Born and raised in Calgary, the internationally renowned novelist, Esi Edugyan is one of only three writers in history – with Alice Munro and M.G. Vassanji – to have won two Scotiabank Giller Prizes. Her parents emigrated from Ghana, and both were professionals – her mom a nurse, and her father an economist. The family’s experience of racism and discrimination left an indelible mark on Edugyan and her writing. She described her experiences of being “an apparition so dark and odd people in the street sometimes paused to watch me pass.” Edugyan completed a BA in creative writing from the University of Victoria in 1999, and a Master’s in creative writing from John Hopkins University in 2001. As well, she completed numerous artistic residencies in Canada and worldwide, including in France, Germany, Iceland and Hungary.
At the age of 24, Edugyan published her first novel, The Second Life of Samuel Tyne, with the University of Alberta Press in 2004. It was short-listed for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2011, she published Half-Blood Blues, which was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize on November 8, 2011, and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2012. The book was also shortlisted for numerous other awards, including the Man Booker Prize and the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction. In 2014, Half-Blood Blues was defended on Canada Reads by Donovan Bailey. In 2013 Edugyan delivered the annual Henry Kreisel Memorial Lecture at the University of Alberta. It was published in March 2014 as Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observation on Home. She described her first non-fiction as “an effort to find out if one can belong to more than one place, if a home is just a place or if it. Can be an idea, a person, a memory, or a dream.”
A third novel, Washington Black, garnered Edugyan her second Scotiabank Giller Prize in November 2018. The novel was also a finalist for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. “My desire,” said Edugyan, “was to show how the institution of slavery was so disfiguring and damaging to all human relationships.” In 2021 Edugyan delivered a six-part CBC Massey Lectures series, which was adapted as Out of the Sun: On Art, Race and Storytelling and published by the House of Anansi Press in September 2021. In 2022, Washington Black was announced as one of the books in Canada Reads 2022, which will run from March 28 to 31 on CBC TV, CBC Gem, and CBC Radio One. Edugyan and her family reside in Victoria.