Books

Tanya Tagaq, recognized for debut novel Split Tooth, among Indigenous Voices Award winners

The musician and author's 2018 novel won the $2,000 prize for best published prose in English. The annual awards ceremony recognizes literature by Indigenous writers in Canada across seven categories.
Split Tooth is Polaris Prize-winning artist Tanya Tagaq's first book. (Penguin Random House, Peter Power/Canadian Press)

Musician Tanya Tagaq has won the best published prose in English category at the Indigenous Voices Awards for her debut novel, Split Tooth.

The annual awards ceremony recognizes literature by Indigenous writers in Canada across seven categories. Each winner receives $2,000.

Tagaq's novel follows a young girl's upbringing in 1970s Nunavut, a place of mythic natural wonders as well as addiction and violence.

The book was longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a nominee for the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Ktunaxa nation writer Smokii Sumac won the published poetry in English category for his debut poetry collection you are enough: love poems for the end of the world. The book takes on themes of love, heartbreak, addiction, healing, gender and identity.

Tasha Spillett's first book, Surviving the Citya graphic novel illustrated by Natasha Donovan, received the prize in the works in an alternative format category. The comic follows two Indigenous best friends — Miikwan is Anishinaabe and Dez is Inninew — who are coming of age in an urban environment where women from their community are disappearing.

The published works in French category was won by two books: Uiesh, Quelque Part by Joséphine Bacon and Nipimanitu by Pierrot Ross-Tremblay.

Francine Merasty received the prize for work in an Indigenous language for Iskotew Iskwew.

Two awards were given out for unpublished works. Teenage Asylums by Francine Cunningham won the unpublished prose in English category, while Brush of a Bustle by Elaine McArthur won the unpublished poetry in English category.

The 2019 judges were Jordan Abel, Jeannette Armstrong, Joanne Arnott, Warren Cariou, Margery Fee, Gabrielle L'Hirondelle Hill, Francis Langevin and Jean Sioui.

The prizes were awarded in Vancouver on June 4, 2019.