Many congratulations to Esi Edugyan, the winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel, Washington Black. The winner of this prestigious literary prize was announced at an ultra glamorous black-tie gala and award ceremony on Monday, November 19th, 2018. The awards ceremony was hosted by Canadian comedian, TV personality, and author Rick Mercer. This was Mercer’s fourth time hosting the Gillers. The entire event was broadcast and streamed live on CBC, CBC Radio One, the CBC live streaming app, and CBCBooks.ca.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Scotiabank Giller Prize rewards $100,000 to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, while the finalists receive $10,000. This year’s short list of author-finalists and their books included:
-Patrick DeWitt for this novel, French Exit
-Eric Dupont for his novel, Songs for the Cold of Heart, translated from French by Peter McCambridge
-Sheila Heti for her novel, Motherhood
-Thea Lim for her novel, An Ocean of Minutes
-Esi Edugyan for her novel, Washington Black
A five-member jury whittled this year’s short list from a total of 104 books submitted by publishers across Canada. This year’s jury included Kamal Al-Solaylee, Heather O’Neill, John Freeman, Philip Hensher, and Maxine Bailey. The jury members praised Washington Black as, “…a supremely engrossing novel about friendship and love and the way identity is sometimes a far more vital act of imagination than the age in which one lives.”
This is Esi Edugyan’s second time taking home the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She won the prize in 2011 for her novel, Half-Blood Blues. Her books have been short listed for many esteemed literary prizes including the Man Booker Prize, the Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize, and the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Prior to the live broadcast, close to 500 members of Canada’s publishing, arts, and media communities were treated to an elegant cocktail reception at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Distinguished members in attendance included previous Giller Prize winners André Alexis, Linden MacIntyre, and Dr. Vincent Lam, former premier of Ontario Bob Rae, artistic director of TIFF Cameron Bailey, and acclaimed literary icon Margaret Atwood. A portrait studio was set up near the entrance and was a huge hit with the guests! The Scotiabank Giller Prize founder Jack Rabinovitch passed away in August 2017, and his presence was surely missed at the gala.
This year’s televised awards ceremony was hosted by Rick Mercer, who—in true Rick Mercer fashion— went in on Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, Andrew Scheer, and also took the opportunity to plug his own book, Final Report. The Tragically Hip’s Johnny Fay drummed the authors on and off the stage, and signaling to the guests that the show was about to go back on the air.
When Elana Rabinovitch, Executive Director of the Giller Prize, and John Doig, the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Scotiabank, announced Esi Edugyan as the winner, the entire room gave her a standing ovation as she took to the stage. She admitted that she didn’t prepare a speech because she didn’t expect to win. She concluded her impromptu speech with this amazing quote: “In a climate in which so many forms of truth telling are under siege, this feels like a really wonderful and important celebration of words.”
In an interview after the show, Edugyan said that she was approached by a guest at the show who expressed how her historic win deeply moved and inspired her as a young Black female writer. She continued, “To see a Black woman win the prize…that’s huge. For me, when I was growing up in Calgary, there weren’t a ton of Canadian models in terms of people who had my background.” What a graceful, genuine, and humble way to cement your rightful place amongst Canadian literary royalty!
Again, congratulations to Esi Edugyan and all of the finalists of the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
About the Scotiabank Giller Prize
The Scotiabank Giller Prize is Canada’s richest literary prize. Founded in 1994 by the late Jack Rabinovitch, the prize is named after his wife, the late literary journalist Doris Giller. To learn more about the Giller prize, please visit https://scotiabankgillerprize.ca/
© 2018 Article by Aleka Allen, Photos and layout TorontoArtsandEvents. All Rights Reserved. Editors please contact us for use.