Billy-Ray Belcourt, Sheila Heti among 14 writers longlisted for $100K Giller Prize


Billy-Ray Belcourt, Sheila Heti and Rawi Hage are among the notable names on the long list for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Last year’s winner, Omar El Akkad, revealed the 14 titles in contention for the $100,000 honour at an event in St. John’s, N.L., on Tuesday. The finalists will be announced on Sept. 27.

Independent presses punched above their weight on this year’s long list, pulling a collective eight nominations. The publishing giants still were well represented, backing several awards darlings hoping to add the Giller to their collections.

Belcourt, a Cree scholar who became the youngest-ever winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2018, is proving to be a cross-genre prodigal talent with his Giller-nominated debut novel “A Minor Chorus.”

The book, published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Random House Canada, centres on an Indigenous queer narrator who ditches his doctoral dissertation to return to northern Alberta in hopes of writing a novel about his hometown.

Heti, who was a Giller finalist for 2018’s “Motherhood,” is vying for repeat success with “Pure Colour,” her new novel about “art, love, death and time,” from Knopf Canada/Penguin Random House Canada.

Another returning Giller contender was Hage, who secured his fourth nomination for “Stray Dogs,” also from Knopf Canada, a globe-spanning short story collection that follows an array of travellers searching for connection.

The Lebanese-Canadian writer was shortlisted for the prize in 2006 for “De Niro’s Game” and in 2008 for “Cockroach,” and made the 2018 long list for “Beirut Hellfire Society.”

Meanwhile, Montreal-born, Los Angeles-based writer Antoine Wilson’s “Mouth to Mouth” has earned spots on both the Giller long list and former U.S. president Barack Obama’s favourite books of 2022.

The novel, published by Simon & Schuster Canada, unspools the story of an art dealer whose life was changed when he saved a man from drowning.

The Giller also recognized two Indigenous coming-of-age stories that were shortlisted for this year’s Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Septuagenarian debut novelist Brian Thomas Isaac was nominated for “All the Quiet Places,” from Touchwood Editions, about a Syilx boy learning about what lies beyond his home on Okanagan Indian Reserve in southcentral B.C.

Metis-Ukrainian writer and educator

Conor Kerr earned a nod for Avenue of Champions, published by Nightwood Editions, a book of short interconnected stories that revolves around a Metis boy and his connections to Edmonton’s urban Indigenous community.

Rounding out the Giller long list were:

  • Fawn Parker, who is based in Toronto and Fredericton, for her novel “What We Both Know,” from McClelland & Stewart/Penguin Random House Canada, about a woman grappling with her famous father’s legacy.
  • Vancouver-based Tsering Yangzom Lama for her debut novel, “We Measure The Earth With Our Bodies,” a multi-generational saga about a Tibetan family wrestling with the toll of life in exile, published by McClelland & Stewart.
  • Calgary’s Suzette Mayr for her novel, “The Sleeping Car Porter,” published by Coach House Books, about a queer, Black sleeping car porter making a treacherous trip from Montreal to Vancouver in 1929.
  • Noor Naga, who studied in Toronto and lives in Cairo, for her novel, “If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English,” about a romance bound up in the politics of empire, published by Graywolf Press.
  • Windsor, Ont.-based Andre Narbonne, for his novel “Lucien & Olivia,” a satire of the transactional nature of modern relationships, published by Black Moss Press.
  • Andre Forget, who splits his time between Toronto and Sheffield, England, for his debut novel “In the City of Pigs,” published by Dundurn Press, about the struggles of creating art under the pressures of late capitalism.
  • Canada-born, Seattle-based Kim Fu for “Lesser-Known Monsters of the 21st Century,” a book of short stories that blurs the lines between the real and the fantastic, published by Coach House Books,
  • Montreal-based Dimitri Nasrallah for his novel “Hotline,” published by Vehicule Press, a 1980s-set story about a woman immigrating from Lebanon to Canada.

The 14 nominees were chosen from 138 books submitted by Canadian publishers, organizers said.

Sitting on this year’s jury are Canadian authors Casey Plett, Kaie Kellough and Waubgeshig Rice, as well as U.S. authors Katie Kitamura and Scott Spencer.

The Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

The Giller was established by Jack Rabinovitch in 1994 in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller.