As the creator of the Hilary Weston Writers Trust Prize for Nonfiction award, I would like to thank Mary Osborne, Executive Director, of the Writers Trust of Canada, for kindly inviting me to the 5th annual award reception, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, on October 6th, 2015. It was a wonderful evening with many of Canada’s publishing elite and non-fiction writers in attendance to hear who would receive this year’s award.
The nominees for this year’s Hilary Weston Writers Trust Prize for Nonfiction, included Eliott Behar, (Tell it to the World) Rosemary Sullivan, (Stalin’s Daughter) Douglas Coupland, (Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent) Dean Jobb (Empire of Deception) and Lynette Loeppky. (Cease: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Desire)
Hilary Weston announced that the 2015 winner was Rosemary Sullivan, for her compelling biography and insightful portrait of Svetlana Alliluyeva. Stalin’s Daughter expansively intertwines history, political intrigue, espionage, and domestic drama, yet Sullivan hones the episodes to one struggle: Alliluyeva’s attempt to escape her father’s shadow. When the “Soviet Princess” died, she was treated in the media more like a post-Cold War curiosity. Sullivan’s book delivers a fully wrought literary heroine.
Svetlana Alliluyeva lived her life in the shadow of one of history’s most monstrous dictators—her father, Josef Stalin. Communist Party privilege protected her from the mass starvation and purges that haunted the Soviet Union, but she did not escape tragedy—the loss of her mother, two brothers, aunts and uncles, and a lover deliberately exiled to Siberia by her father. As she gradually learned about the extent of her father’s brutality after his death, Svetlana could no longer keep quiet and in 1967 shocked the world by defecting to the United States—leaving her two children behind. Her life in America was fractured; she moved frequently, married disastrously, shunned other Russian exiles, and ultimately died in poverty. Rosemary Sullivan adroitly pieces together an intimate biography of a woman doomed to be a political prisoner of her father’s name.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph Rosemary for the ILLUMINATION project earlier in the year, and we enjoyed some wonderful conversations during our photo shoot about the creative process. I am delighted for Rosemary that she has received this most prestigious award, after such a long career writing poetry, short fiction, biography, and literary criticism. Her recent books include Villa Air-Bel and Labyrinth of Desire. Rosemary is also a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and a recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded by the Royal Society of Canada for her contribution to literature and culture. An Officer of the Order of Canada, Rosemary splits her time between Toronto and Chile.