Interim J-School director garners Libris nomination

On March 24, Stephen Kimber received a phone call informing him of his nomination for a Libris Award in the category of non-fiction book of the year. His book, “What Lies Across the Water,” was published last August.

Kimber, the interim director of the King’s School of Journalism, went home that night and shared the news with his family as they waited for the official announcement on Monday.

“(To be named on) the longlist is very nice. I’m just happy to be on it,” Kimber says.

“I would consider it a pretty big deal,” says Carolyn Gillis, who manages the King’s Co-op Bookstore. “This is the bookstores across Canada nominating (and voting on) anyone in publishing.”

The King’s Co-op Bookstore was also nominated for the campus bookseller of the year Libris Award.

Previous award winners in the non-fiction category include prominent Canadian authors Margaret Atwood and Stephen Lewis. This year’s longlist of nominees also features astronaut Chris Hadfield and Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr.

“The challenge for a non-fiction writer is to shape the facts into a story without ever making stuff up.” Kimber says of his writing style. “But that’s what I like to do.”

“It’s also what I like to read,” he continues.

Kimber’s book tells the story of the Cuban Five, a group of Cuban Intelligence Agents who infiltrated anti-Cuban terrorist organizations in the United States in the early 1990’s. The agents were arrested years later and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The circumstances and legitimacy of their imprisonment have since become hot topics in both the United States and Cuba.

The idea for the book came to Kimber “totally by accident” a few years ago when he was in Cuba doing research for a novel he was planning to write. One afternoon, Kimber asked his guide if he thought Cuban-American relations would improve with the recent Presidential election of Barack Obama. The guide told Kimber he believed nothing would change “until they solve the problem of the five.”

“From a practical standpoint,” Kimber says, “(the nomination will) bring attention to this book, which is important. (It will) get the message out that there is this story (about the Cuban Five) that isn’t very well known or understood in Canada.”

The longlist of 10 nominees in the non-fiction category will be trimmed down to a shortlist in April, with the winner being announced on June 2.