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Giller longlist features first-timers Joshua Whitehead, Sheila Heti, Tanya Tagaq, up against previous winner Esi Edugyan

Giller nominees Joshua Whitehead, Tanya Tagaq, Sheila Heti

The Scotiabank Giller Prize may be turning 25 this year, but judging from this year’s 12-title longlist, the $100,000 award is still full of surprises.

This year’s list is dominated by first-time nominees, including Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, for her hybrid memoir-novel Split Tooth, and Joshua Whitehead for his debut novel, Jonny Appleseed. That book is published by Arsenal Pulp Press, its first appearance on a Giller longlist since David Chariandy’s 2007 novel, Soucouyant.* Montreal publisher Baraka Books makes its first appearance with Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge.

Esi Edugyan’s epic post-slavery novel Washington Black (already a contender for this year’s Man Booker Prize) takes a slot on the list alongside Patrick deWitt’s dark comedy of manners, French Exit. Those who known their CanLit history might experience a bit of déjà vu: in 2011, Edugyan’s novel Half Blood Blues duked it out against deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers on the award circuit, with the two titles vying for several major awards, including the Man Booker Prize. Ultimately, Edugyan took home the Giller, while deWitt won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and a Governor General’s Literary Award. Other previous Giller finalists include Lisa Moore for her story collection Something for Everyone, Kim Thúy for her novel Vi, and Rawi Hage for his novel Beirut Hellfire Society.

The longlist was selected by a jury comprising Toronto author Kamal Al-Solaylee, who acted as chair; Montreal author and former Giller nominee Heather O’Neill; U.S. writer John Freeman; U.K. novelist Philip Hensher; and Maxine Bailey, a playwright and vice-president of advancement for the Toronto International Film Festival. The shortlist will be announced Oct. 1. The winner will be revealed via live broadcast on Nov. 19.

The 12 nominees are:
  • Zolitude, Paige Cooper (A John Metcalf Book/Biblioasis)
  • French Exit, Patrick deWitt (House of Anansi Press)
  • Songs for the Cold of Heart, Eric Dupont; Peter McCambridge (QC Fiction/Baraka Books)
  • Washington Black, Esi Edugyan (Patrick Crean Editions/HarperCollins)
  • Beirut Hellfire Society, Rawi Hage (Knopf Canada)
  • Motherhood, Sheila Heti (Knopf Canada)
  • Our Homesick Songs, Emma Hooper (Hamish Hamilton Canada)
  • An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim (Viking Canada)
  • Something for Everyone, Lisa Moore (Astoria/Anansi)
  • Split Tooth, Tanya Tagaq (Viking Canada)
  • Vi, Kim Thúy; Sheila Fischman, trans. (Random House Canada)
  • Jonny Appleseed, Joshua Whitehead (Arsenal Pulp Press)

*Correction, Sept. 17: An earlier version of this story stated this is Arsenal Pulp’s debut on the longlist.