English, Awards

David Chariandy’s second novel, Brother, wins 2017 Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize

November 22, 2017

By Christine Lyons

When the Writers Trust of Canada held its annual awards ceremony in Toronto on Nov. 14 celebrating the best Canadian books published this year, SFU English professor David Chariandy walked away with the $50,000 fiction prize for his second novel, Brother (McLelland & Stewart) .  

The book also made the Giller Prize long list this year, and it is Chariandy’s second critically acclaimed novel--his first Soucouyant (Arsenal Pulp) was nominated for several literary awards including the 2007 Giller Prize and 2007 Governor General’s Award.

Brother tells the story of Michael and Francis, sons of Trinidadian immigrants whose father has disappeared while their single mother sometimes works triple shifts to raise them in the Scarborough area of eastern Toronto. Set in the “sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991,” the book grapples with questions of masculinity, family, race and identity.

Chariandy himself grew up in 1990s Toronto. In a recent CBC article he said that, while the book is a work of fiction and imagination, he wanted to “capture what Scarborough was really like for a child in the early 1990s, particularly a child with a black mother and South Asian father.”  It was important, he said, to “get it right” and “do justice to these stories” he grew up with.

"There was, at that time, a lot of anxiety about visible minorities moving into the area and changing the landscape. I grew up hearing these stories — about people I love and respect, who were profoundly creative and hardworking and simply had dreams of living a good life. These stories are often overlooked and ignored. I wanted to capture this narrative, one of resilience, creativity, tenderness and love."

2017 Writers’ Trust jurors Michael Christie, Christy Ann Conlin, and Tracey Lindberg compliment the “stunning lyrical writing, pitch perfect pacing, and unexpected humour” that come out in Brother.

“Chariandy creates a world where beauty abounds in the most unexpected space and leaves us full of music and hope,” they said in a joint statement.

Chariandy says he’s honoured to win the award and especially thankful to all who supported him throughout the second novel’s completion.

“I would like to thank my students and colleagues in the Department of English, as well as broader members of the SFU community, for their warm interest in my writing during the years it took me to complete Brother.” 

At SFU, Chariandy’s teaching and research specializes in contemporary fiction (especially Canadian, Caribbean and Black Atlantic), as well as interdisciplinary theories of post-colonialism, diaspora and ‘race.’ He has published scholarly articles and reviews in many peer-reviewed journals including Essays on Canadian Writing, Canadian Literature, and The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures. Most recently he co-edited, with University of British Columbia’s Phanuel Antwi, a special issue of Harvard-based Transition Magazine.

Chariandy on his award-winning novel Brother:

(video produced by the Writers' Trust of Canada)

Further Reading: