Tag Archives: Giller Prize

Who Will Win Giller This Year?

The Giller Prize 2021 longlist was announced on September 8, the International Literacy Day. From these twelve titles that were chosen amongst the 132 books submitted by publishers across Canada, the jury announced the finalist on October 5, and these five titles will be competing for the most prestigious and richest Canadian literary award on November 8, 9 PM.

This year’s longlist selection is as diverse as Canada itself – in the jury’s words, the longlist “showcases an ecstatic diversity of voices and styles, of narrative deployment and moral urgency, of formal innovation and old-fashioned storytelling pleasure. There is something for everyone on this list, but within each of these books there is to be found beauty, honest reckoning, human compassion, and the irrefutable mark of the sublime.”

Each longlisted title is brilliant and unique, but part of the game is that the jury must pick out five finalists and one winner. How brutal! Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about the longlisted titles that didn’t make the shortlist here (thanks to VPL for giving us this platform!). So, the three books that I’m going to share with you, one made the finalist, the other two not, yet all of them are definitely worth-noting.

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkard

Believing in fiction’s power to make a change in the world, the former The Globe and Mail journalist, El Akkard, became a full-time novelist. After his award-winning debut novel American War, his second novel What Strange Paradise is again creating tremendous impact – it is now in this year’s Giller shortlist.

What Strange Paradise offers a timely response to the refugee crisis at the southern U.S. border and the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. It is a harrowing read, right from the first line: “The child lies on the shore. All around him the beach is littered with the wreckage of the boat and the wreckage of its passengers.” But, as readers’ hearts are going to break, El Akkard gives them hope: “A wave brushes gently against the child’s hair. He opens his eyes.” When the child, the only survivor of the shipwreck, awakes in the Greek island and tries to escape from the authority, Vanna, a native teenage girl, did everything in her power to save him. (The Globe and Mail)

It’s a wonderfully told story about humanity in its simplest form, where right and wrong is crystal clear – a much-needed, powerful message in the midst of this world’s never-ending, tumultuous sociopolitical upheavals! (Quill & Quire)

Continue reading

Brother (by David Chariandy)

Longlisted for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust BrotherFiction Prize, Brother is a short but tight story contains so much emotion and is very intense. It explores masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex.

Personally, I really connected with the immigrant experience and problems surrounding this community. I love the fact that this book didn’t shy away from sadness. Grieving is a complicated process and ongoing, whether it’s for death, lost love, lost life, or lost memories. Sometimes it will take collected effort to keep the healing going. In addition, I can better understand the disadvantage in the black community after this book, for that’s what happened to Micheal and Francis. Brother is an important and relevant story today.

I read The Sun and Her Flowers (Rupi Kaur) after this book, and I feel that some of the passages in Kaur’s poems really echo with themes in Brother. These connections between the two books are kind of unexpected and serendipitous.

Brother has an ending that satisfied me; without giving anything away, I just want to say that the very last word charged me with power and energy. It’s not the kind of ending where everyone lived happily ever after, but it offers comfort, support, and it acknowledged that it is ok to have scares in your heart. In the end, what really matters is to express, to reach out, and to heal together.

You might also like:

Scarborough

One of the Boys

The Idiot

More

Also by David Chariandy:

Soucouyant

The Best Kind of People, by Zoe Whittall

Cover image from Zoe Whittell's The Best Kind of People. The title is written in cursive no a chalkboard with white chalk, and there is a red Giller Prize logo in the upper right-hand corner. I have read (and enjoyed!) most of Zoe Whittall’s novels, but I almost passed on The Best Kind of People, because the premise of ‘school teacher accused of sexual abuse of students’ is one I’ve seen more than enough of for a lifetime. But, the book was short-listed for the Giller Prize this year, and I decided to give it a shot.

I am so glad I did!

Whittall’s treatment of this subject matter, which is simultaneously extremely sensitive and (in my opinion) massively overused in all forms of fiction, is nothing short of ground-breaking. At no point does the novel give in to the prurience so often present in these kinds of stories – we never hear any details about the sexual misconduct in question. Instead, The Best Kind of People centres itself around the experiences of the family of the man accused, in particular his sixteen-year-old daughter Sadie (who is only a few years older than the girls her father is accused of assaulting) and his wife Joan, neither of whom can reconcile the accusations with the man they know and love.

Ultimately, the novel is a masterful examination of the ways in which our society responds to these kinds of crimes, particularly when the perpetrator is respected person with a great deal of privilege. Sadie and Joan find themselves variously vilified, ostracized and supported by various community members – including support from people they wish would stay well away from them – all while desperately trying to sort through their own feelings, and what it will mean for their lives if their respective father and husband is indeed guilty.

This is a deeply emotional novel, full of well-drawn, complex and realistic characters. Well worth a read!

If you’ve already read and loved The Best Kind of People, check out some other great books from Canadian women, or take a look at other  Scotiabank Giller Prize nominees and winners.