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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
August 27, 2016
Canadian Excellence


2009: Russell Wangersky

Russell Wangersky won the 2009 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction for his memoir Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself.

Wangersky’s book offers a crystal-clear portrait of a man who, through his career as a firefighter, becomes addicted to the rush of danger. In a narrative stacked with house fires, car wrecks and various other human tragedies, Wangersky portrays the emotional contingencies and lingering trauma that slowly begin to pull his life apart. This is a powerful book that illuminates the darker natures of those whom we trust with our lives.

Burning Down the House is a memoir in the truest definition of the word: a book that explores memory as both a creative and destructive force,” said Tanis MacDonald, award juror and assistant professor in Laurier’s Department of English and Film Studies. “The ironic title captures the camaraderie and dark humour of the firehouse, and its cautionary subtitle warns of the psychological price of serving society as an emergency rescue worker whose skills are absolutely essential and absolutely impossible to leave behind when the shift is over.”

Wangersky lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is the editorial page editor for the daily newspaper The Telegram. Burning Down the House is his second book.

Other Publications by Russell Wangersky:

  • The Hour of Bad Decisions (2006)

For more information visit Russell Wangersky's website.

The shortlist for the 2009 Edna Staebler Award also included:

  • The Darien Gap: Travels in the Rainforest of Panama (Harbour Publishing) by Martin Mitchinson;
  • Lost: A Memoir (Key Porter Books) by Cathy Ostlere;
  • The Riverbones: Stumbling After Eden in the Jungles of Suriname (McClelland & Stewart) by Andrew Westoll.