American writer of SL heritage wins C$ 205 000 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction

Saturday, 18 May 2024 01:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

V.V. Ganeshananthan (right) accepts the 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction from Kimberley Goode of Bank of Montreal, the presenting sponsor of the award


American writer V. V. Ganeshananthan has won the 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. 

The $ 150,000 ($205,074.75 Cdn) prize recognises the best fiction book by a woman or non-binary writer from the US and Canada. It is presently the largest international literary prize for women writers. The winner will also receive a residency at the Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland. 


Ganeshananthan is honoured for her novel Brotherless Night, which follows the story of 16-year-old Sashi in 1981 Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Sashi, an aspiring doctor, wants to do something to help her brothers and friends who are swept up in the violence of the civil war. She decides to work as a medic for the Tamil Tigers, a militant group who are fighting for self-determination for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. But when the Tigers kill a beloved teacher and Indian peacekeepers show up and only incite more the violence, Sashi begins to question what she stands for and accepts a dangerous opportunity to document human rights violations. 

“Brotherless Night is a feminist novel set during the Sri Lankan civil war and it’s especially meaningful to have it recognised by a prize that highlights work by women and non-binary writers,” said Ganeshananthan in her acceptance speech.

“Brotherless Night is from the first-person point of view of a middle-aged woman, a doctor who belongs to the ethnic Tamil minority, who recalls her teenage years and young adulthood in Northern Sri Lanka during the first decade of that country’s civil war. I could not have written it without the generosity and kindness of the many people I know who lived through those years, many of whom live here in Toronto.”

“This recognition which comes in the week that is the 15th year anniversary of the end of the war is dedicated to them, to the people struggling to remember in the face of oppression at the hands of those who would rather that they not and of course, to civilians everywhere enduring violence.”

Ganeshananthan also mentioned the influence of Carol Shields, for who the prize is named, on her own work.

“I remember reading Carol Shields as a young writer. I read her work at a formative moment and its intimacy and scope was really astonishing to me. It means so much to me to be honoured by a prize in her name.”

Ganeshananthan is an American writer and journalist of Ilankai Tamil descent. She served as the Vice President of the South Asian Journalists Association, on the board of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and is a current board member of the Boards of the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. She teaches at the University of Minnesota and co-host a podcast called Fiction/Non/Fiction. Her first novel, Love Marriage, was long listed for the Women’s Prize. 

The 2024 jury was comprised of writers Jen Sookfong Lee, Eden Robinson, Laila Lalami, Claire Messud and Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

“An ambitious and beautifully written novel, Brotherless Night explores how ordinary people can be swept up in political violence and, despite their best efforts, eventually be swallowed by it,” said the jury. “Through her sensitively crafted characters, V. V. Ganeshananthan asks us to consider how history is told, whom it serves, and the many truths it leaves out. A magnificent book.”

The four remaining finalists were Canadians Eleanor Catton, Claudia Dey and Janika Oza and American writer Kim Coleman Foote. They received $ 12,500 ($ 17,089.94 Cdn). (Source: