By Kate Mills
Ryerson English professor Randy Boyagoda has been nominated for the Giller Prize for his debut novel, Governor of the Northern Province.
The novel follows a genocidal African warlord who moves to small-town Canada and starts working in a convenience store, only to become involved in Canadian politics when an ambitious young woman takes an interest in him.
“It’s a satire about how we as Canadians value things like multiculturalism and diversity in a sense that we are obsessed with them, and how that turns into our vices,” Boyagoda said.
Boyagoda, 30, was inspired after reading an article in The Economist two years ago about Sam Bockarie, a West African warlord who was also an award-winning disco dancer.
Boyagoda wrote a short story for The Walrus based on Sam Bockarie that would eventually become the first chapter of Governor.
The Giller nomination comes only two weeks into Boyagoda’s career at Ryerson. He came to Ryerson after a stint at Notre Dame University.
“I think it’s absolutely phenomenal that such a young faculty member has been nominated for the Giller Prize,” said Carla Cassidy, Dean of Arts.
Students were excited to hear of Boyagada’s nomination and say that it help raise Ryerson’s reputation.
“It’s reassuring, and real cool that these teachers decide to come to Ryerson, when they could be making way more money somewhere else,” said Stacey Hale, a fourth-year print journalism student in Boyagoda’s Great Journalism course.
Boyagoda’s parents emigrated from Sri Lanka in 1967 and settled in Oshawa where he was born and raised. He earned his BA in English from the University of Toronto. He earned his masters and PhD in English from Boston University.
The novel will be officially released September 23. Boyagoda will read from his novel at the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront on Saturday, Oct. 21st, at 8 p.m.