When Raziel Reid recently became the youngest ever winner of the Governor-General’s Award for children’s literature he might not have anticipated any blowback. Nevertheless, his gay coming-of-age book, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, has ruffled some feathers. His GG victory was criticized by Barbara Kay in the National Post, who thought the novel narrow and unworthy of our tax dollars:
The message I draw — and think young people will too — is that the “authentic” narcissism of queer/transgender identity exempts one from the obligation to mature. I’d not have wasted tax dollars on this values-void novel. So I must assume that the committee took a kind of sophisticated approach to their deliberations that I am too culturally superannuated and simplistic to appreciate.
Given the offensive and graphic nature of the words and images used in Raziel Reid’s novel for Young Adults and the influence this will have on children’s minds, and given that the Governor General’s Award has the mandate to honor the best in Canadian Literature, we the undersigned, request that the Canada Council for the Arts revoke the Governor General’s Award for literature from Raziel Reid.
The CBC reports that “some well known writers” had signed the petition, though it’s not clear from viewing the signatures online who these are. Reading the comments made by signers the most prominent word seems to be “filth.”
In response, a “commitment to read” Reid’s book has started up.
Writing in the National Post, Emily Keeler defends Reid and puts the controversy in context.
In the upcoming Canada Reads program, Reid’s book is one of the titles that has been selected to illustrate the theme “What is the one book to break barriers?” and will be defended by Elaine “Lainey” Lui.