Finalists – 2022 Trillium Book Award
English Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award
Brian Francis, Missed Connections: A Memoir in Letters Never Sent, McClelland & Stewart / Penguin Random House
In 1992, Brian Francis placed a personal ad in a local newspaper. He was a twenty-one-year-old university student, still very much in the closet, and looking for love. He received many responses, but there were thirteen letters that went unanswered and spent years tucked away, forgotten, inside a cardboard box. Now, nearly thirty years later, and at a much different stage in his life, Brian has written replies to those letters, and the result is an open-hearted, irreverent, often hilarious, and always bracingly honest examination of the pieces of our past we hold close—and all that we lose along the way.
Using the letters as a springboard to reflect on all that has changed for him as a gay man over the past three decades, Brian covers a range of topics, including body image, aging, desire, the price of secrecy, and the courage it takes to be unapologetically yourself. The book is also a profoundly moving meditation on how his generation, the queer people who emerged following the generation hit hardest by AIDS, were able to step out from the shadows and into the light.
In an age when the promise of love is just a tap or swipe away, this extraordinarily moving memoir reminds us that our yearning for connection and self-acceptance is timeless.
Brian Francis is the author of three novels: Fruit, a 2009 Canada Reads finalist; Natural Order, which was selected by the Toronto Star, Kobo, and Georgia Straight as a Best Book of 2011; and, most recently, the YA novel Break in Case of Emergency, a finalist for the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Awards. His memoir, Missed Connections: A Memoir in Letters Never Sent, was inspired by his play, Box 4901 (co-created with Rob Kempson), which premiered at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2020 to sold-out audiences. He lives in Toronto.
Catherine Graham, Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric, Buckrider Books / Wolsak & Wynn Publishers
In Æther Catherine Graham has created a luminous homage to family, to cancer and to the strange windings of truth. Swimming through time and space, Graham introduces her mother, her father and herself and the cancers that pull them apart and bring them together. Memories mesh with visitations and multiple stories unfold of pain and loss, hidden tragedy, forgiveness and growth. With an otherworldly delicacy Graham stitches it all together to create a book-length lyric essay of lingering and profound beauty, a paean to the complexity of love and survival.
Catherine Graham is an award-winning poet, novelist and creative writing instructor. Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric was a finalist for the Toronto Book Awards, while her sixth collection of poems, The Celery Forest, was named a CBC Best Book of the Year and was a finalist for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Her debut novel, Quarry, won an IPPY Gold Medal, The Miramichi Reader Award for Best Fiction and was a finalist for the Sarton Women’s Book Award and the Fred Kerner Book Award. A previous winner of TIFA’s Poetry NOW, she leads its monthly book club, interviews for By the Lake Book Club and co-hosts The Hummingbird Podcast. The Most Cunning Heart is on CBC Books “Canadian Fiction to Watch For” list.
Sydney Hegele, The Pump, Invisible Publishing
A Gothic collection of stories featuring carnivorous beavers, art-eaters, and family intrigue, for fans of Alice Munro and Shirley Jackson.
The small southern Ontario town known as The Pump lies at the crossroads of this world’s violence—a tainted water supply, an apathetic municipal government, the Gothic decay of rural domesticity—and another’s.
In Hegele’s interconnected stories, no one is immune to The Pump’s sacrificial games. Lighthouse dwellers, Boy Scouts, queer church camp leaders, love-sick and sick-sick writers, nine-year-old hunters, art-eaters—each must navigate the swamp of their own morality while living on land that is always slowly (and sometimes very quickly) killing them.
Sydney Hegele (née Brooman) (they/them) was raised in Grimsby, Ontario. They attended Western University in London, Ontario, and currently live in Toronto. The Pump is their debut short fiction collection. Their story “The Bottom” was shortlisted for The Malahat Review’s 2020 Open Season Awards, and they have recent work in American Chordata, Thorn Literary Magazine, and other literary journals.
Publisher Link: https://invisiblepublishing.com/product/the-pump/
Pamela Korgemagi, The Hunter and the Old Woman, House of Anansi Press
The intertwined story of a cougar and a man that portrays the strength, vulnerability, and consciousness of two top predators. Not since Life of Pi have we encountered such transcendence or walked so fully in the footsteps of a big cat.
The “Old Woman” lives in the wild, searching for food, raising her cubs, and avoiding the two-legged creatures who come into her territory. But she is more than an animal — she is a mythic creature who haunts the lives and the dreams of men. Joseph Brandt has been captivated by the mountain lion’s legend since childhood, and one day he steps into the forest to seek her out. A classic in the making, The Hunter and the Old Womanis a mesmerizing portrait of two animals united by a shared destiny.
Pamela Korgemagi is a graduate of York University’s creative writing program. The Hunter and the Old Woman is her debut novel. She lives and works in Toronto.
Publisher Link: https://houseofanansi.com/products/the-hunter-and-the-old-woman
Ann Shin, The Last Exiles, Park Row / Harlequin Trade Publishing
Jin and Suja met and fell in love while studying at university in Pyongyang. She was a young journalist from a prominent family, while he was from a small village of little means. Outside the school, the people of North Korea have come under the grip of great political upheaval, plunged into chaos and famine. When Jin returns home to find his family starving, their food rations all but gone, he makes a rash decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, miles away, Suja has begun to feel the tenuousness of her privilege when she learns that Jin has disappeared. Risking everything, and defying her family, Suja sets out to find him, embarking on a dangerous journey that leads her into a dark criminal underbelly and tests their love and will to survive.
In this vivid and moving story, award-winning filmmaker Ann Shin offers a rare glimpse at life inside the guarded walls of North Korea and the harrowing experiences of those who are daring enough to attempt escape. Inspired by real stories of incredible bravery, The Last Exiles is a stunning debut about love, sacrifice and the price of liberty.
Ann Shin is an award-winning poet and documentary filmmaker. In addition to publishing her poetry, she's directed films and series that have aired on CBC, ABC, PBS, TVO, Discovery Channel, HGTV and History Channel. Ann lives in Toronto with her partner and two daughters. The Last Exiles is her first novel.
Publisher Link: https://www.harpercollins.ca/9780778312017/the-last-exiles/
English Language Finalists - Trillium Book Award For Poetry
Roxanna Bennett, The Untranslatable I, Gordon Hill Press
In unmeaningable, her previous Trillium Poetry Award winning book with Gordon Hill Press, Roxanna Bennett renovated the North American disability poetics canon via her queer fusion of invisible and visible disability identities. The Untranslatable I builds on Roxanna's acute sense of form and cripping of myth by establishing a more reflective, heartbreaking voice that asks, "Was I chosen? Is this a gift or a curse?" and provides answers not as prescribed path or cure, but as beautiful song.
The disabled poem-making entity known as Roxanna Bennett gratefully resides on aboriginal land. They are the author of The Untranslatable I (Gordon Hill Press, 2021) and the award-winning Unmeaningable (Gordon Hill Press, 2019).
Publisher Link: https://www.gordonhillpress.com/products/the-untranslatable-i
Liz Howard, Letters in a Bruised Cosmos, McClelland & Stewart / Penguin Random House Canada
I have to believe my account will outpace its ending.
The danger and necessity of living with each other is at the core of Liz Howard’s daring and intimate second collection. Letters in a Bruised Cosmos asks who do we become after the worst has happened? Invoking the knowledge histories of Western and Indigenous astrophysical science, Howard takes us on a breakneck river course of radiant and perilous survival in which we are invited to “reforge [ourselves] inside tomorrow’s humidex”. Everyday observation, family history, and personal tragedy are sublimated here in a propulsive verse that is relentlessly its own. Part autobiography, part philosophical puzzlement, part love song, Letters in a Bruised Cosmos is a book that once read will not soon be forgotten.
Liz Howard’s debut collection Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent won the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize, was shortlisted for the 2015 Governor General’s Award for poetry, and was named a Globe and Mail top 100 book. Her poetry has appeared in Canadian Art, The Fiddlehead, Poetry Magazine, and Best Canadian Poetry 2018. Howard received an Honours Bachelor of Science with High Distinction from the University of Toronto, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. She is of mixed settler and Anishinaabe heritage. Born and raised on Treaty 9 territory in northern Ontario, she currently lives in Toronto.
Bardia Sinaee, Intruder, House of Anansi Press
In Intruder, acclaimed poet Bardia Sinaee explores with vivid and precise language themes of encroachment in contemporary life.
Bemused and droll, paranoid and demagogic, Sinaee’s much-anticipated debut collection presents a world beset by precarity, illness, and human sprawl. Anxiety, hospitalization, and body paranoia recur in the poems’ imagery — Sinaee went through two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy in his mid-twenties, documented in the vertiginous multipart prose poem “Twelve Storeys” — making Intruder a book that seems especially timely, notably in the dreamlike, minimalist sequence “Half-Life,” written during the lockdown in Toronto in spring 2020.
Progressing from plain-spoken dispatches about city life to lucid nightmares of the calamities of history, the poems in Intruder ultimately grapple with, and even embrace, the daily undertaking of living through whatever the hell it is we’re living through.
Bardia Sinaee was born in Tehran, Iran, and currently lives in Toronto. He is the author of the chapbooks Blue Night Express and Salamander Festival. His poems have also appeared in magazines across Canada and in several editions of Best Canadian Poetry. In 2012 his poem “Barnacle Goose Ballad” was Reader’s Choice winner for The Walrus Poetry Prize, and in 2020 he was co-winner of the Capilano Review’s Robin Blaser Award. He holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Guelph University’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing. Intruder is his first book.
Publisher Link: https://houseofanansi.com/products/intruder
Soufiane Chakkouche, Zahra, Éditions David
Zahra’s mother, Oumaya, gives birth to her secretly in a poultry coop near Casablanca, Morocco. Originally from a Berber hamlet in the High Atlas Mountains, Oumaya had been given away when she was eight as a housekeeper for a family from the Casablancan elite. A few years later, when she begins to mature, the head of the family, Lhaj Nekary, sexually assaults her.
When Oumaya is sent back to her hamlet, Zahra is raised as a young and free bourgeois girl, but fate lands her with Wassim, a seductive hashish dealer with whom she falls madly in love, the relationship causing her degradation.
Born in Morocco, Soufiane Chakkouche currently lives in Toronto, where he works as a freelance journalist and collaborates with directors on documentary projects and film scripts. Before this book, he published two detective novels, L’inspecteur Dalil à Casablanca (2013), which is considered to be one of the first Moroccan detective novels, and then L’inspecteur Dalil à Paris, which was a finalist for the Grand prix de littérature policière 2019 (France).
Publisher’s link: https://editionsdavid.com/zahra-de-soufiane-chakkouche/
Marie-Hélène Larochelle, Je suis le courant la vase, Leméac Éditeur
Athletic Centre, Toronto. As he watches her, a swimmer battles the element of water to improve her time and earn a place in the national competitions. Training sometimes continues outside the sport centre in his apartment, where she has to submit to rituals intended to liberate her from her resistance. Marie-Hélène Larochelle’s novel describes that relationship of power and will. He says that he sometimes has to kiss her to access the highest levels of her athletic performance. The reader follows the athlete as she trains and competes. We swim with her in all kinds of water and drown a little in Arcachon. When we finish this novel, despite all the chlorine and salt we’ve inhaled and swallowed while reading, besides feeling damaged, we also feel a little dirty.
Born in Québec, Marie-Hélène Larochelle is an Associate Professor of French Studies at York University in Toronto. She has published several scholarly works on monstrosity and violence and another novel, Daniil et Vanya (Québec Amérique, 2017).
Publisher’s link: http://www.lemeac.com/catalogue/1861-je-suis-le-courant-la-vase.html
Robert Marinier, Un conte de l’apocalypse, Éditions Prise de parole
In a not-so-distant future ravaged by climate imbalance, cities are submerged, roads are destroyed and floods of migrants converge on the last arable land. In Canada, an extremist faction of the Green Party organizes a coup d’état and imposes death sentences on all those who denied global warning. A rebellion breaks out.
Persuaded to be in a play, Guy Coudonc remains detached from the catastrophe before being catapulted into the position of the central protagonist in this ecological fable.
A theatrical exploration with dark humour, Un conte de l’apocalypse highlights the consequences of our decisions—or inaction—on our own history and environment.
Robert Marinier has worked in theatre and television for more than 40 years. A multi-talented man of the theatre, he writes, acts, directs, teaches and works regularly as a dramaturgy consultant. He is the author of 10 plays, including À la gauche de Dieu, L’Insomnie (1998 Governor General’s Literary Award finalist) and Épinal. Robert is also the author of about 100 TV and radio shows. Notably, with Luc Theriault, he created and wrote four seasons of the successful dramatic comedy Météo+ for the TFO network (2006-2009).
In 2017, he received the Prix du Nouvel-Ontario for his contribution to Franco-Ontarian arts and culture.
Publisher’s link: https://www.prisedeparole.ca/titres-livre/?id=622
Marie-Thé Morin, Errances, Éditions Prise de parole
Anaïs criss-crosses the roads in her old pickup to gather stories for her writing. Somewhere in the southern United States, a police officer stops her and invites her to follow him to an old dilapidated motel, to which she agrees without knowing too much about why he has asked her.
Rod, an opera singer, is trying to relaunch his career after a forced break. Victim of a road accident, he is rescued by Mimi. She lives alone in the old motel where no one seems to stay anymore.
As they immerse themselves in a mysterious world in which time appears to be suspended, Anaïs and Rod are confronted with the limits of reality and discover that no one, themselves included, is what they claim to be at all.
An extraordinary road trip story, Errances is the first volume of a fantasy trilogy that explores the concepts of reality and existence with seriousness, humanity and a touch of playfulness.
Co-founder of Vox Théâtre, Marie-Thé Morin is a dramatist, novelist, screenwriter, translator, storyteller and songwriter originally from Ottawa. With publisher Prise de parole, she has published a novel, Gustave, and the plays for young people Oz (in collaboration with Pier Rodier), Ti-Jean de partout and Cyrano Tag. Her TV series Eaux turbulentes (Radio-Canada, 2019-2020) made her a finalist for the prestigious International Format Award in the best scripted format category.
Marie-Thé has played several memorable characters in productions with Vox Théâtre, Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, Triangle Vital, Bébitte poétique, Théâtre du Trillium, Théâtre de la Vieille 17 and Théâtre de Sable.
Lately she has been creating new stories for the stage and Internet, including Conte Xtrême, which was translated from plays from the Anglo-Canadian repertoire, and writing the follow-up to Errances.
Publisher’s link: https://www.prisedeparole.ca/titres-livre/?id=613
Michèle Vinet, Le malaimant, Éditions L'Interligne
Writing is Aurel’s plan, but, when he opens a new and blank notebook, the young man finds himself paralyzed by memories and anxiety. However, mythical characters come to his rescue with their potions and talismans. A dangerous voyage begins at the centre of this man’s distress, and it will lead him down some rugged paths.
The anxiety of the blank page? Very little for Michèle Vinet, who benevolently observes her characters navigating in the tumultuous waters of love with this luminous novel served up through sumptuous writing.
With degrees from the University of Ottawa in French literature and education and specializing in French as a second language, Michèle Vinet has worked in education, theatre and film. She has published four books, including an award-winning novel and story (Trillium, Émile-Ollivier and Le Droit) and several short stories in a variety of reviews. This novel is her fifth publication.
Publisher’s link: https://interligne.ca/auteurs-auteures/michele-vinet/le-malaimant/
Trillium Book Award for Poetry (French) Finalists
Sylvie Bérard, À croire que j’aime les failles, Éditions Prise de parole
Never exactly where it should be, never as expected and never completely “proper,” not his voice, not her voice, not their voice, the poetic voice cordons off flaws, imperfections that here become spaces where we can reconsider the possibilities. The three poetic suites of the collection are transgressive, grammatical and joyously awry, respectively, and they question the materials with which we forge a language and against which memories wear away.
Bérard’s poetry explores the queer, which is maybe the word that best summarizes that feeling when one is not completely successful at doing the “right” thing. It’s that point of departure, the impression of being a little ahead of, behind, just off to the side, across from or away from that opens the way to writing.
After winning the 2018 Trillium Book Award for Poetry with Oubliez (Prise de parole), a magnificent first collection on self-effacement, Sylvie Bérard shows that she knows how to create poetry with great evocative power.
The holder of a doctorate in semiology from UQAM in science fiction written by women, Sylvie Bérard dedicates herself to her three passions: teaching First Nations and Franco-Canadian literature at Trent University; writing science fiction novels (Terre des Autres, 2004, and La Saga d’Illyge, 2011, published by Alire), short stories and some unclassifiable texts; research, with works on Indigenous, queer and science-fiction literature. She won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry for her collection Oubliez.
Publisher’s link: https://www.prisedeparole.ca/titres-livre/?id=590
Sonia-Sophie Courdeau, Ce qui reste sans contour, Éditions Prise de parole
Everything must be mobilized: the head, the throat, the hands, the stomach, the genitals. The entire body incubates memories and gives birth to poetry. On the cheek that was scratched, we can now see the traces of a tear or caress. The body is on the lookout, ready to flee and reinvent time, and women search among the stories for the ones they have to write.
In Ce qui reste sans contour, the poet’s third collection, we witness the evolution of a young woman called to reconstruct herself through writing. By regaining contact with her body memory, she establishes a dialogue with the other part of herself and manages to transcend the abuse she has suffered.
The collection is a reflection on the role of narrative processes in the redefinition of a subject affected by a traumatic event. It pays homage to the individual’s resilience in the face of violence and the therapeutic power of art.
Originally from northern Ontario, Sonia-Sophie Courdeau published À tire d’ailes (2011) and Comptine à rebours (2015), which were respectively a winner of and finalist for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Her third collection, Ce qui reste sans contour, was published in February of 2020.
In 2019, after completing a Masters degree in literary creation at the University of Ottawa, she started her own company to help people to heal and transform themselves through words. Specializing in trauma writing, she facilitates community workshops on intuitive writing for women.
Publisher’s link: https://www.prisedeparole.ca/titres-livre/?id=589
Chloé LaDuchesse, Exosquelette, Mémoire d'encrier
Exoskeleton: [apparatus attached to the body to return its mobility]. Chloé LaDuchesse’s poetry is her exoskeleton: she says that her bones are still hollow and that there’s nothing she can do about it. All what’s left of her are the words around which she builds a house.
Poet’s point of view
“It’s also an issue of my body as a sanctuary and as a tool for meditating on the world, of the need to move, to project myself, become attached, grope along and escape. Memories and inventions are superimposed in strata until they are contaminated, tinging where I’ve lived and what I’ve believed. And if the body is a territory, then I aspire to leave it as often as possible, not to find myself but to join with everything I am not yet, even if I want to then cast off the traces of others on my skin.
Without words to cover my skin, I’m invisible. What I write reveals me and becomes my exoskeleton.”
Chloé LaDuchesse is the author of two poetry collections with Mémoire d’encrier: Furies (2017), a 2018 Trillium Award finalist, and Exosquelette (2021), a 2021 Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist and nominee for the Prix des libraires 2022. Her work has been published in the reviews Estuaire, Le Sabord, Exit, Moebius and Open Minds Quarterly and in short story and poetry collections. She was the fifth poet laureate of Sudbury, where she still lives.
Publisher’s link: http://memoiredencrier.com/exosquelette/