Author Esi Edugyan won the Giller Prize, considered one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards, for her novel “Washington Black” on Monday night at a gala ceremony in Toronto. The prize comes with an award of $75,000.
Edugyan’s novel follows an 11-year-old slave on a Barbados sugar plantation who is eventually apprenticed to a man who has invented a flying machine, which will take them both away.
After winning the award, Edugyan told the National Post that the experience of writing “Washington Black” “opened me to writing about anything.”
“Stories of the marginalized, it’s extremely important to get those out there, and for us to be reading them, and trying to imagine ourselves into other skins, and not closing ourselves down,” she said. “It’s part of, I think, keeping the dialogue alive, and keeping empathy alive.”
Other notable books that made the Giller shortlist this year included Patrick deWitt’s “French Exit” and Sheila Heti’s “Motherhood.”
“Washington Black” has been recognized across the globe. It was also a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in the U.K. and the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in the U.S.
This is the second Giller Prize for Edugyan. She won in 2011 for her novel “Half-Blood Blues.”
The Giller Prize, which was first awarded in 1994 and is sponsored by Canadian bank Scotiabank, is awarded to Canadian writers. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje.