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Jessica McDiarmid 2020 MFA Writer in Residence

March 15, 2020

The University of King’s College MFA in Creative Nonfiction program is delighted to welcome back one of our own as this year’s Writer in Residence.

Jessica McDiarmid (Class of 2016) is the author of Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The book, published in Canada by Doubleday Canada and in the US by Simon & Schuster, was a finalist for the prestigious 2020 RBC Taylor Prize for Nonfiction and is currently a finalist for the 2020 Hubert Evans Nonfiction Prize in the British Columbia and Yukon Book Prizes. The BC prize winner will be announced April 25.

Jessica’s book tells the story of the more than 1,200 Indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or been found murdered along the Highway of Tears, an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern B.C, where Jessica herself grew up.

The New York Times Book Review said “these murder cases expose systemic problems… By examining each murder within the context of Indigenous identity and regional hardships, McDiarmid addresses these very issues, finding reasons to look for the deeper roots of each act of violence.”

The CBC called Highway of Tears, “a piercing exploration of our ongoing failure to provide justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and testament to their families and communities’ unwavering determination to find it… Through interviews with those closest to the victims — mothers and fathers, siblings and friends — McDiarmid provides an intimate, first-hand account of their loss and unflagging fight for justice.”

The New York Journal of Books described Highway of Tears as “a riveting account of the terror visited on a community when their children go missing, made even more horrific by helplessness felt when polite society and the media ignore them, and law enforcement barely seems to muster a token effort to find them.”

The book, added Publisher’s Weekly is “essential reading for anyone who cares about social justice.”

A former Toronto Star reporter and journalism trainer with Journalists for Human Rights in Sierra Leone, Jessica is also a graduate of the King’s School of Journalism.

As the MFA’s Writer in Residence, Jessica will conduct a master class for all students in the program as well meet with senior questions for a discussion and question-and-answer session.

The summer residency this year will run from Jun 6-14, 2020.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s residency will be conducted online.