Canadians on the list for 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for Literature

Haitian Canadian author Myriam J.A. Chancy on the longlist 

Myriam J. A. Chancy

Haitian Canadian author Myriam J.A. Chancy and Jamaican American poet and writer Kei Miller are among the writers on the longlist for the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. The prize recognizes the best in Caribbean literature in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Chancy’s “What Storm, What Thunder” is on the longlist in the fiction category.

What Storm, What Thunder is a novel about the earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2010 and it tells the story of the people living in its aftermath.

The judges called it “a work of great force and beauty… profound in its literary and historical breadth and reach… Chancy’s narrators give texture to the everyday, to the delicate work of holding and piecing a life back together.”

British academic and broadcaster Shahidha Bari, writer Anton Nimblett and Canada-based scholar Christina Sharpe judged the fiction category.

Born in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, Chancy grew up moving between her homeland and Canada, where her family had immigrated. She now lives and teaches in the U.S. What Storm, What Thunder is her fourth novel.

Celeste Mohammed

The other books on the fiction longlist include How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones and Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed.

Miller has made the longlist in the nonfiction category for his essay collection, Things I Have Withheld.

Things I Have Withheld blends memoir and literary commentary to explore the experience of discrimination through the silence that exists in our conversations around race, sex and gender.

“[It is] a deep and stirring excursion into the taboo, the ‘dark’ places where truth and reality reside, often unrecognised and silent because of fear of discrimination, hatred, and prejudice … Miller summons up his courage and narrative voice as a Black Jamaican gay man to explore these unspoken truths in an unforgettable, layered and moving way,” said the judges, Belizean biographer Godfrey Smith, Jamaican Canadian writer Rachel Manley and Guyanese British writer Anita Sethi.

Miller was born in Jamaica and is now based in Miami. In 2014, he won the prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry for his fourth collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. His 2017 novel, Augustown, received the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Prix Les Afriques and the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde.

Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer and The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein are the other titles on the nonfiction longlist.

The poetry longlist includes: Thinking with Trees by Jason Allen-Paisant, What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey and Zion Roses by Monica Minott. 

A winner will be chosen in each of the three genres, and these winners comprise the shortlist for the overall prize.

The overall prize winner will receive $10,000 US ($12,601.15 Cdn). The two remaining finalists will each receive $3,000 US (3,780.34 Cdn).

The overall prize will be judged by Trinidadian British writer Roger Robinson, winner of the 2019 T.S. Eliot Prize.

The winner will be announced on April 30, 2022.

Past winners include Olive Senior, who won the overall prize in 2016 for her novel The Pain Tree, Dionne Brand, who won the fiction category in 2019 for her novel Theory and Canisia Lubrin who was named the overall prize in 2021 for her poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst.

The OCM Bocas Prize has been awarded annually since 2011.