Dionne Brand, Miriam Toews and Claudia Dey among finalists for $20K Trillium Book Award

There are five books on the English-language shortlist, which recognizes the best writing from Ontario-based authors.
Dionne Brand, Miriam Toews and Claudia Dey are on the 2019 shortlist for the Trillium Book Award. (Jason Chow, CBC, Norman Wong)

Dionne Brand'sThe Blue ClerkMiriam Toews's Women Talking and Claudia Dey's Heartbreaker are among the nominees for the 2019 Trillium Book Award, an annual $20,000 prize for Ontario writers.

Brand's The Blue Clerk presents an argument between the poet and the titular "blue clerk," who is the keeper of the page. The Blue Clerk was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and is a finalist for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize. Brand previously won a Trillium Book Award for her 1998 poetry collection Land to Light On.

Toews's Women Talking is a novel about eight Mennonite women who have 48 hours to make a decision that will impact every woman and child in their community. The novel is inspired by the real-life case in the 2000s, when women in a Bolivian Mennonite community began whispering that they were waking up groggy, in pain, feeling like they had been sexually assaulted. Women Talking was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

In Heartbreaker, Dey's second novel, Billie Jean vanishes from "the territory" and becomes the first person to ever leave the commune. Her story unfolds through the perspectives of Billie's teenage daughter, Pony, loyal dog Gena Rowlands and Pony's crush, a boy nicknamed Supernatural. All they've ever known is "the territory" — a town stunted in 1985 with strict rules and limited contact with the outside world. 

Also nominated is Late Breaking by K.D. Miller, a short story collection based on the art of Alex Colville and connected characters occupying Sackville, N.B.

Rounding out the shortlist is Queen Solomon by Tamara Faith Berger, a novel about a young man's exploration of his sexual, mental and emotional limits when he leaves home and enters the phantasm of Israel.

The Trillium Book Award's 2019 poetry category offers a $10,000 prize to a first, second or third book of poetry. The English-language shortlist includes:

  • Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway
  • I left nothing inside on purpose by Stevie Howell
  • Sit How You Want by Robin Richardson

The winners will be announced on June 13, 2019 in Toronto.

Last year's Trillium Book Award winner was Kyo Maclear for her memoir Birds Art Life.

The Trillium Book Award is administered by the governmental organization Ontario Creates. Other past winners include Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Austin Clarke, Thomas King and Michael Ondaatje.


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