Books

Kevin Lambert & Saeed Teebi among 5 finalists for $60K Atwood Gibson Prize for Canada's top fiction

The $60,000 award annually honours the best novel or short story collection published in Canada. The other finalists are Rima Elkouri, Nicholas Herring and Darcy Tamayose.

The prize is named after Canadian literary icons Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson

Saeed Teebi, left, and Kevin Lambert are two of the finalists for the 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction. (Writers’ Trust)

Quebec writer Kevin Lambert and Toronto author Saeed Teebi are two of the finalists for the 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

The $60,000 award recognizes the best novel or short story collection published in Canada.

Lambert is a finalist for his novel Querelle of Roberval.

Teebi is nominated for his short story collection Her First Palestinian

The other three finalists are Montreal's Rima Elkouri for the novel Manam, P.E.I. writer Nicholas Herring for his debut novel Some Hellish, and Albertan Darcy Tamayose for the collection Ezra's Ghosts

This year's five finalists are selected by the jury from 132 titles submitted by 70 publishing imprints. The jury is composed of Canadian fiction writers David Bergen, Norma Dunning and Andrew Forbes.

Dunning is also a jury member for the 2023 CBC Short Story Prize.

Each finalist will receive $5,000. Translators receive a portion of the prize money. Two of the books on the shortlisted were translated from French into English: David Winkler translated Lambert's Querelle of Roberval, while the translation team of Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott translated Elkouri's Manam.

The winner will be announced at an in-person ceremony on Nov. 2, 2022. 

Renamed in 2021, the Atwood Gibson Prize honours Canadian literary icons Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, two of the five co-founders of Writers' Trust of Canada.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is an organization that supports Canadian writers through literary awards, fellowships, financial grants, mentorships and more. 

It also gives out seven prizes in recognition of the year's best in fiction, nonfiction and short story, as well as mid-career and lifetime achievement awards.

The annual fiction prize has been awarded since 1997. Last year's winner was Strangers by Katherine Vermette. 

Other past winners include Austin Clarke, Alice Munro, Lawrence Hill, Miriam Toews, Emma Donoghue, André Alexis, David Chariandy and Gil Adamson. 

Get to know the five finalists for the 2022 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize below.

Querelle of Roberval by Kevin Lambert, translated by Donald Winkler

Querelle of Roberval is a book by Kevin Lambert, left, translated by Donald Winkler, right. (Gregory Augendre-Cambron, Biblioasis, Terence Byrnes)

Querelle of Roberval is a novel set in Quebec involving a young person named Querelle who moves to the northern lumber town of Roberval and sets off a chain of events involving sex, passion and violence. Roberval is in the middle of a millworkers' strike and Querelle's carnal involvement with some of the young men in the small town fuels tensions among all involved. 

"A profane, funny, bleak, touching, playful, and outrageous satire of sexual politics, labour and capitalism," the jury said in a statement. "Lambert's novel gleefully illuminates both the broad socio-political tensions of life in a Quebec company town and the intimate details of sex, lust, loneliness, and gay relationships in such a place." 

Kevin Lambert is a writer from Quebec. You Will Love What You Have Killed is his first novel, and the first to be translated into English. 

Donald Winkler is a filmmaker and translator from Montreal. He won the Governor General's Literary Award for French-to-English translation for The Lyric Generation: The Life and Times of the Baby-Boomers by François Ricard, Partita for Glenn Gould by Georges Leroux and The Major Verbs by Pierre Nepveu. Two books he has translated have been finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize: A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin in 2007 and Arvida by Samuel Archibald in 2015.

Her First Palestinian by Saeed Teebi

A composite of a yellow book covering featuring an peeled tangerine and a photo of the author, who has short gray hair and a groomed beard.
Her First Palestinian is a short story collection by Toronto based writer and lawyer Saeed Teebi. (Eduardo Martins, House of Anansi Press)

Her First Palestinian is a collection of short stories revolving around the Palestinian immigrant experience in Canada. The stories explore themes of identity, loss, power and belonging as they look at the diverse and layered experiences of the Palestinian diaspora. The titular story in Her First Palestinian was shortlisted for the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize.

"Teebi coaxes the reader in a certain direction, and then flips the narrative so that now we are complicit, and we see our own guilt in the great divide that exists between the privileged and the stranger," jurors commented in a statement. "He does this with subtle humour and a wry tone. He is a vital voice." 

Saeed Teebi is a writer and lawyer based in Toronto. He was born to Palestinian parents in Kuwait and, after some time in the U.S., has lived in Canada since 1993. His writing frequently engages the immigrant experience and his Palestinian background. 

In his debut story collection, Her First Palestinian, Saeed Teebi shines a light on the varied experiences of Palestinian Canadian characters navigating their way through life in their new home country. He joined Tom Power to tell us more.

Some Hellish by Nicholas Herring

The book cover is a drawing of a white-and-red sailboat traversing massive, rolling waves.
Some Hellish is a book by Nicholas Herring. (Norma Jean MacLean, Goose Lane Editions)

Some Hellish is about a lobster fish named Herring who is facing the existential dread of what he feels is a boring, mundane life. That is, until one December day when he decides to cut a hole in the living room floor and alter the course of his life as he knows it. Through a myriad of absurd and confronting experiences, including his wife and children leaving him, Tibetan monks rescuing him after a near-death experience, Herring is forced to reckon with himself, his fear and what it means to be alive.

"With a deep knowledge of the Island and a passion for the language of work, Herring's voice is droll and philosophical, ribald and poetic," said the jury in a statement. "The age-old story of humans versus nature finds a fresh cadence as Herring trawls the seas for body and soul." 

Nicholas Herring is a writer and carpenter from Murray Harbour, P.E.I. Some Hellish is his debut novel. His writing has also appeared in the Puritan and the Fiddlehead.

Ezra's Ghosts by Darcy Tamayose 

A composite of a pink and gold, cloudy book cover and its smiling author, with round glasses and brunette hair.
Ezra's Ghosts is a book by Darcy Tamayose. (NeWest Press)

Ezra's Ghosts is a collection of imaginative stories set in a quiet prairie town called Ezra. Linked by place and themes of grief, language and culture, each story features a different character dealing with fantastical circumstances: one character is trapped in town following her death, forced to watch her family and killer continue on without her while another story sees the oldest man in town sprout wings.

"Each story in Ezra's Ghosts is unique and allows us to see life from beyond, exploring the aspects of grief from those who have moved on. Each character is placed inside our hearts, connecting us to the spirit of their loved one," said the jury in a statement. "Tamayose writes on 'the significance of the sacred,' treading on the possibility of even more life and purpose in the afterlife." 

Darcy Tamayose is a writer and graphic designer from southern Alberta. Her work includes the novel Odori, which received the Canada-Japan Literary Award, and the YA book Katie Be Quiet. Tamayose lives in Lethbridge, Alta.

Manam by Rima Elkouri, translated by Phyllis Aronoff & Howard Scott

A book cover featuring a black-and-white photo from the Armenian genocide alongside a black-and-white portrait of its author, a 40-something woman with a brunette bob.
Manam is a novel by Rima Elkouri, right, which was translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott. (Mawenzi House, Editions Boreal)

Manam follows main character Léa as, fuelled by her grandmother's refusal to divulge an important family story, she travels to her ancestral village, Manam, in Turkey to uncover her family's past. Helped by a Kurdish filmmaker and guide, Léa learns that during the Armenian genocide, nearly the entire population of the village were killed or flex to exile in Syria, which, for Léa, begs the question: How did her grandmother and her family survive? 

"Elkouri approaches the reality of war with words that commemorate the life of her Teta," jurors commented. "Her work fulfills the curiosity we carry of our ancestors and is a reminder to all of us to honour their lives and, more importantly, to never forget them." 

Rima Elkouri is a journalist and columnist from Montreal, where she currently writes for La Presse. Manam is her debut novel.

Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott are a translation team from Montreal. They have also translated Edem Awumey's novel Descent Into Nightwhich won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for translation.

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