VANCOUVER - A former sex-trade worker's unflinching memoir of her life on the streets and her metamorphosis to writer and activist is the winner of this year's City of Vancouver Book Award.

"How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler's Memoir" recounts a decade in the life of author Amber Dawn.

Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, the unconventional book explores her life in the sex trade in the West Coast city 20 years ago, her experiences as a lesbian and her transformation through poetry and prose.

"I accept this award also as a victory for other sex workers and survivors, and for the tenacious and dignified peoples of the Downtown Eastside," Dawn said in the acceptance speech she posted on her website.

"Please let my voice be only one that we listen to. Please let my story be one of many that we celebrate."

Dawn receives a cash prize of $2,000 with the award.

The annual award recognizes authors who "contribute to the appreciation and understanding of Vancouver's history, unique character, or the achievements of its residents," the city website said.

The four other titles shortlisted for the prize were "The Ballad of Mrs. Smith" by Jancis M. Andrews, "Inventing Stanley Park" by Sean Kheraj, "Ink on Paper" by Brad Cran and "Exploring Vancouver" by Harold Kalman and Robin Ward.

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