Our final chat in this year’s special Governor General’s Literature Award coverage is with Eric Walters. Eric is the recipient of the 2020 GG's Award for Young People’s Literature (Text) for The King of Jam Sandwiches (Orca Books).
According to this year’s Peer Assessment Committee, "The King of Jam Sandwiches pulls us into the unforgettable friendship of hard-working Robbie and tough-as-nails Harmony in an exceptionally honest survival story that is also compulsively readable and emotionally gripping. Walters has written a heart-wrenching novel about what it is like to grow up amidst poverty and mental illness, one that speaks to contemporary young readers and offers them hope.”
Eric Walters is a Member of the Order of Canada and the author of over 115 books that have collectively won more than 100 awards, many of which have been translated into one or more of 16 different languages. A former teacher, he began writing as a way to get his fifth-grade students interested in reading and writing. Walters is a tireless presenter, speaking to over 100,000 students each year in schools across the country. He has won the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Fiction Award three times and the Association’s Red Maple Award four times, a Christopher Award …
Joan Thomas has won this year’s Governor General’s Award for Fiction for her novel Five Wives.
According to the jury, “In Five Wives, Thomas delivers a compelling and powerful story about an encounter that alters the lives of those involved for generations. Set in a world where Indigenous peoples, missionaries, and the forces of global capitalism collide, Thomas’s tale provides a nuanced examination of Operation Auca—a historical event that took place in Ecuador in 1956. This book raises important questions about religious fervour, autonomy and legacies of violence. Ambitiously conceived and beautifully written, this book is a masterful achievement.”
Joan Thomas is the author of four novels: Five Wives, The Opening Sky, Curiosity, and Reading by Lightning. Her work has won the Amazon First Novel Award, a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the McNally Robinson Prize. Additionally, it has been nominated for the Giller Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and a previous Governor General’s Literary Award. In 2014, Thomas was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust Engel/Findley Prize for a writer in mid-career. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Next up in our special 2019 Governor General’s Award edition of The Chat is our conversation with Gwen Benaway. Her collection Holy Wild won this year’s Governor General’s Award for Poetry.
Ed note: This post has been updated in light of an investigation into Gwen Benaway's claims of Indigenous identity. Benaway has not, at the time of this writing, responded to evidence that she has misrepresented her status. We have removed all references to that claimed identity so that it does not continue to occupy space in Indigenous literature.
Gwen Benaway is the author of previous poetry collections Ceremonies for the Dead and Passage. Holy Wild was also named a finalist for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry, and the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature, and longlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Benaway is also the editor of an anthology of fantasy short stories titled Maiden Mother and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes. She has been a finalist for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ writers from the Writers' Trust of Canada, and her personal essay, "A Body Like A Home," was the Gold Prize Winner for the National Magazine Awards in Personal Journalism. day/break, her fourth book of …
Over the next month, we’ll be interviewing all seven English-language winners of this year’s Governor General’s Literary Awards. We begin our coverage in conversation with renowned translator Linda Gaboriau, winner of the 2019 Governor General’s Award for Translation. She won this year’s award for Birds of a Kind, her translation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play Tous des oiseaux (originally published in French by Leméac/Actes Sud-Papiers).
Praising her work, the jury says, "This translation artfully captures the constantly shifting identities and tones that form the core of this controversial play. With pitch perfect, evocative precision, Gaboriau once again shows her faultless grasp of the emotional and intellectual complexities and nuances of translating for the stage and, in particular, Mouawad’s brilliant, challenging work."
Linda Gaboriau is a literary translator and dramaturg. She has translated more than 125 plays, including those of some of Quebec’s foremost playwrights, which have been published and produced on both Canadian and international stages. She has received many awards for her work, namely two previous Governor General’s Literary Awards for Translation (Stone and Ashes, 1996, and Forests, 2010). Linda was the founding director of the Ba …
The vibrant picture book Africville was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Award for Literature for Young People. It tells the story of Africville through the eyes of a young girl. This week we’re in conversation with the book’s creators, author Shauntay Grant and illustrator Eva Campbell.
In a starred review, Quill & Quire says, "Shauntay Grant’s writing is graceful ... She reaches out to young readers and invites them in ... Visually, Africville is gorgeous. Eva Campbell’s illustrations are arresting; the colours are warm and inviting, and her painterly style enhances the dreamlike quality of the story."
Eva Campbell is an artist and illustrator who teaches visual art at Lester B. Pearson College UWC. She has exhibited her work in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Barbados, and Ghana. Eva won the Children’s Africana Book Award for her illustrations in The Matatuby by Eric Walters. She lives in Victoria.
Shauntay Grant is a descendant of Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons and Black Refugees who migrated to Canada some t …
The 2018 Governor General’s Award for Translation was awarded to the team of Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott for Descent into Night (Mawenzi House), their translation of Edem Awumey’s haunting novel Explication de la nuit.
The jury assessment committee says "Descent into Night, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, is a beautifully assured rendering of a text offering many translation challenges. The translators agilely follow the text as it shifts between an ailing Quebec writer’s regrets about his life, and his long-ago involvement in a failed West African revolution, which haunts him into the present. This translation skillfully captures the lyricism of the French text."
Phyllis Aronoff translates fiction, non-fiction and poetry, solo or with co-translator Howard Scott. Her most recent solo translations include Black Thursday, a memoir by French journalist Maurice Rajsfus, and Message Sticks, poems by the Innu writer Joséphine Bacon. The Wanderer, her translation of La Québécoite, by Régine Robin, received a Jewish Literary Awa …
Today we're pleased to share this interview with Darrel J. McLeod, who won this year’s Governor General’s Award for Nonfiction for his memoir Masmaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age (Douglas & McIntyre).
The peer assessment committee says "Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age dares to immerse readers in provocative contemporary issues including gender fluidity, familial violence, and transcultural hybridity. A fast-moving, intimate memoir of dreams and nightmares—lyrical and gritty, raw and vulnerable, told without pity, but with phoenix-like strength.”
Darrel J. McLeod is Cree from Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. Before pursuing a writing career, he was a chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. He holds degrees in French literature and Education from the University of British Columbia. Darrel has written a sequel to Mamaskatch, which has the working title Peyakow, and is currently writing his first novel. Darrel lives, writes, sings, and plays jazz guitar in Sooke B.C. He is fluent in French and Spanish.
Ever wonder about the life of a young Victorian chimney sweep? Jonathan Auxier is winner of this year’s Governor General’s Award for Literature for Young People (Text), for his enchanting novel Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster.
The peer assessment committee says “A tender story of what makes us human, Sweep doesn’t shy away from the risks of love and monstrousness of indifference. With an impeccable narrative, Sweep shows how love can breathe life into darkness and how hope can spark change. Auxier weaves a multi-layered masterpiece with endearing characters and gut-wrenching twists that are certain to instill readers with a sense of wonder and discovery for the miracle of storytelling."
Jonathan Auxier writes strange stories for strange children. His debut novel, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was a Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award Honour Book, and was also shortlisted for both the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Diamond Willow Award. His New York Times Best Seller The Night Gardener was a finalist for a Governor General's Literary Award, as well as winner of the Silver Birch Award, Monica Hughes Award, the TD Bank Children’s Literature Award, and the Canadian Library Association’s Book of the Year Award. …
Jordan Tannahill is no stranger to the Governor General’s Awards. Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom marks his second GG's win in the drama category.
The peer assessment committee says, “Jordan Tannahill’s two-play volume explores the fragility of social consensus in a world made uneasy by the forces of social division. Both plays are poetic, irreverent and funny, offering the pleasure of entertainment while displaying masterful literary ability. Tannahill possesses a powerful artistic voice that reflects where we come from, who we are and who we may become."
Jordan Tannahill is a playwright, author, and filmmaker. Jordan’s plays have been translated into multiple languages and honoured with various prizes, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, the John Hirsch Prize, and multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards. In the last year, Jordan’s play Late Company transferred to London’s West End; his virtual-reality piece Draw Me Close premiered at the Venice Biennale; his debut novel Liminal was published by House of Anansi; he premiered his play Declarations at Canadian Stage; and he collaborated with Akram Khan on Xenos, currently touring internationally. Visit www.jordantannahill.com.
THE CHAT WITH JORDAN TANNAHILL
Today we chat with Joel Thomas Hynes, author of the novel We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night. It’s this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winner for Fiction.
From the jury citation: “Hynes’s portrait of Johnny Keough is an act of full-throttle imagination and narrative invention. Johnny is a startlingly original creation. His hilarious yet disturbing journey from St. John’s to Vancouver is unforgettable, tragic and ultimately transcendent.”
Joel Thomas Hynes—who divides his time between Toronto and St. John's, Newfoundland—has published numerous books and stage plays, including the novels Down to the Dirt, Right Away Monday, and Straight Razor Days. His screen adaptation of his novella Say Nothing Saw Wood was nominated for four Canadian Screen Awards and won numerous awards on the festival circuit. He has worked in the Canadian film and TV industry for 20 years, and has written and directed two award-winning short films, Clipper Gold and Little Man. He has had leading roles in productions such as Down to the Dirt, Book of Negroes, Hatching Matching and Dispatching, Rookie Blue, Mary Kills People, and Orphan Black and currently can be seen on the Netflix Original drama Frontier. The new comedy series Little Dog, created b …
One of the best things we ever did at 49th Shelf was asking Trevor Corkum to join our team to lead the interview series, The Chat. For the past two years, Trevor has been talking with some of Canada's most exciting writers about their books and the stories behind them, and while you can always check to see the latest instalments at https://49thshelf.com/chat, this post groups all the interviews to date for your ready reference.
Thanks to Trevor for this tremendous body of work, and stay tuned for Trevor's interviews with both 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize and Governor General's Literary Award finalists!
Jordan Abel (Injun)
Carmen Aguirre (Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter)
André Alexis (Fifteen Dogs)
Karim Alrawi (Book of Sands)
Samuel Archibald (Arvida)
Mona Awad (13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl)
Gary Barwin (Yiddish for Pirates)
Kris Bertin (Bad Things Happen)
Paul Carlucci (A Plea for Constant Motion)
Michael Christie (If I Fall, If I Die)
Rachel Cusk (Outline)
Farzana Doctor (All Inclusive)
Emma Donoghue (The Wonder)
Anne Fleming (The Goat)
Brett Josef Grubisic (From Up River and For One Night Only)
Kevin Hardcastle (In the Cage)
Michael Harris (Solitude)
Teva Harrison (In-Between Days)
Steven Heighton (The Waking Comes Late)
Catherine Hernandez (Scarboroug …