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Trillium Book Award

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Trillium Book Award
Awarded forOutstanding work of literature in Ontario
Sponsored byGovernment of Ontario
Presented byOntario Creates
  • Books:
    • CA$20,000 for author
    • CA$2,500 for publisher

    Other categories:

    • CA$10,000 for author
    • CA$2,000 for publisher
First awarded1987 (1987)

The Trillium Book Award (French: Prix littéraire Trillium or Prix Trillium) is an annual literary award presented to writers in Ontario, Canada. It is administered by Ontario Creates, a Crown agency of the Government of Ontario, which is overseen by the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. The monetary component for the award includes amounts paid to the author of the book and to the publisher of the book. The award has been expanded several times since its establishment in 1987: a separate award for French-language literature was added in 1994, an award for poetry in each language was added in 2003, and an award for French-language children's literature was added in 2006.


The Trillium Book Award was created for three reasons:

  • to recognize a book of literary excellence which furthers the understanding of Ontarians and Ontario society;
  • to assist Ontario’s publishing industry; and,
  • to bring Ontario’s public library and writing communities closer together.

The Trillium Award was one of several creative initiatives undertaken by the Libraries and Community Information Branch while under the direction of Wil Vanderelst during the 1980s, that encouraged the development of Ontario writers and the distribution of their works. When created in 1987 the Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium was the richest book award in Canada with a cash prize of $10,000 to the winner. It was also unique in that a separate $2000 would go to the publisher of the winning book to assist in its marketing and promotion. Under the auspices of the Libraries Branch, both the shortlisted books and the finalist were marketed through a unique logo for the prize, posters, bookmarks as well as an aggressive six-week media campaign targeting both bookstores as well as public libraries. (The prize today is $20,000 for the writer with $2,500 for the publisher, and $10,000/$2000 for the poetry prize.)

The first jury was bilingual and selected seven nominees for the book award. Books in both languages were considered, as were poetry, fiction, and non-fiction books. The members of the first jury were Joyce Marshall, novelist and translator; Pierre Levesque, an Ottawa bookseller and specialist in French Canadian books; Grace Buller, retired librarian and former editor of Ontario Library Review (of Books); William Eccles, historian and Professor Emeritus; and Wayne Grady, anthologist, critic, translator, and former editor of Harrowsmith.

The Trillium Book Award met with considerable approval from newspaper book editors at the time of the first award in 1988. While some critics did not like a judged competition involving personal taste in reading the material, the benefits of the award in assisting the marketing of Canadian books was thought more important. The Writers’ Union led at that time by the writer Matt Cohen met with Wil Vanderelst and strongly supported both programs given cutbacks in support for arts organizations at the federal level. Through reprioritizing, the public libraries budget these programs continued – although the writers in libraries program was eventually eliminated as part of the province’s budgetary restrictions. The Trillium Book Award managed to avoid the budgetary ax only through the personal support of the then Premier, Bob Rae. He is the only Premier of Ontario who has attended the presentation program of the award.

Awards and eligibility[edit]

The Trillium Award is open to books in any genre: fiction, non-fiction, drama, children's books, and poetry. Anthologies, new editions, re-issues and translations are not eligible. Electronic and self-published books are also ineligible. Three jury members per language judge the submissions, select the shortlist and the winning title. The jury is composed of writers and other members of the literary community.

Canadian citizens and landed immigrants who have lived in Ontario for at least three out of the past five years and who have been published anywhere in the world are eligible. Their publishers are invited to submit titles to the Ministry of Culture for consideration. In 1993 the award was expanded by Premier Bob Rae's government to also include a French-language category;[1] it was first awarded in 1994.

In 2003, new English and French poetry categories were added to the awards. The following year, however, due to the smaller number of French-language titles published in Ontario there were not enough French poetry submissions to present an award; accordingly, the French section is now divided into poetry and children's literature awards presented in alternating years, with each award having an eligibility period of two years rather than one. The English poetry award continues to be presented yearly, and an English children's literature award is not presented; however, English children's books are eligible to be nominated for the English fiction award.

Winners and nominees[edit]

From 1987 to 1993, when only a single award was presented irrespective of language or literary genre, winners and nominees are directly listed below. From 1994 on, please see Trillium Book Award, English and Trillium Book Award, French.

Year Author Title Result Ref
1987 Michael Ondaatje In the Skin of a Lion Winner [2]
Chad Gaffield Language, Schooling and Cultural Conflicts Nominee [2]
Welwyn Wilton Katz False Face
Linda McQuaig Behind Closed Doors
Tom Patterson and Allan Gould First Stage: The Making of the Stratford Festival
Daniel Poliquin L'Obomsawin
Paul Quarrington King Leary
1988 Timothy Findley Stones Winner [3]
Margaret Atwood Cat's Eye Nominee [4]
Neil Bissoondath A Casual Brutality
Matt Cohen Living on Water
Anne Collins In the Sleep Room
Robertson Davies The Lyre of Orpheus
Mark Frutkin Atmospheres Apollinaire
Maurice Henrie La Chambre à mourir
Peter F. Neary Newfoundland in the North Atlantic World, 1929-1949
Jeffrey Simpson Spoils of Power: The Politics of Patronage
1989 Modris Eksteins Rites of Spring Winner [5]
John Ayre Northrop Frye Nominee [6]
Patrick Brode The Odyssey of John Anderson
Barbara Carey The Year in Pictures
Ken Dryden and Roy MacGregor Home Game: Hockey and Life in Canada
John English The Life of Lester B. Pearson, Volume I: Shadow of Heaven, 1897–1948
Brian Loring Villa Unauthorized Action
Alan Walker Franz Liszt, Volume 2: The Weimar Years, 1848-1861
William Westfall Two Worlds
Ronald Wright Time Among the Maya
1990 Alice Munro Friend of My Youth Winner [7]
Donald Akenson At Face Value: The Life and Times of Eliza McCormack/John White Nominee [8]
Pierre Berton The Great Depression 1929-1939
Dionne Brand No Language Is Neutral
Mary di Michele Luminous Emergencies
Northrop Frye Words with Power: Being a Second Study of the Bible and Literature
Jack Granatstein and Robert Bothwell Pirouette: Pierre Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Policy
Ann-Marie MacDonald Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)
Gabrielle Poulin La Couronne d'oubli
Diane Schoemperlen The Man of My Dreams
1991 Margaret Atwood Wilderness Tips Winner [9]
Constance Beresford-Howe A Serious Widow Nominee [10]
Eliza Clark Miss You Like Crazy
Robertson Davies Murther and Walking Spirits
Janette Turner Hospital Isobars
Norman Levine Something Happened Here
David Macfarlane The Danger Tree
Alberto Manguel News from a Foreign Country Came
Anne Michaels Miner's Pond
Rohinton Mistry Such a Long Journey
John Sawatsky Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition
1992 Michael Ondaatje The English Patient Winner [11]
Carole Corbeil Voice-Over Nominee [12]
John English The Worldly Years: The Life of Lester Pearson 1949-1972
Joan Finnigan Wintering Over
Barbara Gowdy We So Seldom Look on Love
Sandra Gwyn Tapestry of War: A Private View of Canadians in the Great War
Steven Heighton Flight Paths of the Emperor
Janette Turner Hospital The Last Magician
Ronald Wright Stolen Continents
1993 Margaret Atwood The Robber Bride Winner [13]
Jane Urquhart Away
Andrée Christensen Pavane pour la naissance d'une infante defunte Nominee [14]
Leslie Smith Dow Adele Hugo: La Miserable
Ernest Hillen The Way of a Boy: A Memoir of Java
John Ibbitson The Night Hazel Came to Town
Ivan Kalmar The Trotskys, Freuds and Woody Allens: Portraits of a Culture
Pierre Léon Sur le piste des Jolicoeur
Leon Surette The Birth of Modernism: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats and the Occult
Susan Swan The Wives of Bath


  1. ^ "Trillium Book Award". The Walrus. Archived from the original on 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
  2. ^ a b Currie, Rod (1988-05-12). "Writer wins $10,000 award for labor saga". Vancouver Sun.
  3. ^ "Findley tops big names to win prize". Vancouver Sun. 1989-04-11.
  4. ^ "Three double nominees for major book awards". Toronto Star. 1989-02-28.
  5. ^ "Rites of Spring wins Trillium". Montreal Gazette. 1990-04-13.
  6. ^ "Contest finalists announced". Toronto Star. 1990-02-28.
  7. ^ Kirchhoff, H. J. (1991-04-17). "Friend of My Youth takes $10,000: Munro wins Trillium". The Globe and Mail.
  8. ^ "Book award finalists named". Ottawa Citizen. 1991-03-01.
  9. ^ "Atwood wins Trillium". Financial Post. 1992-04-13.
  10. ^ Currie, Rod (1992-02-27). "Trillium nominees include Macfarlane". Hamilton Spectator.
  11. ^ "Ondaatje takes home Trillium Book Award". Hamilton Spectator, April 10, 1993.
  12. ^ "Trillium finalists announced". The Globe and Mail. 1993-02-24.
  13. ^ "Atwood, Urquhart share award". Montreal Gazette. 1994-04-21.
  14. ^ "10 Ontario books up for Trillium awards". Hamilton Spectator. 1994-03-02.

External links[edit]