Silmy Abdullah & Meg Todd among finalists for $10K Danuta Gleed Literary Award

Arnolda Dugour Bowes, Helen Chau Bradley and Gillian Wigmore round out the 2021 Danuta Gleed Literary Award shortlist. The $10,000 award is given out annually to the year's best first collection of short fiction.
The 2021 Danuta Gleed Literary Award finalists. (Gabriel Dumont Institute Press, Dundurn Press, Metonymy Press, Invisible Publishing, Signature Editions)

Silmy Abdullah and Meg Todd are among the five finalists for the 25th annual Danuta Gleed Literary Award, recognizing the best debut short fiction collection by a Canadian author published in 2021.

Toronto lawyer and author Abdullah and Calgary author and 2020 CBC Short Story Prize-longlisted writer Todd are recognized for their books Home of the Floating Lily and Exit Strategies, respectively.

The $10,000 award is given out annually to the year's best first collection of short fiction. Two additional prizes of $1,000 are also awarded.

The 2021 nominees are:

  • Home of the Floating Lily by Silmy Abdullah
  • 20.12m: A Short Story Collection of a Life Lived as a Road Allowance Métis by Arnolda Dufour Bowes
  • Personal Attention Roleplay by Helen Chau Bradley
  • Exit Strategies by Meg Todd
  • Night Watch: The Vet Suite by Gillian Wigmore

The jury, comprised of authors Mark Anthony Jarman, Derek Mascarenhas and Carmen Rodriguez, determined the shortlist after reading 29 collections.

The winner will be announced on June 1 on the Writer's Union of Canada's Facebook page.

Read more about each of the shortlisted books below.

Home of the Floating Lily by Silmy Abdullah

Home of the Floating Lily ia novel by Silmy Abdullah. (Dundurn Press)

Home of the Floating Lily is a short story collection about the lives of Bangladeshi immigrants living in Toronto, exploring the love, loss, displacement and connection that comes with making a new country home. A newly married woman, an international student, a domestic helper and a working-class single mother are just a few of the characters who come to life in these dynamic and vibrant stories.

Silmy Abdullah is a lawyer and author who lives in Toronto. Home of the Floating Lily is her first book.

From the jury: "Home of the Floating Lily is an exquisite examination of connection. Gently revealed familial bonds and implicit ties to home are thoroughly tested — and occasionally broken — in ways that both surprise and charm.

"Capturing the heart of the Crescent Oak Village Bangladeshi community, Silmy Abdullah's lustrous prose spans bougainvillea and biryani, while skillfully embodying the intricacies of marital expectation and parental obligation. Readers will deeply feel each of these stories and each of these characters."

20.12m: A Short Story Collection of a Life Lived as a Road Allowance Métis by Arnolda Dufour Bowes, illustrated by Andrea Haughian

20.12 is a short story collection written by Arnolda Dufour Bowes. (Gabriel Dumont Institute Press)

The five stories in 20.12m honour the author's father, Arnold Charles Dufour, a resident of the Punnichy, Saskatchewan Road Allowance community. Arnolda Dufour Bowes captures the hardships and resilience of Métis Road Allowance families in this book, weaving in true elements passed down to her in oral traditions.

20.12m is also shortlisted for three Saskatchewan Book Awards. It is Dufour Bowes's first book and is illustrated by her sister Andrea Haughian.

From the jury: "A historical chronicle, a family account, and a coming-of-age story all in one, 20.12m offers a poignant depiction of the life of Métis families as marginalized 'Road Allowance' people. The collection flows with the power of truth and the richness of language firmly rooted in oral traditions.

"Heart-wrenching and heart-warming at once, these short stories celebrate and attest to the resilience and joie-de-vivre of the Métis in the face of injustice; they succeed in turning shame into dignity and horror into beauty."

Personal Attention Roleplay by Helen Chau Bradley

Personal Attention Roleplay is a short story collection by Helen Chau Bradley. (Surah Field-Green, Metonymy Press)

Personal Attention Roleplay is populated with young, queer Asian Canadian characters, contending with crushes, familial obligations and intimacy. Set in Toronto, Montreal and other places, some stories include a gymnast who falls for a talented teammate, a metal band breaking up on their summer tour and a listicle writer who spends all their time on a Japanese ASMR channel.

Helen Chau Bradley is a writer and musician from Montreal. Personal Attention Roleplay is their first book. They have also published the poetry chapbook Automatic Object Lessons.

From the jury: "Helen Chau Bradley's stories sing with uniquely awkward, difficult and funny moments. From listicles and YouTube wormholes to never-ending pandemic queues, Personal Attention Roleplay finds the absurdity and hilarity in extremes.

"Whether it's capturing the tender voice of a young gymnast, or a queer metal band's nightmare tour, the narratives in this collection are affirming, absorbing and utterly impressive."

Exit Strategies by Meg Todd

Exit Strategies is a short story collection by Meg Todd. (Hilary Todd, Signature Editions)

Exit Strategies is a collection of 14 stories, featuring characters searching for a way out of their circumstances. Stories include an actuary who, unable to work due to a head injury, takes a job as a farm labourer and an elderly European woman who wants to ditch a B.C. road trip with her almost-Canadian son and his eccentric girlfriend.

Meg Todd grew up in Alberta and currently lives in Vancouver. Her work has been published in Prairie Fire, Riddle Fence, Grain, Event, The Humber Literary Review, The Windsor Review and elsewhere. She studied Eastern Religious Studies at the University of Calgary and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. She was on the longlist for the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize.

From the jury: "Eloquent and understated at the same time, each of the stories in Exit Strategies creates a universe that immerses the reader in the lives of complex characters undergoing difficult circumstances.

"Written in the tradition of the finest contemporary western literature, these short stories explore the quotidian with insight and compassion and, in doing so, speak to universal issues and themes."

Night Watch: The Vet Suite by Gillian Wigmore

Night Watch is a collection of short stories by Gillian Wigmore. (Invisible Publishing,

Night Watch is a collection of three novellas about the gruelling work of veterinarians in rural areas. The characters travel through harsh winters and muddy springs to reach their clients in small northern B.C. towns, to the South of France and even as far as Fiji. They spend sleepless seasons bringing calves into the world, while also balancing the life events of their own family.

Gillian Wigmore is a librarian and daughter of a veterinarian. She has published three poetry collections — soft geography, Dirt of Ages and Orient — a novel called Glory and a novella called Grayling.

From the jury: "Night Watch is a beautiful anthem to the hard world of a rural veterinarian, a life of muscle and blood and guts, all detailed by Gillian Wigmore with surprising delicacy and lyricism.

"These moving stories make poetic the mountains and gravel roads, the headlights at night and C-sections in doomed barns, the calves and donkeys and horses and otters, the miracles and casualties during nights without sleep. The book is intimate, superb."

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