Last month, Brother was shortlisted for the US Aspen Words Literary Prize. Administered by Washington, DC think tank The Aspen Institute, the $35,000 USD (approximately $46,000 CAD) prize recognizes “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.”
Brother is also a finalist for CBC Canada Reads 2019. It will be defended by actor, model and TV personality Lisa Ray during the annual CBC Battle of the Books, which will air March 25-28.
Brother, at its essence a coming-of-age story, is set in the suburb of Scarborough, Ontario, in the neighbourhoods where Chariandy grew up. It follows the lives of brothers Michael and Francis as they experience growing up in the early 1990s as persons of colour, with their experiences reminiscent of Chariandy’s own youth.
Born in Scarborough to Trinidadian immigrants, Chariandy completed his BA and MA in English at the University of Carleton and went on to complete his PhD in English at York University.
In those earlier days, and before his astronomical success, Chariandy wasn’t as confident about his writing.
“I think every writer has to overcome a whole array of personal doubts,” says Chariandy. “I know, too, that certain writers additionally have to overcome oppressive societal notions of who should and should not have a voice. Ultimately, I feel I’ve been lucky. I had working-class, immigrant parents who worked tough jobs and did not have any real access to the world of books, but who were loving and supportive. I found crucial support from fellow Black and Caribbean writers, but also from people of many different backgrounds, including students and colleagues here at SFU.”
Chariandy currently teaches in SFU’s Department of English, with a special focus in contemporary fiction, as well as interdisciplinary theories of post-coloniality, diaspora, and race.
When teaching, Chariandy tries as much as possible to demonstrate his own passion for books to his students.
“I encourage students to teach me—for I know I have so much to learn—and to recognize that reading, as well as writing, is a vital creative act.”
The Windham-Campbell Prize winners were announced March 13 in London, UK. The announcement is available to view online at windhamcampbell.org.