Amanda Parris from Jane Street to Rideau Hall

By Stephen Weir

 Last Tuesday morning the winners of this year’s Governor General Literary Awards were announced. Canadian Caribbean Playwright Amanda Parris won top honours in the English Drama category for her script of her play the Other Side of the Game.

Amanda Parris

Amanda Parris was born in London, England, descending from Grenadian and Venezuelan ancestry, and was raised on the south side of Jane Street in Toronto. Before taking one of the nation’s most prestigious literary award, she was best known for her work in the media as the host of CBC TV’s Exhibitionists and CBC Radio 2’s Marvin’s Room.

Other Side of the Game is a play about two Toronto black women from different decades – the 1970s and today – who are community organizers.  The Caribbean Camera gave her play rave reviews when it was first performed in Regent Park 2017.

Set before the rise of Black Lives Matter, Other Side Of The Game slips from the 70s and 80s to now. Parris weaves a story of gagged Black women who have to do the real work of community politics, while bailing out the men, raising fatherless children and following a ride-or-die code. At the same time the story flicks forward to contemporary times to give voice to Black women who support their men, even when their partners have made the wrong choices.

The Caribbean Camera was the only community paper to review the 90-minute play two years ago.

We said in part:  “Toronto fervently wishes that the name Lester Donaldson would not be spoken and that 29 years after his death the city could return to being known as Toronto The Good.   But if wishes were kittens, Amanda Parris’s debut play, Other Side Of The Game, would still be a lion’s roar against Toronto’s treatment of the Black community – from police shootings in the last century to carding in the 2000s.”

Also winning GG English awards and $25,000 purses on Tuesday were:

Fiction: “Five Wives” by Joan Thomas; Poetry: “Holy Wild” by Gwen Benaway; Non-Fiction: “To the River: Losing My Brother” by Don Gillmor; Young People’s Literature, “Stand on the Sky” by Erin Bow; Young People’s Literature, Illustrated: “Small in the City” by Sydney Smith of Halifax; and, Book Translation (from French to English): “Birds of a Kind” translated by Linda Gaboriau from “Tous des oiseaux” by Wajdi Mouawad.

Amanda Parris and the other GG winners will appear at public readings in Ottawa on Dec. 11 and 12. After the readings the six winners will be celebrated at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, the official residence of Governor General Julie Payette.