Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Omar El Akkad won a Canadian literary award

TORONTO (AP) – Omar El Akkad, Egyptian-Canadian writer and journalist, author of the story of the global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child, has received Canada’s richest literary award.

El Akkad won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his book What a Strange Paradise on Monday night. The former Globe and Mail journalist received the award at a gala concert in Toronto that aired on national television on Monday night.

What a Strange Paradise, published by McClelland & Stewart, is a novel about two children caught up in a global refugee crisis.

The story alternates between Amir, a Syrian boy surviving a shipwreck on an unnamed island, and Vanna, a local teenage girl who rescues him.

El Akkad, 39, moved to Canada when he was 16 and went to high school in Montreal and then went to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He lived in Toronto for about ten years and worked as a reporter on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

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The Portland, Oregon-based writer won critical and commercial success with his 2017 debut, War for America, which won the Northwest Pacific Booksellers Association Award, the Oregon Book Award for Fiction, and the Kobo Emerging Writers Award.

The black tie affair on Monday night reinstated Giller as a holiday for the fall book season after the celebration was held remotely last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers cut the usual guest list by more than half to ease social distancing, and participants were required to provide proof of vaccination in order to attend the celebrations.

The Giller Prize is considered one of the most prestigious in Canadian literature. Past winners have included Margaret Atwood, Mordecai Richler and Alice Munroe.

The Giller was created in 1994 by businessman Jack Rabinovich in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller. It honors the best of Canadian fiction.

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