Toronto writer Ann Shin wins $20,000 Trillium Prize for North Korean novel ‘The Last Exiles’

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Debut Toronto novelist Ann Shin has won the Trillium Book Award for her first novel, “The Last Exiles,” at the 35th anniversary edition of the prize geared to honouring Ontario writers.

Four awards in French- and English-language categories were handed out: English book, French book and one in each language in poetry. The winners of the awards, handed out by Ontario Creates, were feted at an in-person event in Toronto Tuesday evening, after two years of virtual award ceremonies.

Shin receives $20,000 for her winning title, published by Park Row/Harlequin, a novel inspired by true events about two lovers from North Korea that offers a rare glimpse into life in that country, based on intense research she did stemming from her own family history. She adds award-winning author to her resumé, which includes award-winning filmmaker for her 2014 documentary “The Defector: Escape From North Korea” which garnered three Canadian Screen Awards. Her 2016 documentary “My Enemy, My Brother” was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination and nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award.

Other finalists for the English book prize — which includes fiction and non-fiction titles — were “Missed Connections: A Memoir in Letters Never Sent” by Toronto writer Brian Francis (McClelland & Stewart); “Aether” by Hamilton-born author Catherine Graham (Buckrider Books/Wolsak & Wynn, interestingly a book of poetry/prose shortlisted in the book category, not the poetry category); “The Pump” by debut author Sydney Hegele from Grimsby, Ont. (Invisible Publishing); and “The Hunter And The Old Woman” by Toronto writer Pamela Korgemagi (House of Anansi).

Bardia Sinaee, author of debut book “Intruder” (House of Anansi), won the $10,000 English poetry prize.

Other finalists in that category included “The Untranslatable” by Roxanna Bennett (Gordon Hill Press) and “Letters in a Bruised Cosmos” by Liz Howard (McClelland & Stewart).

An award was also handed out for best book in French: “Un conte de l’apocalypse” by Robert Marinier (Éditions Prise de parole). The poetry winner was “Exosquelette” by Chloé LaDuchesse (Mémoire d’encrier).

In addition to the $20,000 Trillium Book Award, the winning publisher receives $2,500 to promote the book; the poetry/children’s book award winners receive $10,000 and their publishers $2,000. All shortlisted finalists receive $500.

The Trillium Book Award was established in 1987 by the Ontario government with the aim of recognizing literary excellence, and the diversity of Ontario writers and writing in both English and French. The award is open to books in any genre, which makes for a rich, diverse range of fiction and non-fiction winning titles.

Previous Trillium winners have included Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Souvankham Thammavongsa and Timothy Findley.

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