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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.
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.
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.”
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.
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”
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.