Ontario’s Trillium Book Award short list recognizes cross-genre talent

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TORONTO — A graphic novel, a work of experimental fiction and a sisterly collaboration are among the genre-bending reads in the running for Ontario’s Trillium Book Award.

Organizers announced the 14 finalists for the awards honouring the province’s literary talent on Tuesday.

The five-title short list for best English-language book includes two debut short-story collections from House of Anansi Press imprints that picked up national awards buzz.

Tea Mutonji’s “Shut Up You’re Pretty,” the inaugural publication from VS. Books, was nominated for the 2019 Writers’ Trust fiction prize. The series of vignettes follows a black girl growing up in the east-end Toronto suburb of Scarborough.

Toronto’s Zalika Reid-Benta made last year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize long list for “Frying Plantain,” published by Astoria, a coming-of-age tale about a girl caught between her Canadian upbringing and Jamaican heritage.

Also nominated are siblings Christina Baillie and Martha Baillie for their literary exchange “Sister Language.” Christina Baillie, who had schizophrenia, died before the book’s 2019 release.

Nova Scotia-born, Toronto-based Sara Peters is a contender for “I Become a Delight to My Enemies,” the first boundary-pushing book from Penguin Random House Canada’s Strange Light imprint for experimental writing.

Rounding out the best English book category is “Clyde Fans: A Picture Novel,” published by Drawn & Quarterly, a graphic epic by the cartoonist known as Seth about two brothers in the electric fan business.

English-language nominees for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry include Doyali Islam’s “heft,” published by McClelland & Stewart, which is also up for this year’s $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize.

The other contenders in the category are Roxanna Bennett’s “Unmeaningable,” published by Gordon Hill Press, and Matthew Walsh’s “These are not the potatoes of my youth,” published by Goose Lane Editions.

The French-language finalists for the Trillium Book Award are:

– Jean Boisjoli, “Moi, Sam. Elle, Janis” (Editions David)

– Claude Guilmain, “AmericanDream.ca” (Les Editions L’Interligne)

– Aristote Kavungu, “Mon pere, Boudarel et moi” (Les Editions L’Interligne)

– Paul Ruban, “Crevaison en corbillard” (Flammarion Quebec)

The nominees for Trillium Book Award for Poetry in French language are:

– Daniel Groleau Landry, “Fragments de ciels” (Les Editions L’Interligne)

– Veronique Sylvain, “Premier quart” (Prise de parole)

The winners will be announced at an online event on June 17.

Recipients of the Trillium Book Award receive $20,000, and their respective publishers receive $2,500 to promote the winning titles.

Winners in the poetry categories receive $10,000, and their publisher $2,000 for promotion of the titles.

Poets can submit their first three works to be considered for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. After that, they are eligible for the main Trillium Book Prize, which recognizes literary excellence across genres.

Finalists in all categories will each receive a $500 honorarium.

Previous Trillium winners have included Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro.

The Ontario government established the Trillium Book Award in 1987.