Joan Thomas is the author of three novels. Reading by Lightning, published in 2008 by Goose Lane Editions, won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book (Canada and the Caribbean) and the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, and was nominated for the International IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award. Curiosity was published in April 2010 by McClelland & Stewart. It was named a Quill and Quire Book of the Year and was nominated for the ScotiaBank Giller Prize and 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 grew up on the Canadian prairies and lives in Winnipeg. She and her husband have one daughter. She studied English at the University of Winnipeg and taught high school English in three different schools, as well as in a teacher-training program in the Caribbean. She’s worked as a freelance writer, reviewer, and editor, and as Writing and Publishing consultant for the Manitoba Arts Council.
Joan Thomas was a longtime contributing reviewer for the Globe and Mail. Her interview-based features with writers were published in the Winnipeg Free Press and Prairie Fire. 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, and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian literature. Jurors Frances Itani, Lisa Moore, and Nino Ricci wrote:
Joan Thomas has a profound understanding of the human condition. She creates characters and relationships and turns these through many phases, illuminating for all of us the small and large tragedies and joys of life. In her work, she is unafraid, and she is truthful. When she blends fiction with historical fact, she does so seamlessly — whether it is to call up the language of Darwinian times, or to describe a young Canadian’s Christmas in England during WWII. Thomas’s prose, limpid and sensual, has a lightning-bright intensity when exploring the relationships between mothers and daughters, or secret lovers, the beauty of prairie landscapes, sexual awakenings, religious zeal, those small vanities that undo us, those veins of bravery that sustain us. We, as readers, anticipate the richness of her future endeavors.