The Evelyn Richardson 2021 Shortlists celebrate under-told stories of Atlantic history
Image Credit: Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia
Shortlisted titles for the 2021 Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award explore under-told stories of Acadians, 2SLGBTQIA+ activists and the true story behind the misnomer ‘murder for lobster’ on Isle Madame.
The 2021 shortlisted titles for the award are Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion by Tyler LeBlanc, Before the Parade: A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Community by Rebecca Rose, and Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes, by Silver Donald Cameron.
The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award was one of the first literary awards in Nova Scotia, says Marilyn Smulders, executive director of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS).
The WFNS established the award in 1977 to honour the work of non-fiction writers in Nova Scotia. The award was named after Evelyn Richardson (1902-1976), winner of 1945 Governor General’s Non-Fiction Award with her memoir We Keep a Light.
Tyler LeBlanc explores his ancestors’ lost history of Le Grand Dérangement (Acadian Expulsion) in Acadian Driftwood: One Family and the Great Expulsion.
LeBlanc grew up on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, and says his family thought the surname was adopted. He started researching his roots when asked by a historian he was working with as a Cape Breton tour guide.
“Why don’t I know my own connection to this, because the name is through and through Acadian,” LeBlanc says. “Maybe the story I was told isn’t right.”
He began to link his family’s lost history with the Acadian Expulsion that began in 1755. “My ancestry is Acadian, and I wasn’t raised Acadian.”
One of the challenges was finding information on his ancestors as “everyday people,” LeBlanc says, but he wanted to stick to facts and present the history in a different way through his ancestors’ experiences.
Acadian Driftwood is his first book and has also been short-listed for the Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing, the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Non-Fiction and the Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award (Non-Fiction).
2SLGBTQIA+ histories of activism
In Before the Parade: A History of Halifax’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Community, Rebecca Rose follows the story of early 2SLGBTQIA+ activists in Nova Scotia.
In 1977, a protest was held in Halifax by the Gay Alliance for Equality when CBC refused to air a Public Service Announcement for GayLine, a support service for homosexual men and women.
Today, she reflects on past oppression of 2SLGBTQIA+ topics in the media.
“It feels significant now that this book that contains those histories is being shortlisted for a nonfiction book award,” Rose says.
Rose graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism and began interviewing people to hear their stories of 2SLGBTQIA+ activism after writing an article for The Coast about Anne Fulton, founding member of Gay Alliance for Equality, who passed away in 2015.
“This is a history of 2SLGBTQIA+ community and activism in Halifax and this province, it’s not the history,” Rose says, explaining limitations of deadline, word limits and not being able to meet with everyone she wanted to. She hopes the book is a spark for other 2SLGBTQIA+ creators to explore different parts of the community in depth.
Without this generation of 2SLGBTQIA+ activists, Rose says, “I wouldn’t be able to exist as an out, proud, activist, queer woman.”
True stories behind ‘murder for lobster’
Philip Boudreau’s murder in 2013 became known as ‘murder for lobster’ by several media outlets, but Silver Donald Cameron takes a deeper look at the case in his last book Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes, also shortlisted for the Robbie Robertson Dartmouth Book Award (Non-Fiction).
Cameron, who passed away in 2020, lived in D’Escousse on Isle Madame, Cape Breton, with his wife Marjorie Simmins, also an award-winning writer.
“It needed somebody like him who had lived here since 1971, who always had immense respect for the people he lived among,” Simmins says.
Through comprehensive interviews and research, Cameron explores the complexities of human character and justice involved in Philip Boudreau’s murder.
“What he’s interested in is what makes people tick, why this happened, why this didn’t happen earlier,” Simmins says, “and also the repercussions.”
He examines the Mi’kmaq and Acadian heritage of Isle Madame, and the failings of a punishment-driven British-Canadian justice system. Cameron discusses Indigenous and Acadian justice principles in Blood in the Water, and community-based approaches to justice. His work highlights the ripple effect of violence on local communities and Philip Boudreau’s complex character as perpetrator and later victim.
“Don loved real stories, and Don loved telling real stories, and he particularly loved telling real stories about this Atlantic Canada Region,” Simmins says.