Alissa York


Alissa York was born in 1970, in Athabasca, Alberta, to Australian immigrant parents. She studied English Literature at McGill University. Alissa published her first story in The New Quarterly in 1995. In 1998 she and her partner, Clive, founded Cyclops Press, an independent publishing company that specializes in literary multimedia titles by such writers as Al Purdy, Patrick Lane and Catherine Hunter. Alissa has co-edited several Cyclops Press titles and currently serves as Associate Editor. Alissa York’s highly acclaimed first novel, Mercy, was published in 2003. Effigy was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She won the Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher for her short story collection, Any Given Power. Her stories have also won the Journey Prize and the Bronwen Wallace Award, and in 2001 she won the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. She has lived all over Canada, and now makes her home in Toronto.

The Naturalist — Set in the time when Darwin was reshaping the world and a new breed of explorer-hero possessed the popular imagination, The Naturalist is a spellbinding tale of loss, discovery and love. 1867, Philadelphia. Amateur naturalist Walter Ash is on the brink of a long-awaited return expedition to the Amazon when he dies in an accident, obliging his only son to take his place. More at ease among his books than in the field, Paul Ash takes a reluctant leave of absence from Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology to accompany his grieving stepmother and her young companion to the fabled River Sea. Paul holds no memory of the place—he was an infant when his father carried him out of the jungle and away from the family he might have known—but neither the region nor its people have forgotten him. While the Amazon lays claim to Paul in no uncertain terms, it works a peculiar magic on both his father’s lovely widow and her friend—a quiet little Quaker named Rachel Weaver who proves to be the true naturalist and heir to Walter Ash.

The Naturalist is on this year’s CBC summer reading list.


Years Participated: 2009, 2016

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