Queering the 2018 Governor General Literary Awards
All the Queers in this year's shortlist you need to knowOctober 10, 2018
With the arrival of Fall, it's the perfect time of year to curl up with a good book. The Canada Council for the Arts has revealed the 2018 finalists for the Governor General's Literary awards and the LGBT2Q+ authors represented this year are some of the best and brightest talent in the country. Let's take a look at some of the books to update your reading list with.
Fiction Short List
Johnny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
"You're gonna need a rock and a whole lotta medicine" is a mantra that Jonny Appleseed, a young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, repeats to himself in this vivid and utterly compelling novel. Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living. Self-ordained as an NDN glitter princess, Jonny has one week before he must return to the "rez," and his former life, to attend the funeral of his stepfather. The next seven days are like a fevered dream: stories of love, trauma, sex, kinship, ambition and the heartbreaking recollection of his beloved kokum. Jonny's world is a series of breakages, appendages and linkages — and as he goes through the motions of preparing to return home, he learns how to put together the pieces of his life. Jonny Appleseed is a unique, shattering vision of Indigenous life, full of grit, glitter and dreams. (From Arsenal Pulp Press)
About Joshua Whitehead
Joshua Whitehead, is an Oji-Cree, Two-Spirit storyteller and academic from Peguis First Nation on Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Indigenous literatures and cultures at the University of Calgary on Treaty 7 territory. In 2016, his poem “mihkokwaniy” won Canada’s History Award for Aboriginal Arts and Stories (for writers aged 19–29), which included a residency at the Banff Centre. He has been published widely in Canadian literary magazines such as Prairie Fire, EVENT, Arc Poetry Magazine, CV2, Red Rising Magazine, and Geez Magazine’s Decolonization issue.
This Wound is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Part manifesto, part memoir, This Wound is a World is an invitation to “cut a hole in the sky to world inside.” Billy-Ray Belcourt issues a call to turn to love and sex to understand how Indigenous peoples shoulder sadness and pain like theirs without giving up on the future. His poems upset genre and play with form, scavenging for a decolonial kind of heaven where “everyone is at least a little gay. (From Frontenac House Press)
About Billy-Ray Belcourt
Billy-Ray Belcourt (he/him) is a writer and academic from the Driftpile Cree Nation. He is a Ph.D. student and 2018 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar in the Department of English & Film Studies at the University of Alberta; he is at work on a creative-theoretical project called "The Conspiracy of NDN Joy." He is also a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and holds an M.St. in Women's Studies from the University of Oxford and Wadham College. Belcourt was awarded a 2019 Indspire Award in the First Nations Youth category, which is the highest honor the Indigenous community bestows on its own leaders.
The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand
On a lonely wharf a clerk in an ink blue coat inspects bales and bales of paper that hold a poet's accumulated left-hand pages — the unwritten, the withheld, the unexpressed, the withdrawn, the restrained. In The Blue Clerk award-winning poet Dionne Brand stages a conversation and an argument between the poet and the Blue Clerk, who is the keeper of the poet's pages. In their dialogues — which take shape as a series of haunting prose poems — the poet and the clerk invoke a host of writers, philosophers and artists, from Jacob Lawrence, Lola Keipja and Walter Benjamin to John Coltrane, Josephine Turalba and Jorge Luis Borges. Through these essay poems, Brand explores memory, language, culture and time, offering beautiful and jarring juxtapositions and endlessly haunting language ("On a road like this you don't know where you are. Whether you have arrived or whether you are still on your way. Whether you are still at the beginning or at the end. You are in the middle all the time. What would be the sign?"). (From Penguin Random House Canada)
About Dionne Brand
Trinidad born Dionne Brand is one of Canada's most renowned, honoured, and bestselling poets, novelist and directors. She won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the Trillium Book Award for her 1997 collection Land to Light On. Her collection thirsty won the 2003 Pat Lowther Award. In 2009 she served as the poet laureate of Toronto. Her novel What We All Long For won the City of Toronto Book Award in 2006. She won the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries and in 2017, she was named to the Order of Canada. Her work often explores themes of anti-racist and anti-capitalist activism and diasporic life as well as queer relationships and erotics.
Drama Short List
Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom by Jordan Tannahill
Award-winning playwright Jordan Tannahill is back with modern-day queer and feminist retellings of two momentous events — one historic, one mythic. Botticelli in the Fire imagines the famed painter Sandro Botticelli as an irrepressible seeker of love and pleasure, caught in sexual and political brinkmanship. In Sunday in Sodom, Lot's wife, Edith, tells of the Biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but set in the present day. (From Playwrights Canada Press)
About Jordan Tannahill
Jordan Tannahill is an accomplished playwright, filmmaker, author and theatre director. He won the 2014 Governor General's Award for English-language drama for his collection of three plays called Age of Minority. He is the co-founder of Kensington performance space Videofag and his work often centres around queer and feminist themes, incorporating fantasy,mythological and historical elements.
Gertrude and Alice by Anna Chatterton and Evalyn Parry with Karin Randoja
Visiting the audience in the present day, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas come to find out how history has treated them.
The couple recounts stories of their 40-year relationship; of meetings with iconic artists and writers; and of Alice's overwhelming, consuming devotion to Gertrude's genius.
Before they leave, they want to find out what has become of their artistic and cultural influence, and how their lives and work are — or are not — remembered. (From Playwrights Canada Press)
About Evalyn Parry and Anna Chatterton
Evalyn Parry is a playwright, director and stage actress who has worked in the theatre industry for over 20 years. She has been the artistic director at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre since 2015 and her work has been nominated for, and won, numerous awards including the Ken McDougall Award for emerging directors.
Anna Chatterton is a playwright, librettist and stage actress. She has been the Playwright-in-Residence at Tarragon Theatre since 2011 and has written and performed in solo shows as well as with the feminist theatre collective Independent Aunties. Her play Within the Glass, which was nominated for a Governor General's Literary award, was produced by Tarragon Theatre in 2016 and is the story of two couples in a pre-natal custody dispute after a fertilized egg is mistakenly implanted in the wrong woman.
What's Next for the Finalists?
The prizes, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, are awarded in seven English-language categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people's literature — text, young people's literature — illustration, drama and translation. Seven French-language awards are also given out in the same categories.
The winners of the 2018 Governor General's Literary Awards will be announced on Oct. 30, 2018.