A novel by Ghanaian-Canadaian author, Esi Edugyan has made the best of 2018 Lists by Barack Obama, former President of the United States.
The novel ‘Washington Black’ was included in Obama’s ‘Favourite Books of 2018’ list.
The novel published in September 2018 follows an 11-year-old boy who escapes slavery at a Barbados sugar plantation with the help of the owner’s kinder brother.
It won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize 2018 – making Edugyan the third writer to ever win the award twice.
The novel was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
Books by Michelle Obama, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinua Achebe, Zadie Smith and Nelson Mandela also made the list.
Edugyan was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Ghanaian parents.
She studied creative writing at the University of Victoria, where she was mentored by Jack Hodgins. She also earned a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars.
Her debut novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, written at the age of 24, published in 2004 and was shortlisted for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in 2005.
Despite favourable reviews for her first novel, Edugyan had difficulty securing a publisher for her second fiction manuscript.
She spent some time as a writer-in-residence in Stuttgart, Germany. This period inspired her to drop her unsold manuscript and write another novel, Half-Blood Blues, about a young mixed-race jazz musician, Hieronymus Falk, who is part of a group in Berlin between the wars, made up of African Americans, a German Jew, and wealthy German. The Afro-German Hiero is abducted by the Nazis as a “Rhineland Bastard”. Several of his fellow musicians flee Germany for Paris with the outbreak of World War II. The Americans return to the United States, but they meet again in Europe years later.
Published in 2011, Half-Blood Blues was announced as a shortlisted nominee for that year’s Man Booker Prize, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction.
On November 8, 2011, she won the Giller Prize for Half-Blood Blues. It was shortlisted for the 2012 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.
In September 2012, in a ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, Edugyan received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction for Half-Blood Blues, chosen by a jury consisting of Rita Dove, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Joyce Carol Oates, Steven Pinker and Simon Schama.
In March 2014, Edugyan’s first work of non-fiction, Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home, was published by the University of Alberta Press] in the Henry Kreisel Memorial Lecture Series. In 2016 she was writer-in-residence at Athabasca University in Edmonton, Alberta.