Comics made it into two new categories last week in Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards (GGBooks), earning nods in both the Fiction and Translation categories. Nominated in the Fiction category was Joe Ollmann’s Fictional Father; and in the Translation category (French to English) were Helge Dascher & Rob Aspinall for Michel Rabagliati’s Paul at Home. Both books were published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Their publisher tweeted congratulations:
Congratulations to @jollmann1 (FICTIONAL FATHER) and Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall (PAUL AT HOME by Michel Rabagliati), finalists for the #GGBooks2021. This is the first time comics have appeared in the adult fiction or translation categories! https://t.co/4OU6Ka384J pic.twitter.com/9DvxvTHvaG
— Drawn & Quarterly (@DandQ) October 14, 2021
On Facebook, Joe Ollmann wrote about the nomination of Fictional Father, the story of a struggling middle-aged painter trying to escape from the shadow of a neglectful, internationally famous cartoonist parent:
“Well hello. my book Fictional Father has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. The first ever graphic novel nominated in the adult fiction category. I’m really stunned and humbled and grateful. I’m also really happy that comics are being recognized as literature. Seriously, that has been making me weepy all day. So many comics creators and publishers have been striving for the form to be accepted as valid literature, thanks to all of you. There are many, many other books more deserving than mine to be nominated, but I’m just super excited that a graphic novel is up there with the book books.”
Paul at Home is the latest in Quebecois cartoonist Michel Rabagliati’s celebrated Paul series which debuted in 2000 with Paul à la Campagne (translated and released by D&Q the following year as Paul in the Countryside). Paul at Home deals with the struggles of the now 50 year old protagonist. D&Q describes it as “a playful and poetic rumination on loss and the sometimes unsettling changes that come with middle age.”
Comics are no stranger to the GGBooks. Jillian and Mariko Tamaki have jointly made it into the Awards twice for their collaborations. Jillian Tamaki won the award for This One Summer in the Children’s Literature – Illustration category in 2014, in 2008 Mariko was nominated for Skim (both books published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press) in the Young People’s Literature – Text category. The nomination in 2008 caused consternation over lack of full crediting of collaborators for graphic novels. The Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books category saw John Martz’s A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories (Koyama Press) nominated in 2015.
The winners of the GGBooks will be declared on November 17. Winners get C$25,000 (~ $20,000), their publisher C$3000 (~$2,400), and finalists receive C$1,000 (~$800).
The Governor General’s Literary Awards (shorted to GGBooks) was established in 1936. The awards “play an important role in the ongoing recognition of Canada’s diverse and unique literary landscape”. GGBooks covers a number of categories, including translation, fiction, non-fiction and poetry however comics does not have its own category – although the Canadian state does provide grants to the comic arts. The awards are split into two parallel lists for English and French language titles.