Omar El Akkad (BsC, Computing & Information Science, 2005) is the recipient of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel What Strange Paradise. The award for this prize is $100,000!
Omar is a journalist and author, known for his other major work American War, as well as his correspondence work for The Globe and Mail. Omar has covered the war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantanamo Bay, and the Arab Spring in Egypt.
What Strange Paradise tells the story of the global refugee crisis through the eyes of nine-year-old Amir, who is the only survivor from a ship full of refugees heading to small island nation. Omar described the book in an interview with CBC Books as “…a repurposed fable. It’s the story of Peter Pan inverted and recast as the story of a contemporary child refugee”.
Omar’s book was chosen out of a candidate pool of 132 submitted works, worked down to 12 for the prize committee to choose from. They had this to say about his book:
“Amid all the anger and confusion surrounding the global refugee crisis, Omar El Akkad’s What Strange Paradise paints a portrait of displacement and belonging that is at once unflinching and tender. In examining the confluence of war, migration and a sense of settlement, it raises questions of indifference and powerlessness and, ultimately, offers clues as to how we might reach out empathetically in a divided world.”