Books

5 Canadian writers shortlisted for $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize

The prize is the biggest in Canadian literature. The winner will be announced on Nov. 7, 2022.

The prize is the biggest in Canadian literature

Five Canadian writers are vying for the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize. (Submitted by the Scotiabank Giller Prize)

Books by Montreal's Rawi Hage, Calgary's Suzette Mayr, Egyptian Canadian writer Noor Naga, Washington-based Kim Fu and Vancouver's Tsering Yangzom Lama have been shortlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The $100,000 prize is the biggest in Canadian literature.

Two of the books, Fu's Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century and Hage's Stray Dogs, are short story collections.

Two of the titles, Noor's If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English and Lama's We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies are novels.

Rounding out the list of five is Mayr's sixth novel, The Sleeping Car Porter.

Four of the finalists — Fu, Mayr, Naga and Lama — are making their first appearance on the Giller Prize shortlist. This is Hage's third time on a Giller Prize shortlist. He was previously a finalist in 2006 for his novel De Niro's Game and again in 2008 for his novel Cockroach

Toronto independent press Coach House published two of the shortlisted titles: Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century and The Sleeping Car Porter. Penguin Random House Canada also received two nominations: Stray Dogs is published under the Knopf Canada imprint and We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies is published under the McClelland & Stewart imprint. Graywolf Press, an independent publisher based in Minnesota, published If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English.

Canadian author Casey Plett is chairing the five-person jury panel this year. Joining her are Canadian authors Kaie Kellough and Waubgeshig Rice and American writers Katie Kitamura and Scott Spencer.

Canadian novels and short story collections published between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022, were eligible for this year's prize. The 14-title longlist, the five-book shortlist and the eventual winner, were chosen from a field of 138 books submitted by publishers all across Canada. 

The winner will be announced on Nov. 7, 2022 at an awards ceremony in Toronto.

The ceremony will be broadcast on CBC TV, CBC GemCBC Listen and CBC Radio at 9 p.m. local time (11:30 AT/12 midnight NT) and will be streamed online at CBC BooksYouTube and Facebook at 9 p.m. ET.

Artist, poet and performer Rupi Kaur returns to co-host the broadcast. Joining her this year is Canadian actor Sarah Gadon.

Rupi Kaur, left, and Sarah Gadon, right, will co-host the Scotiabank Giller Prize on Nov. 7, 2022. (Chris Young/Canadian Press, Joel C Ryan/Invision/Associated Press)

Kaur is a bestselling poet from Brampton, Ont. She currently has more than four million Instagram followers. Her poetry collections are milk and honeythe sun and her flowers and home bodyall of which have made the New York Times bestseller list and have sold more than eight million copies worldwide.

Gadon is best known for her role as Grace Marks in the CBC miniseries Alias Grace, which was adapted from Margaret Atwood's bestselling novel by Canadian actor, writer and director Sarah Polley. She also appeared in the film adaptation of Cea Sunrise Person's 2014 memoir, North of Normal, and will make her directorial debut with an adaptation of Heather O'Neill novel Lullabies for Little Criminals.

The national Between the Pages tour, a series of events celebrating the five finalists, returns this year. Events will take place in six Canadian cities: Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Halifax and Toronto. The Toronto event, which takes place on Nov. 3, will also be streamed online.

Last year's winner was Omar El Akkad for his novel What Strange Paradise

Giller Prize winner wants people to 'marinate' in his stories

1 year ago
Duration 9:05
'Think more deeply of another human being,' says Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Omar El Akkad when explaining what he wants people to get out of his writing. The Canadian Press/Chris Young

Other past Giller Prize winners include Souvankham Thammavongsa for How to Pronounce KnifeEsi Edugyan for Washington BlackMichael Redhill for Bellevue SquareMargaret Atwood for Alias GraceMordecai Richler for Barney's VersionAlice Munro for RunawayAndré Alexis for Fifteen Dogs and Madeleine Thien for Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch founded the prize in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, in 1994. Rabinovitch died in 2017 at the age of 87.

You can learn more about the shortlisted books and authors below.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

Kim Fu is the author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century. (L D’Alessandro, Coach House Books)

In this collection of stories, Kim Fu turns the familiar on its head to weave tales of new worlds where strange happenings, like a girl growing wings on her legs or toy boxes that control the passage of time, are the ordinary trappings of everyday life. The stories deal with themes of death, technological consequence, guilt and sexuality and unmask the contradictions within humanity. 

"An endlessly surprising story collection without a single flawed entry in the bunch, Kim Fu's Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is brilliantly textured. Moving from an argument with the operator of a VR machine to an insomniac's encounter with a veritable sandman to a couple who can die and resurrect themselves at will, Fu's worlds are fantastical and enterprising in their own right," the jury said in a statement.

Fu is a Washington-based, Canadian-born fiction writer and poet. She has published two other works of fiction, For Today I Am a Boy and The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, and a book of poetry, How Festive the Ambulance. Fu was named a writer to watch by CBC Books in 2022. Along with Canadian authors Norma Dunning and Steven Price, Fu is on the jury for the 2023 CBC Short Story Prize.

Kim Fu talks to Shelagh Rogers about her short story collection, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century.

Stray Dogs by Rawi Hage

Stray Dogs is a book by Rawi Hage. (Knopf Canada, Madeleine Thien)

The characters in this short story collection are restless travellers, moving between nation states and states of mind, seeking connection and trying to escape the past. Set in Montreal, Beirut, Tokyo and more, these stories highlight the often random ways our fragile modern identities are constructed, destroyed and reborn. 

"The short stories in Rawi Hage's Stray Dogs fuse spare, graceful language with world-spanning design. Haunted by war and movement, families fragment and cultures stretch. As the characters cross borders in pursuit of careers and relationships, they are pulled back through fissures in memory. We follow academics and photographers to Montréal, Berlin and Tokyo, and yet those geographical distances can appear less vast than the cultural distance between a childhood in rural Lebanon and a privileged adulthood in Beirut," the jury said in a statement. 

Hage is a Montreal-based writer. His books include De Niro's Gamewhich won the International Dublin Literary Award in 2008; Cockroach, which received the Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction, was defended by Samantha Bee on Canada Reads in 2014, and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award; Carnivalwhich was a finalist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize; and Beirut Hellfire Society, which was on the shortlist for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction

Rawi Hage talks to Shelagh Rogers about his book Stray Dogs and Other Stories.

The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr

The Sleeping Car Porter is a book by Suzette Mayr. (Coach House Books)

The Sleeping Car Porter tells the story of Baxter, a Black man in 1929 who works as a sleeping-car porter on a train that travels across the country. He smiles and tries to be invisible to the passengers, but what he really wants is to save up and go to dentistry school. On one particular trip out west, the train is stalled and Baxter finds a naughty postcard of two gay men. The postcard reawakens his memories and longings and puts his job in jeopardy. 

"Suzette Mayr brings to life — believably, achingly, thrillingly — a whole world contained in a passenger train moving across the Canadian vastness, nearly one hundred years ago. As only occurs in the finest historical novels, every page in The Sleeping Car Porter feels alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary," the jury said in a statement.

Mayr is a poet and novelist based in Calgary. She is the author of the novels Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley HallMonocerosMoon HoneyThe Widows and Venous HumMonoceros won the ReLit Award, the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Book Prize and made the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga

If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is a book by Noor Naga. (Graywolf Press, Noor Naga)

Set shortly after the events of the Arab Spring, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is a novel that traces the relationship between two people — a wealthy Egyptian American woman and an unemployed man from the village of Shobrakheit — who meet in a cafe in Cairo. The pair fall in love but must contend with issues of identity, class and violence as they try to build a lasting relationship.

"A work of startling emotional depth and intellectual rigor, Noor Naga's If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English probes the ethics of identity, desire, privilege and storytelling. Set in Cairo in the wake of the Arab Spring, the novel tracks the relationship between a troubled Egyptian photographer, and an Egyptian American woman recently arrived in the city. It is at once a love story, a disquisition on politics, an exploration of trauma, and a deft work of metafiction — a slim novel that at times seems almost infinitely capacious," the jury said in a statement. 

Naga is an Egyptian Canadian writer. She won the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award for her poem The Mistress and the Ping. She also won the Disquiet Fiction Prize in 2019. In 2020, Noor was named a writer to watch by CBC Books in 2020. Her first book, the poetry collection Washes, Prayswas published in 2020 and was named among the best poetry of the year by CBC Books. Noor is an instructor at the American University in Cairo.

In her new novel-in-verse Washes, Prays, Noor Naga proposes there is space in CanLit between the Muslim terrorist and saint, for a Muslim mistress. Her book tells the story of a young Muslim woman in Toronto who has an affair with a married man, then faces a spiritual crisis. It's also an exploration of loneliness, longing, faith, and the role of technology in modern love.

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama

In her debut novel, author Tsering Yangzom Lama asks why Tibetan voices and narratives have been ignored in the world’s conversation about the diasporic community. (Paige Critcher, McClelland & Stewart)

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies recounts a Tibetan family's struggle to create new lives of dignity, love and hope after China's invasion of Tibet in the 1950s. Readers follow sisters Lhamo and Tenkyi on a multi-decade journey through exile, from a harrowing trek across the Himalayas to a refugee camp on the border of Nepal. Decades later, the sisters are separated. Tenyki lives in Toronto with Lhamo's daughter Dolma, who has to decide if it's worth risking her dreams to help her community. 

"Through a stirring intergenerational saga that spans decades and continents, Tsering Yangzom Lama deftly unearths how exiles create home when their homeland has been stolen. With tender authenticity, We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies delicately and vigorously illustrates the ongoing human cost of Tibetan displacement, and the resolve of refugees to uphold a strong diaspora despite the violence of colonialism," the jury said in a statement. 

Lama is a Tibetan Canadian author based in Vancouver. Born and raised in Nepal, she's also lived in Toronto and New York City. Lama holds a BA in creative writing and international relations from the University of British Columbia and a MFA from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Globe and Mail, The Malahat Review and Grain. We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies is her debut novel. Lama was named a writer to watch by CBC Books in 2022.

In April 2012, New York's Rubin Museum of Art – which specializes in Himalayan regions – had an unnamed 15th century mudstone statue on display. It seemed to depict a mythic Buddhist figure from Tibet, but it was nameless and devoid of a backstory. When writer Tsering Yangzom Lama looked at the icon, she saw a symbol of all that's been lost for those who fled Tibet — an autonomous region in China that it claims as part of its territory, but that many Tibetans have claimed as independent for centuries. The statue also inspired Lama's debut novel, We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies, an intergenerational story of a Tibetan family in exile. Lama walks Piya Chattopadhyay through her work of fiction, set between refugee settlements and one of the world's largest Tibetan diasporas: Toronto.

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