Ivan Coyote, David A. Robertson & Julie Flett among finalists for $25K Governor General’s Literary Awards

Ivan Coyote, David A. Robertson and Julie Flett are among the finalists for the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Awards.

The prizes, administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, are awarded in seven English-language categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young people’s literature — text, young people’s literature — illustration, drama and translation. Seven French-language awards are also given out in the same categories.

The winner in each category will receive $25,000. 

Books published between Sept. 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021 were eligible for the 2021 awards.

Coyote is a finalist in the nonfiction category for their essay collection Care Of.

Care Of is a collection of moving correspondence Coyote wrote in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown, in response to letters and communications they had received, some of which dated back to 2009. The correspondence ranges from personal letters to Facebook messages to notes received after performing onstage.

Coyote is a writer, storyteller and performer from Yukon. Their other books include Tomboy Survival GuideRebent SinnerGender FailureOne in Every Crowd and the novel Bow GripCoyote won the 2020 Freedom to Read Award, in recognition of their body of work that examines class, gender identity and social justice.

LISTEN | Ivan Coyote discusses Care Of with Shelagh Rogers:

17:12Ivan Coyote on Care Of

Ivan Coyote talks to Shelagh Rogers about Care Of: Letters, Connections and Cures. 17:12

Robertson and Flett are nominated in the young people’s literature — illustrated books for their picture book On the Trapline. The prize money in this category is split equally between the author and the illustrator.

On the Trapline celebrates Indigenous culture, and fathers and grandfathers, as it tells the generational story of a boy and his grandfather.

Robertson is a writer of Swampy Cree heritage based in Winnipeg. His other books the graphic novels Will I See? and Sugar Falls and the graphic novel series the Reckoner, the picture book When We Were Alonethe YA series  Misewa Saga and the memoir Black Water.

Flett is a Cree Métis author, illustrator and artist. She has illustrated several picture books, including Little YouMy Heart Fills with HappinessWe Sang You Home and Birdsong

LISTEN | David A. Robertson discusses On the Trapline with Shelagh Rogers:

15:33David Robertson’s On The Trapline

David Robertson talks to Shelagh Rogers about his new kids book, On The Trapline. 15:33

Other notable finalists include Rachel Cusk, nominated in the fiction category for her novel Second Place; Joe Ollmann, also nominated in the fiction category for his graphic novel Fictional Father; and Hoa Nguyen, nominated in the poetry category for A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure.

CBC Radio host Falen Johnson is nominated in the drama category for her play Two Indians. Johnson hosts The Secret Life of Canada and recently hosted Unreserved.

The winners will be announced on Nov. 17, 2021.

The 2020 edition of the awards were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 prizes were handed out in early 2021.

The Governor General’s Literary Awards were created in 1936. Past winners include Thomas KingMadeleine ThienMichael OndaatjeAlice Munro and Margaret Atwood.

The Canada Council for the Arts is a partner of the CBC Literary Prizes

You can see the finalists in all seven English-language categories below.


The 2020 winner was Five Little Indians by Michelle Good.


The 2020 winner was This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart by Madhur Anand.


The 2020 winner was Norma Jeane Baker of Troy by Anne Carson.

Young people’s literature — text

The 2020 winner was The King of Jam Sandwiches by Eric Walters.

Young people’s literature — illustrated books

The 2020 winner was The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers.


  • Crippled by Paul David Power
  • Selfie by Christine Quintana
  • Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes by Hannah Moscovitch
  • Take d Milk, Nah? by Jivesh Parasram
  • Two Indians by Falen Johnson

The 2020 winner was Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story by Kim Senklip Harvey.


The 2020 winner was If You Hear Me by Pascale Quiviger, translated by Lazer Lederhendler.

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