A North Kildonan writer likes to explore life on the prairies — and she recently received a major award for it.
Dora Dueck’s short-story collection, What You Get at Home, won the High Plains Book Award for the Short Story category in a banquet at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings, Mont. on Oct. 26, edging out two other finalists.
The award celebrates life on the high plains in places ranging from Alberta, Colorado, Nebraska, Manitoba, and points in between. This year, finalists came from as far away as Arizona, Maine, and California, though the two other short story nominees also happened be Canadian.
"It’s always fun to win, but it’s a great honour just to be part of the event," Dueck said. "It’s regional literature, but it’s a big region.
"There’s this great big area, and even though we’re very diverse, there’s this plains sensibility that we share."
What You Get at Home features 15 diverse stories exploring suffering and belonging.
"The human experience puts us between places in many ways — sometimes geographically. We’re always between the past and the future, in a way. Identity can be complicated, because we have many different places where we can fit," Dueck said.
Seven of the stories centre on Liese, an immigrant from Paraguay looking to find her way in Winnipeg. Though Dueck saw plenty of inspiration in the character, she didn’t feel a novel was the best way to present Liese’s experience of falling in love and reconciling her past and present.
"She was a character that interested me, but just pieces of her story came to me and I didn’t think it was a novel," Dueck said. "These particular stories explored things that I was interested in, and that she was going through."
Dueck’s husband, Helmut, moved to Canada from Paraguay when he was 19, and the couple also lived in the country for two years, which helped to inform Dueck’s writing — both in terms of what the character was coming from and in terms of living a different experience.
"I lived as a person who didn’t entirely belong, so I came to understand the challenges of that, and how you make a home in a strange place, and how you look back," Dueck explained.
Other stories include a woman who keeps a cancer diagnosis to herself, a grandmother taking courage from her gay grandchild, and adults who bicker over possession of an item inherited from their parents.
Dueck, 63, is no stranger to awards, having taken home the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award for her novel, This Hidden Thing, in 2010.