Trinidad national Ian Williams took home the award for “Reproduction”, published by Random House Canada. The win also earned Williams $100,000, courtesy of Scotiabank.
The novel tells the story of a sober-minded teenager from a small island nation and the listless heir to a German family fortune meet in the hospital room where their mothers lay dying.
From there, Williams unspools a narrative so entangled it strains against novelistic convention.
Of the winning book, the jury wrote: “Ian Williams’ ‘Reproduction’ is many things at once. It’s an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography.
“It’s a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress, persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.”
“You have no idea how special this is for me,” Williams said as he accepted the prize, telling the story of how the first book he bought with his own money was one by Margaret Atwood, who was in the audience.
Williams and his family, emigrated from Trinidad to Canada in the late 1980s. He is the author of “Personals”, shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award; “Not Anyone’s Anything”, winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada; and “You Know Who You Are”, a finalist for the ReLit Prize for poetry.
Williams was named one of 10 Canadian writers to watch by CBC. Williams completed his Ph.D. in English at the University of Toronto and is currently an assistant professor of poetry in the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. He was the 2014-2015 Canadian Writer-in-Residence for the University of Calgary’s Distinguished Writers Program.
The Giller Prize, founded by Jack Rabinovitch in 1994, highlights the best in Canadian fiction each year. In 2005, the prize teamed up with Scotiabank. The award is named in honor of the late literary journalist Doris Giller by her husband Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch, who died in 2017.