The Canada Council for the Arts Reveals the Winners of the Governor General’s Literary Awards

October 29, 2019
Winners Press Eng

Ottawa, Ontario, October 29, 2019 – Today, the Canada Council for the Arts revealed the 2019 winners of the prestigious Governor General's Literary Awards (GGBooks).

Further to a rigorous process, the peer assessment committees selected the best Canadian books in seven categories, in both French and  English.

“I am delighted by the fact that so many writers, illustrators and translators who are women have distinguished themselves through their excellent work this year. Never in the history of these awards have we had so many women as winners. I salute their talent and their significant thought-provoking contributions.”

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

Mark your calendars

  • December 12: Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will host a ceremony to celebrate the winners at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa. 
  • December 11 and 12: The general public is invited to meet with the GGBooks winners at public readings in Ottawa.

About the GGBooks

  • Founded in 1936, the Governor General’s Literary Awards are one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious literary award programs, with a total annual prize value of $450,000.
  • The Canada Council for the Arts has funded, administered and promoted the awards since 1959.
  • The winners are selected by the members of peer assessment committees in each of the seven categories in both official languages. The committees assessed eligible books published between September 1, 2018, and September 30, 2019, for English-language books and between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, for French-language books.
  • Each winner receives $25,000, with the publisher receiving $3,000 for promotional activities around the winning book.

2019 English-language winners (seven categories)


  • Five Wives – Joan Thomas (Winnipeg, Man.)
    Harper Avenue/HarperCollins Publishers


  • Holy Wild – Gwen Benaway (Toronto, Ont.)


  • Other Side of the Game – Amanda Parris (Toronto, Ont.)
    Playwrights Canada Press


  • To the River: Losing My Brother – Don Gillmor (Toronto, Ont.)
    Random House Canada/Penguin Random House Canada

Young People’s Literature – Text:

  • Stand on the Sky – Erin Bow (Kitchener, Ont.)
    Scholastic Canada

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books:

  • Small in the City – Sydney Smith (Halifax, N.S.)
    Groundwood Books

Translation (from French to English):

  • Birds of a Kind – Translated by Linda Gaboriau (Montréal, Que.)
    Playwrights Canada Press; translation of Tous des oiseaux by Wajdi Mouawad, Leméac/Actes Sud-Papiers

2019 French-language winners (seven categories)


  • Le drap blanc – Céline Huyghebaert (Montréal, Que.)
    Le Quartanier


  • Le tendon et l'os – Anne-Marie Desmeules (Lévis, Que.)
    L'Hexagone, Groupe Ville-Marie Littérature


  • Havre – Mishka Lavigne (Gatineau, Que.)
    Les Éditions L'Interligne


  • Le droit du plus fort : nos dommages, leurs intérêts – Anne-Marie Voisard (Montréal, Que.)
    Les Éditions Écosociété

Young People’s Literature – Text:

  • L'albatros et la mésange – Dominique Demers (Montréal, Que.)
    Éditions Québec Amérique

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books:

  • Jack et le temps perdu – Stéphanie Lapointe and Delphie Côté-Lacroix (Montréal, Que.)
    Quai no 5, Les Éditions XYZ

Translation (from English to French):

  • Nous qui n'étions rien – Translated by Catherine Leroux (Montréal, Que.)
    Éditions Alto; translation of Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, Knopf Canada

Composition of the 2019 English-language peer assessment committees:

Fiction: Aislinn Hunter, Wayne Johnston and Saleema Nawaz
Poetry: Lesley Belleau, Méira Cook and Allan Cooper
Drama: Maja Ardal, Megan Gail Coles and Curtis Peeteetuce
Non-fiction: Ross King, Rachel Lebowitz and Marina Nemat
Young People’s Literature – Text: Kagiso Lesego Molope, Kenneth Oppel and Ellen Schwartz
Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: Shauntay Grant, Jon Klassen and Kathryn Shoemaker
Translation (from French to English): Nicola Danby, Wayne Grady and Maureen Labonté

Composition of the 2019 French-language peer assessment committees:

Fiction: Hervé Bouchard, Blaise Ndala and Élise Turcotte
Poetry: Nora Atalla, Maggie Roussel and Christian Roy
Drama: Normand Canac-Marquis, Miriam Cusson and Talia Hallmona
Non-fiction: Louis Hamelin, Rachida M’Faddel and Paul Savoie
Young People’s Literature – Text:  Marie-Célie Agnant, Jocelyn Boisvert and Karen Olsen
Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: Nahid Kazemi, Diane Carmel Léger and François Thisdale
Translation (from English to French): Myriam Legault, Hélène Rioux and Michel Saint-Germain

About the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder, with a mandate to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts. The Council champions and invests in artistic excellence through a broad range of grants, services, prizes and payments to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations. Its work ensures that excellent, vibrant and diverse art and literature engages Canadians, enriches their communities and reaches markets around the world. The Council also raises public awareness and appreciation of the arts through its communications, research and arts promotion activities.

It is responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO in Canada to contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. The Public Lending Right (PLR) Program sends yearly payments to authors whose works are in Canada’s public libraries. The Canada Council Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts.

Media contacts

To book interviews with the winners:
Charlene Coy, C2C Communications

Canada Council for the Arts
Joly-Anne Ricard
Communications Advisor
1-800-263-5588 (extension 4166)
343-998-2627 (cellphone)

Rideau Hall contact:
Josephine Laframboise
Rideau Hall Press Office
613-668-1929 (cellphone)