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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Sadiqa de Meijer

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

Author Headshot Sadiqa De Maijer

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.

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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. 

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GGBooks Special: The Chat with David Robertson & Julie Flett

“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

Headshot David A. Robertson

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.

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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Norma Dunning

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"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.

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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 …

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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Philippa Dowding

PhillippaDowding Photo by Andrea Gutsche

“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.

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Congrats on your GGs Award, Philippa! How does it feel to be recognized in this way by your p …

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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Tolu Oloruntoba

"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.

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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 …

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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Erín Moure

ErinMoure_Author Photo_Credit Karis Shearer

"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.

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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 …

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GGBooks Special: The Chat with Hannah Moscovitch

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“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.

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Congrats on your Governor General’s Award, Hannah … among …

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16 Indigenous Reads: A List from Kobo

This is a list of eBooks and audiobooks to help readers celebrate the cultures of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples through a mix of fiction and nonfiction that shines light on painful moments in history (much of which is hardly past) while highlighting the talents of some of the best writers working today.

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Call Me Indian, by Fred Sasakamoose

Fred Saskamoose emerged from the brutal residential school system to become the first Indigenous person with Treaty status in the NHL—before First Nations people obtained the right to vote in Canada. But there’s more to the story of “Fast Freddy” than the dozen games he played for the Chicago Black Hawks, including a life serving his community and fighting to reclaim Indigenous pride.

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A History of My Brief Body, by Billy-Ray Belcourt

This poetic and challenging memoir leaves impressions on readers’ minds that may take a lifetime to interpret. We spoke with the author about his work on the Kobo in Conversation podcast.

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Shelf Talkers: Brilliant Debuts and Award Winners to Read Right Now

Eventually, at some point, we’re going to just have to stop talking about how weird everything is, right?

I mean, it would certainly help if things weren’t so weird on such an ongoing basis.

Look at this summer, for example. We’ve got scorching highs, record rains, and unreasonable balminess, which sounds pretty standard for a Canadian summer until you realize those weather blips are all occurring in the wrong places. Victoria, for example, where one expects rain no matter the season, is now a month-and-a-half worth of rainless days in a row. And let’s not even talk about the heat dome. Please, I’m begging you. No more heat dome. I want to just forget it, as quickly as possible.

As we have come to learn over the last year and a half, when caught in times of weirdness, we are best advised to hold on to what stability and familiarity we can.

And, of course, for many of us, that means books. It might be a weird summer, but it’s a summer nonetheless, and there is no better season for reading. So strip down, or swaddle up (I leave it up to you and whatever your current weather system is doing), and dig into these recommendations from independent booksellers across the country. And if you can make it outside without wilting (or being swept away), visit your local independent bookseller for even more recommendations.

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

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Anne Carson's Norma Jeane Baker of Troy (New Directions) is this year’s recipient of the Governor General’s Literature Award for Poetry.

According to the Governor General's Peer Assessment Committee, “Norma Jeane Baker of Troy leverages a millennia-old story of beauty and war to animate a history of the male gaze and the nature of power wielded by privilege. Tracing its origins from ancient and modern forms, the book inquires into the history of language and being. It exposes the uncertainty and vulnerability that underpin our desire for ‘the precision of command.’ The oceanic pull of Carson’s poetry uses irreverence to lure and wreck our concepts of time, place and subject.”

Anne Carson is a Toronto-born poet, essayist, classicist, and translator who has also taught at Canadian and American universities including McGill and Princeton. A Member of the Order of Canada with more than 20 titles to her name, she recently received a Princess of Asturias Award. Throughout her career, Carson’s work has earned her Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, two Griffin Poetry Prizes, the T. S. Eliot Prize, and the Lannan Literary Award, among many other honours. Anne Carson now divides her time between the US and Iceland.

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Norma Jeane Baker of Troy is a performa …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Eric Walters

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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 …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Kim Senklip Harvey

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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 …

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