the book cover of Unearthing features a green background and the illustration of a white leafy plant

Kyo Maclear, an instructor in the University of Guelph’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, is the 2023 recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction. 

Maclear won the coveted award for Unearthing: A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets, a memoir about a family secret revealed by a DNA test, the lessons learned in its aftermath and the power of love. 

“I was honoured to land on the shortlist with my fellow nominees, who have all written beautiful and important books. And now, I’m doubly honoured that the book found a kind of resonance,” Maclear said after learning of her win. 

A creative non-fiction and hybrid forms instructor with U of G since 2020, Maclear is an essayist, novelist, editor and children’s author. Her works have been translated into 18 languages, published in over 25 countries and garnered multiple award nominations. 

The GG Literary Awards’ peer assessment committee praised Unearthing for its “recursive, often incantatory prose” and noted it “softens the line between memoir and philosophy” using “recursive, often incantatory prose” to explore “the porous grounds of self, culture and belonging.” 

Maclear is an editor-at-large with Tundra Books/Penguin Random House Canada who has taught creative writing with the Humber School for Writers and the Banff Centre for the Arts. 

Her hybrid memoir Birds Art Life won the 2018 Trillium Book Award and was a finalist for the 2017 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. 

Among other U of G-affiliated nominees this year were: 

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA) alumnus Kai Thomas for The Upper Country (fiction) 
  • MFA student Suvendrini Lena for The Enchanted Loom (drama) 
  • MFA alum D.M. Bradford for House Within a House, the translation of Désormais, ma demeure by Nicholas Dawson  

The Governor General’s Literary Awards were created in 1936 to celebrate the best in literature from Canada, recognizing winners in seven categories in both official languages, and are administered by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Finalists and winners are chosen by a peer assessment committee for each category. Winners receive $25,000 each as well as a $3,000 grant to their publisher to help promote the book; finalists receive $1,000 each,

Recipients from 2020 to 2023 will be honoured at a special gathering in Ottawa in spring 2024.