2018 Governor General's Literary Awards Winners

October 30, 2018 | Book Buzz

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The winners of the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards were announced on October 30, 2018. 

The awards are given in 14 categories, for both adults and children and in both official languages. The full list of nominees is available on the official website.

These are the winners in the Adult English categories:


Botticelli in the fire and sunday in sodom

Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom by Jordan Tannahill

Two one-act plays that re-imagine past events. In Botticelli in the Fire, the artist is painting The Birth of Venus when his life and livelihood is threatened by powerful political forces. Sunday in Sodom tells the story of God's destruction of Sodom but in the present day, from the perspective of Lot's wife.

From the Governor General's Literary Awards jury: "Jordan Tannahill's two-play volume explores the fragility of social consensus in a world made uneasy by the forces of social division. Both plays are poetic, irreverent and funny, offering the pleasure of entertainment while displaying masterful literary ability. Tannahill possesses a powerful artistic voice that reflects where we come from, who we are and who we may become."


The red word

The Red Word by Sarah Henstra

Karen looks back on her time as a student in the 1990s when she was torn between her boyfriend, a member of a fraternity known as "Gang Bang Central" and a group of radical feminists who want her to join their fight against the patriarchy. 

From the Governor General's Literary Awards jury: "Groundbreaking and provocative, this is an astonishing evisceration of the clichés of sexual politics as they exist not only on our college campuses, but also within broader present-day society. Alternately heartbreaking, funny, and critical, no one gets off easily. The Red Word plumbs the depths of literature, mythology, history, philosophy, and a host of contemporary issues — an utterly effing good read."



Mamaskatch: a Cree Coming of Age by Darrel J. McLeod

McLeod's childhood was a turbulent one. His mother Bertha taught him about his Cree heritage and shared her love of the natural world through stories but she was haunted by her time at a residential school and their home life was unstable. Growing up in poverty, McLeod faced his own traumas including physical and sexual abuse but was able to draw strength from his mother's stories and build a fulfilling life. 

From the Governor General's Literary Awards jury: "Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age dares to immerse readers in provocative contemporary issues including gender fluidity, familial violence, and transcultural hybridity. A fast-moving, intimate memoir of dreams and nightmares — lyrical and gritty, raw and vulnerable, told without pity, but with phoenix-like strength."


Wayside sang

Wayside Sang by Cecily Nicholson

From the Governor General's Literary Awards jury: "In this hypnotic suite of long poems, Cecily Nicholson makes room, offering glimpses and echoes of the Canadian landscape as she explores ideas of borders, identity, industry and travel. She offers a catalogue of impressions, a collage of the ephemeral, held together by image and the pulsing phrase that stays with you long after the journey's over."

Translation (French to English):

Descent into night

Descent into Night by Edem Awumey, translated from the French by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott

A young dramatist, imprisoned and tortured in his home country for participating in a student protest, resettles in Quebec and attempts to make peace with the past.

From the Governor General's Literary Awards jury: "Descent into Night, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, is a beautifully assured rendering of a text offering many translation challenges. The translators agilely follow the text as it shifts between an ailing Quebec writer's regrets about his life, and his long-ago involvement in a failed West African revolution, which haunts him into the present. This translation skillfully captures the lyricism of the French text."