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American author V. V. Ganeshananthan.Supplied

The American author V. V. Ganeshananthan has won the US$150,000 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction for her book Brotherless Night.

The Shields prize, the biggest in the world dedicated to women and non-binary writers, was first announced in 2020, and handed out its inaugural award last year. It focuses on North American authors.

This year’s finalists included the Canadian authors Eleanor Catton (for Birnam Wood), Claudia Dey (for Daughter), and Janika Oza (for A History of Burning), as well as American author Kim Coleman Foote, for Coleman Hill. Finalists each receive US$12,500.

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Published by Random House in January, 2023, Brotherless Night is a work of historical fiction that follows aspiring doctor Sashi Kulenthiren as she and her family must navigate the Sri Lankan civil war, as well as the fraught dynamics of her fractured society.

The jury, chaired by B.C. author Jen Sookfong Lee, called the book an “ambitious and beautifully written novel” that explores how ordinary people can be swept up in political violence and, despite their best efforts, eventually be swallowed by it. “Through her sensitively crafted characters, V. V. Ganeshananthan asks us to consider how history is told, whom it serves, and the many truths it leaves out.”

Ganeshananthan’s debut 2008 novel, Love Marriage, was on the long list for the Women’s Prize. She co-hosts the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast and teaches at the University of Minnesota’s Master of Fine Arts program.

She is a director of the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies and on the board of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. She has also served as vice-president of the South Asian Journalists Association and as a director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

The ceremony took place Monday at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto. The prize also includes a residency on Fogo Island in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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