The 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner is Omar El Akkad

November 9, 2021 | Book Buzz

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What strange paradise

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad 

What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad is the winner of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize. It tells the story of  9-year-old Amir who is the only survivor when a ship full of Syrian refugees is wrecked near a Greek island. The book tells the stories of Amir and Vanna, a teenage girl on the island, who becomes his protector. 

The jury statement about the book said "Amid all the anger and confusion surrounding the global refugee crisis, Omar El Akkad's What Strange Paradise paints a portrait of displacement and belonging that is at once unflinching and tender."

El Akkad expressed his surprise and shock in his acceptance speech. "I had only ever thought of the actual award in the abstract. I didn't think I would win. Now I'm in this strange position where I have, and I'm trying my best to figure out a lot of things."

He went on to praise his fellow nominees saying "I've had the incredible honour of being mentioned in the same breath as four outstanding authors, any of whom could be standing up here right now."

The other finalists were:

Fight night

Fight Night by Miriam Toews 

Glorious frazzled beings

Glorious Frazzled Beings by Angélique Lalonde 


The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill 

Son of the house

Son of the House by Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia 


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Are you looking for something else to read while you're waiting for your holds? Check out the Scotiabank Giller Prize lists from the past few years.