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Ian Williams Wins the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Ian Williams, accepts the Scotiabank Giller Prize © 2019 TorontoArtsandEvents

Ian Williams is the winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his debut novel, Reproduction. In a live televised broadcast on Monday, November 18th, 2019, he graciously accepted the grand prize of $100,000. This year’s broadcast was hosted by iconic Canadian singer-songwriter and actress Jann Arden. This was her first time hosting the event and she was brilliant! She had the audience cracking up from her jokes and her birthday song to Margaret Atwood was delightful and sweet. The entire broadcast was made commercial-free presented by Scotiabank Wealth Management on CBC, CBC Radio One, and streamed live on

Celebrating its 26th 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 shortlist of author-finalists and their books were:

Alix Ohlin for her novel, Dual Citizens

David Bezmozgiz for his novel, Immigrant City

Megan Gail Coles for her novel, Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

Michael Crummey for his novel, The Innocents

Steven Price for his novel, Lampedusa

Ian Williams for his novel, Reproduction

A five-member jury pared down this year’s shortlist from a total of 104 books submitted by publishers across Canada. This year’s jury included Donna Bailey Nurse, Randy Boyagoda (jury chair), José Teodoro, Aminatta Forna, and Aleksandar Hemon. The jury members praised Reproduction as “…an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography.”

This is Ian William’s first time taking home the Scotiabank Giller Prize, adding to the author’s rising star power. In 2011, he won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for his short story collection, Not Anyone’s Anything. In 2013, His poetry collection, Personals, was also shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Before the live broadcast, close to 500 members of Canada’s publishing, arts, and media communities were treated to an elegant cocktail reception and dinner at the Four Seasons hotel. Distinguished members in attendance included previous Giller Prize winners Dr. Vincent Lam, Michael Redhill, and Esi Edugyan, and members of the Scotiabank Giller Prize advisory board Hon. Bob Rae and Margaret Atwood.

(l to r) Jann Arden, Elana Rabinovitch, Ian Williams, and John Doig © 2019 TorontoArtsandEvents
Margaret Atwood © 2019 TorontoArtsandEvents

This year’s televised broadcast also featured a back-stage lounge interview segment where CBC personality/author Jael Richardson interviewed the finalists and celebrity guests including Ali Hassan and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. The backstage lounge provided a refreshing update to the broadcast’s format and was a great addition to the broadcast as it gave the viewers more opportunities to hear from and learn more about the finalists.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee© 2019 TorontoArtsandEvents

When Elana Rabinovitch, Executive Director of the Giller Prize, and John Doig, the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Scotiabank, announced Ian Williams as the winner, the entire room gave him a standing ovation as he took to the stage. The moment where he looked so elated and close to tears was especially poignant. He opened his speech by saying, “I’ve got notes here for people I need to thank, but maybe I’ll just start with my heart first. Margaret Atwood over there is the first book I bought with my own money at a bookstore in Brampton.” His beautiful shout out to one of his literary inspirations is a powerful moment that many writers, aspiring and established, can relate to. This was evident when the entire room erupted in applause after he said that and in the press conference that followed the broadcast.

In the press conference after the show, he explained the shout out to Margaret Atwood. He said, “How do you tell a writer that I feel like I’ve known you and you’ve been like my literary mother and you’ve been here for me this whole time?”

Again, congratulations to Ian Williams and all of the finalists of the 2019 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 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

© 2019 Article by Aleka Allen, Photos and layout TorontoArtsandEvents.  All Rights Reserved.  Editors please contact us for use.


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