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Omar El Akkad wins $100K Scotiabank Giller Prize for novel What Strange Paradise

Omar El Akkad wins the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel 'What Strange Paradise', at a gala in Toronto, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

Omar El Akkad wins the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel 'What Strange Paradise', at a gala in Toronto, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

Photo: La Presse canadienne / chris young

RCI

Omar El Akkad has won the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel What Strange Paradise (new window).

The $100,000 prize is the richest in Canadian literature.

El Akkad is a Canadian journalist and author who currently lives in Portland. He is also the author of the novelAmerican War (new window), which was defended on Canada Reads (new window) 2018 by actor Tahmoh Penikett.

I didn't think I had a chance in hell of winning this … this is by far the greatest honour in my career, said El Akkad in his acceptance speech. I've had the incredible honour of being mentioned in the same breath as four outstanding authors, any of whom could be standing up here right now.

What Strange Paradise (new window) is a novel that tells the story of a global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child. Nine-year-old Amir is the only survivor from a ship full of refugees coming to a small island nation. He ends up with a teenage girl named Vanna, who lives on the island. Even though they don't share a common language or culture, Vanna becomes determined to keep Amir safe. What Strange Paradise (new window) tells both their stories and how they each reached this moment, while asking the questions, How did we get here? and What are we going to do about it?

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