CBC Literary Prizes

Montreal writer Chanel M. Sutherland wins 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize

Chanel M. Sutherland has won the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize for her story Umbrella.
Chanel M. Sutherland is a writer and product marketing director living in Montreal (Submitted by Chanel M. Sutherland)

Chanel M. Sutherland has won the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize for Umbrella

She will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will also attend a writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Sutherland's winning story was published on CBC Books. You can read Umbrella here

Sutherland's story was selected from nearly 2,000 entries. 

Chanel Sutherland is this year's CBC Books' Non-Fiction Prize winner! In a few paragraphs and poetic lines, Chanel's very personal short-story - Umbrella - gives us all some greater insight into what it means to be Black, a teenage girl, a small-island immigrant searching for her identity in a big new place 54:00

Born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sutherland moved to Canada when she was 10 years old. She's currently a product marketing director living in Montreal. 

She wrote Umbrella because she wanted to confront racial microaggressions and remove the subtleties that these actions and comments often hide behind.

"Over the years I tried to figure out why that specific experience mattered so much — why it affected me and ultimately changed me. Because of it, I started paying more attention to the in-between of people's words and actions," Sutherland said in an interview with CBC Books.

"Writing Umbrella was a challenging experience because I had to restrain myself. There were so many emotions that I felt and connected to during the process, but I knew they would only oversaturate the story. That's why it is so satisfying to know that the jurors understood what I was trying to accomplish. This whole experience is like walking in a dream!"

The 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize jurors were Jenny Heijun Wills, M.G. Vassanji and Tim Cook.

"Umbrella is a story about race, gender and sexuality that is both familiar and unique, told with a restraint that characterizes its speaker in masterful ways. Here is a story about Black girlhood that bespeaks the ironic ways desire, belonging and acquiescence are, at times, inextricable. The result is a compelling, lively and informative piece that offers insight as it deploys literary skill from beginning to end," the jury said in a statement.

The four finalists for the 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize are Alison Hughes of Edmonton for Funhouse Mirrors, Barbara Mackenzie of Yellowknife for Northern Spring, Lee Thomas of Fredericton for My Summer Body and Sarah Van Goethem of Bothwell, Ont., for A Borrowed Husband

They will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The jury selected the shortlist from a longlist of 28 writers that was compiled by a team of writers and editors from across Canada.

2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize winner Chanel M. Sutherland, reads an excerpt of her essay Umbrella on As It Happens 4:44

Francis Ouellette won the Prix du récit Radio-Canada 2021 for La ballade de Ti Crisse.

Last year's winner was Burnaby, B.C., writer Jonathan Poh for his story Value Village.

The CBC Literary Prizes have been recognizing Canadian writers since 1979. Past winners include David Bergen, Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields and Michael Winter.

If you're interested in other CBC Literary Prizes, the 2022 CBC Short Story Prize is open for submissions until Oct. 31, 2021.

The 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January and the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

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