Language as the mother of bond and breach is beautifully storied in Sadiqa de Meijer’s poignant and provocative memoir, alfabet/alphabet. This is a book that dreams of transforming migration, citizenship, families, nationhood and the very utterances upon which each is built. A deeply hopeful narrative about language itself, a singular exploration of the way that words build a home. – 2021 Peer Assessment Committee
Sadiqa de Meijer is the author of the poetry collections Leaving Howe Island and The Outer Wards. Her work has won the CBC Poetry Prize and Arc’s Poem of the Year Contest, and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. She lives with her family in Kingston, Ontario.
Congrats on your Governor General’s Award, Sadiqa. The book explores your transition from speaking Dutch to English. Why was it important for you to explore this terrain?
Thank you! After my first book of poems, I started asking myself what it meant for me to write in English, and the answers turned out to go far deeper than I’d imagined. Until then, my languages existed within me in a togetherness that I took for granted; writing alfabet/alphabet was the process of bringing their overlap and borders into consciousness.
“With its muted palette and gentle text, On the Trapline is quietly profound. Robertson’s reflective storytelling coupled with Flett’s masterpiece illustrations make this picture book a must-read about the connection to language, family, the land and tradition.” – 2021 Peer Assessment Committee
David A. Robertson is the author of numerous books for young readers, including When We Were Alone (illustrated by Julie Flett), which won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award and was nominated for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award. Strangers, the first book in his Reckoner trilogy, a young adult supernatural mystery, won the 2018 Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction. He is also the author of The Barren Grounds and The Great Bear, two books in a middle-grade fantasy series called The Misewa Saga. The Barren Grounds was a Kirkus and Quill & Quire best middle-grade book of 2020, as well as a USBBY and Texas Lone Star selection, and was shortlisted for the Silver Birch Fiction Award and the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. A sought-after speaker and educator, Dave is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation and currently lives in Winnipeg.
"Tainna: The Unseen Ones is an explosive force of sadness, anger, humour and beauty, full of moments that surprise and pummel and still provide hope. This collection is both vivid and raw but infused with a sparkling poetry and the wisdom of the old ways. Like the spirits Norma Dunning describes in these stunning and original stories, this is a book that will never leave you.” – 2021 Peer Assessment Committee
Dr. Norma Dunning is a writer as well as a scholar, researcher, professor, and grandmother. Her first book, the short story collection, Annie Muktuk and Other Stories (University of Alberta Press, 2017), received the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story and the Bronze for short stories in the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. She is also the author of the bestselling poetry collection, Eskimo Pie (Bookland Press, 2020). She lives in Edmonton, AB.
Tainna: The Unseen Ones is a collection of stories featuring a range of Inuk characters who “meet the prejudice, misogyny and inequity of the Canadian South with humour and tenacity.” Tell us more about how the collection and how it came together.
This collection was written in opposition to Annie Muktuk and Other Stories, in that, it was intentional to have modern-da …
"Moure has crafted a spectacular English poem in conversation with the French—a work channelling science, art, revolution and corporeal movement balanced in stillness and space. It is a thrilling space where meanings are amplified, beauty reverberates and the reader’s expectations are exceeded again and again. Moure advances new possibilities for both Neveu’s poem and translation itself." —2021 GG's Peer Assessment Committee
Erín Moure has published over forty books, including poetry, essays, memoir, and translations/co-translations from French, Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, Portunhol, and Ukrainian. Recent translations: In Leaf by Rosalía de Castro, The Uplands: Book of the Courel by Uxío Novoneyra, and Sleepless Nights Under Capitalism by Juan Gelman. Moure holds two honorary doctorates from universities in Canada and Spain, was a 2017 Creative Fellow at Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room, and the 2019 International Translator-in-Residence at Queen’s College, Oxford. Moure lives in Montreal.
Congrats on your Governor General’s Award for Translation, Erín. You’ve had a long and distinguished career, publishing over forty books, including many translations and co-translations. How does it feel to be recognized by your peers at this point in your …
We continue our Governor General’s Literature Awards coverage in conversation with Kim Senklip Harvey, whose work Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story (Talonbooks) won in the category of drama.
According to the Peer Assessment Committee, “The brilliance, the irreverence, the fire of Kamloopa sweeps us into the world of three Indigenous women on a mind-bending quest. The audience is seduced by the love, humour and depth of these matriarchs as they embrace and celebrate who they are in the world and with each other. A play that will encourage you to re-evaluate your relationship with Canada.”
Kim Senklip Harvey is a proud Syilx and Tsilhqot’in and an Indigenous theorist, a cultural evolutionist and an award-winning writer and director whose work focuses on igniting Indigenous power by creating comedic and joy-centred narratives that nourish her people’s spirits. She is currently working on the development of two television series: her Salish love story, On the Plateau, and the adaptation of her play, Kamloopa. She is also completing her first prose and poetry book, Interiors: A Collection of NDN Dirtbag Love Stories, and is in pre-production to film a musical feature of her next artistic ceremony, Break Horizons: A Rocking Indigenous Justice Ceremony. S …
Next up in our special 2020 GG Awards coverage is our conversation with Lazer Lederhendler, who won his third Governor General’s Award for his English translation of Pascale Quiviger’s If You Hear Me (Biblioasis), originally written in French. Scroll down to read an excerpt from the book!
According to the Peer Assessment Committee, "Lazer Lederhendler has presented challenging subject matter with sensitivity, nuance, and elegance. His language is powerful yet limpid, understated yet heartbreaking, and lightly humorous. He delicately navigates complex layers of trauma in the immigrant and the patient, lingering between life and death, dream and reality. The finely drawn characters in this novel wait, as we all do, for release."
Lazer Lederhendler is a full-time literary translator specializing in Québécois fiction and non-fiction. He holds a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Concordia University. His translations have earned awards and distinctions in Canada, the UK, and the US, including three Quebec Writer’s Federation Awards (The Immaculate Conception, Nikolski, Apocalypse for Beginners) and two previous Governor Ge …
We continue our special coverage of this year’s Governor General's Literature Award winners in conversation with the acclaimed Fan Brothers (Terry Fan, Eric Fan, Devin Fan), co-winners of the 2020 GG's Award for Young People’s Literature (Illustration) for The Barnabus Project (Tundra). The 2020 GG Award Peer Assessment Committee says The Barnabus Project is,
“A twisty-turny adventure story that travels from the deep underground to the starry skies, featuring a gang of friends, aka ‘Failed Projects,’ who show the power of solidarity and non-conformity. This sweet and surreal ode to sticking together radically breaks from typical storylines to deliver a manifesto for mass escape from any system that demands perfection, sameness and compliance. Stunningly and intricately illustrated, this book pays cinematic attention to pacing and detail. Like Barnabus, the Fan Brothers have broken the mold.”
Terry, Eric, and Devin grew up in Toronto, where they continue to live and work. Recipients of the prestigious Sendak Fellowship, Kate Greenaway Medal nominees, and Governor General’s Literary Award nominees, Terry and Eric are the author/illustrators of the critically acclaimed books The Night Gardener and Ocean Meets Sky, and the illustrators of the best …
Today we are pleased to kick off our special coverage of the 2020 Governor General's Award winners (English-language) with an interview with Michelle Good, whose Five Little Indians (Harper Perennial/HarperCollins) won the fiction prize.
Enter for a chance to win Five Little Indians as well and don't miss the excerpt at the end of this post!
“Intimate and ambitious, Michelle Good’s Five Little Indians is a heart-breaking account of lives shaped and destroyed by the residential school system. Here is powerful testimony, expertly crafted and wisely observed, tragic yet full of redemptive moments. An unflinching, compassionate and moving novel about the struggle to live and love in the wake of deep trauma.”—2020 Governor General’s Award Peer Assessment Committee
Michelle Good is a Cree writer and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. After working for Indigenous organizations for twenty-five years, she obtained a law degree and advocated for residential school survivors for over fourteen years. Good earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia while still practising law and managing her own law firm. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published in magazines and anthologies across Cana …
According to the jury, “Steven Heighton’s The Waking Comes Late is a journey deepening as we read. He locates the complexities of the personal in a wide range of social issues, while playing masterfully with language, form and tone. His stunning political poems never descend to pedantry or the prosaic. A mature work: smart, moving, inventive, original.”
Steven Heighton’s most recent books are The Waking Comes Late and the Trillium Award finalist The Dead Are More Visible (stories). His novel Afterlands has appeared in six countries, was a New York Times Book Review editors’ choice, and was cited on best of year lists in ten publications in Canada, the US, and the UK. The novel is now in pre-production for film. His short fiction and poetry have received four gold National Magazine Awards and have appeared in London Review of Books, Best English Stories, Poetry, Best American Poetry, Tin House, TLR, Agni, Best American Mystery Stories, London Magazine, Zoetrope, Poetry London, and five editions of Best Canadian Stories. Heighton has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award and Brit …
We start our special coverage of this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners with a conversation with Bill Waiser, author of A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905.
Of the book, the Governor General’s Award jury says, “From its first page, Bill Waiser’s A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905 surprises the reader with its reconsideration of Canada. In a sweeping blend of narrative, historical detail, and compelling images, Waiser refocuses the country’s story by putting Indigenous peoples and environmental concerns in the foreground.”
Author and historian Bill Waiser specializes in western Canadian history. He has published over a dozen books—many of them recognized by various awards, including a shortlist nomination for the 1997 Governor General’s literary award for non-fiction. Bill is a frequent public speaker and contributor to radio, television, and print media. He has also served on a number of national, provincial, and local boards. Bill has been awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, named a distinguished university professor, and granted a D.Litt.
How did your Governor General Award-winning book come into being?
In our final interview of the Governor General’s special edition of The Chat, we speak to JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith, joint winners of the 2015 English-language Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature (Illustrated), for Sidewalk Flowers.
JonArno Lawson is the author of several award-winning books of poetry for children and adults, and is a four-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. He has been most inspired in his work by his own children, and received a Chalmers Fellowship Award in 2007 to research children’s lap and bouncing rhymes cross-culturally in different communities across Toronto. Born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised nearby in Dundas, JonArno Lawson now lives in Toronto.
Sydney Smith discovered his love of children’s illustration while studying drawing and printmaking at NSCAD University in Halifax. Some of his first experiences illustrating children’s books were for the new editions of Sheree Fitch’s older books (Mabel Murple, There Were Monkeys in My Kitchen, and …
In our continuing conversation with this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners, today I speak to Rhonda Mullins, winner of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Translation for Twenty-One Cardinals (Les héritiers de la mine) by Jocelyne Saucier.
Rhonda Mullins is a translator whose work has been shortlisted for previous Governor General’s Awards, including her translations of Élise Turcotte’s Guyana (2014), Hervé Fischer’s The Decline of the Hollywood Empire (2007), and Saucier’s And the Birds Rained Down (2013), which was also a CBC Canada Reads selection in 2015. Rhonda Mullins studied and has taught translation at McGill University in Montréal, where she currently lives.
Of Twenty-One Cardinals, Publishers Weekly said: “This slim, tightly written novel masterfully tells a big story, flush in dark secrets, social commentary and an army of memorable characters.”
You’ve been a previous finalist for the Governor General’s Award. What was your first reaction to finding out you’d w …