A tribute to Judy Mappin

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Judy Mappin champion of Canadian writers
Judy Mappin, a giant in Montreal's literary scene and the longtime owner of the Double Hook Book Shop, died last Friday. She was 85. Mappin was widely respected for promoting Canadian writers in the bookstore she co-founded in 1974. (Montreal Gazette)

In 2005, Judy was awarded the CBA Libris Lifetime Achievement Award, for her dedication to promoting Canadian authors and books. She was the first winner of the award that was not an author. Read her acceptance speech at the 2005 CBA Libris Awards.

Just over 30 years ago, in 1974, Judy Mappin and partners Hélène Holden and Joan Blake opened The Double Hook Book Shop on Montreal’s Ste. Catherine Street. Named after the Canadian classic by Sheila Watson, the shop’s mission was to promote all Canadian authors and works—not around the world but to Canadians themselves. Today, when Canadian authors find themselves feted on the international stage, when names like Atwood, Munro and Vassanji are found on awards shortlists all over the world, it’s difficult to imagine that only three decades ago the Canadian population remained largely unaware of our own literature. But so it was. And, with The Double Hook, Judy sought to remedy the situation.

Legions of authors bolstered Judy and her partners in this mission, offering encouragement and stopping in for readings. Not surprising, given the store’s raison d’être, Judy was particularly supportive of new and unknown authors—many of whom went on to become household names. Authors who’ve crossed The Double Hook threshold over the years are too numerous to mention, but include Roch Carrier, Mordecai Richler and Mary di Michelle.

And while the store (which has occupied since its move in 1976 a two-story former residence on Greene Avenue in Westmount that dates back to 1895) has become a fixture of Montreal’s arts community—a welcoming literary oasis for authors and readers alike—Judy’s contribution to Canadian literature and culture has always extended beyond its walls. A past winner of the Ontario Book Publisher’s Organization’s Janice E. Handford Award, offered in recognition of an individual who has advanced the cause of small and literary Canadian publishing, she was also a founding member and director of the Quebec Society for the Promotion of English Language Literature (QSPELL). She served on the National Poetry Month Committee, as well as several jury panels, including the aforementioned Janice E. Handford Award and the 1999 Giller Prize Jury Panel. And, of course she is also a Trustee for The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction—a prize commemorating the life of her late brother, author and Globe and Mail correspondent, Charles Taylor.

A keen supporter of the Quebec Writers Federation, the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival and various Quebec librarian and teaching associations, Judy represents the very best of Canadian independent bookselling (a fact which was recognized in 2001 when The Double Hook Book Shop was awarded the CBA Libris Award for Bookseller of the Year). She is a bookseller who has continually given back to both her local community and the larger community of Canadian authors, artists, publishers and readers; and in doing so has made The Double Hook an integral, treasured part of its neighbourhood.

Which is why its closing next month, and with it Judy Mappin’s (the store’s sole remaining active partner) retirement from bookselling, is so difficult for many of us to imagine. While it’s encouraging to know that there are countless independent booksellers across the country who believe passionately in Canadian authors and tirelessly promote their works, there will never be another like The Double Hook. Judy Mappin’s pioneering vision of national literary pride and international recognition for Canadian works has been realised, and, for that, those of us working in today’s book industry today who share a love of the kinds of Canadian books and authors we honour here tonight, owe Judy a debt of gratitude. On behalf of the industry, I would now like to ask Judy to come to stage to accept her CBA Libris Award for Lifetime Achievement.