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

Our 14 best books of 2020

June 1, 2021

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, June 1, 2021— It is with great pleasure that the Canada Council for the Arts today revealed the 2020 winners of the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGBooks), albeit a little later than usual.

Through a rigorous process, peer assessment committees selected the best 14 books published in Canada among the 70 finalists. There are winners across seven categories, both in English and in French.

“Every year, our creators push the boundaries of literature, presenting their vision of the world, surprising us and making us think. I salute the talent and audacity of the GGBooks winners, who are proving once again that literature is an essential part of our culture and life.”

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

The regular GGBooks schedule will resume with the 2021 finalists and winners to be revealed this fall.

About GGBooks:

  • Founded in 1936, the Governor General’s Literary Awards are one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious literary awards program, 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, 2019, and September 30, 2020, for English-language books and between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, for French-language books.
  • Each winner receives $25,000, with the publisher receiving $3,000 to promote the winning books. Finalists receive $1,000 each.

2020 English-language winners (seven categories):


  • Five Little Indians – Michelle Good (Kamloops, British Columbia)
    Harper Perennial / HarperCollins Canada


  • Norma Jeane Baker of Troy – Anne Carson (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
    New Directions Publishing


  • Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story – Kim Senklip Harvey (Vancouver, British Columbia)


  • This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart: A Memoir in Halves – Madhur Anand (Guelph, Ontario)
    Strange Light / Penguin Random House Canada

Young People’s Literature – Text

  • The King of Jam SandwichesEric Walters (Guelph, Ontario)
    Orca Book Publishers

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books 

  • The Barnabus Project – The Fan Brothers (Toronto, Ontario)
    Tundra Books / Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers

Translation (from French to English)

  • If You Hear MeTranslated by Lazer Lederhendler (Montréal, Quebec)
    Biblioasis; translation of Si tu m’entends by Pascale Quiviger

2020 French-language winners (seven categories):


  • Chasse à l’homme – Sophie Létourneau (Québec, Quebec)
    La Peuplade


  • La société des cendres suivi de Des lames entières – Martine Audet (Montréal, Quebec)
    Éditions du Noroît


  • Cœur minéral – Martin Bellemare (Montréal, Quebec)
    Dramaturges Éditeurs


  • Carnet de Frida Burns sur quelques morceaux de vie et de littérature – Frédérique Bernier (Montréal, Quebec)
    Nota bene, Groupe Nota bene

Young People’s Literature – Text 

  • Lac Adélard – François Blais (Charette, Quebec)
    la courte échelle

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books

  • Pet et Répète : la véritable histoire – Katia Canciani and Guillaume Perreault (Gatineau, Quebec / Trois-Rivières, Quebec)

Translation (from English to French)

  • Océan – Translated by Georgette LeBlanc (Moncton, New Brunswick)
    Éditions Perce-Neige; translation of Ocean by Sue Goyette

Composition of the 2020 English-language peer assessment committees:

Fiction: Anne Fleming, Ariela Freedman and Rabindranath Maharaj

Poetry: David Groulx, Clea Roberts and Johanna Skibsrud

Drama: Catherine Banks, Andrew Moodie and Kenneth T. Williams

Non-fiction: Deni Ellis Béchard, Helen Humphreys and Sally Ito

Young People’s Literature – Text: Catherine Austen, Cary Fagan and Shenaaz Nanji

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: Wallace Edwards, Bonnie Farmer and Kyo Maclear

Translation (from French to English): Angela Carr, Jo-Anne Elder and Nigel Spencer

Composition of the 2020 French-language peer assessment committees:

Fiction: Simone Chaput, Daniel Grenier and Olivia Tapiero

Poetry: Sonia Cotten, Mona Latif-Ghattas and David Ménard

Drama: Marie Louise Bibish Mumbu, Matthieu Girard and Anne-Marie Provencher

Non-fiction: Joël Des Rosiers, Benoit Doyon-Gosselin and Catherine Mavrikakis

Young People’s Literature – Text: Anne Bernard-Lenoir, Mario Brassard and Diya Lim

Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books: Marie-Louise Gay, Mireille Messier and Sylvain Rivard

Translation (from English to French): Sophie M. Lavoie, Daniel Poliquin and Anne-Marie Regimbald

About the Canada Council for the Arts

The Canada Council for the Arts contributes to the vibrancy of a creative and diverse arts and literary scene and supports its presence across Canada and around the world. The Council 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’s grants, services, initiatives, prizes, and payments support Canadian artists, authors, and arts groups and organizations. This support allows them to pursue artistic expression, create works of art, and promote and disseminate the arts and literature.

Through its arts funding, communications, research, and promotion activities, the Council fosters the ever-growing engagement of Canadians and international audiences in the arts.

The Council’s Public Lending Right (PLR) program makes annual payments to creators whose works are held in Canadian public libraries.

The Council’s Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts through exhibition and outreach activities.

The Council is responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO to contribute to a future of peace, reconciliation, equity, and sustainable development.

Media contacts

For interviews with the winners:
Charlene Coy, C2C Communications

Canada Council for the Arts
Communications and Engagement