Omar El Akkad wins the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘What Strange Paradise’

Canada’s top authors came together last night to celebrate Canadian literature for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize Awards held at the Hyatt park hotel. The Giller award is presented each year to celebrate the success and achievements of Canadian writers and novelists. The Gala was hosted by Rupi Kaur (Milk And Honey) and actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, attended by around 200 guests from publishing, media, and art.

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood

The $100,000 Giller grand prize courtesy of Scotiabank went to Omar El Akkad for his novel What Strange Paradise, published by McClelland & Stewart. The book is about a young boy fleeing Syria and meets a girl in Greece, who wants to help this boy. The novel paints a portrait of displacement and belonging in a time of war and two strangers who come from a different background but will do anything to help keep each other safe. In a world of crisis, they rely on the kindness of strangers.

miriam toews

Some other notable finalists, who each will receive $10,000 include

  • 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 panel of Jury this year included Zalika Reid-Benta, Megan Gail Coles, Joshua Whitehead, Tash Aw, and Joshua Ferris.

Rupi Kaur
Bilal Baig
Bilal Baig
Joshua Whitehead


Ask questions to Omar El Akkad during a live Twitter chat hosted by @gillerprize on Wednesday, Nov 10 at 2 PM EST using the hashtag #GillerWinner.