Indigenous Canadian poet Marie “Annharte” Baker and American graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang will each receive one of two new awards at this year’s Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal, taking place April 20–26.
Annharte will be presented with the First Peoples Literary Prize for excellent Canadian First Nations writing for her collection Indigena Awry. Yang will receive the Words to Change Prize for a writer who brings communities together.
Bleu Metropolis programming director Gregory McCormick says, “Our Words to Change Prize… was a reaction to all the news about politics of exclusion that seem to be common in recent months and years, and since our programming is so international, valuing writers who include rather than exclude is important for us and for our public. Our First Peoples Prize allows us to shine a spotlight on some of the best indigenous writing coming from Canada. This year our jury chose a writer who’s enormously respected in the indigenous world as an elder poet… [Annharte]’s doing events on her poetry, of course, but also on storytelling, disability rights, and women writers in the indigenous community.”
As part of the Words to Change prize, the festival has also launched a video blog contest asking university-aged students in Quebec to explain why multiculturalism is important to them and to the province.
The festival’s other two annual awards will also be presented: the $10,000 International Grand Prix for lifetime literary achievement to Calgary-born author Nancy Huston, and the $5,000 Azul Prize for a work of international fiction (Spanish-, English-, French-language) to Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz for his story collection This Is How You Lose Her.
More than 100 authors from all over the world will be participating in other events, which include literary film screenings; reading series; musical and theatrical performances; author interviews hosted by CBC’s Paul Kennedy, Montreal author Heather O’Neill, and others; as well as book launches and workshops. Canadian authors such as Mark Abley, David Bezmozgis, Marianne Dubuc, Caterina Edwards, Lee Maracle, and Guillaume Morissette will be present. Children’s programming, featuring more than 60 BFYP authors and illustrators, will take place at venues across the city.
Programming will be offered in a number of languages, including Spanish and Italian, says McCormick.
“This international flavour makes us unusual, not just in Canada, but in North America,” he says. “This year, we have writers from 12 countries doing events in eight languages… We’re excited about the variety of what we have to offer.”