In 2014, Toronto City Council commemorated the 40th anniversary of the City of Toronto Book Awards with a plan to establish the Toronto Book Garden at Harbourfront Centre. The Garden will feature the names of authors and winning book titles engraved in paving stones. New stones will be added each year in ongoing recognition of the Awards and the city that provides inspiration to so many writers. To celebrate the Garden’s establishment, past Toronto Book Award winners Austin Clarke (2009), Charlotte Gray (2014), Helen Humphreys (1998), Rabindranath Maharaj (2011), Rosemary Sullivan (1996), Guy Vanderhaeghe (1990) and Richard B. Wright (1974) will discuss their winning books. The moderator of the panel will be former mayor John Sewell, who presented the proposal to City Council in 1974 to create the City of Toronto Book Awards.
The panel discussion will be followed by a ground-breaking ceremony at 3pm in front of the Queen’s Quay Terminal.
Austin Clarke is one of the country’s foremost authors, whose work includes 10 novels, six short story collections, three memoirs and two collections of poetry. His novel The Polished Hoe won the 2002 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Clarke is a member of the Order of Canada, holds four honorary doctorates and has been awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the W.O. Mitchell Prize and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Excellence in Writing, among others. Clarke presents 'Membering, his unforgettable new memoir, which takes the reader on a lyrical tour of his extraordinary life, interspersed with thought-provoking meditations on politics and race.
Helen Humphreys’most recent novel, The Evening Chorus, was nominated for a Governor General's Award and was a national bestseller. Her critically acclaimed memoir, Nocturne, was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award. Previous novels include Coventry, a New York Times Editors' Choice, a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year, and a finalist for the Trillium Book Award; Afterimage, which won the Rogers Writers' Trust Prize for fiction; Leaving Earth, which won the Toronto Book Award; and The Lost Garden, which was a Canada Reads selection. The recipient of the Harbourfront Festival Prize for literary excellence, Humphreys lives in Kingston, Ontario. She presents The Ghost Orchard.
Rabindranath Maharaj is the author of eight books. His last novel, The Amazing Absorbing Boy, won both the Trillium Fiction Award and the City of Toronto Book Award. He was born and raised in Trinidad and moved to Ajax, Ontario in the early 90s. In 2013, Maharaj was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He was most recently the Writer in Residence at the University of the West Indies.
John Sewell was a member of Toronto City Council from 1969 to 1984, and was Mayor of Toronto 1979 to 1980. He has engaged in politics in Toronto as a community activist, city councillor, journalist, writer, housing administrator and social entrepreneur, often speaking for and representing those who do not have access to the levers of power in society. He has authored a dozen books, most recently How We Changed Toronto, 1969–1980. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 2005. In 1973 he proposed to Toronto City Council the establishment of the Toronto Book Awards.
Biographer and poet, Rosemary Sullivan (Canada) is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto. Her 14 books include the critically acclaimed Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape and a House in Marseille and Labyrinth of Desire: Women, Passion and Romantic Obsession. In 2012 she became an Officer of the Order of Canada. Her most recent book, Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize, the BC National Non-Fiction Award and the RBC Charles Taylor prize, the Plutarch Biographers International Organization Award. Photo Credit: Cathie Ferguson
Guy Vanderhaeghe is the author of five novels, four collections of short stories, two plays, and one teleplay. He is a three-time winner of the Governor’s-General Award for English language fiction for his collection of short stories, Man Descending, his novel The Englishman’s Boy, and his most recent story collection, Daddy Lenin. His novel The Last Crossing was a winner of the CBC’s Canada Reads Competition. He has also received the Timothy Findley Prize and the Harbourfront Literary Prize, both for a body of work.
Richard B. Wright is the author of 12 novels and has won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Trillium Book Award and the CBA Libris Award for both Author and Book of the Year. His novel, Mr. Shakespeare’s Bastard, was shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Wright presents his first memoir, A Life with Words, a deeply affecting memoir that reads like a novel.