‘The Sleeping Car Porter’ writer Suzette Mayr wins 2022 Giller Prize

Suzette Mayr has won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Suzette Mayr

Calgary-born and of German and Bahamian background, Mayr received the honour for her novel “The Sleeping Car Porter.”

“I think today I’m officially done with my feelings of impostor syndrome as a writer,” Mayr told the crowd assembled at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

“The Sleeping Car Porter,” published by Coach House Books, follows a queer Black train porter on a particularly difficult trip out west in 1929.

He stays up all night to serve the white passengers on board, as he grapples with sleep-deprivation-induced hallucinations.

The Giller jurors praised Mayr for rendering a work of historical fiction “alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary.”

“The Sleeping Car Porter” is Mayr’s sixth novel. Her third, “Monoceros,” won the W. O. Mitchell Book Prize and was longlisted for the Giller.

Mayr is a former president of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, and teaches creative writing at the University of Calgary.

Monday night’s glitzy affair was hosted by poet Rupi Kaur and actress-producer Sarah Gadon.

This year’s runners-up each received $10,000.

Giller executive Elana Rabinovitch said this year marks a return to form for the annual fete her father founded.

“Last year, it was very small. There was still a kind of frisson of nervousness in the air because of COVID,” she said ahead of the ceremony. “This year, it feels like almost the before times, but it’s better, because everybody is so excited to be here. People are thrilled to be out.”

Among the big names who turned out were CanLit legend Margaret Atwood, comedian Rick Mercer and American-Canadian novelist and screenwriter John Irving.

“It’s very interesting to see the different incarnations of the Giller,” said Atwood, a two-time winner and long-time attendee.

“Some people got older and died; other people grew up and wrote books.”

The Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel, graphic novel or short story collection published in English.

This year’s short list was culled from 138 books submitted by publishers across Canada, organizers said.

The Giller was established by Jack Rabinovitch in 1994 in memory of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller.

Last year’s winner was Omar El Akkad for his novel “What Strange Paradise.”