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Finalists – 2020 Trillium Book Award

Announcement of the 2020 Trillium Book Award Winners | Video

AODA English Version / Version LAPHO disponible en français.

English Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award

Christina Baillie and Martha Baillie, Sister Language, Pedlar Press

Martha and Christina Baillie’s book is so remarkable and, that rarest of things, original. It seems to be what Virginia Woolf called “a conversation into posterity.”

Sister Language is a collaboration, composed mainly of letters and other writings, between two sisters, one of whom, Christina, diagnosed schizophrenic, took her own life before the book was released in 2019.

As this unusual book unfolds, a “bridge” of prose nonpareil is slowly, lovingly, built, connecting the sisters to each other and their readers, drawing one of them out of her deep isolation.

Christina Baillie was a schizophrenic writer and artist who was living in Toronto at the time of her death in 2019.

Martha Baillie is the author of six novels, including The Incident Report, which was long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She has been published in France, Germany, Hungary, and the U.S., as well as Canada. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in Brick magazine. Her novel, The Search for Heinrich Schlögel, was an Oprah Editors’ Pick. She lives in Toronto.

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Téa Mutonji, Shut Up You're Pretty, VS. Books/Arsenal Pulp Press

In Téa Mutonji's disarming debut story collection, a woman contemplates her Congolese traditions during a family wedding, a teenage girl looks for happiness inside a pack of cigarettes, a mother reconnects with her daughter through their shared interest in fish, and a young woman decides to shave her head in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. These punchy, sharply observed stories blur the lines between longing and choosing, exploring the narrator's experience as an involuntary one. Tinged with pathos and humour, they interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanness, and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.

Téa Mutonji is an award-winning poet and writer. Born in Congo-Kinshasa, she now lives and writes in Scarborough, Ontario where she was named emerging writer of the year (2017) by the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. Shut Up You're Pretty is her first book.

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Sara Peters,I Become a Delight to My Enemies, Strange Light

Dark, cutting, and coursed through with bright flashes of humour, crystalline imagery, and razor-sharp detail, I Become a Delight to My Enemies is a gut-wrenchingly powerful, breathtakingly beautiful meditation on the violence and shame inflicted on the female body and psyche.

An experimental fiction, I Become a Delight to My Enemies uses many different voices and forms to tell the stories of the women who live in an uncanny Town, uncovering their experiences of shame, fear, cruelty, and transcendence. Sara Peters combines poetry and short prose vignettes to create a singular, unflinching portrait of a Town in which the lives of girls and women are shaped by the brutality meted upon them and by their acts of defiance and yearning towards places of safety and belonging. Through lucid detail, sparkling imagery and illumination, Peters' individual characters and the collective of The Town leap vividly, fully formed off the page. A hybrid in form, I Become a Delight to My Enemies is an awe-inspiring example of the exquisite force of words to shock and to move, from a writer of exceptional talent and potential.

Sara Peters was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and lives in Toronto. She completed an MFA at Boston University, and was a Stegner fellow at Stanford. Her work has appeared in Slate, The Threepenny Review, and Poetry magazine. Her first book is 1996.

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Zalika Reid-Benta, Frying Plantain, House of Anansi Press

Kara Davis is a girl caught in the middle — of her Canadian nationality and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, of her mother and grandmother’s rages and life lessons, of having to avoid being thought of as too “faas” or too “quiet” or too “bold” or too “soft.” Set in “Little Jamaica,” Toronto’s Eglinton West neighbourhood, Kara moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood, from elementary school to high school graduation, in these twelve interconnected stories. We see her on a visit to Jamaica, startled by the sight of a severed pig’s head in her great aunt’s freezer; in junior high, the victim of a devastating prank by her closest friends; and as a teenager in and out of her grandmother’s house, trying to cope with the ongoing battles between her unyielding grandparents.

A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, Frying Plantain shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker. In her brilliantly incisive debut, Zalika Reid-Benta artfully depicts the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation Canadians and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominately white society.

Zalika Reid-Benta is a Toronto-based writer whose work has appeared on CBC Books, in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, and in Apogee Journal. In 2011, George Elliott Clarke recommended her as a “Writer to Watch.” She received an M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University in 2014 and is an alumnus of the 2017 Banff Writing Studio. She completed a double major in English Literature and Cinema and a minor in Caribbean Studies at University of Toronto’s Victoria College. She also studied Creative Writing at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies. She is currently working on a young-adult fantasy novel drawing inspiration from Jamaican folklore and Akan spirituality.

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Seth, Clyde Fans: A Picture Novel, Drawn & Quarterly

Twenty years in the making, Clyde Fans peels back the optimism of mid-twentieth century capitalism. Legendary Canadian cartoonist Seth lovingly shows the rituals, hopes, and delusions of a middle-class that has long ceased to exist in North America—garrulous men in wool suits extolling the virtues of the wares to taciturn shopkeepers with an eye on the door. Much like the myth of an ever-growing economy, the Clyde Fans family unit is a fraud—the patriarch has abandoned the business to mismatched sons, one who strives to keep the business afloat and the other who retreats into the arms of the remaining parent.

Abe and Simon Matchcard are brothers, the second generation struggling to save their archaic family business of selling oscillating fans in a world switching to air conditioning. At Clyde Fans’ center is Simon, who flirts with becoming a salesman as a last-ditch effort to leave the protective walls of the family home, but is ultimately unable to escape Abe’s critical voice in his head. As the business crumbles so does any remaining relationship between the two men, both of whom choose very different life paths but still end up utterly unhappy.

Seth’s intimate storytelling and gorgeous art allow urban landscapes and detailed period objects to tell their own stories as the brothers struggle to find themselves suffocating in an airless city home. An epic time capsule of a storyline that begs rereading.


is the cartoonist behind the comic book series Palookaville, which started in the stone age as a pamphlet and is now a semi-annual hardcover. His comics have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Best American Comics, and McSweeneys Quarterly. His illustrations have appeared in numerous publications including the cover of the New Yorker, the Walrus, and Canadian Notes & Queries. He is also Lemony Snicket's partner for the new Young Readers series, All the Wrong Questions, and has illustrated and designed a new, deluxe edition of Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a little Town. He is the designer for several classic comics reprint series, notably collections of work by Charles Schulz, John Stanley, and Doug Wright.

The cartoonist has exhibited throughout the world in a variety of group and solo shows. He was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which showcased the first public display of his model city Dominion. He is now a part of the Gallery's permanent collection. Dominion City subsequently toured Galleries in Eastern and Central Canada and will be travelling to select galleries in the west in 2014. He is the subject of an upcoming National Film Board documentary entitled Seth's Dominion.

Seth lives in Guelph, Ontario, with his wife Tania and their two cats in an old house he has named "Inkwell's End."

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English Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award For Poetry

Roxanna Bennett, Unmeaningable, Gordon Hill Press

Unmeaningable welcomes you to the freak show, where the monster on display is a culture that stigmatizes sickness and a system that shames the sufferer. Behold the wonder of the ages, a human mind in a human body, dissected and displayed for entertainment. Witness the ritual of surgical sacrifice! Observe the indignity of institutionalization! Be astounded by the indifference of ableism and ignorance! This uncanny collection of “crippled” sonnets features a thrilling display of cannibals, chimeras, and the crucial question: What meaning can be made of a life lived in pain and isolation?

Roxanna Bennett is a poet living with disability in Whitby, Ontario. She is the author of unseen garden (chapbook, knife | fork | book, 2018) and The Uncertainty Principle (Tightrope Books, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in many magazines, journals, and anthologies, most recently CV2, Grain, Riddle Fence, PRISM International, Plenitude Magazine, and Tiny Tim Literary Review.

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Doyali Islam, heft, McClelland & Stewart

How does one inhabit a world in which "the moon / & the drone hang in the same sky"? How can one be at home in one's own body in the presence of suspected autoimmune illness, chronic/recurrent pain, and a society that bears down with a particular construct of normal female sexual experience? What might a daughter salvage within a fraught relationship with a cancer-stricken father? Uncannily at ease with both high lyricism and formal innovation and invention, these poems are unafraid to lift up and investigate burdens and ruptures of all kinds--psychic, social, cultural, physical, and political.

Providing continuity over the poet's visually-arresting forms--including Islam's self-termed split sonnets, double sonnets, and parallel poems--is allied remembrance of the resilience of the Palestinian people. Yet, the work doesn't always stray far from home, with a quintet of astro-poems that weave together myth and memory.

Here is a poet small in stature, unwilling to abandon to silence small histories, small life forms, and the small courages and beauties of the ordinary hour. In these rigorous, intimate, and luminous poems, the spirit of the everyday and the spirit of witness bind fiercely to one another. heft is a ledger of tenderness, survival, and risk.

Doyali Islam is a 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize finalist and 2020 Pat Lowther Memorial Award finalist for heft (M&S, 2019). Doyali has participated in CBC Books’ Why I Write video series. She has discussed the value of silence on The Sunday Edition; language, form, beauty, and empathy with Anne Michaels in CV2; and the relationship between poetry and the body on The Next Chapter. Doyali has also been a guest on Oxford Brookes’ Poetry Centre Podcast, where she talked about heft with Niall Munro. Doyali spent a few years in North Bay, where she curated Conspiracy of 3 Reading Series, and is a former Poetry Editor of Ottawa’s Arc Poetry Magazine. She lives in Toronto.

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Matthew Walsh, These are not the potatoes of my youth, Goose Lane Editions

In this confessional debut collection, Matthew Walsh meanders through their childhood in rural Nova Scotia, later roaming across the prairies and through the railway cafés of Alberta to the love letters and graffiti of Vancouver. In this nomadic journey, Walsh explores queer identity set against an ever-changing landscape of what we want, and who we are, were, and came to be.

Walsh is a storyteller in verse, their poems laced with catholic "sensibilities" and punctuated with Maritime vernacular. In These are not the potatoes of my youth, Walsh illuminates the complex choreography of family, the anxiety of individuality, and the ambiguous histories of stories erased, forgotten, or suppressed. Readers will find moments of humour, surprise, and a queer realization that all is not what it seems.

Matthew Walsh hails from the eastern shore of Nova Scotia and has twice travelled by bus across Canada. Their poems may be found in the Malahat Review, Arc, Existere, Matrix, Carousel, and Geist. Walsh now lives in Toronto.

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French Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award

Jean Boisjoli, Moi, Sam. Elle, Janis, Éditions David

A young woman named Janis is found dead in a wooded area near Ottawa. Sam, who is sharing an apartment with her, is charged with her murder. His lawyer, having pleaded insanity, has to rely on the court-assigned psychiatrist. Sam tells us his history full of loss, his childhood spent in a ratty basement in Vanier, his adoption by a middle-class couple in Ottawa and how he meets Janis, who has also been downtrodden and buffeted by life, and with whom he suddenly seems to regain some hope despite all the daily challenges, at least before an outcome so absurd that he can’t even understand it himself.

In this haymaker of a story halfway between thriller and psychological novel, Jean Boisjoli highlights the existence of tormented youth cast off by a society adrift.

Jean Boisjoli has had both a writing career and an impressive professional career as a teacher, journalist at the SRC and CBC and a lawyer. He has also been involved in the field of international cooperation and a senior advisor in two departments.

Very involved on the literary scene, he has been vice-president of the Association des auteur.e.s de l’Outaouais and the Association des auteur.e.s de l’Ontario français. He has also sat on the regions committee of the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois.

Jean Boisjoli has published novels and poetry collections. His novel, La mesure du temps, won the Trillium Book Award and was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award and Prix Le Droit. He has had other texts published in Canadian and foreign reviews.

In the summer of 2018, he was awarded a two-month writer’s residency in Bourgogne, France.

Jean Boisjoli was selected as a guest of honour to represent Francophone Ontario during the 2020 Salon du livre de l’Outaouais.

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Claude Guilmain,, Les Éditions L'Interligne

The Cardinal family reunites on the occasion of Alain just turning 50. Six characters experience a personal drama. There’s no hint of the secret each of them carries. After too many years of playing this game of appearances, are the masks finally going to crack? Inspired by a stay in Afghanistan where he was shooting a documentary for the National Film Board of Canada, and by the disappearance of his grandfather in New York in 1942, Claude Guilmain paints a picture of four generations of a family, the Cardinals, looking for their American dream to come true. From the grandparents to the grandchildren, it’s all disillusion, a sad heritage.

With the sociopolitical issues of the past 50 years as backdrop, highlights US capitalism’s chaos and makes a connection between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the events of September 11, 2001.

An author, director, designer and producer, ClaudeGuilmain is the co-founder of Théâtre La Tangente in Toronto. He has made five documentaries for the National Film Board of Canada.

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Aristote Kavungu, Mon père, Boudarel et moi, Les Éditions L'Interligne

Haunted by the memory of his father imprisoned and tortured in the Congo, Emmanuel, a young student in Paris studying French language and literature, finds the wallet of one Georges Boudarel. Is it the George Boudarel, the famous person accused of crimes against humanity during the First Indochina War? If so, Emmanuel sees it as an opportunity to answer the question that has always tormented him: how does a person delve so deeply into horror?

Aristote Kavungu has based his novel on the terrible history of Camp 113 in Indochina and the actions of the alleged torturer Boudarel to create a powerful novel on the triumph of justice and dignity.

Aristote Kavungu is a Canadian writer of English-Congolese origin. He’s the author of several works, including Un train pour l’Est, which won the 2003 Prix littéraire Christine-Dumitriu-van-Saanen.

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Paul Ruban, Crevaison en corbillard, Flammarion Québec

In Paul Ruban's debut short story collection, an astronaut's mind unravels following a moonwalk; a stuttering teen finds her voice through flamenco; an Elvis impersonator loses his sideburns in search of his true self and Dali's corpse reveals an unexpected surprise. Here are thirty stories that crackle with wit, whimsy, and that are bent on mischief and heart with equal zest. In inventive prose that is in turn playful, poignant and often acutely funny, Crevaison en corbillard lays bare the delightful absurdity of life.

Paul Ruban is the author of Crevaison en corbillard, a collection of short stories published by Flammarion Québec. His writing has appeared in French-language literary journals such as Mœbius, XYZ and Zinc. He has also participated in various collective works, including an anthology of French-Canadian short stories which will be released next fall in Germany. He lives in Toronto.

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French Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award for Poetry

Daniel Groleau Landry, Fragments de ciels, Les Éditions L'Interligne

Gnawed by a traumatizing past of homophobia, addiction and the indifference of a materialistic society, a young man escapes through poetry. This work takes us through the ruminations of an adult today seeking absolution from his crazy adolescence. Above all, the young man is trying to reconcile his present with his past so that he can fully embrace his freedom of expression and accept the ephemeral nature of existence. He examines the boundaries of language, identity and especially Love.

Daniel Groleau Landry works mainly in literature and music. Winner of awards from the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Ottawa, he has published three poetry collections: Rêver au réel in 2012 (2014 Trillium Book Award), Amorragies in 2016 and Fragments de ciels in 2018.

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Véronique Sylvain, Premier quart, Prise de parole

In Premierquart, the poet revisits the North of her birth through imaginary travels and actual memories. Throughout that journey, she tries to understand the dramas and realities at work in the harsh northern climate. In the process, she relates her own struggles, the solitude, sadness, anguish and the winters that invite introspection. Nature and writing allow her to embark on a quest through a huge familial and literary heritage.

This first collection from Véronique Sylvain juxtaposes nordicity with the identity of an urban woman. It is part of the tradition of established poets like Robert Dickson, Patrice Desbiens, Michel Dallaire and Gaston Tremblay and emerging ones like Sonia-Sophie Courdeau and Daniel Aubin, who have all contributed to forging the northern Ontario poetic aesthetic.

Originally from northern Ontario, Véronique Sylvain lives in Ottawa, where she is completing her master’s degree dealing with representations of the North in Franco-Ontarian poetry. Her poems have appeared in the reviews À ciel ouvert and Ancrages and in the anthology Poèmes de la résistance (Prise de parole, 2019). Véronique devotes herself to various artistic projects, including songwriting, and is in charge of promotion and communications at Éditions David.

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