The Governor General’s Literary Awards stand as a cornerstone of Canada’s rich literary landscape, representing both tradition and excellence. Established as one of the country’s most esteemed accolades, these awards, overseen by the Canada Council for the Arts, honour outstanding achievements across various genres. From fiction to nonfiction, poetry to young people’s literature, including text and illustration, drama, and French-to-English translation, the awards celebrate a diverse array of literary endeavours.
Chosen by peer committees, winners in each category receive $25,000, while other finalists get $1,000. The eagerly awaited announcement of the winners is set for Nov. 8, 2023. Here are the B.C. finalists in the running for the 2023 accolades:
In her memoir Unbroken, Angela Sterritt shares her journey from life on the streets to becoming an award-winning journalist. Her story highlights the impacts of colonialism and racism on Indigenous communities, portraying resilience and strength against adversity. A versatile professional in journalism, writing, and art, Sterritt is a member of the Gitxsan Nation and lives on the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh territories in Vancouver.
Harrison Mooney’s gripping memoir, Invisible Boy, delves into his life as a Black child adopted by a white evangelical family. Mooney’s story offers a powerful reflection on transracial adoption, shedding light on the repercussions faced by children stripped of their culture to meet the demands of evangelical communities. Residing in Vancouver, Mooney, a writer and journalist, encapsulates his profoundly personal narrative with accessible prose and is nominated in the nonfiction category.
Hiro Kanagawa, a writer and actor situated in Vancouver, is nominated in the drama category for his adaptation of Mark Sakamoto’s award-winning memoir, Forgiveness. He earned the prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama in 2017 for his exceptional play Indian Arm.
In Fire on Headless Mountain, Iain Lawrence, a renowned children’s book author, skillfully intertwines the awe-inspiring yet formidable force of nature with the invaluable power of memory during challenging trials. The tale not only captivates with its thrilling adventure but seamlessly imparts lessons on ecosystems and fire safety. Based in British Columbia, Lawrence is nominated in the young people’s literature category. He previously won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s literature with Gemini Summer, a bestseller.
Kim Spencer, a writer and member of the Ts’msyen Nation, is nominated in the young people’s literature category for her novel Weird Rules to Follow. The novel unfolds in the 1980s within Prince Rupert, a coastal fishing town. It follows Mia and Lara, long-time friends whose differing backgrounds — Mia being Indigenous and Lara middle-class — become apparent in the way adults treat them. Despite the girls’ bond, Mia notices societal biases against her Indigenous identity.
Weird Rules to Follow has already received several accolades, winning the 2023 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, the 2023 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, and the 2023 Jean Little First-Novel Award. Additionally, it was shortlisted for a 2023 Indigenous Voices Award, marking its remarkable success and recognition within the literary realm.
Robert Bringhurst’s The Ridge encapsulates the ecological history and future of Canada’s West Coast in poetic nonfiction. A former Guggenheim Fellow in poetry, Bringhurst is acclaimed for his versatile literary prowess. His works, including The Beauty of the Weapons and A Story as Sharp as a Knife, were shortlisted for Governor General’s Awards in poetry and nonfiction, respectively. Notably, his poetic prowess earned him the CBC Poetry Prize for The Blue Roofs of Japan in 1985, and he received the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2005. Bringhurst, also an Order of Canada recipient, resides on Quadra Island.
Based in British Columbia, Susan Musgrave is a versatile writer celebrated for her contributions to various genres. Her accolades span across poetry, fiction, nonfiction, personal essays, children’s literature, and editing. With an extensive repertoire, Musgrave has authored numerous notable works, such as Love You More, More Blueberries, and Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug.