Giller Prize winner Suzette Mayr among 15 authors longlisted for $206K prize for women and non-binary writers

The other Canadians on the longlist are Emma Hooper, Chelene Knight, Francine Cunningham and Tsering Yangzom Lama. The shortlist will be announced on April 6.

The inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction is the largest of its kind

An author with gray and black hair holds her book while standing on stage.
Suzette Mayr is the author of the novel The Sleeping Car Porter. (John Kristalovich/Scotiabank Giller Prize)

Suzette Mayr is one of 15 North American authors longlisted for the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. 

The $150,000 USD ($206, 432 CAD) prize recognizes the best fiction book by a woman or non-binary writer from the U.S. and Canada. It is presently the largest international literary prize for women writers.

Mayr is longlisted for her Giller Prize-winning book The Sleeping Car Porter

The other four Canadian titles longlisted are God Isn't Here Today by Francine Cunningham, We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky by Emma Hooper, Junie by Chelene Knight and We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama. 

The book cover features a black book with the title "God isn't here today" in black font on a white sticker stuck to the book The black book sits on a red, gathered tablecloth.

The Sleeping Car Porter, Mayr's sixth novel, 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 postcard of two gay men. The postcard reawakens his memories and longings and puts his job in jeopardy. 

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 WidowsVenous Hum and The Sleeping Car PorterMonoceros won the ReLit Award, the City of Calgary W. O. Mitchell Book Prize and made the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. The Sleeping Car Porter won the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize

LISTEN | Suzette Mayr talks to Ryan B. Patrick about The Sleeping Car Porter:

Ryan B. Patrick interviews Suzette Mayr on her 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize- winning novel, The Sleeping Car Porter.
The book cover features an image of the bottom-half of a person in a dress running and their mirrored reflection. The top half is of someone running in a white dress against a yellow background while the bottom half is of someone in a yellow dress with a blue sky background. The entire images is cracked as if paint is peeling.

Cunningham's short story collection God Isn't Here Today is about characters who are driven by desperation and presented with moments of choice. From a woman who discovers she is the last human on Earth to a man who goes to God's downtown office in search of advice, these stories flirt with the fantastic and highlight the dualities in human nature. 

Cunningham is an author, artist and educator from Calgary. Her work includes the book of poems On/Me, which was a finalist for the 2020 Indigenous Voices Awards. Cunningham's writing has also appeared in The Malahat Review, Joyland Magazine and The Puritan Magazine. 

Hooper's novel We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky is about Quiteria and her four surviving sisters. They are raised by different families but maintain their connection as they grow up — until they are abducted by soldiers from their small Portuguese village and brought to the commander, who turns out to be someone from their past.

The U.K.-based author has also written the novel Etta and Otto and Russell and James and Our Homesick Songs, which was longlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award in 2018. Born and raised in Alberta, Hooper is also an academic and a musician who performs solo as Waitress for the Bees and with the string quartet Red Carousel. 

Knight's novel Junie is a novel about Junie, a creative and observant child, who moves to Hogan's Alley in the 1930s with her mother. Hogan's Alley is a thriving Black immigrant community in Vancouver's east end and Junie quickly makes meaningful relationships. As she moves into adulthood, Junie explores her artistic talents and sexuality, but her mother sinks further into alcoholism and the thriving neighbourhood once filled with potential begins to change. 

The black book cover features an illustration of about five different blue, pink and orange dresses hanging in the air, overlapping one another.

Knight is a writer and poet from Vancouver. She is the author of Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, which won the 2018 Vancouver Book Award.

LISTEN | Chelene Knight talks to Shelagh Rogers about Junie:

Chelene Knight on the inspiration behind her novel, Junie.

Lama's novel 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. 

The black book cover features an image of two multi-coloured hands. the left hand is below the right with fingers curled towards the palm of the right hand. The hands are made up of collaged scraps of different coloured paper.

Lama is a Tibetan Canadian author based in Vancouver. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Globe and Mail, The Malahat Review and Grain. Her debut novel, We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies, was a finalist for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Lama was named a writer to watch by CBC Books in 2022.

The 10 American finalists are Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades, When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar, Natural History by Andrea Barrett, Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen, Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Let There Be Light by Liana Finck, Thank You, Mr. Nixon by Gish Jen, What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri, Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin and The Furrows by Namwali Serpell. 

The longlist was selected from more than 250 entries of fiction books written by Canadian and U.S. women and non-binary and published in English in 2022.

The 2023 jury includes writers Katherena Vermette, Anita Rau Badami, Monique Truong, Crystal Wilkinson and Merilyn Simonds, who was recently a juror for the 2023 CBC Nonfiction Prize

The shortlist will be announced on April 6 and the winner will be announced on May 4 at an event in Nashville. 

In addition to the $150,000 USD ($206, 432 Cdn) prize, the winner will also be awarded a residency at Fogo Island Inn. The remaining four finalists will each receive $12,500 USD ($17,196 Cdn). 

The new award is named after the late author Carol Shields, who wrote over 20 books and won numerous awards including the Governor General's Literary Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Stone Diaries.

The prize was created in part, to address financial insecurity and gender inequality in the literary industry.

The award is managed by the Carol Shields Prize Foundation, which encourages women to participate in literary arts.


Nikky Manfredi is an associate producer at CBC Books. She is a writer, producer and fact-checker based in Toronto.

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