> Zed Book Club / Indigenous Authors Dominate Fiction Category in 2020 Governor General’s Literary Prize Nominations

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s new novel explores the impact of colonialism on Anishinaabe culture by connecting the past and present in a world where animals, ancestors and spirits come alive. Photo: Nadya Kwandibens

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Indigenous Authors Dominate Fiction Category in 2020 Governor General’s Literary Prize Nominations

/ BY Kim Honey / May 4th, 2021

The pandemic-delayed 2020 Governor General’s Literary Awards nominations have been announced, and the list recognizes important Indigenous voices.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson


Of five books shortlisted for the English fiction prize, three tell Indigenous stories, including Thomas King’s story about the European adventures of Bird and Mimi, Indians on Vacation, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s magical exploration of the impact of colonialism called Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies and Michelle Good’s poignant tale about residential school survivors, Five Little Indians.

They are joined by Francesca Ekwuyasi’s Butter Honey Pig Bread, a story about the interconnected lives of three Nigerian women, and The Baudelaire Fractal by Lisa Robertson, about a poet who realizes she has unexpectedly written the complete works of French poet Charles Baudelaire.

Billy-Ray Belcourt


In the non-fiction category, Billy-Ray Belcourt’s best-selling debut memoir A History of My Brief Body explores his roots on Alberta’s Driftpile First Nation, the legacy of colonialism and queer identity, sex and love, while Ivan Coyote’s memoir Rebent Sinner contemplates what it means to be trans and non-binary and to carry “the burden of heartbreaking history.” Acclaimed novelist Tessa McWatt examines her multi-racial identity in Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging, while Madhur Anand’s experimental memoir, This Thin Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart, is really two books about the long-standing effect India’s partition had on her parents, and how that impacted her life. In Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space, Hamilton, Ont., writer Amanda Leduc  “challenges the ableism of fairy tales and offers new ways to celebrate the magic of all bodies.”

There are 70 books nominated in seven categories in both official languages, and winners of the $25,000 prizes will be announced June 1.

A full list of the nominees for the awards, administered by the Canadian Council for the Arts, can be found on the website. The 2021 finalists will be announced in the fall.



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