Selected Reviews

The Boat People

 "Probing the dramas surrounding deportation hearings, this timely novel follows the intersection of three lives after a cargo ship arrives in Canada, carrying Tamil refugees fleeing war in Sri Lanka." - The New Yorker

"The Boat People is a book perfect for our times, essential reading to bring context to questions which we are, perhaps, more inclined to ignore." - Robert Wiersema in The Toronto Star

"Bala has vividly conjured worlds, both on Canadian soil and back in Sri Lanka... What we also get from a novel like this is a new way of seeing" - Marissa Stapley in The Globe & Mail

"Already on several bestseller lists in Canada, Bala’s fiction has been praised for its timely appeal and its ability to capture this journey through the perspective of refugees.” - The Economist's 1843 Magazine

"Cinematic details...transport us to a tension-rich drama. The Boat People reminds us of the fragile nature of truth." - Mari Carlson in BookPage

"Bala is brisk, bracing and astonishingly prescient... ahead by a century in the cricket score of politically powerful contemporary fiction." - US Dhuga in Atlantic Books Today.

"A superb political novel...a very well-crafted story likely to be read for a long time." - Crawford Kilian in The Tyee (Warning: MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS)

"Bala’s strength is in showing the human side of everyone involved. Many details of the situation... might have been dull and bureaucratic if Bala’s narrative were not so clear and engaging." - Dave Williamson, Winnipeg Free Press

"A sharp examination of the global refugee crisis from both human and bureaucratic perspectives." - Toronto Life

"Timely and engrossing ...this is a powerful debut." - Publishers Weekly

"This earnest debut novel forcefully explores the issues surrounding immigration…deeply moving and nuanced, The Boat People asks what price a country is willing to pay when public safety comes at the cost of human lives.” - Booklist.

Butter Tea at Starbucks

"...burns as bright and fierce as the unnamed, immolated martyr whose image provides its thematic backbone... Bala takes big risks and reaps big rewards in this unforgettable story." - 2017 Journey Prize jury


"Bala is indeed a sharp and evocative writer, who has earned impressive awards all year long." - Chad Pelley reviewing A Drawer Full of Guggums in The Overcast, November 2015 issue

Selected Press


TVO's The Agenda in the Summer invited me on for a half hour interview with host Nam Kiwanuka.

Michael Enright and I chatted about The Boat People, curry books, and how everyone is a little bit racist on The Sunday Edition

The wonderful Shelagh Rogers invited me to be a guest on The Next Chapter

"At times it made me think of The Book of Negroes - it had that epic quality of bringing a giant issue to a really well-crafted book." - Q contributor Jael Richardson on why she recommends everyone read The Boat People

Roundhouse Radio's Minelle Mahtani invite me and Lisa Moore to an interview on Sense of Place. We talked about dialogue, language, and that embarrassing uncle we all have.

Wide-ranging interview with Tamil Culture's Shanelle Kandiah.

Angela Antle and I had a good old chin wag on Atlantic Voice about editors, the Oprah of Afghanistan, my writing group, and yes...the novel too

Toronto Star article about The Boat People

Interview with the Vancouver Sun

Interview in Understorey Magazine


"The jury singled out the Newfoundland-based Ms. Bala for writing that "wades unafraid into complexity and controversy." - Globe & Mail article on the Writers' Trust Award winners

Short & Sweetest: Sharon Bala wins the $10,000 Journey Prize - The Overcast's article about the Journey Prize

"David Chariandy, James Maskalyk and Sharon Bala win marquee prizes" - Toronto Star's story on the Writers' Trust Award winners

"Sharon Bala is a tremendous short story writer whose ability is matched by her willingness to tackle difficult questions about what it means to be Canadian." says Omar El Akkad in the CBC's Magic 8 Q&A.

Quill & Quire's story on the Writers' Trust Award winners

National Post's story on the Writers' Trust awards

Quill & Quire's piece on the Journey Prize short list

CBC's story on the Journey Prize short list

National Post story on the Journey Prize finalists

In September chatted books with fellow authors Trudy Morgan-Coles and Bridget Canning on the Shelf Esteem podcast.

The Boat People made 49th Shelf's Most Anticipated Books List and Southern Living's list of books to read in 21018 and got a very nice mention in this Maclean's article about political books and prizes.


"This year, adjudicator Trudy Morgan Cole chose Sharon Bala’s manuscript, Boat People. Publishers should take note of this name, that’s been popping up everywhere in the last 2 years, and now, in a rare — maybe unprecedented — display of her potential, she’s won TWO Arts & Letters awards in the same year: short fiction and the Percy Janes First Novel Award." - article in the The Overcast about the Arts & Letters Award

"Judges called [The Boat People] 'a precise reflection of a refugee’s bid for immigrant status' and 'skillfully layered and paced' with 'seamlessly engaging stories.' "- Article in The Overcast about the Fresh Fish Award

My fellow Fresh Fish finalists and I joined Angela Antle to discuss the Fresh Fish award and read from our manuscripts - CBC radio Weekend AM, November 8 2015 (18 minutes)

In December, I spoke with PRISM international's prose editor, Christopher Evans, about mystery, music, and what it's like to be a writer on the Rock.

CBC article on Racket: New writing made in Newfoundland, a book of stories written by my writing group, The Port Authority.

If you look carefully you might spot my name in this National Post article.

In April, the Overcast invited me on their fiction podcast, a monthly feature where local writers read stories written by other local writers. I read "My Husband's Jump" by Jessica Grant and then producer Annie McEwen and I had a grand old chat about ski jumping and God.

The New Quarterly asked for a look at my writing space.


In June, I was featured on Sarah Selecky's website. From time to time, Sarah profiles former students and their "mysterious middle drafts," in-progress scenes that readers normally don't get to see. The scene I submitted is part of a story called The Frog. The complete story was later published in Grain Magazine.