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Omar El Akkad wins the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize in Toronto, on Nov. 8, 2021.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Seven first timers made the longlist for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize. When 2021 winner Omar El Akkad revealed the 14 nominees in St. John’s on Tuesday, debut novelists Tsering Yangzom Lama, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Noor Naga, André Narbonne, André Forget, Brian Thomas Isaac and Conor Kerr heard their names called. The 14 titles were chosen from a field of 138 books submitted by publishers across Canada. The prize is worth $100,000 annually to the author of what the Giller jury deems to be the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short story collection published in English.

A year ago, women made up 10 of the dozen writers in the running for the award founded in 1994 by businessman Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his wife, the late literary journalist Doris Giller. This time, male writers outnumbered their female counterparts, eight to six. Five of the nominated books were published by an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada.

Lama, whose writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, is nominated for We Measure The Earth With Our Bodies, published by McClelland & Stewart. The novel from the Vancouver-based Tibetan-Canadian recounts a Tibetan family’s 50-year journey through exile. The author, a child of nomads who fled Tibet during military invasion, recently told The Globe that writing the novel was a 12-year process of cultural recovery. “It was an opportunity to learn about the oracular tradition in Tibet, which even family members like my sister had almost forgotten about.”

Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A Minor Chorus is the debut novel from the Griffin Poetry Prize-winning poet and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada, the story about an unnamed narrator who abandons his unfinished thesis and returns to northern Alberta will be released on Sept. 13.

André Forget’s novel In the City of Pigs, published by the Dundurn Press imprint Rare Machines, is about classical music, Toronto real estate, modernity, and the difficulty of creating art under the conditions of late capitalism. Forget, who is based in Toronto and Sheffield, England, also edited the short fiction anthology After Realism: 24 Stories for the 21st Century this year.

Fellow first timer Brian Thomas Isaac was 70 years old when he wrote All the Quiet Places, about an Indigenous boy’s sometimes harsh coming of age on an Okanagan reserve in the 1950s. Published by Brindle & Glass (an imprint of Touchwood Editions), the novel from the Sylix First Nation author was nominated for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Conor Kerr’s Avenue of Champions, from Nightwood Editions, was also up for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. The book from the Métis/Ukrainian writer and educator follows a Métis man’s struggle to survive in a world of violence and systemic racism. The title won Kerr the ReLit Award for Fiction earlier this year.

Noor Naga is an Egyptian writer who was born in Philadelphia, raised in Dubai, studied in Toronto, and now lives in Alexandria. If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English, published by Graywolf Press, is a dark romance praised by the New York Times Book Review as an “exhilarating debut.”

Rounding out the debut novelists is André Narbonne, who is based in Windsor, Ont. His Lucien & Olivia is billed by its publisher Black Moss Press as a “comic statement on the beautiful waywardness of life.”

Also on the 2022 longlist are:

  • Kim Fu, for her short story collection Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, published by Coach House Books.
  • Rawi Hage, for his short story collection Stray Dogs, published by Knopf Canada.
  • Sheila Heti, for her novel Pure Colour, published by Knopf Canada.
  • Suzette Mayr, for her novel The Sleeping Car Porter, published by Coach House Books.
  • Dimitri Nasrallah, for his novel Hotline, published by Véhicule Press.
  • Fawn Parker, for her novel What We Both Know, published by McClelland & Stewart.
  • Antoine Wilson, for his novel Mouth to Mouth, published by Simon & Schuster Canada.

Three of the authors (Mayr, Hage and Heti) have been named to the longlist previously. The nominees were chosen by a jury panel including Canadian authors Casey Plett, Kaie Kellough, Waubgeshig Rice, and American authors Katie Kitamura and Scott Spencer.

The Giller shortlist will be announced on Sept. 27. The winner will be revealed in a televised ceremony on Nov. 7.

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