Media Release: Alberta-published books gain national recognition

The Governor General’s Literary Award finalists were announced on October 2, and Alberta publishers University of Alberta Press and Freehand Books and were both represented.

  • Tiny Lights for Travellers (University of Alberta Press), by Calgary author Naomi K. Lewis, is a finalist in the non-fiction category.
  • The Student (Freehand Books), by Cary Fagan, is a finalist in the fiction category.

Digital copies of both books are available for readers across the province through the Read Alberta eBooks collection at Alberta public libraries. This special collection was created by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta and the Alberta Municipal Affairs’ Public Library Services Branch.

The Governor General’s Literary Awards are presented by the Canada Council for the Arts and celebrate the very best in Canadian literature. They recognize finalists and winners in seven categories, in both official languages, for readers of all ages. Past winners of the GGs include Margaret Atwood, Pierre Berton, Michael Ondaatje, and Farley Mowat. The awards have been presented annually since 1936.

Tiny Lights for Travellers: When her marriage suddenly ends, and a diary documenting her beloved Opa’s escape from Nazi-occupied Netherlands in the summer of 1942 is discovered, Naomi Lewis decides to retrace his journey to freedom. Travelling alone from Amsterdam to Lyon, she discovers family secrets and her own narrative as a second-generation Jewish Canadian. With vulnerability, humour, and wisdom, Lewis’s memoir asks tough questions about her identity as a secular Jew, the accuracy of family stories, and the impact of the Holocaust on subsequent generations. Vulnerable and funny, this memoir explores Jewish identity, family, the Holocaust, and belonging. It has been called “an irresistibly wise, poignant, and often funny memoir.” (Lauren B. Davis).

Naomi K. Lewis’s books include the novel Cricket in a Fist, the short story collection I Know Who You Remind Me Of, and the memoir Tiny Lights for Travellers, and she coedited the anthology Shy with Rona Altrows. Her journalism has been shortlisted for provincial and national magazine awards, and she has served as writer in residence at the University of New Brunswick and the Calgary Public Library. She lives in Calgary and sometimes Kelowna.

The Student is a novel that offers two snapshots from the life of Miriam Moscowitz: first in the 1950s, when she is an ambitious literature student; and then in the 2000s, as she attends her son’s wedding—a newly-legal same-sex marriage. Both these time periods were pivotal in steering Canada’s cultural development. But they were also very exclusionary. Cary Fagan’s novel celebrates the people who challenged the obstacles: the women who tried to break their way into the higher levels of academia and the activists who pushed for marriage equality. The Student is a love letter to the people—like Fagan’s protagonist Miriam Moscowitz—who, in trying to overcome the constraints of their times, shaped the country.

Cary Fagan is the author of six novels and three story collections for adults, as well as many award-winning books for children. His books include A Bird’s Eye (finalist for the Rogers Trust Fiction Prize, an Best Book of the Year) and the story collection My Life Among the Apes (longlisted for the Giller Prize, Best 100 Books of 2013). Cary was born and raised in Toronto, where he lives with his family. Cary Fagan’s children’s book King Mouse (illustrated by Calgary artist Dena Seiferling) is a finalist for this year’s Governor General’s Award in the Young People’s Literature (Illustrated Books) category.

University of Alberta Press is a contemporary, award-winning publisher of scholarly and creative books distinguished by their editorial care, exceptional design, and global reach.

Freehand Books is a literary publisher founded in Calgary in 2008. Their list is an aesthetically diverse, awardwinning collection of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by both established authors and exciting new voices. In 2019, they were named Publisher of the Year by the Book Publishers Association of Alberta.

The University of Alberta Press and Freehand Books are part of the Book Publishers Association of Alberta, whose members work with a diverse array of publishing professionals and contractors from across Alberta to create a vibrant industry within the province. They gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Government of Alberta through the Alberta Media Fund.


For more information about Tiny Lights for Travellers, or to schedule an interview with Naomi Lewis, please contact Cathie Crooks at the University of Alberta Press:

(780) 492-5820

For more information about The Student, or to schedule an interview with Cary Fagan, please contact Anna Boyar at Freehand Books:

(403) 287-8720 (cell)

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