The 180

Are CanLit awards Canadian enough?

Should Canadian literary awards, such as the The Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award, have stricter rules about residency requirements for eligible writers?
The cover of "Outline" by author Rachel Cusk is shown in a handout photo. It is one of five books short listed for this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize short list. While the prize is Canadian, Cusk only lived here for a few months as a child. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Giller Prize (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The 2015 shortlists are out for two of Canada's major literary awards -- the Governor General's Literary Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize -- and novelist Rachel Cusk appears on both of them. 

But Rachel Cusk is based in Britain and spent only the first few months of her life in Canada -- and that's why not everyone agrees she should qualify for a Canadian award.

Thomas Hodd, who teaches Canadian Literature at Université de Moncton, says Canadian literary awards should have stricter rules about residency requirements for eligible writers. 

There's this pervasive idea and problem -- and I think it is a problem, in this country -- where we want to claim whoever we can in order to bolster some sort of myth about ourselves, as Canadians, when in fact we don't need to look elsewhere for those kinds of achievements.- Thomas Hodd

Elana Rabinovitch, Executive Director of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, says the awards need to reflect an inclusive sense of Canadian identity.

I think that when you talk about residency requirements... we get into a very murky area of trying to figure out who belongs 'enough' to the Canadian firmament of literary greatness and who doesn't. And I'm not prepared to go down that road.- Elana Rabinovitch