Omar El Akkad wins the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Omar El Akkad has been named the winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel, What Strange Paradise, published by McClelland & Stewart, taking home $100,000 courtesy of Scotiabank. 

The announcement was made at a black-tie dinner and award ceremony hosted by poet, artist and performer Rupi Kaur and Canadian actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, attended by about 200 members of the publishing, media and arts communities. Presented by Scotia Wealth Management, the gala was broadcast live and commercial-free by Canada’s national public broadcaster on CBC TV and CBC Radio One and streamed live on CBC Gem and

This year, the Prize celebrates its 28th anniversary.

The remaining finalists, listed below, will each receive $10,000:

  • Angélique Lalonde for her story collection Glorious Frazzled Beings, published by House of Anansi
  • Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia for her novel The Son of The House, published by Dundurn Press
  • Jordan Tannahill for his novel The Listeners, published by HarperCollins Canada
  • Miriam Toews for her novel Fight Night, published by Knopf Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada

The longlistshortlist, and winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize were selected by an esteemed five-member jury panel: Canadian authors Zalika Reid-Benta (Jury Chair), Megan Gail Coles and Joshua Whitehead, Malaysian novelist Tash Aw and American author Joshua Ferris. The jury narrowed down the 132 submitted works to 12 to create the longlist and on October 5, announced the shortlisted authors before picking tonight’s winner.

Of the winning book, the jury wrote:

“Amid all the anger and confusion surrounding the global refugee crisis, Omar El Akkad’s What Strange Paradise paints a portrait of displacement and belonging that is at once unflinching and tender. In examining the confluence of war, migration and a sense of settlement, it raises questions of indifference and powerlessness and, ultimately, offers clues as to how we might reach out empathetically in a divided world.”

Omar El Akkad is an author and journalist. His debut novel, American War, was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, the Oregon Book Award for fiction, and the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Listen to CBC Radio’s q tomorrow at 10 a.m. ET (10:30 NT) for an interview with Omar El Akkad and relive the gala at

Ask the author your questions about his book during a live Twitter chat hosted by @GillerPrize on Wednesday, November 10, at 2 p.m. ET using the hashtag #GillerWinner.

Images from tonight’s gala will be available on the Media Resources page at

“It’s nothing short of thrilling to be here tonight to celebrate all the finalists and to honour Omar El Akkad on his win for What Strange Paradise. The book is unflinching in its examination of our current refugee crisis and the lengths to which people will go to find home, safety and belonging. A brilliant book by a brilliant author to whom I wish continued success and ongoing recognition.”
Elana Rabinovitch, Executive Director, Scotiabank Giller Prize

“Congratulations to Omar El Akkad for winning the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize! Scotiabank is steadfast in its commitment to the arts in Canada, and we are proud to showcase Canada’s incredible literary talent through the Scotiabank Giller Prize. We are thrilled that this partnership, which began in 2005, has helped raise the profile of Canadian authors at home and around the world. Congratulations again to Omar El Akkad and welcome to the Scotiabank Giller Prize family. Thank you to all of the short and longlisted authors for inspiring and enriching us with your stories

John Doig, Executive Vice President, Retail Sales, Scotiabank

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