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2019 Danuta Gleed Award Shortlist
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2019 Danuta Gleed Award Shortlist

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The Writers' Union of Canada is pleased to announce the short list of nominees for the twenty-third annual DANUTA GLEED LITERARY AWARD. The Award recognizes the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2019 in the English language. The Award consists of cash prizes for the three best first collections, with a first prize of $10,000 and two additional prizes of $500. The jury this year comprised authors Lesley Choyce, Norma Dunning, and Djamila Ibrahim, who determined the short list from 24 collections submitted, some by seasoned writers, others by authors being published for the first time.
Lost Boys

Lost Boys

edition:Paperback

Each of the (eighteen) stories in Darci Bysouth’s debut collection Lost Boys documents a world in the process of unravelling, as the inhabitants of these richly drawn narratives face losing what they hold most dear.

 

The rivalry between two brothers in "Meat" mirrors a nation divided, with bitter consequences. "Cryptodome" sets two sisters’ guilty collusions against Mount St. Helens, which is on the brink of eruption. In "Petey", a father realises the ghastly implications of his daughter’s …

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The Eater of Dreams

The Eater of Dreams

edition:Paperback

The past haunts the characters in The Eater of Dreams. In fifteen interconnected stories, Kat Cameron’s vivid characters — teachers, singers, writers, and misfits — examine the inner fractures in their lives. A woman muses about her miscarried child while watching a friend’s daughter play; an opera singer in Edmonton is stalked by an abusive ex-lover; a student’s story of bullying reminds a woman of her own childhood traumas; a woman cuts out the heart of a faithless man; the ghost of …

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Excerpt

“She was most comfortable in transit, on buses, planes, trains, shuttling between points. In constant motion, she didn’t have to solidify into one person. Looking out the train windows, she saw bright-green rice fields. The flat mirror of the window reflected her back. No sign of the fractures within. Past. Present. Her old self from ten years earlier, all those lost dreams.”

 

“I can’t look back. If I had a thousand origami cranes, I would wish for my old life, but now it’s just a dream I once had.”

 

“In a claustrophobic bar with black walls, she listened to fables about gangs of head-hunters, about vampires in the flesh-pits of Bangkok, about haunted houses absorbing lonely seniors. A few smudged columns of type in any newspaper would reveal atrocities as unreal, love stories as strange, dreams as unlikely. Fact and fantasy blended together, a potent brew of ‘this is’ followed by a ‘what if’ chaser. She had dreamed it; therefore, it would come to pass.”

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Watermark

Watermark

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

In these evocative and startling stories, we meet people navigating the elemental forces of love, life, and death. An insomniac on Halifax’s moonlit streets. A runaway bride. A young woman accused of a brutal murder. A man who must live in exile if he is to live at all. A woman coming to terms with her eccentric childhood in a cult on the Bay of Fundy shore.

A master of North Atlantic Gothic, Christy Ann Conlin expertly navigates our conflicting self-perceptions, especially in moments of crisis …

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Excerpt

We moved to the North Mountain the summer I was four and my mother was pregnant with my little sister, Morgaine. My father made the house himself and we lived in a tent pitched in a meadow surrounded by forest while he built it. My mother told me this. I remember the tent was green and there was a path through the meadow to the house. I loved this path, which cut through the tall grasses. In the meadow, purple vetch threaded up through the grass stems and touched my mother’s round belly. The grasses grew so high they were taller than me, but I could look up and see how they touched my mother’s breasts. I drew pictures on her stomach with icing coloured with beet and carrot juice. Then she’d let me lick it off. The acreage was mostly forest, except for the clearing around a large, rickety barn. They put a sandbox in the clearing where I played with my pail and shovel.

There was also a path through the woods. It was a twisting path my father had cut through the pines to the clifftop jutting out from the trees over the Bay of Fundy. He called the path “the labyrinth of life.” It snaked through the forest to the perilous brink of the cliff. The path was difficult and winding, with sharp turns where you had to slow down. My father said this was the main purpose of his pathway: everyone was forced to stop hurrying and consider their journey as it unfolded. People needed to be open to sudden turns and trust the way ahead. Being in the moment would take over and time would lose meaning. Before you knew it, you would arrive at your destination, and le voilà, enlightenment, or éclaircissement, as the French Acadians say, when you reached the bench of wisdom! Every age had an awakening, her father said, with those like him, who were called to be its prophets, ushering in the awakening. On a clear day you could stand at the edge of the cliff and see all the way down the bay toward Maine, which was four exhilarating hours away by boat as the crow flies or a long, boring two-day drive by car, as my father explained.

The bench at the edge of the crumbling cliff my father had made from driftwood, which the elements had cast to a silvery white. He encouraged us to sit on the bench and look for water nymphs. He insisted people had been spotting them in the bay for generations. They swam in with the tide, he proclaimed, as though he were a marine biologist with a peculiar specialization.

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Dig

Dig

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

***DANUTA GLEED LITERARY AWARD FINALIST*** ***ALISTAIR MACLEOD PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION FINALIST** ***MARGARET AND JOHN SAVAGE FIRST BOOK AWARD - FICTION FINALIST***
In twelve dialed-in and exceptionally honed short stories, Terry Doyle presents an enduring assortment of characters channelled through the chain reactions of misfortune and redemption. A construction worker’s future is bound to a feckless and suspicious workmate. A young woman’s burgeoning social activism is constrained by hards …

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Frying Plantain

Frying Plantain

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Set in a neighbourhood known as “Little Jamaica,” Frying Plantain follows one young girl from elementary school to high school graduation as she navigates the tensions between mothers and daughters, second-generation immigrants and first-generation cultural expectations, and Black identity and predominantly white society.
Kara Davis is a girl caught in the middle — of her North American identity and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, of her mother and grandmother’s rages and life l …

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Excerpt

From “Pig Head”
On my first visit to Jamaica I saw a pig’s severed head. My grandmother’s sister Auntie had asked me to grab two bottles of Ting from the icebox and when I walked into the kitchen and pulled up the icebox lid there it was, its blood splattered and frozen thick on the bottles beneath it, its brown tongue lolling out from between its clenched teeth, the tip making a small dip in the ice water.
My cousins were in the next room so I clamped my palm over my mouth to keep from screaming. They were all my age or younger, and during the five days I’d already been in Hanover they’d all spoken easily about the chickens they strangled for soup and they’d idly thrown stones at alligators for sport, side-eyeing me when I was too afraid to join in. I wanted to avoid a repeat of those looks, so I bit down on my finger to push the scream back down my throat.
Only two days before I’d squealed when Rodney, who was ten like me, had wrung a chicken’s neck without warning; the jerk of his hands and the quick snap of the bone had made me fall back against the coops behind me. He turned to me after I’d silenced myself and his mouth and nose were twisted up as if he was deciding whether he was irritated with me or contemptuous or just amused.
“Ah wah?” he asked. “Yuh nuh cook soup in Canada?”
“Sure we do,” I said, my voice a mumble. “The chicken is just dead first.”
He didn’t respond, and he didn’t say anything about it in front of our other cousins, but soon after they all treated me with a newfound delicacy. When the girls played Dandy Shandy with their friends they stopped asking me to be in the middle and when all of them climbed trees to pluck ripe mangoes, they no longer hung, loose-limbed, from the branches and tried to convince me to clamber up and join them. For the first three days of my visit, they’d at least tease me, broad smiles stretching their cheeks, and yell down, “This tree frighten yuh like how duppy frighten yuh?” Then they’d let leaves fall from their hands onto my hair and laugh when I tried to pick them out of my plaits. I’d fuss and grumble, piqued at the taunting but grateful for the inclusion, for being thought tough enough to handle the same mockery they inflicted on each other. But after the chicken, they didn’t goad me anymore and they only approached me for games like tag, for games they thought Canadian girls could stomach.
“What’s taking you so long?” My mother came up behind me and instead of waiting for me to answer, leaned forward and peered into the icebox, swallowing hard as she did. “Great,” she whispered. “Are you going to be traumatized by this?”
I didn’t quite know what she meant — but I felt like the right answer was no, so I shook my head. My mother was like my cousins. I hadn’t seen her butcher any animals, but back home she stepped on spiders without flinching, she cussed out men who tried to reach for her in the street, and I couldn’t bear her scoffing at me for screaming at a pig’s head.
“Eloise!” Nana called. My grandmother came into the kitchen from the backyard and stood next to us, her hands on her hips. The deep arch in her back made her breasts and belly protrude, and the way she stood with her legs apart reminded me of a pigeon.
“I hear Auntie call out she want a drink from the fridge. That there is the freezer yuh nuh want that. Yuh know wah Bredda put in there? Kara canna see that, she nuh raise up for it.”
“I closed the lid,” said my mother. “Anyway, it was a pig’s head. It’s not like she saw the pig get slaughtered. She’s fine.”
“Kara’s a soft one. She canna handle these things.”
I felt my mother take a deep breath in and I suddenly became aware of all the exposed knives in the kitchen and wondered if there was any way I could hide them without being noticed. We were only here for ten days and my mother and Nana had already gotten into two fights — one in the airport on the day we landed, the other two nights after — and Auntie had threatened to set the dogs on them if they didn’t calm down.
“Mi thought Canada was supposed fi be a civilized place, how yuh two fight like the dogs them? Cha.”
I wondered if all daughters fought with their mothers this way when they grew up and started to tear up just thinking about it. Nana looked at me.
“See? She ah cry about the head.”
“It’s not about the head,” said my mother. “She just cries over anything.”
“Like I say. She a soft chile.”

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