Books

Arnolda Dufour Bowes's debut book 20.12m wins $10K Danuta Gleed Literary Award for best short story collection

The Métis writer's work is a coming-of-age story collection that celebrates and acknowledges the living conditions of Métis Road Allowance families. The prize, now in its 25 year, annually recognizes the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author.
Arnolda Dufour Bowes is the author of 20.12m. (Gabriel Dumont Institute Press)

Arnolda Dufour Bowes has won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for her short story collection 20.12m: A Short Story Collection of a Life Lived as a Road Allowance Métis.

The $10,000 prize, now in its 25th year, annually recognizes the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author. This edition of the prize considered debut collections published in 2021.

20.12m is a coming-of-age collection of five stories that celebrate and acknowledge the living conditions of Métis Road Allowance families and reflects on the grit and tenacity to survive and indeed succeed in the face of so many hardships. The book is an ode to the author's father, Arnold Charles Dufour, a resident of the Punnichy, Saskatchewan Road Allowance community.

"A historical chronicle, a family account, and a coming-of-age story all in one, 20.12m offers a poignant depiction of the life of Métis families as marginalized 'Road Allowance' people. The collection flows with the power of truth and the richness of language firmly rooted in oral traditions," jury members Mark Anthony Jarman, Derek Mascarenhas and Carmen Rodriguez said in a statement.

"Heart-wrenching and heart-warming at once, these short stories celebrate and attest to the resilience and joie-de-vivre of the Métis in the face of injustice; they succeed in turning shame into dignity, and horror into beauty."

Bowes is a Métis author originally from Saskatoon who studied creative writing with Guy Vanderhaeghe at the University of Saskatchewan. The book 20.12m is also a finalist for the 2022 finalist for the Saskatchewan Book Awards.

The runners-up for the award were Home of the Floating Lily by Toronto author Silmy Abdullah and Night Watch: The Vet Suite by B.C.-born writer Gillian Wigmore.

They will each receive $1,000.

Home of the Floating Lily is a short story collection about the lives of Bangladeshi immigrants living in Toronto, exploring the love, loss, displacement and connection that comes with making a new country home.

Night Watch is a collection of three novellas about the gruelling work of veterinarians in rural areas. The characters travel through harsh winters and muddy springs to reach their clients in small northern B.C. towns, to the South of France and even as far as Fiji. They spend sleepless seasons bringing calves into the world, while also balancing the life events of their own family.

The other finalists were Personal Attention Roleplay by Helen Chau Bradley and Exit Strategies by Meg Todd.

The award was created in honour of Kenyan Canadian writer Danuta Gleed. Her first short fiction collection, One of the Chosen, was published after her death in 1996. The award is sponsored by Gleed's husband, John Gleed.

Last year's winner was Jack Wang for his collection We Two Alone.

Other past winners include Zalika Reid-Benta, Carrianne Leung, David Bezmozgis, Ian Williams and Heather O'Neill.

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