Atlantic Canadian authors and publishers were celebrated at the 2023 Atlantic Book Awards gala on Wednesday, June 7, in Paul O’Regan Hall at Halifax Central Library. The recipients of six awards—including the $30,000 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, one of the largest literary awards in the country—were revealed at the evening gala, which was hosted by author and journalist Lindsay Ruck.
At the top of the night, Dartmouth, NS, author Elaine McCluskey received the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction for Rafael Has Pretty Eyes, published by New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions. The award was announced by Alistair MacLeod’s son, Alexander, who on Monday night took home a Nova Scotia Book Award for his collection of short stories, Animal Person.
Nicola Davison, also a resident of Dartmouth, won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature for her moving coming-of-age, young adult novel, Decoding Dot Grey, published by Nimbus Publishing of Halifax. The award was presented by Gavin Brimer, the son of the late Ann Connor Brimer, who was an educator and Atlantic Officer for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
A feature of the evening was the presentation of the 2023 Atlantic Legacy Award to the Raddall Family of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. The award was established to honour those who have made a lasting contribution to the development of the literary arts in Atlantic Canada and have provided opportunity and inspiration for those sharing Atlantic Canadian stories through writing and publishing. The late Dr. Thomas Raddall, son of CanLit pioneer and bestselling author Thomas Head Raddall (1903–1994), was instrumental in creating the prestigious and generously funded Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize in his father’s honour. Valued at $30,000, “the Raddall” is the largest literary prize in Atlantic Canada and is intended to provide writers “the gift of time and peace of mind.” Three-time Raddall Award recipient Donna Morrissey paid tribute to the family, including Tom Raddall III, who accepted the award on the family’s behalf. The beloved Newfoundland author, who first received the Raddall in 2003 for her novel Downhill Chance, then in 2006 for Sylvanus Now and 2017 for The Fortunate Brother, was also a finalist for the award in 2000 and in 2013. Morrissey, a longtime resident of Halifax, delighted the audience with her trademark humour.
This year’s recipient of the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award is Halifax author K. R. Byggdin, for their first novel, Wonder World (Enfield & Wizenty), a refreshing coming-of-age story that challenges stereotypes of rural life. Of the book, the Raddall jury said, “As funny and sassy as it is poignant and observant, Wonder World is a virtuoso exploration of love and hope, a story of building bridges to family and community while staying true to oneself.”
After the announcements of the winners of the J. M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award (Nanci Lee, for Hsin, published by Brick Books) and the Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing (Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis, for The Solidarity Encounter: Women, Activism and Creating Non-Colonizing Relations, published by UBC Press) came the presentation of the APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award, which goes to an Atlantic Canadian publisher whose book best exemplifies excellence and achievement in publishing. The 2023 award went to New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions with The Beaverbrook Art Gallery for Wabanaki Modern / Wabanaki Kiskukewey / Wabanaki Moderne by Emma Hassencahl-Perley and John Leroux. The production values of this timely retrospective truly impressed the jury, who felt it was not only beautiful, but of historic and cultural significance and a crucial contribution to the Canadian identity.
The 2023 Atlantic Book Awards were presented by last year’s award winners, including Michelle Butler Hallet, David Huebert, Chad Lucas, and Alyda Faber, with some authors joining live and in-person and others via video. Attendees also enjoyed listening to excerpts of each of the winning titles, read by representatives of the close-knit literary community, including one of the two new Halifax Youth Poet Laureates, fifteen-year-old Damini Awoyiga. A live stream of the awards show allowed viewers to enjoy the ceremony online; it is available for viewing online.
The winners of the 2023 Atlantic Book Awards are:
Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
Elaine McCluskey, Rafael Has Pretty Eyes (Goose Lane Editions)
Ann Connor Brimer Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature
Nicola Davison, Decoding Dot Grey (Nimbus Publishing)
APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book
Goose Lane Editions with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Wabanaki Modern / Wabanaki Kiskukewey / Wabanaki Moderne by Emma Hassencahl-Perley & John Leroux
Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing
Carol Lynne D’Arcangelis, The Solidarity Encounter: Women, Activism and Creating Non-Colonizing Relations (UBC Press)
J. M. Abraham Atlantic Poetry Award
Nanci Lee, Hsin (Brick Books)
Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award
K. R. Byggdin, Wonder World (Enfield & Wizenty)