Books

The finalists for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction

Here are the finalists for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.
The finalists for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. (Canada Council for the Arts/CBC)

Here are the finalists for the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

The Governor General's Literary Awards are one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious literary prizes. 

The awards, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, are given in seven English-language categories: fiction, nonfictionpoetryyoung people's literature — textyoung people's literature — illustrationdrama and translation. Seven French-language awards are also given out in the same categories.

Each winner will receive $25,000. The winners will be announced on June 1, 2021.

The fiction category was assessed by Anne Fleming, Ariela Freedman and Rabindranath Maharaj.

You can see the finalists in all seven categories here.

Get to know the fiction finalists below.

Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

Francesca Ekwuyasi is the author of Butter Honey Pig Bread. (Submitted by Francesca Ekwuyasi/CBC)

Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi believes she was a spirit who was supposed to die as a small child. By staying alive, she is cursing her family — a fear that appears to come true when Kehinde experiences something that tears the family apart, and divides the twins for years. But when the three women connect years later, they must confront their past and find forgiveness.

Butter Honey Pig Bread was on the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. It was championed by Roger Mooking on Canada Reads 2021.

Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, filmmaker and visual artist. Her writing has appeared in the Malahat Review, Guts and Brittle Paper, and she was longlisted for the 2019 Journey PrizeButter Honey Pig Bread is her first book.

Francesca Ekwuyasi on her Canada Reads 2021 book, Butter Honey Pig Bread 13:46

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good

Michelle Good is a writer of Cree ancestry and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. (Kent Wong, Harper Perennial)

In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie were taken from their families and sent to a residential school when they were very small. Barely out of childhood, they are released and left to contend with the seedy world of eastside Vancouver. Fuelled by the trauma of their childhood, the five friends cross paths over the decades and struggle with the weight of their shared past. 

Five Little Indians was on the shortlist for the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the longlist for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Five Little Indians is her first book.

Michelle Good, who is nehiyaw from Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, wrote about a fictional story about five residential school survivors who stuck together as children but, chart their own difficult paths as young adults. 10:50

Indians on Vacation by Thomas King

Indians on Vacation is a novel by Thomas King. (CBC/Sinisa Jolic, HarperCollins Publishers)

Indians on Vacation is about a couple named Bird and Mimi, who decide to travel through Europe after discovering postcards from Mimi's long-lost Uncle Leroy, who sent them while on his own European adventure almost 100 years ago.

Indians on Vacation was on the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist and the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.

Thomas King is a Canadian American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry. His books include Truth & Bright WaterThe Inconvenient IndianGreen Grass, Running Water and The Back of the Turtle. He also writes the DreadfulWater mystery series.

Thomas King talks about the autobiographical inspiration by his novel Indians on Vacation, which is longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. 16:47

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Noopiming is a book by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. (House of Anansi Press, Zahra Siddiqui)

Noopiming combines prose and poetic forms to create an original narrative form, and to reclaim and reframe Anishinaabe storytelling. It's a story told by Mashkawaji, who is frozen in a lake, and who, in turn, tells the story of seven connected characters, who are each searching for a connection to the land and the world. Noopiming is Anishinaabemowin for "in the bush," and the title is a response to Susanna Moodie's 1852 memoir about settling in Canada, Roughing It in the Bush.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, activist, musician, artist, author and member of Alderville First Nation. Her other books include Islands of Decolonial LoveThis Accident of Being LostDancing on Our Turtle's Back and As We Have Always DoneSimpson was chosen by Thomas King for the 2014 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award.

Leanne Betsamosake Simpson talks about her latest novel Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies. 19:04

The Baudelaire Fractal by Lisa Robertson

The Baudelaire Fractal is a book by Lisa Robertson. (Coach House Books, Sina Queyras)

In The Baudelaire Fractalthe debut novel from acclaimed poet Lisa Robertson, a writer called Hazel Brown wakes up in a mysterious hotel room to discover she has written the complete works of Charles Baudelaire. Shifting between locations like London, Vancouver, Paris and the French countryside, the book discusses issues like modernity and poverty across multiple time periods. 

Robertson is a poet who currently lives in France. Her books include XEclogue, Debbie: An Epic and The Weather.

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