Jenny Boychuk, who used to live in Revelstoke, has been awarded the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize for her story Slow Violence.
“Nine months after my mother died of an overdose, I received a call from my aunt, who said that my grandfather was declining rapidly and likely wouldn’t last the week,” Boychuk said in a news release. “I was still deeply grieving the loss of my mother, who battled addiction and mental illness for well over a decade. The grief was complicated for everyone in my family, and we all had days, weeks or months where we felt we needed someone to blame. The last encounter I’d had with my grandfather triggered a lot of anger, and it felt easy to blame him for what happened to her.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to see him before he passed, but I knew it was my only chance to stand up to him and tell him how I felt. Of course, that intention dissolved as soon as I saw him lying in the bed. I remembered all the ways he’d been kind and loving toward me. He had hurt my mother in unthinkable ways, who had then hurt her own family in unthinkable ways. But as I sat with him, I realized it wasn’t fair to find compassion for my mother and not for him. I don’t know many details about his upbringing, but I know it was brutal in its own way. That struggle of trying to forgive my grandfather as he was dying is what inspired the story.”
Boychuk’s peice was selected from more than 2,200 submissions from across the country.
She will receive a $6,000 prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and her story will be published on CBC Books. She will also receive a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
The jury for the competition was composed of writers Harold R. Johnson, Elizabeth Renzetti and Mark Sakamoto.
“Slow Violence draws the reader into a world in which the desire for revenge is lost to the healing power of mercy,” the jury said, in a news release. “As is almost always the case, the perpetrator is a victim and his victim, also a perpetrator. This is a beautifully written story of grace. It is a story we all need.”
Boychuk was raised in Revelstoke and now lives in Victoria. She studied at the University of Victoria’s Department of Writing. Her poems and essays have appeared in venues across Canada and the United States, including Best New Poets, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, PRISM international, Room, The Fiddlehead, Grain and Copper Nickel.
In 2018 she won the Copper Nickel Editors’ Prize in poetry. She also holds an MFA from the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program.
The four runners-up for the CBC Nonfiction Prize are Larry Gibbs for The Boondock Harvest 1966, Kathleen May de Vries for The Long Driveway, Travey McGillivray for To the Uninitiated and Emily Stillwell for The Birthday Party. They each received $1,000.