Toronto Book Awards – Featuring What Disturbs Our Blood

The 2011 Toronto Book Awards is being covered by our guest blogger Christine Sweeton. To read more about her, click here.


Journalist and author, James FitzGerald is not one to shy away from controversy. His first book, Old Boys: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College, featured revelations of sexual abuse of boys at the school, never before published. This then led to the charging and conviction of three former teachers and the launching of a class action lawsuit against the college.

FitzGerald’s memoire, What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son’s Quest to Redeem His Past, dives head first into the last one hundred years of Canadian mental health policies and procedures. He tracks this through an extended time researching the history of mental illness in his own family and studying the distinguished Canadian public health career of his grandfather. Behind the many amazing medical successes found in FitzGerald’s family history, lies many stories of great men crippled and destroyed by depression, anxiety, and the many failed attempts at various types of treatment.

My favourite magazine makes a stunning showing in connection with this book; FitzGerald’s article, “Sins of the Fathers,” that sparked his desire to write a full length memoire, was published by Toronto Life in 2002. In fact, the article won a National Magazine Award.

The outpouring of praise for What Disturbs Our Blog comes from a wide range of sources – from reader responses stating that it was “an absolutely masterful and powerfully moving piece of work” to renowned Canadian film director, David Cronenberg, stating the he “thought it was magnificent…potent resonances on every page.”

“A memoire of extraordinary power and candour…as riveting as a crime thriller.”

The Globe and Mail

Both The Globe and Mail and The National Post gave What Disturbs Our Blood glowing reviews. The book won the 2010 Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize and was a finalist for both the 2010 Trillium Book Award and the 2011 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

The judges at The Toronto Book Awards describe FitzGerald’s novel as follows:

“Author James FitzGerald hails from two generations of doctors whose medical achievements left a great impact on the Canadian health system. But these great men also suffered great falls that the FitzGerald family kept secret. Not only is this memoir a gripping, deeply personal story about family relationships and family secrets, it is also a fascinating, well-researched history of Toronto, Canadian medicine and public health, and the treatment of mental illness.”


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