First-time novelists awarded the 2012 Canada-Japan Literary Awards

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Ottawa, October 29, 2012 –The Canada Council for the Arts announced today that writers from Toronto and Montreal have won the 2012 Canada-Japan Literary Awards, which recognize literary excellence by Canadian authors writing on Japan or Japanese themes. The English-language winning work is The Reading List by Leslie Shimotakahara, Toronto. The French-language winning work is Coma by Montreal’s François Gilbert.

The biannual awards, worth $ 10,000 each, were established by the Japanese government through an endowment to the Canada Council and were first awarded in 1989. Exceptionally this year, the winning titles are the authors’ first books.

“Over the past two decades, this prestigious award has provided opportunities for both the authors and the readers to deepen their insight into Canada and Japan, which is based on precious common values, including multiculturalism,” said His Excellency Kaoru Ishikawa, Ambassador of Japan to Canada. “On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to express deep gratitude to the Canada Council for the Arts for its longstanding dedication to managing and overseeing this award.”

“The 2012 winning books demonstrate the strength and diversity of Canadian writing and a contemporary concern for identity,” said Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council. “Our partnership with the Japanese Embassy enables us to recognize the contribution of these novelists to deepening our understanding of our respective cultures.”

This year, the jury members for the English-language book were David Bergen (Winnipeg), Anne Park Shannon (Victoria) and Priscila Uppal (Toronto). The jury members for the French language book were Françoise Enguehard (St. John’s, N.L.), Émile Martel (Montreal) and Michel Régnier (Montreal).

The Reading List
by Leslie Shimotakahara
Variety Crossing Press
In selecting Leslie Shimotakahara, the jury members said, “The Reading List offers readers an exciting hybrid of memoir, family and national history, and literary criticism. Told in an energetic style and with almost shameless frankness and vulnerability, Shimotakahara exposes her passion for reading Western novels while experiencing disastrous love affairs and a more disastrous academic career, even as she attempts to reconnect with her demanding Japanese Canadian parents and their hidden family secrets. At times eloquent, moving, shocking, laugh out loud funny, even charmingly awkward, The Reading List is an ambitious and noteworthy debut by a brave young writer.”

Leslie Shimotakahara completed a BA in Honours English from McGill University in 2000, and her MA and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown University in 2006, writing her dissertation on regionalist and modernist aesthetics in a record two years. After graduation, she was employed at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, where she taught until 2008. Now back in her home town of Toronto, Leslie has returned to her childhood love, creative writing. In 2009, she was selected as one of Diaspora Dialogues’ Emerging Writers, and her fiction has been published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto and Maple Tree Literary Supplement. Leslie also blogs at http://www.the-reading-list.com. The Reading List is her first book. She is currently completing a historical novel, The Cherry Blossom Queen, set during the Japanese Internment.

Coma
by François Gilbert
Leméac Éditeur
In selecting François Gilbert, the jury members said, “Coma is François Gilbert’s first novel. Set in China and Japan, this psychologically complex novel explores, between two countries and two cultures, the search for self and identity in trying to reconcile new loves and a failed romance. The writing is even and rhythmic, the analysis is subtle and the ending is intriguing.”

François Gilbert was born in Montreal and studied at UQAM, earning an MA in creative writing and a Certificate in sceenwriting. Since 2003, he has acted with the Ligue d’improvisation montréalaise. In addition to writing for the stage and the screen, he gives workshops at UQAM for participants in the Francization program. François has travelled a number of times to Asia, the setting for his first novel. In November he will travel to Japan to finish work on his next novel.

General information
The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s national arts funder. Its grants to artists and organizations contribute to a vibrant arts scene in Canada. Its awards celebrate creativity by recognizing exceptional Canadians in the arts, humanities and sciences. The Canada Council Art Bank is a national collection of over 17,000 Canadian contemporary artworks – all accessible to the public through rental, loan and outreach programs. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO operates under the general authority of the Canada Council.

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