The Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko is pleased to announce the shortlisted titles for the 2024 KOBZAR™ Book Award.
Presented every other year, the $25,000 KOBZAR™ Book Award recognizes outstanding contributions to Canadian literary arts by authors who write on a topic with a tangible connection to Ukrainian Canadians. As the Ukrainian community celebrates over 130 years in Canada, and the Ukrainian people are in a fight for their homeland, Ukrainian stories have no bounds. This year’s KOBZAR™Book Award entries showcase titles which highlight issues that impact Ukrainians as a people in Canada. The books include a variety of genres including young adult, graphic novel, literary fiction, non-fiction and academic.
Distinctive to this Award is monetary recognition for both the winner and the winner’s publisher.
This year’s jury is composed of Kate Edwards (former Executive Director, Association of Canadian Publishers), Carol Holmes (former Executive Director, Writers’ Guild of Alberta), and Maria Reva (author and winner of the KOBZAR™Book Award 2022). Our jury is thrilled to highlight these diverse titles which all recognize the equally diverse Ukrainian Canadian experience.
The shortlisted titles for the 2024 KOBZAR™ Book Award are:
Ukrainian Ritual on the Prairies
by Natalie Kononenko
McGill-Queen’s University Press
While Canada is home to one of the largest Ukrainian diasporas in the world, little is known about the life and culture of Ukrainians living in the country’s rural areas and their impact on Canadian traditions.
Drawing on more than ten years of interviews and fieldwork, Ukrainian Ritual on the Prairies describes the culture of Ukrainian Canadians living in the prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Despite powerful pressure to assimilate, these Ukrainians have managed both to preserve their sense of themselves as Ukrainian and to develop a culture sensitive to the realities of prairie life, creating their own uniquely Ukrainian Canadian traditions.
Ghosts in a Photograph
by Myrna Kostash
In Ghosts in a Photograph, award-winning nonfiction writer Myrna Kostash delves into the lives of her grandparents, all of whom moved from Galicia, now present-day Ukraine, to Alberta at the turn of the twentieth century. This memoir, however, is not just a personal story, but a public one of immigration, partisan allegiance, and the stark differences in how two sets of families survive in a new country: one as homesteaders, the other as working-class Edmontonians. Working within the gaps in history—including the unsolved murder in Ukraine of her great uncle—Kostash uses her remarkable acumen as a writer and researcher to craft a probable narrative to interrogate the idea of straightforward and singular-voiced pasts and the stories we tell ourselves about where we come from.
Five Stalks of Grain
by Adrian Lysenko, illustrated by Ivanka Theodosia Galadza
University of Calgary Press
A powerful and haunting graphic novel that tells a story of tragedy and survival during the Holodomor. In 1932, as famine rages across Ukraine, the Soviet government calls for the harshest punishment for those who keep for themselves even five stalks of grain. When their mother is accused of hoarding and summarily killed, Nadia and Taras must leave their home on a desperate quest for survival. Historical fiction at its finest, Five Stalks of Grain is a record of a time of profound suffering and a reckoning with the human cost of a tragedy shaped by politics and policy.
The Taste of Hunger
by Barbara Joan Scott
A family saga about Ukrainian immigrants in the early 20th century, the power of desire, Baba Yaga fairytales, and a moment that changes everything.
In Saskatchewan in the late 1920s, a fifteen-year-old Ukrainian immigrant named Olena is forced into marriage with Taras, a man twice her age, who wants her even though she has refused him. Stuck in a hardscrabble life and with a husband she despises, starved for a life of her own choosing, at every turn Olena rebels against her husband and her fate. As Olena and Taras drag everyone around them into the maelstrom that is their marriage, they set off a chain of turbulent events whose aftershocks reverberate through generations.
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
This incredibly gripping and timely story set during the Holodomor in 1930s Ukraine introduces young readers to a pivotal moment in history– and how it relates to the events of today. Nyl is just trying to stay alive. Ever since the Soviet dictator, Stalin, started to take control of farms like the one Nyl’s family lives on, there is less and less food to go around. Conditions worsen until it’s clear the lack of food is not just chance… but a murderous plan leading all the way to Stalin. Alice has recently arrived from Canada with her father, who is here to work for the Soviets… until Alice realizes that the people suffering the most are all ethnically Ukrainian, like Nyl. Something is very wrong, and Alice is determined to help. Desperate, Nyl and Alice come up with an audacious plan that could save both of them — and their community.
Valley of the Birdtail
by Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Douglas Sanderson (AMO BINASHII)
Divided by a beautiful valley and 150 years of racism, the town of Rossburn and the Waywayseecappo Indian reserve have been neighbours nearly as long as Canada has been a country. Their story reflects much of what has gone wrong in relations between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. It also offers, in the end, an uncommon measure of hope. This book follows multiple generations of two families, one white and one Indigenous, and weaves their lives into the larger story of Canada. It is a story of villains and heroes, irony and idealism, racism and reconciliation. Valley of the Birdtail has the ambition to change the way we think about our past and show a path to a better future.
The Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko is a national, chartered philanthropic institution dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and development of the Ukrainian Canadian cultural heritage. In building and sustaining a permanent endowment fund, the Foundation strengthens the Ukrainian community in Canada and enriches the Canadian experience with the beauty, passion, and diversity of Ukrainian Canadian culture.
The 2024 KOBZAR™ Book Award will be presented on March 21, 2024, at a ceremony in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
The KOBZAR™ Book Award Jury
An experienced arts administrator and advocate, Kate Edwards served as executive director of the Association of Canadian Publishers from 2015-2023. An active participant in initiatives across the publishing industry and broader arts and culture sector, Kate has served on the boards of Work In Culture, eBOUND Canada, and Canada FBM2020, the organization that delivered the publishing industry’s presence as Guest of Honour at the 2020 and 2021 Frankfurt Book Fairs. She lives in Toronto.
Carol Holmes has served as the former executive director of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta and previously held the position of director of Literary Arts at Banff Centre. Throughout her career, she has actively contributed to the literary community in various roles, including director, manager, festival director, juror, and board member. Her outstanding contributions have been acknowledged through being named a finalist for the Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management, receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal in 2022, and a prestigious lifetime achievement award from the Book Publishers of Alberta in 2022. Carol currently resides in amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton) in Treaty 6 Territory.
Maria Reva writes fiction and opera libretti. She is the author of Good Citizens Need Not Fear, a linked story collection set in an apartment block in Ukraine. Maria’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, McSweeney’s, The Wall Street Journal, Granta, The Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. She won the Shevchenko Foundation’s Kobzar Book Award (2022), a National Magazine Award (2019) and was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada Fiction Prize (2020). Maria was born in Ukraine and grew up in New Westminster, British Columbia. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas.