By Spencer Turcotte
Ryerson School of Journalism professor Kamal Al-Solaylee has been shortlisted for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.
Al-Solaylee’s book Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone), earned him the spot as a finalist.
He said in an email that when he found out his book had been shortlisted, he was as equally thrilled as he was surprised.
“While part of me sees Brown as a very political book, I’ve always thought of this particular award as one about covering Canadian politics or biographies of prime ministers,” said Al-Solaylee.
The prize is awarded annually by the Writers Trust of Canada for a book that captures a political subject of relevance to Canada and has the ability to influence thinking on Canadian political life. The winner receives $25,000 and $2,500 is awarded to each of the other four finalists.
Al-Solyalee made his career as an arts writer and critic, but for the past seven years has switched his focus to issues of race, immigration, Middle Eastern culture and politics.
“The award suggests that my ‘pivot’ to the world of international politics has some traction.”
He is not new to gaining recognition for his works, though. His previous book Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes was a shortlisted nominee for the 2012 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the 2013 Lambda Literary Award in the Gay Memoir/Biography category, the 2013 Toronto Book Award and it was selected for the 2015 edition of Canada Reads. Brown was also a shortlisted nominee for the 2016 Governor General’s Awards.
But Al-Solaylee remains humble.
“Never expect to win. That’s not how that works,” he said. “Really, really, I’m just glad to be nominated.”
He also said that he is working on a proposal for a third book, but that it could take up to a year or two based on the degree of planning that goes into non-fiction writing.
Al-Solaylee is joined on the shortlist by Ryerson alumni James McLeod for his book Turmoil, as Usual: Politics in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Road to the 2015 Election and Christie Blatchford for Life Sentence: Stories from Four Decades of Court Reporting – Or, How I Fell Out of Love with the Canadian Justice System (Especially Judges).