Omar El Akkad

Omar El Akkad’s What Strange Paradise was declared the winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize 2021 in Toronto, Canada on Monday, November 8, 2021.

The Scotiabank Giller Prize, founded by Jack Rabinovitch in 1994, awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short story collection published in English. The award is named in honour of the late literary journalist Doris Giller by her husband Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch, who passed away in August 2017.

The jury for 2021 was chaired by award winning author Zalika Reid-Benta alongside other award winning authors Megan Gail Coles, Joshua Whitehead, Tash Aw, and Joshua Ferris. They announced the longlist of 12 titles on September 8 before the shortlist was made public on October 5.

They winner was announced at a black-tie dinner and award ceremony hosted by poet, artist and performer Rupi Kaur and Canadian actor Paul Sun-Hyung Leeon in Toronto, Canada on Monday evening. This year’s winner is Omar El Akkad, What Strange Paradise, published by McClelland & Stewart, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada

Of the winning book, the jury wrote:

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. In examining the confluence of war, migration and a sense of settlement, it raises questions of indifference and powerlessness and, ultimately, offers clues as to how we might reach out empathetically in a divided world.”

On winning the award the writer tweeted;

For the last two months, I’ve experienced the greatest honour of my career, to be mentioned in the same breath as Cheluchi, Miriam, Jordan and Angélique, as well as the exceptional authors on this year’s Giller longlist, any of whom could have easily taken home the award.”

Omar El Akkad is an author and journalist whose debut novel, American War, was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, the Oregon Book Award for fiction, and the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. He goes home with the $100,000 prize money. Also going home with cash prizes of $10,000 each are the finalists that include Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia for her novel The Son of The House, published by Dundurn Press.