Canada’s 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards Honor French and English Writings

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The Canadian governor general welcomes winners of the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards, which recognizes 14 titles in both French and English.

Julie Payette, Canada’s governor general, speaks at the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards prize ceremony in Ottawa. Image: GGBooks video

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Julie Payette: ‘Words Count. They Do’
Presented in seven categories, the Governor General’s Awards cap the Canadian literary year with honors to both French and English writings and a total annual purse of some CA$450,000 (US$342,045).

Thursday night (December 12), Julie Payette, Canada’s governor general, has presided over the awards ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

In a charmingly personable commentary, Payette told the assembly, “Words count. They do. I know that because I’m actually very literary. Some people think I’m an engineer and an astronaut, and I’m those, too. But I do have a lot of books in my library that count.”

With that, she held up Byron Barton’s I Want To Be an Astronaut (HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 1992) to delighted laughter.

A veteran of two Space Shuttle missions as a former member of the Canadian Astronauts Corps (STS-96 on the Columbia and STS-127 on the Endeavour), Payette, holding up her copy of Barton’s book, had tapped into the connection between books’ inspiration and the human context of exploration. “The world is beautiful,” she said. “And I want to discover the world. And it’s exciting.”

These awards date back to 1936 and, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, are widely seen as the most prestigious of the market’s awards.

Each winner receives CA$25,000 (US$18,990), with the publisher receiving CA$3,000 (US$2,279) to promote the winning book. Finalists receive CA$1,000 each (US$759).

Finalists are selected by category-specific, language-based peer assessment committees (seven in English and seven in French), who consider eligible books published between September 1st, 2018, and September 30, 2019, for English-language books and between July 1st, 2018, and June 30, 2019, for French-language books.

Here are the finalists in each category for the year, and we have listed the winner first in each group. We’ll list the English-language and French-language finalists and winners in each category.

Governor General’s Awards 2019, Fiction
  • Winner: Five Wives – Joan Thomas, Harper Avenue/HarperCollins Publishers
  • Eye – Marianne Micros, Guernica Editions
  • Late Breaking – K.D. Miller, Biblioasis
  • The Innocents – Michael Crummey, Doubleday Canada/Penguin Random House Canada
  • The Student – Cary Fagan, Freehand Books
  • Winner: Le drap blanc – Céline Huyghebaert, Le Quartanier
  • La Minotaure – Mariève Maréchale, Triptyque, Groupe Nota bene
  • La terre – Sylvie Drapeau, Leméac Éditeur
  • Maisons fauves – Éléonore Goldberg, Triptyque, Groupe Nota bene
  • Mina parmi les ombres – Edem Awumey, Les Éditions du Boréal
Governor General’s Awards 2019, Poetry
  • Winner: Holy Wild – Gwen Benaway, Book*hug
  • How to Avoid Huge Ships – Julie Bruck, Brick Books
  • St. Boniface Elegies – Catherine Hunter, Signature Editions
  • The Grand River Watershed: A Folk Ecology – Karen Houle, Gaspereau Press
  • Treaty # – Armand Garnet Ruffo, Buckrider Books/Wolsak and Wynn Publishers
  • Winner: Le tendon et l’os – Anne-Marie Desmeules, L’Hexagone, Groupe Ville-Marie Littérature
  • Fastes – Chloé Savoie-Bernard, L’Hexagone, Groupe Ville-Marie Littérature
  • La cuisine mortuaire – Louise Marois, Triptyque, Groupe Nota bene
  • La part habitée du ciel – Michel Létourneau, Écrits des Forges
  • Portages – Louis-Thomas Plamondon, La Peuplade
Governor General’s Awards 2019, Drama
  • Winner: Other Side of the Game – Amanda Parris, Playwrights Canada Press
  • 1 Hour Photo – Tetsuro Shigematsu, Talonbooks
  • Thanks for Giving – Kevin Loring, Talonbooks
  • The Fighting Season – Sean Harris Oliver, Scirocco Drama/J. Gordon Shillingford Publishing
  • What a Young Wife Ought to Know – Hannah Moscovitch, Playwrights Canada Press
  • WinnerHavre – Mishka Lavigne, Les Éditions L’Interligne
  • ColoniséEs – Annick Lefebvre, Dramaturges Éditeurs
  • Et si un soir – Lisa L’Heureux, Éditions Prise de parole
  • La nuit du 4 au 5 – Rachel Graton, Dramaturges Éditeurs
  • La vie utile précédé de Errance et tremblements – Evelyne de la Chenelière, Les Herbes rouges
Governor General’s Awards 2019, Nonfiction
  • Winner:  To the River: Losing My Brother – Don Gillmor, Random House Canada/Penguin Random House Canada
  • City of Omens: A Search for the Missing Women of the Borderlands – Dan Werb, Bloomsbury
  • Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times – Alan Walker, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Sea Trial: Sailing After My Father – Brian Harvey, ECW Press
  • Tiny Lights for Travellers – Naomi K. Lewis, University of Alberta Press
  • WinnerLe droit du plus fort : nos dommages, leurs intérêts – Anne-Marie Voisard, Les Éditions Écosociété
  • Cartographie des vivants – Sarah Brunet Dragon, Les Éditions du Noroît
  • Clin d’œil au Temps qui passe – Antonine Maillet, Leméac Éditeur
  • La prose d’Alain Grandbois. Ou lire et relire Les voyages de Marco Polo – Patrick Moreau, Nota bene
  • La Société des grands fonds – Daniel Canty, La Peuplade
Governor General’s Awards 2019, Young People’s Literature, Text
  • WinnerStand on the Sky – Erin Bow, Scholastic Canada
  • Break in Case of Emergency – Brian Francis, HarperCollins Publishers
  • Cold White Sun – Sue Farrell Holler, Groundwood Books
  • Girl of the Southern Sea – Michelle Kadarusman, Pajama Press
  • The Grey Sisters – Jo Treggiari, Penguin Teen/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers
  • WinnerL’albatros et la mésange – Dominique Demers, Éditions Québec Amérique
  • Au carrefour – Jean-François Sénéchal, Leméac Éditeur
  • Dans le cœur de Florence – Lucie Bergeron, Soulières éditeur
  • Mon cœur après la pluie – Pierre Labrie, Soulières éditeur
  • Où est ma maison? – Édith Bourget, Les éditions du soleil de minuit
Governor General’s Awards 2019, Young People’s Literature, Illustrated
  • WinnerSmall in the City – Sydney Smith, Groundwood Books
  • Albert’s Quiet Quest – Isabelle Arsenault, Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers
  • Birdsong – Julie Flett, Greystone Books
  • How to Give Your Cat a Bath – Nicola Winstanley and John Martz, Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers
  • King Mouse – Cary Fagan and Dena Seiferling, Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers
  • Winner: Jack et le temps perdu – Stéphanie Lapointe and Delphie Côté-Lacroix, Quai n5, Les Éditions XYZ
  • Contacts – Mélanie Leclerc, Mécanique générale
  • L’escapade de Paolo – Lucie Papineau and Lucie Crovatto, Les Éditions de la Bagnole
  • Laurent, c’est moi! – Stéphanie Deslauriers and Geneviève Desprès, Fonfon
  • Le pelleteur de nuages – Simon Boulerice and Josée Bisaillon, la courte échelle
Governor General’s Awards 2019, Translation

French to English

  • WinnerBirds of a Kind – Translated by Linda Gaboriau, Playwrights Canada Press; translation of Tous des oiseaux by Wajdi MouawadLeméac/Actes Sud-Papiers
  • 887 – Translated by Louisa Blair, House of Anansi Press; translation of 887 by Robert Lepage, L’instant même
  • Synapses – Translated by Pablo Strauss, Talonbooks; translation of Synapses by Simon Brousseau, Le Cheval d’août
  • The Embalmer – Translated by Rhonda Mullins, Coach House Books; translation of L’embaumeur by Anne-Renée Caillé, Héliotrope
  • Vi – Translated by Sheila Fischman, Random House Canada/Penguin Random House Canada; translation of Vi by Kim Thúy, Éditions Libre Expression

English to French

  • WinnersNous qui n’étions rien – Translated by Catherine Leroux, Éditions Alto; translation of Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine ThienKnopf Canada
  • L’animal langage : la compétence linguistique humaine – Translated by Nicolas Calvé, Les Éditions du Boréal; translation of The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity by Charles Taylor, Harvard University Press
  • Le Yiddish à l’usage des pirates – Translated by Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné, Les Éditions du Boréal; translation of Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin, Vintage Canada
  • Onze jours en septembre – Translated by Sophie Voillot, Les Éditions du Boréal; translation of Lost in September by Kathleen WinterKnopf Canada
  • Pilleurs de rêves – Translated by Madeleine Stratford, Les Éditions du Boréal; translation of The Marrow Thieves by Cherie DimalineDCB/Cormorant Books

Peer assessment committees are used to determine the 70 finalists for the award each year. The initial 2019 submissions for the prize numbered 1,400.

The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder.

Winners of the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards are seated in the Rideau Hall prize ceremony in Ottawa. Image: GGBooks video


More from Publishing Perspectives on industry and book awards is here. More from us on the Governor General’s Literary Awards is here, and more on the Canadian market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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