By John Swartz
Thomas King is the winner of the 2021 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for his book, Indians on Vacation. This is the first time King has won the award. He won over 1989’s medal winner Joe Kertes (Last Impressions) and Morgan Murray (Dirty Birds).
Aside from the medal, King will also receive a $15,000 prize sponsored by the Dunkley Charitable Foundation. Kertes and Murray each receive $3,000.
Indians on Vacation is a story about Bird, a photojournalist, and his wife, Mimi, on vacation in Europe. It is a vacation with purpose. They are trying to piece together what Uncle Leroy wrote in postcards 100 years ago, what happened to him – and what happened to the family medicine bundle. Former Leacock Medal finalist and gala dinner emcee, Drew Hayden Taylor said of King’s work, “I like reading Tom King because he does, succinctly and cleverly, what all good writers should do – he educates, illuminates and entertains with every paragraph.”
King’s other critically acclaimed, bestselling books include Medicine River; Green Grass, Running Water; One Good Story, That One; Truth and Bright Water; A Short History of Indians in Canada; The Back of the Turtle (winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction); Sufferance; The Inconvenient Indian (winner of the RBC Taylor Prize); the Dreadful Water mystery series; Obsidian; and the poetry collection 77 Fragments of a Familiar Ruin (shortlisted for the Nelson Ball Prize). His A Coyote Columbus Story won the Governor General’s Award for children’s literature.
King also served as story editor for CBC television’s Four Directions, and wrote and acted in the CBC Radio program The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour. He also wrote, directed and performed in the short film I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind. His The Inconvenient Indian was adapted as a documentary film in 2020.
King was born in Sacramento, California and moved to Canada in 1980 to teach at the University of Lethbridge. A resident of Guelph, he is Professor Emeritus of the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. He stood as an Guelph riding’s NDP candidate in the 2008 federal election.
A panel of judges from across Canada read 77 books to arrive at the long list (announced in April) and the short list (announced in May). The Leacock Medal was the inspiration of Charles H. Hale and named for Stephen Leacock. It has been annually awarded continuously since 1947.
Like last year, because of the pandemic there will not be an awards presentation dinner in June. Instead the 2022 diner will also celebrate both 2020 and 2021 winners