Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Weston Words, with Thomas King

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Thomas King

In its current incarnation, the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction is only three years old. But while it may still be a figurative toddler, the prize has already carved out a place at the highest and headiest level of literary awards, influencing readers, publishers and industry watchers alike.

Open Book: Toronto is pleased to partner once again with the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction and will be interviewing all five finalists before the October 21, 2013 announcement of the winner.

The prize, founded by former Lieutenant Governor the Honourable Hilary Weston, carries a $60,000 purse for the winner and honours the finest Canadian non-fiction published each year. This year's jury consists of Hal Niedzviecki, Samantha Nutt, Andreas Schroeder, CBC personality Evan Soloman and 2012 prize winner Candace Savage. The award succeeds the previous Writers' Trust Nonfiction Award, which was founded in 1997.

Our first interview in this year's series is with Order of Canada recipient and previous CBC Massey Lecturer Thomas King. Thomas's The Inconvenient Indian (Doubleday Canada) is a complex and nuanced book that boils down to one deceptively simple question: what does it mean to be "Indian" in North America?

Today Thomas speaks to us about marking a moment with ice cream and his own favourite non-fiction picks. Best of all, we get a sneak peek regarding what his next book, a new novel, will be about.

Check out all of Open Book's interviews with finalists through our continuing Weston Words series.

Open Book:

Tell us about the book for which you were shortlisted.

Thomas King:

The Inconvenient Indian is a narrative history/story of Indian/White relations in North America. It looks at the historical, social, and political arcs that make up that history, and considers the importance of land, an issue that has spanned the centuries, to Native nations in the 21st century.


Where were you when you received news of your nomination?


I was at home writing when I received word of the book being a finalist for the prize. Didn’t celebrate, but I did have a bowl of ice cream to mark the moment.


What unique experience or benefit does non-fiction provide for readers?


Non-fiction, well written and researched, provides a window on society and allows us to examine the ways in which we have constructed it, allows us to celebrate our achievements and consider our failures. Unfortunately, we seem to have more of the latter to contemplate than the former.


Tell us about a favourite non-fiction book.


One of my favourite non-fiction books is Eduardo Galeano’s trilogy, Memory of Fire. It’s a three-volume set that holds the edge between fiction and non-fiction, that defies the genres. The three books are Genesis, Faces and Masks and Century of the Wind.


What can you tell us about your next project?


I’ve just finished my next project. It’s a novel called The Back of the Turtle, which deals with a massive chemical spill that destroys a small town, a turtle nesting beach, and a Native reserve on the west coast and the aftermath of that disaster. But at its heart, it’s a novel that examines the world we’ve created and our unabated plunge towards planetary destruction. It’s sort of a comedy.

Thomas King is the author of five novels, including Green Grass, Running Water; two collections of short stories; several books for children; and the 2003 CBC Massey Lectures, The Truth About Stories. He has won numerous awards and honours, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the Order of Canada. For the past five decades, he has worked as an activist for Native causes, as an administrator in Native programs, and has taught Native literature and history at universities across North America. The Inconvenient Indian was nominated for the Canadian Booksellers Association Nonfiction Book of the Year and the Trillium Award earlier this year. King lives in Guelph, Ontario.

For more information about The Inconvenient Indian please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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