berkhout  
(ECW Press) 

Photo of author Nina Berkhout with the cover of her book, Why Birds Sing.
Photo of author Nina Berkhout with the cover of her book, Why Birds Sing. Photo credit: Hans Berkhout

A charming novel about a disgraced opera singer, her cancer-plagued brother-in-law, a temperamental parrot named Tulip, and a competitive whistling group called the Warblers. 

Nina Berkhout is the author of two previous novels: The Mosaic, which was nominated for the White Pine Award and the Ottawa Book Awards and named an Indigo Best Teen Book, and The Gallery of Lost Species, an Indigo and Kobo Best Book and a Harper’s Bazaar Hottest Breakout Novel.  

Heart Sister 
by Michael F. Stewart 
(Orca Book Publishers) 

Photo of author Michael F. Stewart with the cover of his book, Heart Sister.

After his twin sister, Minnie, dies in an accident, Emmitt struggles to put her back together again, in spirit, by filming a virtual reality movie of all the people his sister helped with her transplanted organs. His hope is that seeing all the good that Minnie’s selfless act has done will help his grieving parents find a way to heal. 

Michael F. Stewart is the Claymore Award winning author of The Boy Who Swallows Flies and many books for young people in various genres, including Ray Vs. the Meaning of Life. He is also a screenwriter and television and video game writer. Michael lives in Ottawa.  

Dark August 
by Katie Tallo 
(HarperCollins Publishers) 

Photo of author Katie Tallo with cover of her book, Dark August.

Augusta Monet is living an aimless life when her great-grandmother dies, leaving her a house and a dog. She returns home to Ottawa and discovers cold case files hidden in a trunk. The files belonged to her police detective mother who died in a car crash. "Gus" digs into the past and uncovers the terrible truth about her mother's death.  

Katie Tallo has been an award-winning screenwriter and director for more than two decades. In 2012, Katie was inspired to begin writing novels. Her mystery/thriller debut, Dark August, is set in the Wellington West neighbourhood where she lives with her husband, Andy.  

English non-fiction category

Awarded for outstanding published works of non-fiction including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays.

Jury members: Rick Boychuk, Charlotte Gray, Sylvie Hill 

*** WINNER *** 

The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook
by Suzanne Evans
(Between the Lines) 

Image of Suzanne Evans with book.

Ethel Mulvany, the only Canadian woman imprisoned by the Japanese in Singapore’s notorious Changi Jail in World War Two, was so determined to survive the horrors of starvation she harnessed her imagination and rallied the women around her to create a cookbook of dream foods – just one of her many feats of resistance chronicled in The Taste of Longing.

Suzanne Evans holds a PhD in religious studies. Her writing, which has appeared in academic and literary journals, newspapers, magazines and books focuses on women and war. After working, studying, and living in China, Indonesia, India and Vietnam, she now lives in Ottawa.

Jury Statement for The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and Her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook:

Suzanne Evans brings a novelist’s eye and an historian’s diligence to the story of Ethel Mulvany, a small-town girl with audacious ambitions and boundless confidence who embarks on a quixotic tour of the Asian Pacific on the brink of WWII. Amid the perils of war, she proves a courageous and clever survivor, enduring imprisonment, starvation and torture during the war, and a creative and resourceful entrepreneur and benefactor in the life she rebuilds for herself in Canada after her liberation. In Suzanne Evans’ hands, Mulvaney’s story becomes moving, inspiring and unforgettable. 

The Fight for History: 75 Years of Forgetting, Remembering, and Remaking Canada`s Second World War 
by Tim Cook 
(Penguin Random House Canada) 

Photo of author Tim Cook with the cover of his cook, The Fight for History: 75 Years of Forgetting, Remembering, and Remaking Canada`s Second World War

The Fight for History is about the efforts to restore a more balanced portrait of Canada's contribution in the global conflict. This is the story of how Canada has talked about the war in the past, how we tried to bury it, and how it was restored.  

Tim Cook is the Great War historian at the Canadian War Museum, as well as an adjunct professor at Carleton University. In 2008 he won the J.W. Dafoe Prize for At the Sharp End and again in 2018 for Vimy. He is a member of the Order of Canada.  

The Last Goldfish: A True Tale of Friendship 
by Anita Lahey 
(Biblioasis) 

Photo of author Anita Lahey with the cover of book, The Last Goldfish: A True Tale of Friendship.

Anita and Louisa navigate 1980s suburban adolescence together: they make carpe diem their manifesto and hatch ambitious plans. But when Louisa’s life takes a shocking turn, into hospital wards, medical tests, and treatments, a new possibility confronts them, one that alters, with devastating finality, the prospect of the future for them both.  

Anita Lahey’s previous books include The Mystery Shopping Cart: Essays on Poetry and Culture (Palimpsest Press, 2013) and two Véhicule Press poetry collections: Spinning Side Kick (2011) and Out to Dry in Cape Breton (2006). The latter was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and the Ottawa Book Award. 

One Good Reason: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery, Music and Love
by Séan McCann with Andrea Aragon 
(Nimbus Publishing)  

Photo of authors, Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon, with the cover of their book, One Good Reason.

A powerful memoir co-written by the founder of Great Big Sea and his wife, exploring alcoholism, childhood abuse, and the fight to save their marriage, family, and themselves. 

Séan McCann was as a founding member of Great Big Sea. Today Séan is a mental health, addiction, and recovery advocate who continues to sing and share his story of surviving 25 years of alcoholism. Andrea Aragon is the daughter of a Vietnam War veteran and mother of two growing boys. 

The Age of Fentanyl: Ending the Opioid Epidemic  
by Brodie Ramin  
(Dundurn Press) 

Photo of author Brodie Ramin with the cover of his book, The Age of Fentanyl.

Dr. Brodie Ramin brings the story of the opioid epidemic into the era of fentanyl, which is the leading cause of overdose death in North America. From his perspective as an addiction doctor working on the front lines of the epidemic, Dr. Ramin discusses the disease and the cure.  

Brodie Ramin is a primary care and addictions physician. He is an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and a Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Ramin lives in Ottawa.  

French fiction category

Awarded for outstanding published works of fiction including novels, short stories, children’s literature and poetry.

Jury members: Pierre-Luc Bélanger, Margaret Michèle Cook, Alain Bernard Marchand 

*** WINNER ***

Farida
by Monia Mazigh  
(Éditions David) 

Photo of Monia Mazigh with book

Held hostage to the patriarchy that dominated 20th-century Tunisian society, Farida ultimately rejects the role assigned to her, thereby defying a culture that robs women of all power. Through the character of Farida, and later that of Farida’s granddaughter Leila, who moves to Canada, the author depicts the slow process of women’s self-assertion across the world.

Originally from Tunisia, Monia Mazigh is a Canadian novelist, essayist and academic. Her writing has won several awards, including the Ottawa Book Award and the Trillium Book Award. In addition to being a passionate advocate for human rights, Monia Mazigh appears as a commentator on two Radio-Canada programs.

Jury Statement for Farida: Farida is an ambitious novel that recounts the life of a Tunisian woman who opens the door of freedom to those around her. With psychological finesse, this saga depicts a traditional and patriarchal world that is evolving into a new world through the actions and words of the people living it.  Monia Mazigh’s flowing and elegant writing captures and holds our attention throughout the individual and collective journeys she presents and the social and political transformations taking place in both Tunisia and Canada.  

Tango 
by Daniel Castillo 
(Éditions L’Interligne) 

Photo of author Daniel Castillo with the cover of her book, Tango.

Regularly faced with the lack of understanding and even impenetrability that typify a society devoted to short-term profit, the characters in these works of microfiction fall victim to despair. Their flight into exile involves going beyond their inner limits as much as crossing geographical boundaries. 

Professor of French and Comparative Literature, a writer and a traveller, Daniel Castillo Durante has written novels, short stories and works of microfiction. His work has earned him multiple prizes, including the 2021 Trillium Book Award. 

Débris du sillage 
by Gilles Latour   
(Éditions L’Interligne) 

Photo of author Gilles Latour with the cover of her book, Débris du sillage.

Expressing both freedom and anxiety, the poetry of Gilles Latour reflects concern at the deterioration of the physical, social and political environment. His words are the Débris du sillage—the debris left behind, carried along in a current of experience, floating between emotional memory and apprehension of what the future holds, through moments of lyricism, irony and philosophical reflection. 

Born in Cornwall, Gilles Latour grew up in Ottawa. He studied literature in Montreal, and later earned a living by working for humanitarian groups in various parts of the world. However, poetry is clearly what sustains him. He lives in Ottawa, where his five collections have been published by L’Interligne. 

Le poème involontaire  
by Michel Thérien   
(Éditions David) 

Photo of author Michel Thérien with the cover of his book, Le poème involontaire.

The poetry in Le poème involontaire lays bare the poet’s uncertainty. The accidental poem is one where the reader plays the role of both confidant and witness.  

Born in Ottawa, Michel Thérien has spent more than two decades writing, teaching and promoting poetry. Several of his books have been translated and have received various awards and honours. Le poème involontaire is his eleventh collection of poetry. 

Sept nuits dans la vie de Chérie  
by Danièle Vallée  
(Éditions David) 

Photo of author Danièle Vallée with the cover of her book, Sept nuits dans la vie de Chérie.

Eight paintings by artist Suzon Demers inspired this novel by author Danièle Vallée. It weaves a disconcerting tale featuring a capricious prima donna whose fervour draws an ordinary seamstress into an insidious and unpredictable adventure. 

Danièle Vallée is a well-known figure in the world of both oral and written literature, as well as that of the performing arts. She has published ten books, while also adapting her work for the stage by adding an artistic dimension heightened by diverse musical styles. 

French non-fiction category

Awarded for outstanding published works of non-fiction including biographies, memoirs, cultural histories, literary journalism and essays.

Jury members: Yves Antoine, Philippe Bernier Arcand, Lucie Hotte 

*** WINNER ***

Niagara…la voie qui y mène
by Nicole V. Champeau
(Éditions David)

Image of Nicole Champeau with book.

A mythical place, Niagara has been depicted in various ways: through the historical and geographical reconstruction of what was once a component of French heritage; through the rediscovery of a place name shrouded in mystery—Onguiaahra; through the combination of brute force and raw beauty that leaves such a strong impression on travellers. All this in the shadow of a waterfall that once almost disappeared.

Poetry and non-fiction intersect in the work of poet, researcher and essayist Nicole V. Champeau. A native of Cornwall, she now calls Ottawa home. The section of the St. Lawrence River located in Ontario remains the focal point of her work, inspiring texts such as the essay titled “Pointe Maligne. L’infiniment oubliée.”

Jury statement for Niagara…la voie qui y mène: Niagara… la voie qui y mène is part of a cycle of works—essays, poetry collections—that Nicole Champeau devotes to the area along the St. Lawrence River that was radically transformed by the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Inspired by a personal experience of the area but informed by extensive research on the history of the region, its toponymy, geography or population, it is both emotionally charged and well-documented. 

Ce que je voudrais dire à mes enfants 
by Michel Bastarache and Antoine Trépanier   
(Éditions David) 

Photos of authors Michel Bastarache and Antoine Trépanier

In a letter to his two children, who died of an incurable disease, Michel Bastarache recalls both his childhood in Acadia and his career, which culminated with his appointment as the first Acadian judge to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Bastarache describes his ongoing struggle to ensure the equality of the Francophone and Anglophone communities. 

The Honourable Michel Bastarache, C.C., Q.C., successively served as Vice-President and Director of Marketing at Assumption Life; as President and Chief Executive Officer of Assumption Life and its subsidiaries; as Professor of Law and Dean of the School of Law at the Université de Moncton; and as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, at the University of Ottawa. 

Antoine Trépanier is a journalist with Radio-Canada in Ottawa. He previously worked as the provincial affairs bureau chief for a New Brunswick newspaper, and later as a Radio-Canada reporter in Moncton. He is a graduate of the University of Ottawa. 

Mouvements ouvriers, partis politiques et luttes populaires aux États-Unis 1938-2018 
by Serge Denis   
(Presses de l’Université Laval) 

Photo of author Serge Denis with the cover of his book, Mouvements ouvriers, partis politiques et luttes populaires aux États-Unis 1938-2018.

The author identifies and analyzes political interventions by American unions, in light of key developments, the growth of the labour movement in the United States and changes in the country’s political system. 

Serge Denis is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Ottawa. Holding a doctorate from the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies, he has served as President of the Société québécoise de science politique and Director of the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. 

Ottawa Book Award: Past Winners 

Year Ottawa Book Award FICTION Ottawa Book Awards NON FICTION Prix du livre d'Ottawa FICTION Prix du livre d’Ottawa NON FICTION
2021 Conyer Clayton, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite  Suzanne Evans, The Taste of Longing: Ethel Mulvany and her Starving Prisoners of War Cookbook  Monia Mazigh, Farida  Nicole V. Champeau, Niagara…la voie qui y mène
2020 Henry Beissel, Footprints of Dark Energy Beverley McLachlin, Truth be Told: My Journey Through Life and the Law Véronique Sylvain, Premier quart N/A
2019 Kagiso Lesego Molope, This Book Betrays My Brother Tim Cook, The Secret History of Soldiers: How Canadians Survived the Great War Andrée Christensen, L'Isle aux abeilles noires Yvon Malette, Entre le risque et le rêve : Une brève histoire des Éditions David
2018 Shane Rhodes, Dead White Men Roy MacGregor, Original Highways: Travelling the Great Rivers of Canada Alain Bernard Marchand, Sept vies, dix-sept morts N/A
2017 John Metcalf, The Museum at the End of the World Charlotte Gray, The Promise of Canada: 150 Years - People and Ideas that Have Shaped our Country Andrée Christensen, Épines d'encre N/A
2016 Nadine McInnis, Delirium for Solo Harp Tim Cook, Fight to the Finish: Canadians in the Second World War, 1944-1945 Pierre-Luc Landry, Les corps extraterrestres Patricia Smart, De Marie de l'Incarnation à Nelly Arcan
2015 Scott Randall, And to Say Hello Heather Menzies, Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good Blaise Ndala, J’irai danser sur la tombe de Senghor N/A
2014 David O'Meara, A Pretty Sight Paul Wells, The Longer I'm Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006 - N/A Philippe Bernier Arcand, La dérive populiste
2013 Missy Marston, The Love Monster Michael Petrou, Is This Your First War? Travels through the Post - 9/11 Islamic World Marie-Josée Martin, Un jour, ils entendront mes silences N/A
2012 Jamieson Findlay, The Summer of Permanent Wants Ruth B. Phillips, Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums Estelle Beauchamp, Un souffle venu de loin N/A
2011 Gabriella Goliger, Girl Unwrapped Eric Enno Tamm, The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds N/A Lucie Joubert, L’envers du landau
2010 Craig Poile, True Concessions Andrew Horrall, Bringing Art to Life: a Biography of Alan Jarvis Claire Rochon, Fragments de Sifnos  N/A
2009 Andrew Steinmetz, Eva’s Threepenny Theatre Kerry Pither, Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror Margaret Michèle Cook, Chronos à sa table de travail Maurice Henrie, Esprit de sel
2008 Elizabeth Hay, Late Nights on Air Tim Cook, At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916 Andrée Christensen, Depuis toujours, j’entendais la mer N/A
2007 Janet Lunn, A Rebel’s Daughter Charlotte Gray, Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell Daniel Poliquin, La Kermesse N/A
2006 John-James Ford, Bonk on the Head John Geddes, The Sundog Season Heather Menzies, NO TIME: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life Gilles Lacombe, Trafiquante de lumière Réjean Robidoux, D’éloge et de critique
2005 Frances Itani, Poached Egg on Toast Valerie Knowles, From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne Maurice Henrie, Les roses et le verglas Michel Thérien, L’aridité des fleuves  N/A
2004 Elizabeth Hay, Garbo Laughs Madelaine Drohan, Making A Killing: How And Why Corporations Use Armed Force To Do Business Maurice Henrie, Mémoire Vive Mila Younes, Ma mère, ma fille, ma sœur
2003 Brian Doyle, Mary Ann Alice   Jean Mohsen Fahmy, Ibn Kaldoun :l'Honneur et la Disgrâce Nancy Vickers, La Petite Vieille aux poupées  
2002   Anna Heilman, Never Far Away   Françoise Lepage, Histoire de la littérature pour la jeunesse
2001 Alan Cumyn, Burridge Unbound   Nicole Champeau, Dans les pas de la louve Michèle Matteau, Quatuor pour cordes sensibles  
2000   Roy MacGregor, A Life in the Bush: Lessons From My Father   Patricia Smart, Les femmes du Refus Global
1999 Alan Cumyn, Man of Bone   Pierre Raphaël Pelletier, Il faut crier l’injure  
1998   Dr. Isaac Vogelfanger, Red Tempest   René Dionne, Histoire de la Littérature Franco-Ontarienne des origines à nos jours
1997 Patrick Kavanagh, Gaff Topsails   Maurice Henrie, Le Balcon dans le ciel  
1996   Clyde Sanger, Malcolm MacDonald: Bringing an End to Empire   Dr. Elisabeth J. Lacelle,L’incontournable échange. Conversations oecuméniques et pluridisciplinaires
1995 John Barton, Notes Towards a Family Tree Frances Itani, Man Without Face   Andrée Christensen, Noces d’ailleurs  
1994   Penelope Williams, That Other Place: A Personal Account of Breast Cancer   Gilberte Paquette, Dans le sillage d’Élizabeth Bruyère
1993 Rita Donovan, Daisy Circus Nadine McInnis, The Litmus Body   Maurice Henrie, Le Pont sur le temps Gabrielle Poulin, Petites Fugues pour une saison sèche  
1992   John Sawatsky, Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition    N/A
1991 Rita Donovan, Dark Jewels   Daniel Poliquin, Visions de Jude  
1990   Roy MacGregor, Chief: The Fearless Vision of Billy Diamond    
1989     Maurice Henrie, La chambre à mourir  
1988   Patricia Morley, Kurelek: A Biography    
1987 John Metcalf, Adult Entertainment      
1986   Joan Finnigan, Legacies, Legends and Lies Jean Bruce, Back the Attack! : Canadian Women During the Second World War