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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Sydney Smith

Sydney Smith

Sydney Smith is this year’s Governor General’s Award winner for Young People’s Literature (Illustrated Book) for Small in the City, published by Groundwood Books.

The jury says "Small in the City is visually stunning. The feeling of winter in the city from a child’s perspective is rendered with remarkable feeling and sensitivity. But the genius of the book turns on the collaboration of the pictures and the text—the voice, the pacing and the gentle but striking exposition live up to the brilliance of the illustrations. A tour de force.”

Sydney Smith is an author/illustrator of children’s books. He has illustrated numerous acclaimed children’s books, including Town Is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz, and the wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by JonArno Lawson, which won the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award and many other honours. Smith has received the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award three times. He studied drawing and printmaking at NSCAD University. He lives and works in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his wife and two children.



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The Chat with Governor General's Literary Award Winner Don Gillmor

gillmor_don © Ryan Szulc

The winner of the 2019 Governor General’s Award for Nonfiction is Don Gillmor for his memoir To The River: Losing My Brother.

The jury says, “In clear, crisp prose, Gillmor has written a book that is searingly honest and heartbreakingly sad. From the story of his brother’s life and death to a larger exploration of white, middle-aged masculinity, Gillmor impresses us with his quiet insights. At one point, he asks, 'What are we anchored by?' His hard-earned wisdom holds us, here and beyond.”

Don Gillmor is one of Canada's most accomplished writers. He is the author of the bestselling, award-winning, two-volume Canada: A People’s History, and his journalism on suicide has earned him both a National Newspaper Award and a National Magazine Award. Gillmor’s other books include the novels Kanata, Mount Pleasant, and Long Change, all of which were published to critical acclaim, and nine children’s books, two of which were finalists for a Governor General’s Literary Award. He lives in Toronto, Ontario, with his wife and two children.




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The Chat with Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott


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 …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Darrel J. McLeod


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.



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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Cecily Nicholson


Cecily Nicholson’s collection Wayside Sang is winner of the 2018 Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry. We caught up with Cecily this month as part of our ongoing coverage of this year’s Governor General’s Award winners.

The jury said of the collection, “In this hypnotic suite of long poems, Cecily Nicholson makes room, offering glimpses and echoes of the Canadian landscape as she explores ideas of borders, identity, industry and travel. She offers a catalogue of impressions, a collage of the ephemeral, held together by image and the pulsing phrase that stays with you long after the journey is over."

Cecily Nicholson, from small-town Ontario via Toronto and South Bend, relocated to the Pacific Coast almost two decades ago. On Musqueam-, Squamish-, and Tsleil-Waututh-land known as Vancouver, she has worked in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood for the last 18 years—most recently as administrator of the artist-run centre and mental health resource, Gallery Gachet. A part of the Joint Effort prison abolitionist group and a member of the Research Ethics Board for Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Cecily is the newly appointed Interpretive Programmer at the Surrey Art Gallery. She is the author of Triage and From the Poplars, winner of …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Sarah Henstra


Over the next few weeks, we’ll be in conversation with all of this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners. We begin our special #GGBooks series chatting with Sarah Henstra, author of the novel The Red Word.

The jury called the book "Groundbreaking and provocative ... this is an astonishing evisceration of the clichés of sexual politics as they exist not only on our college campuses, but also within broader present-day society. Alternately heartbreaking, funny, and critical, no one gets off easily. The Red Word plumbs the depths of literature, mythology, history, philosophy, and a host of contemporary issues—an utterly effing good read."

Sarah Henstra is an Associate Professor of English literature at Ryerson University. She is the author of Mad Miss Mimic, an historical tale for young adults, and We Contain Multitudes, slated for publication in 2019. The Red Word is her first work of adult fiction. Sarah grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and now lives in Toronto.



Trevor Corkum: The Red Word is described as “smart, dark, and take-no-prisoners look at rape culture.” Can you talk more about the creation of the novel?

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winners David Alexander Robertson & Julie Flett

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).

David Alexander Robertson

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.

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The Chat with 2017 Governor General's Award Winner (for Translation) Oana Avasilichioaei

Oana Avasilichioaei_Author Photo_Credit Pam Dick

Today we’re in conversation with Oana Avasilichioaei, translator of Bertrand Laverdure’s novel Lectodôme. Her English translation, Readopolis (BookThug) is the winner of this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation (French to English).

The jury citation reads: "In Readopolis, Oana Avasilichioaei has risen to and matched the stylistic acrobatics of Bertrand Laverdure’s Lectodôme. The many voices of Quebecois writing sing through in this intelligent translation – a vertiginous ode to the pure, if rarely rewarded, pursuit of literature."

Montreal-based writer, translator, and editor Oana Avasilichioaei has published five poetry collections, including Expeditions of a Chimæra (with Erín Moure; 2009), We, Beasts (2012; winner of the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry from the Quebec Writers’ Federation) and Limbinal (2015). Previous translations include Bertrand Laverdure’s Universal Bureau of Copyrights (2014; shortlisted for the 2015 ReLit Awards), Suzanne Leblanc’s The Thought House of Philippa (co-translated with Ingrid Pam Dick; 2015), and Daniel Canty’s Wigrum (2013).

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Enter for a Chance to Win the Governor General's Literary Awards Winners!

There are seven categories in the Governor General's English-language Literary Awards: fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction, kids' illustrated, kids' text, and translation ... and you could win the winning book in all seven categories! Contest closes November 30, 2017.

What's in the Prize Pack?

Fiction: We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night, by Joel Thomas Hynes 


Poetry: On Not Losing My Fathers Ashes in the Flood, by Richard Harrison

Children's Text: The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline

Children's Illustrated: When We Were Alone, by David Alexander Robertson and Julie Flett

Nonfiction: The Way of the Strangers, by Graeme Wood

Indian Arm

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The Chat with Governor General's Fiction Award Winner Joel Thomas Hynes


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 …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award for Drama Winner Hiro Kanagawa


Next up on our special Governor General’s Award edition of The Chat, we speak with Hiro Kanagawa, winner of this year’s award for English-language Drama.

"Indian Arm is a timely and evocative manifestation of the characters’ struggle with their relationship to the land,” said the peer assessment committee of the work. “Hiro Kanagawa masterfully navigates the tension between Indigenous and settler identities as they work to figure out how we can live together. Mythic. Heart-breaking. Poetic."

Hiro Kanagawa is best known as an actor, but he was also a story editor on several critically-acclaimed Canadian television series: Da Vinci's Inquest, Da Vinci's City Hall, Intelligence, and Blackstone. His plays Tiger of Malaya and The Patron Saint of Stanley Park have been performed across Canada. His distinctions include an Asians on Film award and Jessie Richardson Awards for both acting and writing. Indian Arm previously received the 2015 Jessie Award for Outstanding Original Script. Hiro lives in Port Moody, BC, with his wife and two children and is a youth football coach.


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