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Howard White Shortlisted for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature

Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012 at 4:41pm

Howard White has been shortlisted for the 2012 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature for his book, A Hard Man to Beat: The Story of Bill White, Labour Leader, Shipyard Worker, Raconteur. 

The George Ryga Award is awarded to a British Columbia author who has achieved an outstanding degree of social awareness in a newly published book, and is administered by Okanagan College. Past winners include Stephen Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo and Larry Campbell, Neil Boyd and Lori Culbert for their book, A Thousand Dreams: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Fight for Its Future. Other books shortlisted for the 2012 award are Michael Christie’s The Beggars Garden (Harper Collins) and Joel Bakan’s Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children (Penguin). The winner will be announced in March of 2013 and the award will be presented at a ceremony in Kelowna, BC on Saturday, March 23 during Okanagan College’s literary festival Word Ruckus. 

In A Hard Man to Beat: The Story of Bill White, Howard White (no relation to Bill) has documented an oral history from one of the pivotal forces in the Canadian labour movement. Bill White (known as “Bareknuckle Bill”) was the head of the Vancouver Labour Council and president of the Marine Workers and Boilermakers Union in the 1940s and ’50s during the heyday of West Coast ship building. He was in the centre of the struggle for safe working conditions, fair compensation and job security, and had an unwavering devotion to fair play, going to great lengths to accomplish it. 

In writing A Hard Man to Beat, Howard White tried to maintain as much as Bill’s own language as possible. In doing so, he has created a riveting book that cuts through all the technical jargon, unfamiliar names and intricacies of the Canadian labour movement, and gives the reader a raw account of the frustrations, struggles and victories of West Coast unions. He has also revealed the strength of character in a man who was unrelenting in standing up for what he believed in.

Howard White was born in 1945 in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He was raised in a series of camps and settlements on the BC coast and never got over it. He is still to be found stuck barnacle-like to the shore at Pender Harbour, BC. He started Raincoast Chronicles and Harbour Publishing in the early 1970s and, in addition to A Hard Man to Beat, he is also the author of The Men There Were Then, Spilsbury’s Coast, The Accidental Airline, Patrick and the Backhoe, Writing in the Rain and The Sunshine Coast. He was awarded the Canadian Historical Association’s Career Award for Regional History in 1989. In 2000, he completed a ten-year project, The Encyclopedia of British Columbia. He has been awarded the Order of BC, the Canadian Historical Association’s Career Award for Regional History, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award and a Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from the University of Victoria. In 2007, White was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He has twice been runner-up in the Whisky Slough Putty Man Triathlon.