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From left, authors Claudia Dey, Janika Oza, and Eleanor Catton.Supplied

Three Canadian novelists have been shortlisted for the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, the massive literary prize that last year began awarding US$150,000 to North American female and non-binary fiction authors.

This year’s shortlisted books, announced Tuesday morning, include Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood. Released by McClelland & Stewart last year, the novel is a psychological thriller that sees an anarchist farming collective grapple with the ostensible generosity of a billionaire. Catton, who is Canadian-born, New Zealand-raised and lives in England, previously won the Booker Prize and the Governor-General’s Literary Award for her 2013 novel, The Luminaries.

Janika Oza’s debut novel, A History of Burning, also published by McClelland & Stewart and a finalist for a 2023 Governor-General’s Literary Award, is on the Shields list this year as well. Spanning India, Uganda, England and Canada, it follows four generations of a family who find themselves routinely uprooted by racial conflict and forces bigger than themselves.

The shortlist also includes Toronto-based Claudia Dey’s Daughter, published by Doubleday Canada, which examines a father’s manipulative relationship with his actress-playwright daughter. In a press release, Shields Prize organizers called Daughter a “literary stick of dynamite.”

Rounding it out are two books by U.S. authors: Brotherless Night by V. V. Ganeshananthan, from Random House, and Coleman Hill by Kim Coleman Foote, published by SJP Lit.

The Shields Prize will be handed out on May 13 at The Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto at ceremony hosted by Natasha Trethewey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former U.S. poet laureate and a Carol Shields Prize Foundation director. Last year’s prize, awarded in Nashville, went to Fatimah Asghar for her novel When We Were Sisters.

First announced in 2020, the Shields Prize seeks to boost the prominence and financial success of female and non-binary writers, who face numerous structural barriers. Female writers earn only 55 per cent of what their male counterparts do, according to an estimate by the Writers’ Union of Canada. The prize is named for the U.S.-born writer Carol Shields, who moved to Canada at age 22 and earned numerous literary awards from both countries, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and a Governor-General’s Literary Award.

This year’s jury is chaired by B.C. author Jen Sookfong Lee, who is joined by Laila Lalami, Claire Messud, Dolen Perkins-Valdez and Eden Robinson. Bank of Montreal Financial Group funds the awards, which includes US$12,500 for each runner-up.

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