Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Omar El Akkad, author of the new novel What Strange Paradise.

Nathan Howard/The Globe and Mail

Expand your mind and build your reading list with the Books newsletter. Sign up today.

Egyptian-Canadian author Omar El Akkad’s novel What Strange Paradise is among the five writers shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize on Tuesday.

Known for his 2018 novel American War, which won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, his new work offers a different kind of perspective on the migrant crisis, informed by his 10 years as a journalist at The Globe and Mail.

Story continues below advertisement

Jordan Tannahill.

Caio Sanfelice/Handout

The other four Canadian fiction titles in the running for the $100,000 honour include Angélique Lalonde’s story collection Glorious Frazzled Beings, Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia’s novel The Son of The House from Dundurn Press (the publisher’s first time on the list), Jordan Tannahill’s The Listeners, and Fight Night by two-time runner-up Miriam Toews, known for her 2004 Governor General’s Literary Award-winning novel A Complicated Kindness.

The Giller jury “read, reread and debated endless hours” to make the choice from what began as 132 submissions, CBC’s q books columnist Jael Richardson said at Tuesday morning’s Giller shortlist announcement.

Angélique Lalonde.

Handout

The winner will be announced Nov. 8 on CBC, during a ceremony hosted by poet Rupi Kaur and Kim’s Convenience actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee.

“The high-calibre writing from the authors on our long list, coupled with passionate, perceptive and opinionated jury members, certainly made the process of deciding on a shortlist challenging in the way deciding these lists should be,” says Zalika Reid-Benta, chair of this year’s five-person jury. The other members are Megan Gail Coles, Joshua Whitehead, Joshua Ferris and Tash Aw.

“I wouldn’t say there were any special considerations made for 2021 because there didn’t have to be: The books spoke for themselves,” Reid-Benta says. “More specifically, great writing not only encompasses technical ability or beautiful language, but also impact and emotional truth and insight into the human condition, which I think is true for any time, any year. The books on the shortlist are books with great writing.”

Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia.

Handout

The authors on the long list who did not make it to the shortlist include Cedar Bowers for Astra, Linda Rui Feng for Swimming Back to Trout River, Kim Thuy for Em, Katherena Vermette for The Strangers and Aimee Wall for We, Jane. Among the writers of story collections were Casey Plett for A Dream of a Woman and Rachel Rose for The Octopus Has Three Hearts.

“There were a lot of hugely strong contenders this year, more that I even expected,” says Giller jury member Coles.

Story continues below advertisement

She adds: “So for everyone who did make the shortlist, your books are still a real accomplishment and entirely meaningful. … The best of luck to all of them and I’m sure they’ll have more recognition in the future”

Miriam Toews.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short-story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

Between the Pages, an event celebrating the 2021 finalists, will take place on Nov. 4, hosted by Richardson and live-streamed online for a virtual audience.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies