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2016 GGBooks winners - 7 English language books

2016 GG Books winners announced

25 October 2016

Ottawa, October 25, 2016– The Canada Council for the Arts today announced the winners of the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Awards. The 14 winning titles, chosen from a shortlist of 68 finalists, represent the best Canadian books of the year. They offer readers of all ages the opportunity to enjoy new work by established authors and discover new favourites by first-time winners. 2016 marks the awards’ 80th anniversary.

2016 is an excellent vintage for the GG Awards – full-bodied, nuanced, and sure to satisfy the palates of a discerning public eager to discover new and meaningful worlds. Once again, we have the privilege of celebrating the power of literature to question who we are and what we aspire to be. Our thanks to the authors and to the publishers who have accompanied them in their creative process and brought their works to life.

Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts

Important dates

  • Wednesday, November 30, 6:00 pm: His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, will present the 2016 Governor General Literary Awards at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.
  • Thursday, December 1, 11:45 am – 1:00 pm: Readers are invited to meet the English-language GG Books winners at a public reading and book signing at the Canada Council, 150 Elgin, Ottawa (Event with French-language winners will be held on Wednesday, November 30, 11:45 am – 1:00 pm).

About the Awards

  • One of Canada’s longest standing literary awards, founded in 1936, the Governor General’s Literary Awards are among Canada's most prestigious literary awards with a total value of $450,000. The Canada Council for the Arts has funded, administered and promoted the awards since 1959.
  • GG Books winners are chosen by peer assessment committees per category, per language (7 in English and 7 in French), who consider finalists from eligible books published between September 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016 for English-language books and between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016 for French-language books.
  • Each winner receives $25,000. The publisher of each winning book receives $3000 to support promotional activities. Non-winning finalists each receive $1000.
  • Over their 80 years, the Governor General’s Literary Awards have celebrated more than 700 works by over 500 authors, poets, playwrights, translators and illustrators.


English-language winners and comments from the peer assessment committees:

Fiction

Madeleine Thien
Madeleine Thien Photo: Babak Salari

Madeleine ThienDo Not Say We Have Nothing

Montreal

Book Details

Published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada / Penguin Random House Canada; distributed by the publisher

Jury Statement

Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing is an elegant, nuanced and perfectly realized novel that, fugue-like, presents the lives of individuals, collectives, and generations caught in the complexities of history.

Tracing the intertwined lives of two families, moving from Revolutionary China to Canada, this ambitious work explores the persistence of the past and the power of art, raising meaningful questions for our times.

Jury Members: Jaspreet Singh, Mary Swan, Sara Tilley

Poetry

Steven Heighton
Steven Heighton Photo: Monique de St. Croix

Steven HeightonThe Waking Comes Late

Kingston, Ont.

Book Details

Published by House of Anansi Press; distributed by University of Toronto Press

Jury Statement

Steven Heighton’s The Waking Comes Late is a journey deepening as we read. He locates the complexities of the personal in a wide range of social issues, while playing masterfully with language, form and tone.

His stunning political poems never descend to pedantry or the prosaic. A mature work: smart, moving, inventive, original.

Jury Members: Shane Book, Richard Lemm, Sandy Shreve

Drama

Colleen Murphy
Colleen Murphy Photo: Heidi Hamilton

Colleen MurphyPig Girl

Toronto

Book Details

Published by Playwrights Canada Press; distributed by University of Toronto Press

Jury Statement

Colleen Murphy weaves a masterfully structured examination of humanity within our most inhumane moments. Pig Girl forces us to relentlessly bear witness to a single night of horror that echoes the silenced ongoing violence against women.

Difficult and harrowing, it asks us to acknowledge our collective responsibility. Arresting. Undeniable. Unforgettable.

Jury Members: Robert Chafe, Kevin Kerr, Beatriz Pizano

Non-fiction

Bill Waiser
Bill Waiser Photo: Liam Richards

Bill WaiserA World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905

Saskatoon, Sask.

Book Details

Published by Fifth House Publishers; distributed by Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Jury Statement

From its first page, Bill Waiser’s A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905 surprises the reader with its reconsideration of Canada.

In a sweeping blend of narrative, historical detail, and compelling images, Waiser refocuses the country’s story by putting Indigenous peoples and environmental concerns in the foreground.

Jury Members: Kevin Chong, Mary Soderstrom, Christl Verduyn

Young People's Literature (Text)

Martine Leavitt
Martine Leavitt Photo: Hofland Images

Martine LeavittCalvin

High River, Alta.

Book Details

Published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press; distributed by University of Toronto Press

Jury Statement

In Martine Leavitt’s Calvin, a boy newly diagnosed with schizophrenia makes a pilgrimage across a frozen Lake Erie. Told in spare, beautiful prose, this transcendent exploration of reality and truth is funny, frightening and affirming. Calvin is an astonishing achievement.

Jury Members: Don Aker, Polly Horvath, Y.S. Lee

Young People's Literature (Illustrated Books)

Jon-Erik Lappano
Jon-Erik Lappano Photo: Robert Scarborough
Kellen Hatanaka
Kellen Hatanaka Photo: Kiersten Hatanaka

Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen HatanakaTokyo Digs a Garden

Guelph, Ont./ Stratford, Ont.

Book Details

Published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press; distributed by University of Toronto Press





Jury Statement

Tokyo Digs a Garden marries text and illustration in a richly ornamented dream landscape that simultaneously suggests a digital and an organic world. Kellen Hatanaka’s illustrations are inventive and groundbreaking and the hypnotic text by Jon-Erik Lappano conveys its message in a darkly humourous and elegant manner. A book for any age.

Jury Members: Gary Clement, Chieri Uegaki, Ludmila Zeman

Translation (French to English)

Lazer Lederhendler
Lazer Lederhendler Photo: Monique Dykstra

Lazer LederhendlerThe Party Wall

Montreal

Book Details

Published by Biblioasis; distributed by Ampersand/UTP
Translation of Le mur mitoyen by Catherine Leroux, Éditions Alto

Jury Statement

In The Party Wall, his masterly translation of Catherine Leroux’s Le mur mitoyen, Lazer Lederhendler deftly captures the spirit, meaning, and emotional punch of the French text.

Writing with grace and imagination, he creates a compelling work of art while serving and respecting the original.

Jury Members: Deborah Blythe, David Edney, Don Wilson

French-language winners and comments from the peer assessment committees

Fiction

Dominique Fortier
Dominique Fortier Photo: Julie Artacho

Dominique FortierAu péril de la mer

Montreal

Book Details

Published by Éditions Alto; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia

Jury Statement

Au péril de la mer pays tribute to Mont Saint-Michel, a place of refuge for books and men, and the backdrop for this story about a painter who falls in love with his model.

Dominique Fortier's skillfully crafted work at the crossroads of knowledge reflects on the art of different eras, from the 15th century to the present.

Jury Members: Edem Awumey, André Lamontagne, Francine Noël

Poetry

Normand de Bellefeuille
Normand de Bellefeuille Photo: Mireille Bertrand

Normand de BellefeuilleLe poème est une maison de bord de mer

Montreal

Book Details

Published by Les Éditions du Noroît; distributed by Diffusion Dimedia

Jury Statement

Le poème est une maison de bord de mer, Normand de Bellefeuille's magnificent collection of poetry, mixes ideas and emotions from which ‘dark reality’ paradoxically gives rise to a work with a positive outlook.

More than ever, the language is rooted in an experience that draws us into the deeper reaches of all that is left unsaid.

Jury Members: Bathélemy Bolivar, François Charron, Rachel Leclerc

Drama

Wajdi Mouawad
Wajdi Mouawad

Wajdi MouawadInflammation du verbe vivre

France

Book Details

Published by Leméac Éditeur / Actes Sud; distributed by Socadis

Jury Statement

In Inflammation du verbe vivre, Wajdi Mouawad and his alter ego Wahid lead us into his descent into hell. He drifts along, living his own legend like a contemporary Ulysses searching for the symbol that will save him.

The author’s ferocious but luminous language is both wonderful and disturbing in this moving and incisive work.

Jury Members: Hanna Abd El Nour, David Baudemont, Carole Fréchette

Non-fiction

Roland Viau
Roland Viau

Roland ViauAmerindia : essais d'ethnohistoire autochtone

Long Sault, Ont.

Book Details

Published by Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal; distributed by Socadis

Jury Statement

In Amerindia : essais d’ethnohistoire autochtone, Roland Viau describes a non-linear and non hierarchical vision of relations between colonizers and Indigenous peoples against the backdrop of the evolution of civilizations.

In these essays, the author offers an innovative re-reading of the historical record by giving voice to the Other.

Jury Members: Samuel Archibald, Ying Chen, Jacques Julien

Young People's Literature (Text)

François Gilbert
François Gilbert Photo: Geneviève Cartier

François GilbertHare Krishna

Montreal

Book Details

Published by Leméac Éditeur; distributed by Socadis

Jury Statement

François Gilbert's realistic story makes us feel the anguish of Mikael, a rebellious youth drawn to Krishna. The characters in Hare Krishna are so authentic that their conflicting values make us think deeply about our life choices.

Jury Members: Andrée-Anne Gratton, Bernadette Renaud, Louise Royer

Young People's Literature (Illustrated Books)

Stéphanie Lapointe and Rogé
Stéphanie Lapointe and Rogé Photo: Francois Couture

Stéphanie Lapointe and RogéGrand-père et la Lune

Montreal

Book Details

Published by Les Éditions XYZ; distributed by Distribution HMH

Jury Statement

Grand-père et la Lune by Stéphanie Lapointe and illustrator Rogé transports us to a gentle and compassionate world of poetic words and images. An intimate story that speaks to family and the passing down of memories.

Jury Members: Laïla Héloua, Sylvie Nicolas, Réjean Roy

Translation (English to French)

Catherine Ego
Catherine Ego

Catherine EgoLa destruction des Indiens des Plaines : maladies, famines organisées, disparition du mode de vie autochtone

Montreal

Book Details

Published by Presses de l'Université Laval; distributed by Prologue; translation of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life by James Daschuk, University of Regina Press

Jury Statement

Catherine Ego's brilliant, flexible and crystal clear translation of James Daschuk's Clearing the Plains, has expertly captured its essence. La destruction des Indiens des Plainesedifyingly renders every detail of the original.

Jury Members: Patricia Godbout, Pierrot Lambert, Daniel Lauzon

To book interviews with the winners:

Geneviève Blouin, Genesis PR
514-887-8187
gen@gensispr.com

Canada Council media contact:

Meredith Sharpe
1-800-263-5588, ext. 4166
343-998-2627 (cell)
Meredith.sharpe@canadacouncil.ca

Rideau Hall media contact for award ceremony:

Julie Rocheleau
613-998-7280
julie.rocheleau@gg.ca