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2021 Trillium Book Award Winners

Join us to Celebrate the 2021 Trillium Book Awards!

  • June 15, 2021 | Trillium Book Awards Show on YouTube
  • June 17, 2021 | Trillium Book Awards In Conversation with the French Winners on YouTube
  • June 18, 2021 | Trillium Book Awards In Conversation with the English Winners on YouTube

WINNER | Trillium Book Award (English)

Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife, McClelland & Stewart

A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he'll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning Giller Prize-winning debut book of fiction, Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa's characters says, "All we wanted was to live." And in these stories, they do - brightly, ferociously, unforgettably.

A daughter becomes an unwilling accomplice in her mother's growing infatuation with country singer Randy Travis. A boxer finds an unexpected chance at redemption while working at his sister's nail salon. An older woman finds her assumptions about the limits of love unravelling when she begins a relationship with her much younger neighbour. A school bus driver must grapple with how much he's willing to give up in order to belong. And in the title story, a young girl's unconditional love for her father transcends language.

Tender, uncompromising, and fiercely alive, How to Pronounce Knife establishes Souvankham Thammavongsa as one of the most striking voices of her generation.

Souvankham Thammavongsa's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best American Non-Required Reading, The Journey Prize Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Her debut book of fiction, How to Pronounce Knife, is the winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN America Open Book Award, and the Danuta Gleed Award, and one of Time's Must-Read Books of 2020. The title story was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Thammavongsa is also the author of four poetry books: Light, winner of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry; Found; Small Arguments, winner of the ReLit Award; and, most recently, Cluster. Born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, she was raised and educated in Toronto, where she is at work on her first novel.

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WINNER | Trillium Book Award (French)

Danièle Vallée, Sept nuits dans la vie de Chérie, Éditions David

Clarisse, a dressmaker to all appearances with no history, is leading a peaceful existence when Éva, an ambitious young actor, orders an extravagant dress for her first role in a highly-anticipated play, Sept nuits dans la vie de Chérie, in which she wants to dazzle everyone.

Over the course of meetings and fittings, the relationship between the two women becomes closer and more meaningful. At first friendly and then exhilarating, that relationship becomes increasingly complicated as Éva continues her surprises and ambushes. During the seven nights that will she spend at Éva’s place, Clarisse discovers what is really hiding behind the actor.

Inspired by her eight paintings by artist Suzon Demers, in this work, author and storyteller Danièle Vallée weaves a mystifying plot featuring a one-of-a-kind prima donna who impetuously takes an everyday dressmaker along in a tumultuous and unpredictable adventure.

Danièle Vallée has lived in Ottawa for more than 30 years and is a recognized figure in literature, both written and verbal, and in the performing arts. She has written 10 books and also produced her works for the stage, giving them an astonishing artistic dimension accentuated by a variety of music. She has put on more than 200 public performances of her shows on a variety of Canadian stages, from Winnipeg to Moncton through Sudbury, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

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WINNER | Trillium Book Award for Poetry (English)

Jody Chan, sick, Black Lawrence Press

Jody Chan writes, “have you ever found your specific wounds curled up in a song / written by someone else?” sick is medicine and music. This book unearths a tenderness unknown to me before reading these poems and witnessing their “humble magic.” Chan’s lyric is a landscape I return to find myself. How lucky are we to be living and reading while Jody Chan is writing and teaching us how to be “warm & unafraid” — what a tremendous, marvelous gift.

—Yujane Chen

This striking debut—poems of history, of beauty, of violence, of grief—will surprise you at every turn of phrase and page. Chan’s work is innovative, their treatment of the universal human condition meticulously unique. Do not miss this collection.

—Erica Dawson

In sick, Jody Chan examines loss through brilliant and stunning lyric, each poem urgent with gentle ferocity. So much exists here in the absence of what is said, so much feels vestigial – a phantom limb that keeps aching through deftly crafted nuance, simply mesmerizing. The many exigencies of grief appear and reappear in this collection like a “hungry ghost”, but Chan proclaims/reclaims, “this is a love story this is a love story this is a love story.”

—Jay Ward

Jody Chan is a writer, organizer, Taiko drummer, and therapist-in-training based in Toronto. They are the poetry editor for Hematopoeisis, a 2017 VONA alum, a member of the Winter Tangerine Workshops Team, and the 2018 winner of the Third Coast Poetry Contest. Their first chapbook is published with Damaged Goods Press. Their work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is published in BOAAT, Looseleaf Magazine, Nat. Brut, The Shade Journal, and elsewhere. They can be found online at and offline in bookstores or dog parks.

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WINNER | Trillium Book Award for Children's Literature (French)

Éric Mathieu, Capitaine Boudu et les enfants de la Cédille, Éditions L'Interligne

On the U+00B8 space station, commonly called “the cedilla,” Félix and the other child members of the crew are living under Captain Boudu’s authority until, one day, everything changes: an extraterrestrial space vessel hits the space station.

Félix and the captain are taken on a crazy adventure on a faraway planet, and Félix displays great bravery when he discovers a tower of Babel in reverse and an ancient stone that decodes languages.

A professor at the University of Ottawa, Éric Mathieu is passionate about languages. With this his first novel for young readers, he has created a fantastic universe to initiate children to language. He is also the author of the novels Le goupil (2018) and Les suicidés d’Eau-Claire (2016).

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