2021 shortlist for Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award (Non-Fiction) shines light on hardship and resilience
Image Credit: Atlantic Book Awards
Nonfiction works shortlisted for the Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award in 2021 tell stories of hardship, resilience, and community.
Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes by Silver Donald Cameron, Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion by Tyler LeBlanc, and Peace by Chocolate: The Hadhad Family’s Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada by Jon Tattrie are shortlisted for the Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award in 2021.
Local fishing community tells its story
Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes by Silver Donald Cameron follows the story of Philip Boudreau’s murder on Isle Madame, and the effect of violence before and after his murder on the local community. Silver Donald Cameron was an award-winning journalist and writer who passed away in June, 2020.
His work Blood in the Water was also shortlisted for the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award.
Many media outlets had covered the story; but Philip Boudreau’s murder was painted as a lobster rivalry. Cameron lived on Isle Madame since 1971, and his wife, Marjorie Simmins, says he was reluctant at first to start the book, but he had the support of the community.
“People trusted him, he never betrayed the trust,” Simmins says, “So he talked, obviously, to both sides of the two families, the two primary families, and then he talked to many people who grew up with Philip, who might have been neighbours who were extended family members and so on.”
Simmins says she is very proud. “He took great pleasure in the company of writers across the country, of course, but very much in his own backyard, so I know he would be delighted to be in very good company.”
Acadian Expulsion told through biography
Tyler LeBlanc’s debut book Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion shares a personal account of the Acadian Expulsion, looking at his ancestors’ experiences.
“I’ve always been interested in history,” LeBlanc says, “I’ve always been curious about how things have come to be how they are; I’m a believer that looking back through history can help us move forward.”
His research started when a historian he worked with as a Cape Breton tour guide asked him about his background, LeBlanc says. Before then, he didn’t know his Acadian ancestry. His family thought their surname was adopted.
“I already knew about the Expulsion and things like that, and wondered why there wasn’t more information out there about the Expulsion or why it wasn’t included as prominently in Maritime history as it should be,” LeBlanc says. He started to make the connection with his personal history.
Acadian Driftwood has also been short-listed for the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award, the Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing and the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Non-Fiction.
“It’s been really humbling and flattering to know that some people out there enjoyed it,” LeBlanc says, “and it’s really nice to be recognized within the region.”
Chocolate, war and peace
In Peace by Chocolate: The Hadhad Family’s Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada, Jon Tattrie follows the Hadhad’s story of resilience and how they rekindled their family chocolatier in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
The Hadhad family ran a successful chocolate factory in Damascus, Syria, that shipped chocolate around the Middle East and Europe before civil war in 2012 that forced them to move to Lebanon as refugees for three years, and eventually settle in Antigonish.
“They remembered everything, and Tareq in particular, always said to himself remember all of this, so you can tell your children and grandchildren,” Tattrie says.
He first heard of their story when Carolyn Ray covered Tareq’s arrival to Canada, Tattrie says, and they later met when Tareq saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November 2016.
“Underneath it, I knew it was so complex and difficult, and I really wanted to know what it was like to go through that experience, and in particular, I wanted to know what it was like for the women,” Tattrie says.
Tareq Hadhad founded Peace by Chocolate in 2016 and became the face of the company and family in the first year, but his mother and sisters also share their experiences in the book.
In 2019, during an election, the People’s Party of Canada ran an anti-immigration ad with Maxime Bernier on billboards across the country, including one on Bedford Highway with the caption ‘Say NO to Mass Immigration.’
“I realized why it didn’t really work here in Nova Scotia is because people don’t think of mass migration, they think of the Hadhad family, they think of other families we’ve come to known and different generations,” Tattrie says, “When we think of them as people, we think of the Hadhads as an individual family with a distinct story, it kind of takes the sting out of fears of mass migration.”
The Hadhad family continue their story in Nova Scotia, opening a new Peace by Chocolate location on April 8th by the waterfront in Halifax, Nova Scotia.