A Caribbean Immigrant Wins Canada’s Top Literary Prize

posted on November 20, 2019

By News Americas Now |

A Caribbean-born immigrant and first-time novelist is the 2019 winner of Canada’s top literary honor, the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Trinidad national Ian Williams took home the top honor for his first novel ‘Reproduction,’ published by Random House Canada. The win also earned him $100,000, courtesy of Scotiabank.

The novel tells the story of a sober-minded teenager from a small island nation and the listless heir to a German family fortune meet in the hospital room where their mothers lay dying.

From there, Williams unspools a narrative so entangled it strains against novelistic convention.

Of the winning book, the jury wrote: “Ian Williams’ ‘Reproduction’ is many things at once. It’s 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.

“It’s a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress, persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.”

“You have no idea how special this is for me,” Williams said as he accepted the prize, telling the story of how the very first book he bought with his own money was one by Margaret Atwood, who was in the audience.

Williams and his family, emigrated from Trinidad to Canada in the late 1980s and once said that “from a young age I knew the most important things to me were people and communication.” He said in 2013 he sought “a career that could combine those two things.”

Williams is the author of ‘Personals,’ shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award; ‘Not Anyone’s Anything,’ winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada; and ‘You Know Who You Are,’ a finalist for the ReLit Prize for poetry.

Read more