Shandi Mitchell wins $25,000 Kobzar Literary Award

S Mitchell accepts award Nino Ricci, Joy Kogawa, Andrew Hladyshevsky - Shevchenko Foundation President - holds the award.jpgShandi Mitchell accepts the Kobzar Literary Award, as jury member Nino Ricci, presenter Joy Kogawa and Shevchenko Foundation President Andrew Hladyshevsky look on (Photo: James Di Donato)

Award-winning director and screenwriter Shandi Mitchell won the Kobzar Literary Award at a gala event in Toronto on Thursday for her debut novel, Under This Unbroken Sky. The award, presented biannually since 2006, commemorates literary work that best presents a Ukrainian Canadian theme. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, playwriting, screenwriting and young adult literature are all eligible for the $25,000 prize.

Mitchell's novel follows the Mykolayenko family as they struggle to survive Prairie life in Depression-era Canada. The jury, which consisted of Denise Chong, Nino Ricci, Randall Maggs and M.G. Vassanji, called Under This Unbroken Sky a "compelling and poignant narrative that honours the ancestry of many Canadian Ukrainians who worked for a better life during the depression era."

The other finalists were:

  • Larissa Andrusyshyn for Mammoth
  • Myrna Kostash for Prodigal Daughter
  • Myroslav Shkandrij for Jews in Ukrainian Literature
  • Rhea Tregebov for The Knife Sharpener's Bell

Mitchell, who is Ukrainian on her father's side, dedicated the award to her grandmother and to the stories she never told. "It did mean a great deal to come back to the Ukrainian community with this story. It meant a great deal to say a story that my baba could never speak aloud. Those silences are chasing generations," she said. "We are losing all our narratives, and we need to gather them."

Mitchell receives $20,000 of the purse. The remaining $5,000 will go to her publisher, Penguin Group Canada. The four remaining finalists received $1,000 each.

CBC's Close to Home spoke with Mitchell about her nomination and the Kobzar Literary Award after she was named a finalist. Listen to Mitchell's conversation with Close to Home host Carmen Klassen below:

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