David Chariandy awarded $165K US Windham-Campbell Prize

David Chariandy, author of the Canada Reads 2019 contender Brother, was awarded the anonymously judged prize for his vision that is "at once entirely humane and immensely tender."
David Chariandy is the author of Brother, which will be defended by Lisa Ray on Canada Reads 2019. (CBC)

David Chariandy, author of the Canada Reads 2019 contender Brother, is among eight writers from around the world to receive the 2019 Windham-Campbell Prize, an anonymously judged literary award worth $165,000 US (approx. $218,790 Cdn).

Established in 2013 and administered by Yale University, the prize annually honours a selection of fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry writers who have been nominated in secret.

Chariandy, who grew up in Scarborough, Ont. and now lives in Vancouver, B.C., is the sole Canadian recipient this year.

His latest novel, Brother, tells the story of Michael and Francis, sons of Trinidadian immigrants, whose lives are shaped by the love of their hard-working single mother, the threat of racial violence in their suburb and the stereotypes placed on their community.

    Brother was published to critical acclaim, winning the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and recently becoming a finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

    The book will be defended on Canada Reads 2019 by model and actress Lisa Ray.

    Chariandy's first book was the novel, Soucouyantpublished in 2007. The story about a Canadian-born man returning home to confront his mother, a Caribbean immigrant, was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

    "Offering a vision at once entirely humane and immensely tender, David Chariandy lays bare the ways that gestures and details articulate the revelations of grief as well as the intimacies found within fraught and fraying social spaces," said the Windham-Campbell Prize in a news release.

    Though Chariandy is being honoured in the fiction category, his most recent book is a nonfiction essay titled I've Been Meaning to Tell YouThe book is a letter to his 13-year-old daughter and explores what it means to be a "visible minority" within the country you were born in.

    The other fiction recipient is Ireland's Danielle McLaughlin, who published her debut story collection, Dinosaurs On Other Planets, in 2015. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Irish Times, The Penny Dreadful and The Stinging Fly.

    American writer Rebecca Solnit and Indian journalist Raghu Karnad were chosen as the nonfiction recipients. Solnit is the author of many books including Men Explain Things to Me and The Mother of All Questions. Karnad has written for publications like Granta, the Guardian and the International New York Times and published the award-winning historical book Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War in 2015.

    For poetry, Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson and Ghanaian Jamaican American poet Kwame Dawes were chosen for the prize. Hutchinson is an award-winning poet whose books include House of Lords and Commons and Far District. Dawes has 20 works of poetry under his belt, including City of Bones and Speak from Here to There.

    The drama recipients this year are American Young Jean Lee and Australian Patricia Cornelius. Lee is a critically acclaimed playwright, founder of her own theatre company and professor at Stanford University. Cornelius has written over 35 plays, including Big Heart and Slut, and is a founding member of the Melbourne Workers Theatre.

    The eight honorees were announced at a live event in London hosted by Damian Barr on March 13, 2019.

    Past Canadian recipients include poet Lorna Goodison, novelist André Alexis, playwright Hannah Moscovitch and nonfiction writer John Vaillant.