“With poetic prose, a memorable character and evocative settings, Philippa Dowding deftly handles challenging subjects in this emotionally honest story. Supported by a unique cast of characters, Firefly will shine for readers and resonate long after they close this quietly powerful book.” – 2021 Peer Assessment Committee
Philippa Dowding is a children’s author, poet, musician and copywriter. She has won many industry awards and has had poetry and short fiction published in journals across North America. Her children’s books have been nominated for numerous literary awards in Canada and abroad, including the SYRCA Diamond Willow, OLA Silver Birch, OLA Red Maple, Hackmatack and White Raven awards. In 2017, Myles and the Monster Outside was an OLA Silver Birch Express Honour Book and her 2021 novel, Firefly, won a Governor General’s Literary Award in the Children’s Literature – Text category. Philippa Dowding currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Congrats on your GGs Award, Philippa! How does it feel to be recognized in this way by your p …
"Tolu Oloruntoba’s voice in The Junta of Happenstance is at once thoughtful and authoritative, metaphorically rich and lyrically surprising. Oloruntoba’s language travels through history and myth to speak to today and engage with a future transformed by new understanding. The combination of craft and spirit cuts a fine place for this debut work, expanding our literary view."—2021 Peer Assessment Committee
Tolu Oloruntoba spent his early career as a primary care physician. He currently manages virtual health projects, and has lived in Nigeria, the United States, and Canada. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, while his debut chapbook, Manubrium, was a bpNichol Chapbook Award finalist. The Junta of Happenstance is his first full-length collection of poetry. He lives in the metro area of Coast Salish lands known as Vancouver.
The Junta of Happenstance is your first full-length collection of poetry. How does it feel to be recognized with a Governor General’s Award at this early point in your career?
Thanks, Trevor. I suppose it is early in my career, since I hope to have a long one, but I have been writing poetry since 2001 (although I am glad all my earlier attempts to put out a full-length book failed, because I wasn’t ready). But to answer your question, and if I can be honest, it has been surreal and a little terrifying. Dionne Brand, Anne Carson, and so many other lights have won this award. I am not even slightly close to being credibly considered …
“Hannah Moscovitch’s play is an articulate, poetic, beautifully written play with characters who are complex and complicated. A superb piece of writing that shines as a play, as a living piece of theatre, and no doubt, literature that will endure. The committee could not be more thrilled to have chosen this winning play.”—2021 Peer Assessment Citation
Hannah Moscovitch is an acclaimed Canadian playwright, TV writer, and librettist whose work has been widely produced in Canada and around the world. Recent stage work includes Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes and Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story (co-created with Christian Barry and Ben Caplan). Hannah has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Trillium Book Award, the Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award, the Scotsman Fringe First and the Herald Angel Awards at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize administered by Yale University. She has been nominated for the international Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Drama Desk Award, Canada’s Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, and the Governor General’s Literary Award. She is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. She lives in Halifax.
Congrats on your Governor General’s Award, Hannah … among …
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