Evelyn Richardson
Non-fiction Award

One prize ($2,000) is awarded each year for a book of creative non-fiction that was written by a full-time resident of Nova Scotia and published or distributed for the first time in Canada in the year prior to the submission deadline. Creative non-fiction includes narrative non-fiction, collected essays, biography, memoir, and long-form academic publication that offers a complex and reflective narrative about original research.

The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award was established in 1977 to honour the work of non-fiction writers in Nova Scotia. It is named for Evelyn Richardson (1902 – 1976), who won the 1945 Governor General’s Non-Fiction Award for We Keep A Light, her memoir of life in a family of lighthousekeepers on Bon Portage Island, Shelburne County.


Past Recipients

2020 Winner

Daughter of Family G: A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate by Ami McKay (Knopf Canada)

2020 Shortlist

Hell and Damnation: A Sinner’s Guide to Eternal Torment by Marq de Villiers (University of Regina Press)

Mayann Francis: An Honourable Life by The Honourable Dr. Mayann Francis (Nimbus Publishing)


Meet Evelyn Richardson

Evelyn Richardson was born Evelyn May Fox in 1902. Her first island home was Emerald Isle, also known as Stoddart Island, on the southern coast of Nova Scotia. She attended high school at Halifax Academy and later studied at Dalhousie University, earning a BA and becoming a teacher. In 1926, she married Morrill Richardson.

In her award-winning memoir, We Keep a Light she describes how she and her husband bought tiny Bon Portage Island and built a happy life there for themselves and their three children. Although their main responsibility was tending the lighthouse, they kept a garden and raised sheep and a few cows.

This memoir is known for its gentle humour, colourful stories and interesting personalities. According to The Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, We Keep a Light is “an unsentimental, optimistic memoir of a simple lifestyle that suited the post-war mood and anticipated 1960s environmentalism.”

The Richardsons lived as lightkeepers on Bon Portage Island for 35 years. When they retired in 1964, the light was mechanized and the island acquired by Acadia University for its ecology and wildlife management programs.

Evelyn Richardson wrote several other books, including My Other Islands (1960)—“Mum’s best book,” says daughter Elizabeth Smith—and the historical novel Desired Haven (1953), set during the heyday of the Banks fishery. Where My Roots Go Deep, a collection of essays demonstrating her interest in local history, was published by Nimbus in 1996.

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