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Finalists – 2021 Trillium Book Award

Join us to Celebrate the 2021 Trillium Book Awards!

  • June 15, 2021 at 8 PM ET | 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

2021 Trillium Book Award Finalists’ Booklet click here
AODA English Version/ Version LAPHO disponible en français 

English Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award

Craig Davidson , Cascade, Knopf Canada

Reminiscent of Stephen King's brilliantly cinematic short stories that went on to inspire films such as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, here's a collection crackling with Craig Davidson's superb craft and kinetic energy: in the visceral, crystalline, steel-tipped prose; in the psychological perspicacity; and in the endearing humour.

Set in in the Niagara Falls of Davidson's imagination known as "Cataract City," the superb stories of Cascade shine a shimmering light on this slightly seedy, slightly magical, slightly haunted place. The six gems in this collection each illuminate familial relationships in a singular way: A mother and her infant son fight to survive a car-crash in a remote wintry landscape outside of town. Fraternal twins at a juvenile detention center reach a dangerous crisis point in their entwined lives. A pregnant social worker grapples with the prospect of parenthood as a custody case takes a dire turn. A hard-boiled ex-firefighter goes after a serial arsonist with a flair for the theatrical even as his own troubled sister is drawn towards the flames. These are just some of the unforgettable characters animating this stellar collection of tales--Davidson's first in 15 years, since Rust and Bone, which inspired a Golden Globe-nominated film.

Craig Davidson was born and grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls. He has published four previous books of literary fiction, including Rust and Bone, which was the inspiration for a Golden Globe–nominated feature film of the same name; the Scotiabank Giller Prize–nominated novel Cataract City; and the novel The Saturday Night Ghost Club, which was a finalist for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize. His bestselling memoir, Precious Cargo, about his year spent driving a school bus for children with special needs, was a finalist for Canada Reads. Davidson lives in Toronto, with his partner and two children.

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Farzana Doctor, Seven, Dundurn Press

When Sharifa accompanies her husband on a marriage-saving trip to India in 2016, she thinks that she’s going to research her great-great-grandfather, a wealthy business leader and philanthropist. What captures her imagination is not his rags-to-riches story, but the mystery of his four wives, missing from the family lore. She ends up excavating much more than she had imagined.

Sharifa’s trip coincides with a time of unrest within her insular and conservative religious community, and there is no escaping its politics. A group of feminists is speaking out against khatna, an age-old ritual they insist is female genital cutting. Sharifa’s two favourite cousins are on opposite sides of the debate and she seeks a middle ground. As the issue heats up, Sharifa discovers an unexpected truth and is forced to take a position.

Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen, All Inclusive, and Six Metres of Pavement, which won a Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. She lives in Toronto.

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Emma Donoghue, The Pull of the Stars, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. A small world of work, risk, death and unlooked-for love, by the bestselling author of The Wonder and ROOM.

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia's regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other's lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds.

Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish emigrant twice over: she spent eight years in Cambridge, England, before moving to Canada’s London, Ontario. She is best known for her novels, which range from the historical (The Wonder, Slammerkin, Life Mask, The Sealed Letter) to the contemporary (Akin, Stir-Fry, Hood, Landing). Her international bestseller Room was a New York Times Best Book of 2010 and was a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth and Orange Prizes; her screen adaptation, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, was nominated for four Academy Awards.

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A.F. Moritz, As Far As You Know, House of Anansi Press

From one of the defining poets of his generation, a new collection that plumbs the depth of beauty, history, responsibility, and love.

As Far As You Know, acclaimed poet A. F. Moritz’s twentieth collection of poems, begins with two sections entitled “Terrorism” and “Poetry.” The book unfolds in six movements, yet it revolves around and agonizes over the struggle between these two catalyzing concepts, in all the forms they might take, eventually arguing they are the unavoidable conditions and quandaries of human life.

Written and organized chronologically around before and after the poet’s serious illness and heart surgery in 2014, these gorgeously unguarded poems plumb and deepen the reader’s understanding of Moritz’s primary and ongoing obsessions: beauty, impermanence, history, social conscience and responsibility, and, always and most urgently, love. For all its necessary engagement with worry, sorrow, and fragility, As Far As You Know sings a final insistent chorus to what it loves: “You will live.”

A. F. Moritz is widely considered one of the defining and most beloved lyric poets of his generation. His many honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, and an Ingram Merrill Fellowship. He currently serves as the sixth poet laureate of the City of Toronto.

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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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English Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award For Poetry

Irfan Ali, Accretion, Brick Books

The story of Layla and Majnun, made immortal by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi in the 12th century, has been retold thousands of times, in thousands of different ways, throughout literature. Against the backdrop of this story, to the soundtrack of modern hip-hop, and amid the struggle of an immigrant family to instill an old faith under new conditions, Irfan Ali’s Accretion hurtles toward an unsustainable, “greater madness.” Majnun, one of the foundational literary characters who haunt Accretion, is also an Arabic epithet for “possessed.” In this tradition, Ali has written a book from the places where the self is no longer the self; places where, in order not to shut down forever, the debris must be cleared, and the soul must inch toward love and hope, “on memory’s dusty beams.”

Accretion is written in a contemporary lyricism that honours ancient poetic traditions. It is a familiar story, imbued with a particularity and honesty that only Irfan Ali could bring to the table.

Irfan Ali is a poet, essayist, writer, and educator. His short poetry collection, Who I Think About When I Think About You was shortlisted for the 2015 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Accretion is his first full-length work. Irfan was born, raised, and still lives in Toronto.

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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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Canisia Lubrin, The Dyzgraphxst, McClelland & Stewart

The Dyzgraphxst

presents seven inquiries into selfhood through the perennial figure Jejune. Polyvocal in register, the book moves to mine meanings of kinship through the wide and intimate reach of language across geographies and generations. Against the contemporary backdrop of intensified capitalist fascism, toxic nationalism, and climate disaster, the figure Jejune asks, how have I come to make home out of unrecognizability. Marked by and through diasporic life, Jejune declares, I was not myself. I am not myself. My self resembles something having nothing to do with me.

Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, and teacher. Her work is published widely and has been frequently anthologized, including translations into Italian and Spanish. Lubrin’s debut poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis, was named a CBC Best Poetry Book, longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award, and a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award. She was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award for her fiction contribution to The Unpublished City: Vol 1 and 2019 Writer in Residence at Queen’s University. Lubrin holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph.

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French-Language Finalists

Daniel Castillo Durante, Tango, Éditions L'Interligne

Often confronted with misunderstanding and even the obscurity of a society dedicated to immediate profitability, the characters of Tango’s microfictions are in the grips of a heartbreaking uneasiness, so they go into exile far beyond geographic borders and past internal limitations in the process.

In this new book on the clash and uprooting of cultures, Daniel Castillo Durante takes the unbeaten path to provide a new reading of the world today.

Professor of French and comparative literature, a writer and a traveller, Daniel Castillo Durante is an essayist, novelist, short story writer and microfiction writer who has won several awards, including the 2012 Prix Trillium.

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Nicole V. Champeau, Niagara... la voie qui y mène, Éditions David

In this personal yet solidly documented work, Nicole V. Champeau revisits the banks of the St. Lawrence River, that great river that explorers, discoverers, missionaries, soldiers, adventurers and so many other diverse others have travelled. She follows them up the St. Lawrence to Niagara and describes how moved she is by the poignant history of the upper St. Lawrence and all that we can understand about françois in that often-neglected Ontarian part of the river.

With a documentary yet poetic style, she tries to reconstruct the history and geography of this mythic place that, before becoming the tourist destination everyone knows, was a sacred centre for First Nations peoples and, thanks to courageous explorers like Cavelier de la Salle, became a part of Francophone cultural heritage.

Nicole V. Champeau is originally from Cornwall, Ontario. The St. Lawrence River remains the place of poetry that accompanied the seasons of her childhood and adolescence. Near the end of the 1960s, she left Cornwall to go to school in Ottawa, where she still lives today. In 2009, she won the non-fiction category of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Pointe Maligne, l’infiniment oubliée: Présence française dans le Haut-Saint-Laurent ontarien (Vermillon, 2009).

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Charles-Étienne Ferland, Métamorphoses, Éditions L'Interligne

Finally, the long-awaited follow-up to the science fiction novel Dévorés! Nearly a year has passed since the end of the world as we know it. While research centre staff in Toronto recruit survivors to rebuild civilization, Jack leaves Montreal for Main Duck Island, where his family has taken refuge. On the way, numerous dangers await him, such as a bloodthirsty creature that prowls around a domed community. Will Jack manage to vanquish the beast and escape?

A dark and suspenseful apocalyptic tale, Métamorphoses plunges us into a hellish world in which each of us is just trying to survive, reminiscent of the series Stranger Things and video gameThe Last of Us.

Born in Montreal in 1992, Charles-Étienne Ferland is an author, actor, musician and entomologist. He has published two novels and a collection of short stories. With a master’s degree in insect ecology from the University of Guelph, he is a contributor to the Bugdex project at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

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Melchior Mbonimpa, Au sommet du Nanzerwé il s'est assis et il a pleuré, Éditions prise de parole

Haunted by a terrible secret, the young Mupagassi and his brother Gassongati go into exile, fleeing their country, which is about to be ravaged by ethnic violence. In a refugee camp somewhere in the African Great Lakes region, each of them will have to make a crucial choice: one brother takes up armed struggle to reconquer their homeland, while the other brother, convinced there is no possible way to return, decides to settle in Canada, where he can continue his education and start a family. For him, exile is final.

But reality trumps that prognosis, and the two brothers are reunited due to negotiations on re-establishing peace in their tormented country.

In this contemporary and universal story, friendship, love and loyalty turn out to be the last bulwark of a world in which good and evil can be everywhere and nowhere.

After nearly 20 years, Melchior Mbonimpa has revealed his talents as a storyteller and his extensive knowledge of the peoples of the African Great Lakes region. In this his seventh novel, he explores one of his favourite themes, the blending of cultures, while erecting a conduit over the Atlantic Ocean to reconcile memory of African origins and contemporary Canadian reality.

A Burundian-Canadian, Melchior Mbonimpa is a novelist and Full Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sudbury.

His seven novels explore an imaginary African world and the cultural blending that openness and globalism have created. He has won awards for several of his works, notably, Le totem des Baranda (Prix Jacqueline-Déry-Mochon), Les morts ne sont pas morts (Prix Christine-Dimitriu-van-Saanen) and Le dernier roi faiseur de pluie (Northern Lit Award).

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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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Trillium Book Award for Children’s Literature Finalists

Marise Gasque, La Neva pour se retrouver, Éditions L'Interligne

Vacation promises to be fantastic for Méganne, Sabrina and Larisa: Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a spectacular city, and Dmitry, Larisa’s father, becomes their tour guide. The royal palaces, the museums and the White Nights Festival fascinate Méganne, but nothing compares to the handsome Valery, whose eyes promise much more than friendship.

Marise Gasque offers a rich and vibrant story, framed by characteristically Russian countryside and monuments, a story that moves the reader with its refined and tender description of a teenager in search of herself.

Marise Gasque is a literature translator and teacher. Passionate about words and images, Marise spent her childhood and adolescence reading and writing poems and short stories. La Neva pour se retrouver is her first novel.

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Micheline Marchand, Perdue au bord de la baie d'Hudson, Éditions David

Franco-Ontarian Métis teenager Zoé doesn’t feel comfortable in her own skin. To face her demons and overcome the guilt tormenting her, she runs away and takes refuge with her cousin Christophe in Churchill in northern Manitoba. In that glacial environment with captivating landscapes and wilderness inhabited by polar bears, she discovers herself. Accompanied by her friend Ludo, a young Belgian who is also staying there, she soaks up the rich history of Churchill and Thanadelthur, that young 18th century heroine who risked her life to negotiate peace between the Chipewyan and the Cree.

In this work, Micheline Marchand adroitly broaches the sensitive subject of self-harm in a touching story in which friendship, resiliency and the solidarity of the inhabitants of the Canadian North lead a young girl toward self-acceptance.

Micheline Marchand lives in Lafontaine, the village of her birth, which is 160 km north of Toronto. Passionate about history, both minor and major, she has published novels for young people, a collection of short stories and historic works. She has also created educational documents. Perdue au bord de la baie d’Hudson is her first book with Éditions David.

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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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