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Governor General's Award Finalists 2016

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The English language finalists for the Governor General's Award were announced October 4. For a full list see http://ggbooks.ca/~/media/ggbooks/2016/gglafinalists2016_web_en.pdf
Yiddish for Pirates

Yiddish for Pirates

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and nominated for the Governor-General's Award for Literature, a hilarious, swashbuckling yet powerful tale of pirates, buried treasure and a search for the Fountain of Youth, told in the ribald, philosophical voice of a 500-year-old Jewish parrot.

Set in the years around 1492, Yiddish for Pirates recounts the compelling story of Moishe, a Bar Mitzvah boy who leaves home to join a ship's crew, where he meets Aaron, the polyglot parrot who becomes his n …

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Excerpt

Chapter One

Moishe as a child. He told me stories. Some were true. 
   At fourteen, he left the shtetl near Vilnius for the sea. How? First one leg out the window then the other. Like anyone else. Before first light. Before the wailing of his mother. 
   A boychik with big ideas, his kop—his head—bigger than his body. He would travel beyond the scrawny map of himself, and beyond the shtetl. He’d travel the ocean. There were Jews—he’d heard stories—that were something. Not rag-and-bones shmatte-men like his father, Chaim, always following the dreck of their nag around the same small world. Doctors. Court astronomers. Spanish lords. Tax farmers. Learned men of the world. The mapmakers of Majorca. They were Jews. Rich and powerful, they were respected by everyone. They could read the sky. They knew what was on the horizon and what was over the horizon. Jews had trickled through the cracks of the world and had rained upon the lands. 
   He’d travel the globe. He’d travel to the unknown edges of the maps, to where the lost tribes had built their golden cities, where they knew the secrets of the waters and of the sky. 
   And nu, perhaps along the way there might be a zaftik maideleh or two, or his true love, who knew secrets also. 
   So this Moishe put the cartographer before the horse and left. 
   Luftmensch, they say. Someone who lives on air, someone whose head floats in the clouds of a sky whose only use is to make the sea blue.
The world is wide because the ocean is wide. So, nu, he’d had his Bar Mitzvah, why shouldn’t the boychik sail west on a merchant ship, some kind of cabin boy, learning not to be sick with the waves? A one-way Odyssey away from home, his mother weaving only tears. 
   And where had he heard the stories? On the shmatte cart, making the rounds with his father. The sun rising, they travelled from home. They didn’t fall off the edge of their world, they circled around it, until by nightfall they were home again. Moishe’s old father, the bent and childless man who had taken in the drownedling, spoke to him of the great world that they shared. Moishe’s father, grey beard, wide black hat, stooped back. The world, he said, was a book. A great scroll. Like the Torah, when it ended, it began again. 
   Everything began again. Each week with its Shabbos of silver candlesticks and braided challah. Each year with its seasons, festivals, Torah readings. Child, father, child. It was a Moebius strip. At the end of the story, the story begins again and so we live forever, his father said. His father was a mensch. His mother also. Good people. But though they spoke of it, they never tried to find out "and then what happened?" They knew. Second verse same as the first, a little bit more oysgemutshet worn out, a little bit worse. 
   Before he climbed out the window, Moishe left a letter for his parents. 
   If the world is a book, I must read it all. 
   He had packed only his few clothes, some food, a knife, a book he had often examined when alone, and two silver coins that he took from where his mother had hidden them behind a stone of the hearth. He sewed these into the waist of his pants. 
   He had come across the book by accident, this book that had a beginning and an end. Playing at a game of catch-and-wrestle with his friend Pinchas, Moishe had slid under his parents’ bed and pushed himself against the wall where he hoped he would be invisible behind the curtain of the embroidered bedspread. Breathing hard, attempting to remain quiet and undetected, Moishe felt its shape beneath his hip. When he was eventually discovered—after he’d deliberately released a prodigious and satisfying greps, a gaseous shofar-call alerting his friend to his location—he left whatever-it-was beneath the bed to be disinterred and examined later. He knew it was somehow important and secret, so better to wait until he was alone and his mother out at the mikveh.
   When he unwrapped the old tallis—a prayer shawl—that surrounded it, Moishe was surprised to discover a book. An ancient book. Grainy brown leather with faded gold lettering and pages the colour of an old man’s hands. The script looked like Hebrew but it was the language of some parallel world, gibberish or the writing of a sorcerer. 
   Most intriguing were the strange drawings. Charts that seemed to diagram the architecture of heavenly palaces or the dance steps of ten-footed angels. Mysterious arrays of letters, the unspeakable and obsidian incantations of demons. And, most captivating of all, what appeared to be maps of the parallel world itself, filled with ring upon ring of concentric circles, rippling out from the beginning of creation and the centre of everything, as if one fine morning God had cannonballed down from everywhere and nowhere and into the exact middle of the primordial sea.
   But perhaps, Moishe wondered, these maps represented the actual earth, the alef-beys of cryptic markings, boats floating upon the waves of a vast ocean, searching for the edges of hidden knowledge. 
   It was as if Adam and his wife, Eve, had found a map instead of an apple, there in the centre of the garden. Instead of good and evil, they had discovered a map of Eden, the geography, the secrets, the true limits of Paradise and the Paradise that lies beyond.
Maybe that is why his father kept this book hidden where no one—not the rabbis or the shammes or the other men—could find it. 
   So Moishe took the book and left.

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The Parcel

The Parcel

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

Finalist for the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and for the Governor General's Literary Award, this powerful new work, about a transgender sex worker in the red-light district of Bombay who is given an unexpected task, is a gripping literary page-turner--difficult and moving, surprising and tender. Anosh Irani's best novel yet, and his first with Knopf Canada.
The Parcel's astonishing heart, soul and unforgettable voice is Madhu--born a boy, but a eunuch by choice--who has spent most of her life i …

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Excerpt

Prologue
I go by many names, none of my own choosing. 
   I am called Ali, Aravani, Nau Number, Sixer, Mamu, Gandu, Napunsak, Kinnar, Kojja—the list goes on and on like a politician’s promise. There is a term for me in almost every Indian language. I am reviled and revered, deemed to have been blessed, and cursed, with sacred powers. Parents think of me as a kidnapper, shopkeepers as a lucky charm, and married couples as a fertility expert. To passengers in taxis, I am but a nuisance. I am shooed away like a crow. 
   Everyone has their version of what I am. Or what they want me to be. 
   My least favourite is what they call my kind in Tamil: Thirunangai. 
   "Mister Woman." 
   Oddly, the only ones to get it right were my parents. They named their boy Madhu. A name so gloriously unisex, I slipped in and out of its skin until I was fourteen. But then, in one fine stroke, that thing between my legs was relieved of its duties. With the very knife that I hold in my hand right now, I became a eunuch. 
   Perhaps my parents had smelled the strangeness in the air when I was born, the stench of the pain and humiliation to follow. At the least, they must have felt a deep stirring in the marrow of their bones to prepare them for the fact that their child was different. 
   Neither here nor there, neither desert nor forest, neither earth nor sky, neither man nor woman. 
   The calling of names I made my peace with years ago. 
   The one I am most comfortable with, the most accurate of them, is also the most common: hijra. The word is Urdu for "migration," and we hijras have made it our own because its meaning makes sense to us. 
   I am indeed a migrant, a wanderer. For almost three decades, I have floated through the city’s red-light district like a ghost. But this home of mine, this garden of rejects—fourteen lanes that for the rest of the city do not exist—I want it to remember me. I want it to remember even though the district is dissolving, just like I am, like the hot vapour of chai. 
   Come on. Who am I fooling? I don’t taste like chai. I am anything but delectable. I have been born and brewed to mortify. At forty, all I have left is a knife dipped in the moon and a five-rupee coin given to me by my mother. 
   But mark my words: I will make myself a household name. I will spread my name like butter on these battered streets.

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Willem De Kooning's Paintbrush

Willem De Kooning's Paintbrush

edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback

LONGLISTED FOR THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE

“Powerful. . . . Full of dark nostalgia.” —NATHAN ENGLANDER

“A literary high-wire act, not for the faint of heart.” —ALISSA YORK

An unflinching and masterful collection of award-winning stories, Willem de Kooning’s Paintbrush is a career-making debut. Ranging from an island holiday gone wrong to a dive bar on the upswing to a yuppie mother in a pricey subdivision seeing her worst fears come true, these deftly written stories are populated by …

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Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

Winner of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, this extraordinary novel tells the story of three musicians in China before, during and after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

   Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, T …

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On the 16th of December, 1990, Ma came home in a taxi with a new daughter who wore no coat, only a thick scarf, a woollen sweater, blue jeans and canvas shoes. I had never met a Chinese girl before, that is, one who, like my father, came from real mainland China. A pair of grey mittens dangled from a string around her neck and swayed in nervous rhythm against her legs. The fringed ends of her blue scarf fell one in front and one behind, like a scholar. The rain was falling hard, and she walked with her head down, holding a medium-sized suitcase that appeared to be empty. She was pale and her hair had the gleam of the sea.
   Casually I opened the door and widened my eyes as if I was not expecting visitors. 
   "Girl," Ma said. "Take the suitcase. Hurry up." 
   Ai-ming stepped inside and paused on the edge of the doormat. When I reached for the suitcase, my hand accidentally touched hers, but she didn’t draw back. Instead, her other hand reached out and lightly covered mine. She gazed right at me, with such openness and curiosity that, out of shyness, I closed my eyes.
   "Ai-ming," Ma was saying. "Let me introduce you. This is my Girl."
   I pulled away and opened my eyes again.
   Ma, taking off her coat, glanced first at me and then at the room. The brown sofa with its three camel-coloured stripes had seen better days, but I had spruced it up with all the flowery pillows and stuffed animals from my bed. I had also turned on the television in order to give this room the appearance of liveliness. Ma nodded vigorously at me. "Girl, greet your aunt."
   "Really, it’s okay if you call me Ai-ming. Please. I really, mmm, prefer it."
   To placate them both, I said, "Hello."
   Just as I suspected, the suitcase was very light. With my free hand, I moved to take Ai-ming’s coat, remembering too late she didn’t have one. My arm wavered in the air like a question mark. She reached out, grasped my hand and firmly shook it.
   She had a question in her eyes. Her hair, pinned back on one side, fell loosely on the other, so that she seemed forever in profile, about to turn towards me. Without letting go of my hand, she manoeuvred her shoes noiselessly off her feet, first one then the other. Pinpoints of rain glimmered on her scarf. Our lives had contracted to such a degree that I could not remember the last time a stranger had entered our home; Ai-ming’s presence made everything unfamiliar, as if the walls were crowding a few inches nearer to see her. The previous night, we had, at last, tidied Ba’s papers and notebooks, putting them into boxes and stacking the boxes under the kitchen table. Now I found the table’s surface deceitfully bare. I freed my hand, saying I would put the suitcase in her bedroom.
   Ma showed her around the apartment. I retreated to the sofa and pretended to watch the Weather Channel, which predicted rain for the rest of the week, the rest of 1990, the rest of the century, and even the remainder of all time. Their two voices ran one after the other like cable cars, interrupted now and then by silence. The intensity in the apartment crept inside me, and I had the sensation that the floor was made of paper, that there were words written everywhere I couldn’t read, and one unthinking gesture could crumple this whole place down.

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The Break

The Break

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

2017 Burt Award for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Literature Finalist

Winner, Amazon.ca First Novel Award

Winner, Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction

Winner, Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award

Winner, McNally Robinson Book of the Year

A Canada Reads 2017 finalist

National Bestseller

2016 Governor General’s Literary Award Finalist

2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalist

National Post 99 Best Books of the Year

CBC Best Canadian Debut Novels 2016

Globe and Mail Best 100 Books of 2016

Quill & Qu …

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Once, in a Town Called Moth

Once, in a Town Called Moth

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

Ana is not your typical teenager. She grew up in a tiny Mennonite colony in Bolivia, and her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now Ana and her father have also fled, and Ana doesn't know why. She only knows that something was amiss in their tight-knit community. Arriving in Toronto, Ana has to fend for herself in this alien environment, completely isolated in a big city with no help and no idea where to even begin. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to sc …

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Excerpt

  The house was small: a clapboard box on a square, weed-strewn lot fringed by a green wire fence. The owner was an elderly Italian woman called Mrs. Fratelli who lived on the other side of town in Little Portugal. Ana didn’t know how her father had found Mrs. Fratelli or the house; she only knew that the rent was cheap and that he paid half of it in kind, by rebuilding the front porch and traveling across town a few times a week to do odd jobs for Mrs. Fratelli and her neighbors.
   The neighborhood was not quite as shabby as the house. It was what people in these Canadian cities described as “up and coming.” Children played in front gardens, old men smoked and read the newspaper in camping chairs, and fancy cars sometimes got keyed at night. Ana had never seen so many houses so close together. Why, in this enormous country, did they have to huddle against each other like this, as though space was running out? Perhaps for warmth: the winters here were cold, she knew.
   Inside, the house was dark in shades of brown and yellow. Yellow linoleum in the kitchen, brown trim in the front room. A narrow staircase with a stained beige carpet fraying on the sides. Upstairs, a bathroom with a shower and toilet with a permanent brown stain seeping down the pipe. Two bedrooms: her father’s at the back, with a bed and built-in closet (only one of the doors opened); Ana’s room had just enough space for a single bed and a nightstand with a mirror, but it looked out onto the street and got the most light in the entire house.
   There was little furniture. The two beds and nightstand, a table and four folding chairs in the kitchen, and a squashed, faded sofa in the front room. There was a barbecue lid on the back porch, but no barbecue. A broom but no dustpan. A few mugs in the kitchen cup­board—one white with a cartoon dog and SNOOPY written in bubble letters; two blue pottery ones with brown speckles in the glaze that looked like mold—and a pack of paper plates. That was it.
   “Stay inside, and don’t answer the door to anybody,” Papa said on the first day, as he went out to buy food. So Ana had sat on her bed and looked out the window at the street, where people walked dogs and children rode scooters and cars parked and locked and pulled away again.
   By the third day, Papa had drawn Ana a map of the neighborhood. There was a supermarket a few blocks away, and a pay phone on the corner for emergencies. “It’s safe,” he told her. “You need fresh air and sun and exercise. Don’t talk to anyone, though, and stay within these four streets.”
   By the second week, she was going out every day, walking up and down the two streets running parallel to their own and tracing the perimeter up to Danforth Avenue and back down to the park. She wandered the aisles in the supermarket and stood in front of the freezer to cool down when the humidity outside got too much.
   “If anyone asks, remember that you’re Ana now,” her father said. “Not Anneli.”
   He had given her sweatpants to wear at the airport and bought jeans for himself. Her dress and his overalls were bundled into a plastic bag and left at the bottom of the wardrobe.
   “When Mrs. Fratelli pays me, I’ll buy us some good clothes,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

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Calvin

Calvin

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback eBook

Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and Hobbes is back-as a delusion-and Calvin …

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The White Cat and the Monk

The White Cat and the Monk

A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Bán”
by Jo Ellen Bogart
illustrated by Sydney Smith
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook

A monk leads a simple life. He studies his books late into the evening and searches for truth in their pages. His cat, Pangur, leads a simple life, too, chasing prey in the darkness. As night turns to dawn, Pangur leads his companion to the truth he has been seeking.

The White Cat and the Monk is a retelling of the classic Old Irish poem “Pangur Bán.” With Jo Ellen Bogart’s simple and elegant narration and Sydney Smith’s classically inspired images, this contemplative story pays tribute …

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