Seven authors hauled in more than $322,000 combined at the Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony in Toronto on Tuesday.
Among the winners were Christina Sharpe, who earned the $75,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction for Ordinary Notes, and Kai Thomas, who took home the $60,000 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for In the Upper Country.
The presentation at Glenn Gould Studio celebrating Canadian writers and writing was hosted by author and Globe and Mail editor Rachel Giese.
Literary non-fiction winner Sharpe is an American academic in Black studies at the humanities department at Toronto’s York University. Her previous book was 2016′s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. For Ordinary Notes she used a series of 248 numbered notes to examine present-day realities and possible futures of everyday Black existence.
A jury composed of Canadian non-fiction writers Eve Joseph, Michelle Porter and Dan Werb cited Sharpe’s “tenderness, bravery and razor-sharp poetic language” that “invites the reader to witness the ordinary joys and sorrows of Black lives.”
On the fiction side, Ottawa native Thomas won for a debut novel that was also shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for fiction. Set in the Black communities of Ontario that were the last stops on the Underground Railroad, In the Upper Country follows two women who are in very different stages of their lives.
A jury composed of Canadian fiction writers francesca ekwuyasi, Alix Hawley and two-time Giller Prize winner M.G. Vassanji praised In the Upper Country as a “mesmerizing, lyrical testament to the power of storytelling.”
Hamilton’s Anuja Varghese was awarded the $10,000 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers. Her debut short-story collection Chrysalis recently won the Governor-General’s Literary Award for fiction. A jury comprising authors S. Bear Bergman, Nicholas Dawson and Sharanpal Ruprai recognized Chrysalis as an “electric array of queer, feminist and mythical short stories. Varghese uses aspects of Hindu folklore and magical realism to transform her stories into powerful tales.”
Four other authors were celebrated for their contributions to literature in Canada through their bodies of literary work:
- British Columbian Laisha Rosnau won the $60,000 Latner Griffin Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize.
- Helen Humphreys, a veteran writer and assistant professor at Queen’s University, received the $25,000 Matt Cohen Award.
- Toronto’s Kyo Maclear won the $25,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People.
- Vancouver-based novelist and playwright Anosh Irani earned the $25,000 Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award for a mid-career writer of predominantly fiction.
November is the high season for literary trophy-giving. One of the most august international awards, the U.K.’s Booker Prize for fiction, will be awarded Sunday in London. In the running is the Scotland-based Canadian author Sarah Bernstein, who last week won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Study for Obedience. According to the British wagering website OLGB, Bernstein’s odds of winning the Booker are 11/2 (probability, 15.4 per cent). The slight favourite is Paul Lynch, for Prophet Song. This year’s Booker jury chair is Canadian novelist and double Giller-winner Esi Edugyan.