Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

The Boat People has won the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction! (Yes, THAT Harper Lee). I’m so grateful to Doubleday for putting the book forward and to the jurors who obviously have a very refined literary palate. Also: the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal who administer and sponsor the prize. These things are a lot of work and labours of love.

Late next month, I’ll be accepting the award at a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. (I KNOW. IT’S WILD) In addition to a speech, there will be an on-stage conversation between myself and the jurors. We’ll be talking about To Kill a Mockingbird and my book and probably politics and refugees.

Refugee law, and in particular, the perfectly legal and legitimate process of coming to the border and seeking asylum, is a situation that is woefully misunderstood by the general public. It doesn't help that so many Canadian politicians - many of them lawyers by training - willfully and purposely lie. Fiction can be the antidote, translating the letter of the law into a compelling plot and using imagined characters to show readers the truth. The truth is so important. This is a federal election year and now more than ever we all have a duty to tell the truth. Loudly. And as often as possible. Awards give me and my book a soap box and a megaphone. For these gifts, I’m incredibly grateful.

One Book To Rule Them All

Later this month, The Boat People will go head-to-head with Trudy Morgan Cole’s Most Anything You Please, Lisa Moore’s Something For Everyone, and Jamie Fitzpatrick’s The End of Music in NL Reads, an annual literary competition hosted by the NL Public Library. You can vote for your favourite book (hint: mine, please!) online here. On February 28, everyone is welcome to attend the debates where each book will be defended by a champion reader (details here).

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Aspen Words Literary Prize

Aspen Words Literary Prize long-list (image via @aspenwords on Instagram)

Aspen Words Literary Prize long-list (image via @aspenwords on Instagram)

THE BOAT PEOPLE has been long-listed for the Aspen Words Literary Prize! Awarded annually, it’s given to “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture). This is a pretty new prize, only in its second year. The inaugural winner was Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (a book I read back in January and adored).

I was on a plane to Toronto last Monday afternoon, blissfully unaware that the team at Doubleday US had even submitted my book for consideration, when the long-list was announced. I landed to the happy email from my publicist and then I looked up the competition and was even happier. Because look at those books! In particular, Brother by David Chariandy, one of my favourite reads from last year.

The short-list will be announced in February. Until then, fingers crossed!