Canisia Lubrin and Francesca Ekwuyasi are on the shortlists of the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Awards 2020 announced on May 4, 2021.
The Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction is a Canadian literary award that recognizes one Canadian writer for a fiction book written in English annually. The awards were created by the Canadian Authors Association in partnership with Lord Tweedsmuir in 1936. Some previous winners of the storied awards have been Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, and Michael Ondaatje.
The shortlists for the awards were announced with two writers of African descent making the cut; one in fiction and one in poetry. They are;
Peer Assessment Committee: Anne Fleming, Ariela Freedman, and Rabindranath Maharaj
- Butter Honey Pig Bread (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020), Francesca Ekwuyasi
About the writer:
Francesca Ekwuyasi is a writer, artist, and ﬁlmmaker born in Lagos, Nigeria. Her writing has been published in Winter Tangerine Review, Transition Magazine, The Malahat Review, Visual Art News, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and GUTS magazine. Her story Orun is Heaven was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. Butter Honey Pig Bread is her ﬁrst novel. It was longlisted for the Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction.
Spanning three continents, Butter Honey Pig Bread tells the interconnected stories of three Nigerian women: Kambirinachi and her twin daughters, Kehinde and Taiye. Kambirinachi believes that she is an Ogbanje, or an Abiku, a non-human spirit that plagues a family with misfortune by being born and then dying in childhood to cause a human mother misery. She has made the unnatural choice of staying alive to love her human family but lives in fear of the consequences of her decision.
Kambirinachi and her two daughters become estranged from one another because of a trauma that Kehinde experiences in childhood, which leads her to move away and cut off all contact. She ultimately finds her path as an artist and seeks to raise a family of her own, despite her fear that she won’t be a good mother. Meanwhile, Taiye is plagued by guilt for what her sister suffered and also runs away, attempting to fill the void of that lost relationship with casual flings with women. She eventually discovers a way out of her stifling loneliness through a passion for food and cooking.But now, after more than a decade of living apart, Taiye and Kehinde have returned home to Lagos. It is here that the three women must face each other and address the wounds of the past if they are to reconcile and move forward.
Peer Assessment Committee: David Groulx, Clea Roberts, Johanna Skibsrud
- The Dyzgraphxst (Penguin Random House, 2020), Canisia Lubrin
About the poet
Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her work is published widely and has been frequently anthologized, including translations into Italian and Spanish. Lubrin’s debut poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis, was named a CBC Best Poetry Book, longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award, and a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award. She was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award for her fiction contribution to The Unpublished City: Vol 1 and 2019 Writer in Residence at Queen’s University. Lubrin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph.
The Dyzgraphxst presents seven inquiries into selfhood through the perennial figure Jejune. Polyvocal in register, the book moves to mine meanings of kinship through the wide and intimate reach of language across geographies and generations. Against the contemporary backdrop of intensified capitalist fascism, toxic nationalism, and climate disaster, the figure Jejune asks, how have I come to make home out of unrecognizability. Marked by and through diasporic life, Jejune declares, I was not myself. I am not myself. My self resembles something having nothing to do with me.
The winner in each category, to be announced on June 1, 2021, will receive $25,000.