“I am honoured that The Illegal has been chosen as the winner of Canada Reads 2016. Clara Hughes was more than a passionate and ardent defender. She also became a friend and helped my wife Miranda Hill, friends and me raise funds to get ready to bring a refugee family to Hamilton,” said author Lawrence Hill.
The University of Guelph professor congratulated all the other authors and defenders who also brought marvelous books to Canada Reads: Adam Copeland defended Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter; Farah Mohamed defended Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz; Vinay Virmani defended The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami, and Bruce Poon Tip defended Birdie by Tracey Lindberg.
This is Hill’s second time winning Canada Reads, after claiming the title in 2009 for The Book of Negroes, an international bestseller.
The Illegal, a national bestseller, asks Canadians to imagine the humanity of one refugee “and thus all refugees,” said Hughes in her final defence of the novel.
Hill, author of 10 books with The Book of Negroes translated into 10 languages, published worldwide, and made into an award-winning miniseries co-written by Hill, said he is adapting The Illegal for a TV miniseries.
Once the winner was declared, Hill came out to surprise the panelists. The author was full of praise for Canada Reads – he revealed he received a boost in sales and attention from The Book of Negroes.
“If you win a literary prize, that prize will be discussed for a day or so, and then fade. With Canada Reads, people are discussing five Canadians books for months, “said Hill.
Hill, who will teach creative writing at Guelph in July, also received the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
A member of the Order of Canada, Hill chairs the jury for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, considered Canada’s top literary award.
He has taught fiction and mentored writers in the Booming Ground Program at the University of British Columbia, Ryerson University, the Humber School for Writers, the Banff Centre and Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his master’s degree in creative writing.
His advice to potential writers? “I should say that you should write the book that you would want to finish, if you were to die next year; it should fill you with a sense of immediacy and purpose. You should feel that it will be an utter rip-off if you come to the end of your life without finishing that book.
“You need something to sustain you over many long and painful drafts and if it’s not passion, what else do you have?”