11/19/2018 21:49 EST | Updated 11/20/2018 10:29 EST

Calgary-Born Novelist Esi Edugyan Wins 2nd Giller Prize For "Washington Black"

She previously won in 2011 for "Half-Blood Blues."

TORONTO — Calgary-born author Esi Edugyan has won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for a second time with her latest novel "Washington Black."

Published by Patrick Crean Editions, the novel follows the saga of an 11-year-old boy who escapes slavery at a Barbados sugar plantation with the help of the owner's kinder brother.

Edugyan secured the top prize after a season flush with acclaim for "Washington Black," which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Writers' Trust fiction award.

Chris Young/CP
Edugyan at the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala in Toronto on Nov. 19, 2018.

A five-member jury praised "Washington Black" as "a supremely engrossing novel about friendship and love and the way identity is sometimes a far more vital act of imagination than the age in which one lives."

Runners-up include Patrick deWitt for "French Exit," Thea Lim for "An Ocean of Minutes," Sheila Heti's "Motherhood" and "Songs for the Cold of Heart" by Eric Dupont, translated from French by Peter McCambridge.

This is Edugyan's second Giller win, having previously received the honour for "Half-Blood Blues" in 2011, both times beating out fellow contender deWitt.

'Many forms of truth telling are under siege'

As she accepted the award Monday, Edugyan told the crowd she didn't prepare a speech, because she didn't expect to win.

After rattling off a list of supporters she wanted to thank, Edugyan said that in climate in which so "many forms of truth telling are under siege," the celebration of words felt all the more vital.

Giller Prize Jury members Heather O'Neill, John Freeman, Kamal Al-Solaylee, Maxine Bailey and Philip Hensher culled this year's short list from 104 titles submitted by publishers across the country.

Literary luminaries gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto on Monday night to applaud this year's Giller winner at a televised gala hosted by comedian Rick Mercer.

Celebrating its 25th year, the Giller awards $100,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $10,000 to each of the finalists.

Last year's winner was Michael Redhill for "Bellevue Square."

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