Miriam Toews & Katherena Vermette among five finalists for $60K Atwood Gibson Prize for Canada's top fiction
The prize is named after Canadian literary icons Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson
Miriam Toews and Katherena Vermette are two of the finalists on the 2021 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Prize for Fiction.
The $60,000 award annually honours the best novel or short story collection published in Canada.
The other three finalists are Rivka Galchen for the novel Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, Alix Ohlin for the short story collection We Want What We Want and Guy Vanderhaeghe for the novel August into Winter.
This year's five finalists are selected by the jury from 130 titles submitted by 60 publishers. The jury is composed of Canadian fiction writers Rebecca Fisseha, Michelle Good and Steven Price.
Each finalist will receive $5,000.
Meet the 2021 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AtwoodGibson?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AtwoodGibson</a> WT Fiction Prize finalists <a href="https://t.co/RCJQDhSxAI">https://t.co/RCJQDhSxAI</a><br>◥ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EveryoneKnowsYourMotherisaWitch?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EveryoneKnowsYourMotherisaWitch</a> by <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RivkaGalchen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RivkaGalchen</a><br>◥ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeWantWhatWeWant?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeWantWhatWeWant</a> by <a href="https://twitter.com/AlixOhlin?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AlixOhlin</a><br>◥ Fight Night by <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MiriamToews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MiriamToews</a><br>◥ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AugustintoWinter?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AugustintoWinter</a> by <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GuyVanderhaeghe?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GuyVanderhaeghe</a><br>◥ The Strangers by <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KatherenaVermette?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KatherenaVermette</a> <a href="https://t.co/iqYSohpFdQ">pic.twitter.com/iqYSohpFdQ</a>—@writerstrust
Recently renamed, the fiction prize honours Canadian literary icons Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson, two of the five co-founders of Writers' Trust of Canada.
The 2021 prize is funded by businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie, who has committed $3 million to support Canadian literature. Balsillie is the former co-CEO of Research in Motion.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, Nov. 3.
The Writers' Trust of Canada has awarded an annual fiction prize since 1997.
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 Writers' Trust of Canada was founded in 1976 by the prize's new namesakes, Atwood and Gibson, alongside Pierre Berton, Margaret Laurence and David Young.
Get to know the five finalists for the 2021 Atwood Gibson Writers' Trust Fiction Prize below.
The story of Fight Night is told in the voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet lively mother. It explores the pain, love, laughter and will to live a good life across three generations of women in a close-knit family.
"A careful balance of wit, irony, dark humour and philosophical musings makes for a thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable read about women and girls navigating the world together," the jury commented in a statement.
Toews is the author from Toronto. Her novel A Complicated Kindness won the Governor General's Literary Award for English-language fiction in 2004 and Canada Reads in 2006. She is also the author of the novel All My Puny Sorrows, Women Talking and memoir Swing Low.
The novel brings readers into the dynamic world of the Stranger family, where Cedar has nearly forgotten what her family looks like; Phoenix has nearly forgotten what freedom feels like; and Elsie has nearly given up hope. The Strangers is an exploration of race, class, inherited trauma and matrilineal bonds that, despite everything, refuse to be broken.
"A beautiful, raw testament to those living on the margins," said the jury in a statement. "Cathartic and disturbing, The Strangers offers vital insight into the colonial brutality that still haunts the lives of the Métis."
- Katherena Vermette's novel The Strangers is an intergenerational story about anger, pain and survival
Vermette is a Métis writer living in Winnipeg. Her other books include her debut novel The Break, the poetry collections North End Love Songs and river woman. She also wrote the story of Annie of Red River for This Place: 150 Years Retold.
The story is set in 1618 in the German duchy of Württemberg. Plague is spreading throughout the Holy Roman Empire — so is fear. Amidst the war and chaos, Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch. Galchen draws on real historical documents but infuses them with imagination and humour. Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch tells the story of how a community becomes implicated in collective aggression and hysterical fear.
"A powerful indictment of misogyny, gossip and the casual cruelty of crowds," the jury said in a statement. "Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch shines with empathy and understanding, using the past to dissect and examine one of the essential crises of our time: the conflict between science and superstition."
Galchen is a Canadian American writer. She is also the author of the novel Atmospheric Disturbances. She lives in New York City.
We Want What We Want is a short story collection that involves bad parents, burned potential and inescapable old flames. Vanessa comes back home to her father engaged to her childhood best friend; Amanda drives to Upstate New York to rescue her cousin from a cult, but ends up discovering well-dressed men living together in a beautiful abode — each story conveys humour, pain and beauty.
"These stories bring us into the company of people who want what we all want: to connect, to matter, to heal, and to cross into unfamiliar territory, hoping that the risk will be worthwhile," the jury commented in a statement.
Ohlin is a writer from Vancouver and the current chair of the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. Her books include the novels Inside and Dual Citizens, both which were finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
August into Winter takes place in 1939 in a world on the brink of global war. After Constable Hotchkiss confronts the spoiled, narcissistic Ernie Sickert about the disturbing pranks in their small prairie town, Ernie commits an act of unspeakable violence. What follows is a course of events that will change many lives forever.
"August into Winter is equal parts mature love story, tension-packed manhunt, and nuanced exploration of the pursuit of personal and societal ideals," said the jury in a statement.
Born in Esterhazy, Sask. in 1951, Vanderhaeghe is the author of fiction including Man Descending, The Englishman's Boy, Daddy Lenin and Other Stories, among other. He is a three-timer winner of the Governor General's Awards and has received the Order of Canada.