Hamilton writer Anuja Varghese has won the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction for her short story collection Chrysalis.
Chrysalis is among the 14 titles, seven in English and seven in French, that were acknowledged by the Governor General’s Literary Awards as the best books in 2023.
The prizes, administered by the Canada Council for the Artsare awarded in seven English-language categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people’s literature — text, young people’s literature — illustration, drama and French-to-English translation. French-language awards are also given out in the same categories. A total of $450,000 is awarded across all the prizes annually.
The winner in each category will receive $25,000. The remaining finalists will each receive $1,000.
Books published between Aug. 1, 2022 and July 31, 2023 were eligible for the 2023 awards. The finalists and winners are chosen by a peer assessment committee for each category.
Chrysalis is a short story collection that centres South Asian women, showing how they reclaim their power in a world that constantly undermines them. Exploring sexuality, family and cultural norms, this collection deals with desire and transformation.
“I never saw myself in the books I was reading. And I think that’s changing now,” she said in an interview with The Next Chapter. “There’s very rarely that kind of main character energy, especially for brown women, especially for queer brown women.”
Toronto-based author Kyo Maclear won the nonfiction category for her memoir Unearthing. After the father who raised her dies, she learns that he is not biologically related to her. In this memoir, she unravels the story of her biological father and explores what it really means to be a family.
Winnipeg writer Hannah Green won the poetry category for her collection, Xanax Cowboywhich follows a pill-popping, whiskey drinking woman with a reputation like a rattlesnake.
Alberta-based Sarah Everett won the young people’s literature — text category for her YA novel The Probability of Everything while Halifax’s Jack Wong won the young people’s literature — illustrated books category for his picture book When You Can Swim.
Rosaʼs Very Own Personal Revolutionwritten by Éric Dupont and translated by Peter McCambridge won the award for French-to-English translation.
The Canada Council for the Arts is a partner of the CBC Literary Prizes. The CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January, the CBC Poetry Prize will open in April and the CBC Short Story Prize opened in September.
Keep reading to learn more about the 2023 Governor General’s Literary Award English-language winners.
Chrysalis is a short story collection that examines the ways in which racialized women are undermined and exploited and the ways in which they reclaim their power. Blending realism with elements of fantasy, Varghese tells stories of a woman dying in her sleep repeatedly until she finds an unexpected refuge or a couple in a broken marriage encountering spiritual direction. Each story looks at family, sexuality, cultural norms and the ties that bind.
Anuja Varghese is a Hamilton, Ont.-based writer and editor. Her stories have been recognized in the Prism International Short Fiction Contest and the Alice Munro Festival Short Story Competition and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Chrysalis is her first book.
The peer assessment committee was Carleigh Baker, Neil Bissoondath and Jessica Westhead.
LISTEN | Anuja Varghese discusses Chrysalis on The Next Chapter:
The Next Chapter13:48Anuja Varghese’s short story collection sizzles with desire and transformation
Featured VideoHamilton-based writer Anuja Varghese shares the inspiration behind her debut short story collection, Chrysalis.
After Kyo Maclear’s father dies, a DNA test shows that she is not biologically related to the father that raised her. Maclear embarks on a journey to unravel the family mystery and uncover the story of her biological father, raising questions about kinship and what it means to be family in Unearthing.
Maclear is an essayist, novelist and children’s author. Her books have been translated into 15 languages, won a Governor General’s Literary Award and been nominated for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, among others. Her memoir Birds Art Lifewas a finalist for the 2017 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and won the 2018 Trillium Book Award.
The peer assessment committee was KatłĮà Lafferty, Lorri Neilsen Glenn and Rinaldo Walcott.
LISTEN | Kyo Maclear on Unearthing:
The Next Chapter20:27Kyo Maclear on Unearthing
Featured VideoShelagh Rogers talks to Kyo Maclear about the author’s journey to self discovery in the memoir, Unearthing: A Story of Tangled Love and Families Secrets.
Xanax Cowboy is a poetry collection that follows the adventures of the Xanax Cowboy, a pill-popping, whiskey drinking woman with a reputation like a rattlesnake.
Hannah Green is a Winnipeg-based writer and poetry editor. She was a poetry finalist for the 2021 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers.
The peer assessment committee was Mary Dalton, Moez Surani and Gillian Sze.
Cliff Cardinal is a playwright and actor born on the Pine Ridge Reservation. His work has been recognized with the Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation, the RBC Tarragon Emerging Playwright Award and the REVEAL Indigenous Arts Award. Cardinal has also written a play called Huff & Stitch.
The peer assessment committee was Aaron Bushkowsky, Tai Amy Grauman and Julie Tamiko Manning.
LISTEN | Cliff Cardinal on his play The Land Acknowledgement, or As You Like it:
Q20:42Cliff Cardinal on his confrontational play The Land Acknowledgement, or As You Like It
Featured VideoPlaywright Cliff Cardinal on subverting the audience’s expectations, and laughing in the face of trauma.
The Probability of Everything follows 11-year-old Kemi Carter, an avid fan of probability. When she sees an asteroid hovering over the sky, her perspective on everything changes. The asteroid has an 84.7 per cent chance of colliding with Earth in four days. Is she the only one who feels like the world is ending?
Sarah Everett is an author of several books for teens, currently based in Alberta.Her debut novel is Some Other Now.
The peer assessment committee was Cheryl Foggo, June Hur and Tom Ryan.
When You Can Swim is a picture book that encourages children to overcome their fears of the water. In the book, an adult explains to a young girl the joys and surprises of swimming.
When You Can Swim is for ages 4 to 8.
Jack Wong is a Halifax-based author and illustrator who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Vancouver. When You Can Swim is his first book.
The peer assessment committee was Marianne Ferrer, Lee Edward Födi and Mahak Jain.
Rosaʼs Very Own Personal Revolution follows the story of Rosa Ost, who grows up in Notre-Dame-du-Cachalot, as she moves from her tiny village to the big city of Montreal. It’s an adventure filled with long journeys and unsettling dreams, proving that revolutions in Quebec aren’t always quiet.
Eric Dupont is an author, teacher and translator from Montreal. His French-language novel The Landlady won the Radio-Canada’s version of Canada Reads, Book fights. He was a finalist for both the France-Québec Literary Prize and the Prix des cinq continents. He was the winner of the Prix littéraire des collegiens and the Prix des libraires.
The peer assessment committee was Bilal Hashmi, Melissa Bull and Pablo Strauss.