CBC Literary Awards: UNBC Prof Wins First Prize for Non-Fiction

February 27, 2009
UNBC professor Sarah de Leeuw was awarded first prize in the category of Creative Non-Fiction at this year’s CBC Literary Awards for her work “Columbus Burning.” The essay concerns last year’s fire at the Columbus Hotel in Prince George, BC and how it affected the lives of the impoverished people who lived there and in the surrounding community.

Dr. de Leeuw, a Social Science and Humanities researcher who lives near downtown Prince George says, for her, the fire represents the extent to which persons living in poverty are pushed to the extremities of society.

“The burning of the Columbus, which I witnessed first-hand as emergency personnel were going about their grim business, made me think more and more about the lives of those who occupy single-occupancy dwellings,” added de Leeuw. “I think it should give Canadians pause to consider that some of their fellow citizens are being literally burned alive because of their living conditions.”
CBC Jury’s Comments:
“Columbus Burning, the story of a fire at The Columbus Hotel, a flop house housing the nameless disinherited, speaks not just for the downtown Prince George poor, but for all the impoverished people in the backwaters of this country. The piece moves deftly between the anonymity of disenfranchisement; the bigotry of bystanders, and the fleeting conscience of the liberal fringe. In the flames that burn is our paradise lost.  Columbus Burning speaks to us, in poignant, subtle and beautiful language, reminding us that our treatment of the nameless and voiceless is a measure of our humanity.”

Sara de Leeuw is an Assistant professor of Medicine in the Northern Medical program at UNBC where she specializes in Social Sciences and Humanities research.  She is the author of Unmarked: Landscapes along Highway 16, a collection of creative non-fiction essays exploring the geographies of her home.

Michael Kellett, Communications Officer – 250.960.5621
Sarah de Leeuw, Professor, Northern Medical Program, UNBC - 250.640.6763

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