Author and activist Naomi Klein has won Canada’s richest prize for non-fiction for her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
Accepting the C$60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction at a gala party in Toronto last night, Klein said, “I have to believe that this is some kind of sign of the times that this happened… I don’t know what it means, but I feel like there is a deep desire for change in this country.”
The book has already been reaching a “lefty audience,” but this prize might help bring it to the attention of even those who don’t agree with its premise, Klein told PW. “It’s all about having the debate, and you can’t have the debate unless everybody is talking to each other,” she said.
The book’s warm reception in Canada may reflect the fact that “there is a real divide between what our government is doing on climate and what Canadians want,” she said. In contrast to the U.S. where the Obama administration’s statements on climate change at least "seem to take climate change seriously," Klein said people in Canada and Australia may be drawn to her book because those countries have “governments that just openly say we’re choosing the economy over the environment...So in a way [Canadian Prime Minister] Stephen Harper sort of made this all possible by being so incredibly explicit about the fact that he’s throwing the planet under the bus in the name of something called economic growth.”
Klein gave her sincere thanks to her publisher Knopf Canada at Penguin Random House Canada, noting that she was blessed to have her books edited by Louise Dennys, executive publisher, Random House of Canada. “She’s been editing me since No Logo. My work is stronger for Louise’s attention, commitment, humanity.”
Dennys said Klein is "one of those rare people and very rare writers who are able to capture the momentum and urgency of the moment."
The jury praised the book as “groundbreaking,” choosing it from among 92 submissions from publishers across Canada and a shortlist of five books. “Written with an elegant blend of science, statistics, field reports and personal insight, it does not paralyze but buoys the reader. The book’s exploration of climate change from the perspective of how capitalism functions produces fresh insights and its examination of the interconnectedness between our relationship with nature and the creation of better, fairer societies presents a radical proposal,” the five-member jury wrote in its citation. “Klein’s urgency and outrage is balanced by meticulous documentation and passionate argument. Heart and mind go hand in hand in this magisterial response to a present crisis.”
The four other finalists for this year’s prize each received $5,000:
· Susan Delacourt for Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them (Douglas & McIntyre)
· Charles Montgomery for Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design (Doubleday Canada)
· Paula Todd for Extreme Mean: Trolls, Bullies, and Predators Online (McClelland & Stewart)
· Kathleen Winter for Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage (House of Anansi Press)
Before presenting the award, Hilary Weston, who became a patron of the award in 2011 with the stated intent of raising the profile on nonfiction in Canada, quoted from a recent article in The New Yorker, calling on the committee for the Nobel Prize for literature to reverse “the ignoble treatment of what we call creative non-fiction and admit that it is literature.”
This year's jury members were Canadian authors Charles Foran, Priscilla Uppal, and Merrily Weisbord. CBC news anchor Peter Mansbridge and filmmaker Deepa Mehta joined the jury to select the winner from the shortlist.