Beating out Alberta’s Tracey Lindberg with her first novel Birdie, Lawrence Hill has won Canada Reads 2016 for his novel The Illegal, defended by six-time Olympic medallist Clara Hughes. This is Hill’s second time winning Canada Reads, after claiming the title in 2009 for The Book of Negroes.“The Illegal asks Canadians to imagine the humanity of one refugee, and thus all refugees,” said Hughes in her final defence of the novel.
About The Illegal
Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita’s ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches—until Keita is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family’s survival.
He signs on with notorious marathon agent Anton Hamm, but when Keita fails to place among the top finishers in his first race, he escapes into Freedom State—a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes Hamm and the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death.
This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be “illegal” live below the radar of the police and government officials. As Keita surfaces from time to time to earn cash prizes by running local road races, he has to assess whether the people he meets are friends or enemies: John Falconer, a gifted student struggling to escape the limits of his AfricTown upbringing; Ivernia Beech, a spirited old woman at risk of being forced into an assisted living facility; Rocco Calder, a recreational marathoner and the immigration minister; Lula DiStefano, self-declared queen of AfricTown and madam of the community’s infamous brothel; and Viola Hill, a reporter who is investigating the lengths to which her government will go to stop illegal immigration.
Keita’s very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister’s life, too.
Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees struggling to survive in a nation that does not want them. Hill’s depiction of life on the borderlands of society urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us.
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- CBC’s Canada Reads 2016: Winner
About Lawrence Hill
Lawrence Hill is the son of American immigrants — a black father and a white mother — who came to Canada the day after they married in 1953 in Washington, D.C. Growing up in the predominantly white suburb of Don Mills, Ontario in the sixties, Hill was greatly influenced by his parents’ work in the human rights movement. Much of Hill’s writing touches on issues of identity and belonging.
Hill is the author of ten books. His 2007 novel The Book of Negroes (also published as Someone Knows My Name and Aminata) won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and both CBC Radio’s Canada Reads and Radio-Canada’s Combat des livres. In 2013, Hill wrote the non-fiction books Blood: the Stuff of Life (which formed the basis of his 2013 Massey Lectures) and Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning. Along with director Clement Virgo, he co-wrote a six-part television miniseries based on The Book of Negroes, which appeared on CBC TV in Canada and on BET in the USA in early 2015. His fourth novel, The Illegal, was published by HarperCollins Canada in 2015 and by WW Norton & Co. in the United States in January, 2016 and was the winner of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads for 2016.
Watch the March 24 finale on the CBC’s website: http://bit.ly/1WLTjNU