Last week, the winners of the 2020 Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards were announced. And now we're excited to share short pieces by finalist authors on the inspirations for their celebrated works and how they came to be born.
Love From A to Z, by S.K. Ali
Nominated for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award
Love from A to Z grew from many seeds—one of which was that I wasn’t seeing the kind of love story that was familiar to me and my family and friends. Muslim romantic storylines in popular culture tend to be focused on marriages arranged by parents (even if that’s not the romance in the story, the main character is often presented as grappling with the expectation of arranged marriages) and that wasn’t my experience, and isn’t an intrinsic part of Islam. Muslim cultures vary widely and so how relationships develop vary. I just wanted to tell a story familiar to me but that I wasn’t seeing on shelves: two Muslims meeting serendipitously and falling for each other.
The journey of two characters falling in love had to be dealt with justly (I felt) so I set out to tell two distinct stories. That meant mapping out two story-arcs, two character journeys, two worlds, and then I proceeded to envision these two tales as they would look fully realized, as tho …
Our final conversation in our special Giller Prize edition of The Chat is with finalist David Bezmozgis, author of the short story collection Immigrant City.
The Giller Prize jury says: “The heart barks like a dog,” writes David Bezmozgis in one of the short stories contained in Immigrant City, and the bark echoes down generations, interrupting the everyday, vibrating with nostalgia and lost memories. In this wise and assured collection, Bezmozgis has reimagined immigrant lives not simply as marked by displacement and discontinuity, but of immigration as a shared and binding experience that crosses the boundaries of race, nationality, occupation, class, politics and even past betrayals, to serve as a point of connection and compassion between Bezmozgis’s characters."
David Bezmozgis is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He is the author of Natasha and Other Stories, The Free World, The Betrayers, and Immigrant City. He has been short listed three times for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, including for his latest short story collection, Immigrant City: Stories, and n …
We continue our Scotiabank Giller Prize special coverage in conversation with Steven Price, author of the novel Lampedusa. See also our chats with finalists Michael Crummey (The Innocents), Megan Gail Coles (Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club), Ian Williams (Reproduction), and Alix Ohlin (Dual Citizens).
According to the Giller Prize jury, “Lampedusa is a fairy tale about a dying prince, the last of his line, the real-life Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the beloved Italian novel The Leopard. Steven Price powerfully imagines Tomasi’s final days as the ailing author struggles to complete and publish his treasured manuscript. Set in a post-war Palermo of bombed-out buildings and ruined palazzos, the novel contemplates what values are worth retaining in life and in art. A masterful storyteller, Price conjures Tomasi with language and images that evocatively fix him and his distant world indelibly in our minds.”
Steven Price is the author of two novels, By Gaslight (2016), longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Into That Darkness (2011). Also an acclaimed poet, he has written two award-winning poetry books, Anatomy of Keys (2006), winner of the Gerald Lampert Award, and Omens in the Year of the Ox (2012), winner of the ReLit Award. H …
Our 2019 special Giller Prize edition of The Chat begins with our conversation with Alix Ohlin, author of Dual Citizens.
The Giller Prize jury praises the novel:
“Chronicling the wayward trajectories of two very different but equally fascinating Montreal-bred sisters from childhood into midlife, Alix Ohlin’s novel, true to its title, quietly refutes monolithic tenets that regard identity as something fixed and singular. Dividing its narrative between Canada and the U.S., the urban and the wild, solitude and solidarity, creativity and caregiving, Dual Citizens is a long-term sororal love story and affecting double-portrait of female self-actualization untethered from established paradigms of ambition.”
Alix Ohlin is the author of four books, including the novel Inside, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Best American Short Stories, and many other publications. Born and raised in Montreal, she lives in Vancouver, where she chairs the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia.
We’re thrilled to once again work in partnership with our friends at the Griffin Poetry Prize to bring you a special roundtable edition of The Chat with all three 2019 Canadian Griffin Prize finalists.
ry and reconfiguration; an extended meditation (one that moves at times directly, at others by a kind of philosophical osmosis) touching on the realms of history, politics, race and gender; an internal, consciously curated and interrogated dialogue that manages to create a space for all of these. Expansive, beautifully written, structurally compelling, and above all moving, The Blue Clerk is a book to be read (and re-read), not just for the pleasures of its language, but for the breadth of its vision, and the capaciousness of its thinking.”
We love literary prizes here at 49th Shelf, because of the way they cast light on some of the many incredible books published every year in Canada. The best kinds of literary awards seasons are the ones where all the shortlists are different, where the literary juries approach their tasks with different tastes and standards, and the result is lists of books you may not have read already, and which you'll love when you do. And just to broaden the selection, we'd like to remind you of some of the winners of literary prizes awarded earlier this year. There is so much literary goodness to go around.
Indianland, by Lesley Belleau
Winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award
About the book: Written from a female and Indigenous perspective, the poems in Indianland incorporate Anishinaabemowin throughout. Lesley Belleau explores rich themes of sexuality, birth, memory, and longing, as well as touchstone issues in Indigenous politics including Elijah Harper, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, forced sterilizations, and Kanesatake with immediacy and intimacy. This multiform collection moves from present day to first contact and back to the present, immersing us in images of blood, plants (milkweed, yarrow, cattails), and petroglyphs, and grounding the book in the belo …
In the final installment in in our Governor General Award special edition of The Chat, we speak to David Alexander Robertson and Julie Flett. Their book, When We Were Alone, won the 2017 Governor General's Award for Young People’s Literature (Illustration).
From the Peer Assessment Committee: “When We Were Alone is a poignant story of a dark and unforgettable part of Canadian history. David A. Robertson gently links the residential school experiences to a new generation with an enduring example of healing, love and understanding. Julie Flett’s simple but profound illustrations expertly complement the text and elevate this important story.”
David A. Robertson is an award-winning writer. His books include When We Were Alone (TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award nominee, Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature winner), Will I See? (winner of the Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award Graphic Novel Category), and the YA novel Strangers. David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, reflecting their cultures, histories, communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues. David is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. He lives in Winnipeg.
We continue our special Governor General’s Award coverage in conversation with Graeme Wood. His book The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State is this year’s Governor General's Award winner for English-language nonfiction.
From the jury: "The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State by Graeme Wood investigates a much discussed, little understood phenomenon dominating international news. Meticulously researched and fluidly written, this bracing book delves into a contentious facet of contemporary geopolitics."
Graeme Wood is a Canadian journalist, currently working as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has written for The New Republic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek, The American Scholar, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other publications. He was the 2014–2015 Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and he teaches in the political science department at Yale University.
We kick off our conversation with this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners in conversation with Richard Harrison. His collection On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood (Buckrider Books/Wolsak and Wynn) is the 2017 GG's winner for English-language poetry.
Of the collection, the jury said, "In these moving poems about the father/son relationship set against the Alberta flood of 2013, Richard Harrison’s intimate yet open voice deftly explores subjects as wide-ranging as childhood, middle-age anxiety, dementia and loss with wonder, humour and resilience."
Trevor Corkum: How did this particular collection come to be?
Richard Harrison: This book arrived in stages. I started with the idea that I’d write a book of poetry with poems themselves as the launching points, in much the same way as I wrote Hero o …
Next up in our Giller special, we’re in conversation with Michael Redhill, author of the novel Bellevue Square.
From the Giller jury: “To borrow a line from Michael Redhill’s beautiful Bellevue Square, “I do subtlety in other areas of my life.” So let’s look past the complex literary wonders of this book, the doppelgangers and bifurcated brains and alternate selves, the explorations of family, community, mental health, and literary life. Let’s stay straightforward, and tell you that beyond the mysterious elements, this novel is warm, and funny, and smart. Let’s celebrate that it is, simply, a pleasure to read.”
Michael Redhill is a novelist, poet, playwright and former publisher of Brick. He is the author of the novels Bellevue Square, Consolation, and Martin Sloane, which was a finalist for the 2001 Giller Prize; the short story collection Fidelity; and the poetry collection Light-Crossing; among other acclaimed works. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.
More Chats with the 2017 Giller Prize finalists – including excerpts from their nominated books – are here:
Eden Robinson for Son of a Trickster.
Michelle Winters for I Am a Truck.
Rachel Cusk for Transit.
Ed O'Loughlin for Minds of Winter.
We continue our Giller special this week in conversation with Ed O’Loughlin, author of Minds of Winter (House of Anansi).
The Giller jury says “Bright moments from the distant past spring up beside dark moments from the present, things hidden – a death, a gift, a lost clock – come briefly into view and then disappear forever. In Minds of Winter, Ed O’Loughlin’s brilliant story of polar exploration, time itself is an Arctic: a mysterious dimension of sun craze and apparitions, chance encounters and destiny. The mechanism of this novel is fascinating to observe, its implications are deeply human. In O’Loughlin’s work, our desire for knowledge, our obsession with the past, our grappling with life itself … all of it is generously, wittily on display.”
Ed O’Loughlin is an Irish-Canadian author and journalist. His first novel, Not Untrue and Not Unkind, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. His second novel, Toploader, was published in 2011. As a journalist, Ed reported from Africa for several papers, including the Irish Times. He was the Middle East correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age of Melbourne. Ed was born in Toronto and raised in Ireland. He now lives in Dub …
Next up on our special Giller Prize edition of The Chat, I’m in conversation with Rachel Cusk, author of Transit.
Of Transit, the jury writes: “Rachel Cusk’s elegant, witty and brilliantly realized novel, Faye, a writer, moves to London with her young sons and purchases a dilapidated apartment. On this deceptively simple scaffolding, Cusk constructs a series of finely observed and complex stories about people whose paths intersect with the narrator’s. The result is a book which is simultaneously intimate and expansive, alight with wisdom and humour, an exquisitely poised meditation on life, time, and change.”
Rachel Cusk is the author of three memoirs—A Life’s Work, The Last Supper and Aftermath—and her novels include Saving Agnes, winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award; The Temporary; The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Lucky Ones; In the Fold; Arlington Park; and The Bradshaw Variations. She was named among Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. Her novel Outline was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2015. She lives in London, UK.