Paul Lake author nominated for Ryga Award

This year's nominees for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature include local author Richard Wagamese.

The Ryga Award is inspired by the literary legacy of George Ryga, an Interior playwright who was committed to social justice and blazed a path for contemporary theatre in Canada with his 1969 work, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

Organizers of the eighth annual honour, Okanagan College and The George Ryga Society, had an enviable problem on their hands - too many submissions, 57 in all.

"It's a happy problem for us," said Matt Kavanagh, chairman of the college's English department. "There are a number of worthy titles, which prompted a lively debate at our shortlisting meeting."

The finalists range from a harrowing examination of human trafficking in Canada to a close study of B.C.'s iconic Cowichan sweaters, revealing how Aboriginal women have woven themselves into the Canadian fabric, Kavanagh said.

The finalists are:

* Gabor Gasztonyi's A Room in the City (Anvil Press).

* Sylvia Olsen's Working With Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater (Sono Nis Press).

* Benjamin Perrin's Invisible Chains (Penguin).

* John Vaillant's The Tiger (Knopf Canada).

* Wagamese's One Story, One Song (Douglas & McIntyre).

The winner will be announced Oct. 1 at a gala presentation at the Centre Stage Theatre in Summerland, Ryga's home.

This year's evening will showcase Portrait of a Lady: A Tribute to Margaret Laurence with Dorian Kohl in her performance as heroine Hagar Shipley, based on Ryga's adaptation of Laurence's novel The Stone Angel. Tickets, $20, will be available at the door.

A writer of fiction and nonfiction, Wagamese has just published his first book of poetry, Runaway Dreams, and regularly hosts a poetry slam every other Wednesday at The Art We Are.

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