YWCA Hamilton is thrilled to announce the remarkable achievement of Anuja Varghese, our Grants Specialist in the Philanthropy Department. Anuja has been honoured with The Canada Council for the Arts 2023 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Writers’ Trust of Canada Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2+ Emerging Writers 2023 for her debut book, Chrysalis.
Released in March 2023, Chrysalis is a captivating collection of short stories that delves into folklore, fairy tales, and magic realism, offering a unique perspective on women of colour and the South Asian diaspora through an intersectional lens. The book explores diverse narratives, from a couple grappling with divine intervention to a teenage misfit discovering a hidden darkness in her suburban home. Each story, rich with evocative writing, invites readers to explore the complexity and intimacy of the characters’ humanity.
Anuja, reflecting on the significance of being recognized with these prestigious awards, shares, “this is my first book, and it’s a collection of short stories, which sometimes doesn’t get the same kind of love or recognition that novels do.” Her work, however, has not only earned recognition but has also resonated deeply with readers, connecting with them on a personal level.
Administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Governor General’s Literary Award stands as one of Canada’s top literary honors, celebrating literature and encouraging readers to explore the works of Canadian creators. The Dayne Ogilvie Prize, administered by the Writers’ Trust of Canada and presented annually to a debut book in any genre by a Canadian writer from the LGBTQ2S+ community, was established in 2007 in honor of Dayne Ogilvie, a revered editor, writer, and passionate advocate for the arts.
Reflecting on public reception of her book, Anuja shares moments when readers have expressed how they see themselves represented in her stories. “This is the first time I saw a queer girl who looks like me,” they tell her, underlining the profound impact of representation in literature. “When you start to get some of this recognition from different awards, that is lovely. But what is most meaningful for me is when somebody will come up to me as I’m signing books and quietly say “this is the first time I saw someone like me in a story, or they will say “I wish this book had been around when I was 15, when I was 20.” These moments of connecting with people as they are connecting with the stories, and they take the time to reach out to you and express what the book meant to them – it has been a very special journey.”
Anuja emphasizes intentional representation in her stories, aiming to empower women of colour and queer people. This dedication echoes her work at YWCA Hamilton, where she contributes to empowering women, girls, and gender-diverse people through her role. “I think you can see the kind of empowerment work we do at YWCA Hamilton, also coming through in my stories,” Anuja concludes.
Looking ahead, Anuja is currently working on a fantasy novel that she describes as “Dungeons & Dragons meets Bollywood movie” and is also expanding one of the short stories in Chrysalis into a novel that is “half ghost story and half queer love story.” Her goal is to continue contributing to women’s empowerment – both in the real world and on the page – while exploring new stories and making space for diverse voices to share them.
Congratulations, Anuja! The entire YWCA Hamilton community is immensely proud of your achievements, and we eagerly anticipate your future endeavors.
To learn more about Anuja visit https://www.anujavarghese.com/