media release

SFU English academic wins GG

November 18, 2013

Jacqui Davis, publicist, McGill-Queen’s University Press (for interviews with Sandra Djwa), 1.514.398.2555,
Jon Smith, 778.782.3121,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


Sandra Djwa, a Simon Fraser University professor emerita of English and celebrated author known for her compelling scholarly biographies of important Canadian literary figures, has won the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction.

Affectionately known among writers as the GGs, the 14 coveted awards in seven different categories come with a $25,000 cash prize.

Along with this year’s other GG award winners, Djwa will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony and dinner with the Governor General and guests at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall on Nov. 28.

Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and now living in West Vancouver, Djwa has garnered one of Canada’s premier national literary awards for her latest book Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page.

Published in 2012 by McGill-Queen’s University Press, the book is the first biography of Patricia Kathleen Page. The British-born and Canadian-bred poet and fine artist died in 2010 in Victoria, B.C. at age 93. She inspired the literary growth of iconic Canadian authors Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro.

In Journey with No Maps, Djwa draws on her 30-year friendship with Page and more than a decade’s worth of research about her work to chart Page’s evolution into one of Canada’s most influential writers.

“P.K. gave her first public reading to my poetry class at SFU in April 1970,” says Djwa, who taught at SFU from 1968 to 2005.

“I wrote her biography because she invited me to do so. She is a wonderful subject for biography as a person, as an influential writer and as an individual whose life as a poet, visual artist and diplomat’s wife cuts across many of the significant people and events in our century.”

Jon Smith, chair of SFU’s English department and an associate professor, echoes the pride and praise of many reviewers, including the GG jurors, of Djwa’s latest book.

“Both sympathetic and incisive, her biography of P.K. Page not only presents the life of a remarkably talented poet and artist, but also illuminates the many different creative contexts in which she found herself, from the progressive poetry circles of mid-twentieth century Montreal to her last decades in Victoria,” says Smith.

The GG jurors said this of Djwa’s biography of P.K. Page: “An insightful discussion of the power of her poetry, the book also illuminates Canada’s literary history in its formative years.”

In an article for the journal Literary Review of Canada, reviewer Molly Peacock wrote: “This beautifully documented biography proceeds through the full development of Page’s career, which is also the history of CanLit in a single example…”

A member of the Royal Society of Canada since 1994, Djwa chaired SFU’s English department from 1986 to 1994. She was the first recipient of the Trimark Women’s Mentor Award for mentoring younger colleagues in 1999.

The Royal Society awarded her the Lorne Pierce medal for Professing English (2002), her biography of Canadian poet and scholar Roy Daniells (1902-1979).

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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