Thomas King wins $15K Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for Indians on Vacation

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

Thomas King has won the 2021 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour for his novel Indians on Vacation.

The $15,000 prize recognizes the best humour writing in Canada.

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 also finalist for the 2020 Writers's Trust Fiction Prize and the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for fiction.

Indians on Vacation was inspired by his travelling experiences with his partner. He wanted to use the idea of travel as a gateway to discussing more serious issues.

"These were people who had left their homes and had very little other than what they were carrying. To have to walk through that — those hundreds of people who had been displaced and didn't know where they were going to go or how they were going to get there — with your little suitcases and your little happy shirts and khaki pants was pretty awful," he told Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter in 2020.

"You want to stop and help if you can. That's the first impulse. That is the kind of travel that makes you question who you are, what you've done as a human being."

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

King is a Canadian-American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry. His books include Truth & Bright Water, The Inconvenient Indian, Green Grass, Running Water and The Back of the Turtle.

The two runners-up are Toronto writer Joseph Kertes for Last Impressions and Nova Scotian Murray Morgan for Dirty Birds.

They will each receive $3,000.

2022 will mark the prize's 75th anniversary. The award has been given out regularly since 1947. 

Past winners include Robertson Davies, Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat, Paul Quarrington, Mordecai Richler, Stuart McLean, Terry Fallis, Susan Juby and Cassie Stocks.

There is usually a celebration in Orillia to honour the winner and finalists, but it is cancelled for the second year in a row.

The 2019 and 2020 finalists will be invited to the 2022 gala, which will celebrate the finalists from 2019, 2020 and 2021.

In October 2020, the prize announced that Dunkley Charitable Foundation would be coming on as its new sponsor.

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