Skip to content

Sheila Heti, Anne Carson among finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Awards

Sheila Heti and Anne Carson are among the well-known Canadian writers on the shortlist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards.

Sheila Heti and Anne Carson are among the well-known Canadian writers on the shortlist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards.

The Canada Council for the Arts named the 70 finalists across seven categories in both English and French on Wednesday. The 14 winners, who each receive $25,000, will be announced on Nov. 16.

Toronto-based Heti is nominated in the English-language fiction category for “Pure Colour,” her new novel about “art, love, death and time.” The book, published by Knopf Canada, was longlisted for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize.

She’ll face off against four up-and-coming authors, including septuagenarian debut novelist Brian Thomas Isaac.

Isaac, who was born on the Okanagan Indian Reserve in B.C., has been making the rounds on the awards circuit with “All the Quiet Places.” The coming-of-age tale, from Touchwood Editions, also made this year’s Giller long list and was a contender for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Also among the fiction finalists are Cree-Métis writer Lisa Bird-Wilson’s “Probably Ruby,” about an adopted woman’s search for her Indigenous identity, published by Doubleday Canada, and Hamilton writer Sheila Murray’s “Finding Edward,” which weaves the parallel stories of two biracial Black men across decades, published by Cormorant Books.

Rounding out the short list is New Westminster, B.C.-based author Shashi Bhat’s “The Most Precious Substance on Earth,” a darkly comic novel that tracks a young woman’s journey from high school student to high school teacher, published by McClelland & Stewart.

Carson, the renowned Toronto-born wordsmith, returns to the Governor General’s poetry short list with her latest contemporary take on the classics, “H of H Playbook,” from New Directions Publishing.

Montreal writer and editor David Bradford, a finalist for the 2022 Griffin Poetry Prize, is also in the running with his multimedia meditation on intergenerational trauma, “Dream of No One but Myself,” from Brick Books.

The other poetry contenders are: Avery Lake of Montreal for “Horrible Dance,” published by Brick Books; Annick MacAskill of Halifax for “Shadow Blight,” from Gaspereau Press; and Aaron Kreuter of Toronto for “Shifting Baseline Syndrome,” from University of Regina Press.

In the non-fiction category, Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson are jointly nominated for their epistolary discourse on the issues of the day, “Rehearsals for Living,” from Knopf Canada.

Canada-born author Rebecca Donner is recognized for “All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler.” The title, published by Little, Brown and Company, has won U.S. accolades including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography and the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

Author and researcher Britt Wray received a nod for “Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis,” published by Penguin Random House.”

Eli Baxter is also a contender for “Aki-Wayn-Zih: A Person as Worthy as the Earth,” published by McGill-Queen’s University Press. In the book, Baxter blends spiritual teachings, history and autobiography to frame his story of growing up in the hunting and gathering society of the Ojibways and surviving the residential school system.

Also vying for the non-fiction prize is Winnipeg writer Rowan McCandless’s story of escaping an abusive relationship as a Black, biracial woman in “Persephone’s Children: A Life in Fragments,” published by Rare Machines.

The Governor General’s Literary Awards will also dole out honours for drama, writing and illustration in children’s literature, as well as French-to-English translation. There are separate French-language categories for francophone writing.

The awards hand out a total annual prize value of $450,000.

Each winner receives $25,000, while the publisher of each winning book receives $3,000 to support promotional activities. Finalists each receive $1,000.