Books

Jack Wang wins $10K Danuta Gleed Literary Award for best first short story collection for We Two Alone

Set on five continents and spanning nearly a century, We Two Alone traces the long arc and evolution of the Chinese immigrant experience.
We Two Alone is a book by Jack Wang. (Mike Grippi, House of Anansi Press)

Jack Wang has won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for his short story collection We Two Alone.

The $10,000 prize annually recognizes the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author. This edition of the prize considered debut collections published in 2020.

Wang won for his first book We Two Alone

Set on five continents and spanning nearly a century, We Two Alone traces the long arc and evolution of the Chinese immigrant experience — a young laundry boy risks his life to play organized hockey in Canada in the 1920s, a Canadian couple gets caught in the outbreak of violence in Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War, a family struggles to buy a home in post-colonial South Africa during the rise of apartheid and more.

"All of Wang's characters are vividly rendered, their struggles and agonies richly conceived and indelibly portrayed. The writing throughout is atmospheric, highly visual, and peppered with startling and persuasive detail," jury members Lisa Bird-Wilson, Ian Colford and Zalika Reid-Benta said in a statement.

"We Two Alone lingers in the mind as a compassionate work by a profoundly talented writer who cares deeply about what it means to be human in turbulent times."

Wang is originally from Vancouver and now lives in Ithaca, N.Y. He is an associate professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College. We Two Alone is his first book.

The runners-up for the award were Kaie Kellough for Dominoes at the Crossroads and Souvankham Thammavongsa for How to Pronounce Knife. They will each receive $1,000.

Kellough was shortlisted for his latest short fiction collection, Dominoes at the Crossroads, where he maps an alternate nation — one populated by Caribbean Canadians who hopscotch across the country. Kellough won the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize for Magnetic Equator.

Thammavongsa was shortlisted for How to Pronounce Knife. How to Pronounce Knife captures the day-to-day lives of immigrants and refugees, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance — and their pursuit of a place to belong. The collection won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The other finalists were Sidura Ludwig for You Are Not What We Expected and Frances Boyle for Seeking Shade.

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 Reid-Benta for her collection Frying Plantain.

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

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