Joan Thomas is the author of four novels, most recently Five Wives, which won the 2019 Governor General’s Award for Fiction. The jury wrote, “In Five Wives, Thomas delivers a compelling and powerful story about an encounter that alters the lives of those involved for generations. Set in a world where Indigenous peoples, missionaries and the forces of global capitalism collide, Thomas’s tale provides a nuanced examination of Operation Auca—a historical event that took place in Ecuador in 1956. This book raises important questions about religious fervour, autonomy and legacies of violence. Ambitiously conceived and beautifully written, this book is a masterful achievement.”
Joan’s first novel, Reading by Lightning, was published in 2008 by Goose Lane Editions. It won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book (Canada and the Caribbean) and the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, and was nominated for four other awards, including the International IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award. Curiosity was published in April 2010 by McClelland & Stewart, and spent 42 weeks on the McNally Robinson Bestseller list. It was named a Quill and Quire Book of the Year and was nominated for the ScotiaBank Giller Prize, as well as the International IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award. The Opening Sky, which came out in 2014, won the McNally Robinson Prize for Book of the Year and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction.
Joan Thomas lives in Winnipeg. She was a longtime contributing reviewer for the Globe and Mail. In 1999 she was co-editor with Heidi Harms of Turn of the Story: Canadian Short Fiction on the Eve of the Millennium (House of Anansi Press). In 2010, she, along with Pasha Malla and Alissa York, selected the stories for the Journey Prize Anthology (McClelland & Stewart).
On November 3, 2014, Joan was awarded the Engel/Findley Award by the Writers Trust of Canada. This award is given to a mid-career writer in recognition of a remarkable body of work. Jurors Frances Itani, Lisa Moore, and Nino Ricci wrote, “In her work, she is unafraid, and she is truthful. When she blends fiction with historical fact, she does so seamlessly . . . Thomas’s prose, limpid and sensual, has a lightning-bright intensity. . . We, as readers, anticipate the richness of her future endeavors.”