Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction shortlist for 2012 has been announced. The winner will be chosen on November 12, 2012.
Kamal Al-Solaylee | Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes
In the 1960s, Kamal Al-Solaylee's father was one of the wealthiest property owners in Aden, in the south of Yemen, but when the country shrugged off its colonial roots, his properties were confiscated, and the family was forced to leave. The family moved first to Beirut, which suddenly became one of the most dangerous places in the world, then Cairo. After a few peaceful years, even the safe haven of Cairo struggled under a new wave of Islamic extremism that culminated with the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. The family returned to Yemen, a country that was then culturally isolated from the rest of the world. As a gay man living in an intolerant country, Al-Solaylee escaped first to England and eventually to Canada, where he became a prominent journalist and academic. While he was enjoying the cultural and personal freedoms of life in the West, his once-liberal family slowly fell into the hard-line interpretations of Islam that were sweeping large parts of the Arab-Muslim world in the 1980s and 1990s. The differences between his life and theirs were brought into sharp relief by the 2011 revolution in Egypt and the civil war in Yemen. Intolerableis part memoir of an Arab family caught in the turmoil of Middle Eastern politics over six decades, part personal coming-out narrative and part cultural analysis. This is a story of the modern Middle East that we think we know so much about.
Modris Eksteins | Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age
In Solar Dance , acclaimed writer and scholar Modris Eksteins uses Vincent van Gogh as his lens for this brilliant survey of Western culture and politics in the last century. Â The long-awaited follow-up to Modris Eksteins' internationally acclaimed Rites of Spring and Walking Since Daybreak . Now he has produced another thrilling, iconoclastic work of cultural history that is a trailblazing biography of an era--from the eve of the First World War and the rise of Hitler to the fall of the Berlin Wall--that illuminates our current world, with its cults of celebrity and the crisis of the authentic. Solar Dance is a penetrating examination of legitimacy and truth, fakery and pretence--highly relevant to all of us today.
Taras Grescoe | Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile
For years, journalist and amateur tailor JJ Lee tried to ignore the suit hanging at the back of his closet. It was his father's suit. But when JJ decides to make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey to understand his own past. Â As JJ cuts into the jacket, he begins to piece together the story of his relationship with his father, a charismatic but troubled Montreal restauranteur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. JJ also recounts his own ups and downs during the year he spent as an apprentice at Modernize Tailors -- the last of the great Chinatown suitmakers in Vancouver -- where, under the tutelage of his octogenarian master tailor, he learns invaluable lessons about life. Woven throughout JJ's tale are stories of the suit's own evolution, illuminating how this humble garment has, for centuries, been the surprising battleground for the war between generations.
Candace Savage | Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape
A bestselling author embarks on a profound and dramatic journey through the eloquent landscape of southwestern Saskatchewan. When Candace Savage and her partner buy a house in the romantic little town of Eastend, she has no idea what awaits her. At first she enjoys exploring the area around their new home, including the boyhood haunts of the celebrated American writer Wallace Stegner, the backroads of the Cypress Hills, the dinosaur skeletons at the T.Rex Discovery Centre, the fossils to be found in the dust-dry hills. She also revels in her encounters with the wild inhabitants of this mysterious land -- two coyotes in a ditch at night, their eyes glinting in the dark; a deer at the window; a cougar pussy-footing it through a gully a few minutes' walk from town. But as Savage explores further, she uncovers a darker reality -- a story of cruelty and survival set in the still-recent past -- and finds that she must reassess the story she grew up with as the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of prairie homesteaders. Beautifully written, impeccably researched, and imbued with Savage's passion for this place, A Geography of Blood offers both a shocking new version of plains history and an unforgettable portrait of the windswept, shining country of the Cypress Hills, a holy place that helps us remember.
Try them out and see which you would vote to win the prize.