Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead wins Canada Reads 2021!
After four days of heated debate, Jonny Appleseed, defended by actor Devery Jacobs, has been crowned the winner of Canada Reads—the “one book to transport us” that all Canadians should read. In a strange twist of fate, Jonny Appleseed was pitted against another Arsenal title in the finale - Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.
“It’s an honour and privilege to be on this stage with Jonny Appleseed and to be accepting the first legitimate Indigenous win in Canada Reads in twenty years,” Joshua Whitehead enthused. “We have been in the era of Indigenous women and Two-Spirit storytellers since time immemorial and it’s an honour to have this work recognized by Canada Reads. I see it as my role to keep this fire going!”
Whitehead continued, “It’s been very humbling, exciting, and empowering to see the rallying of folks across Turtle Island to defend this book, celebrate this book, love this book, and even critique this book. It’s a privilege to be published by Arsenal, sharing the space and sharing this recognition! I think it’s time!”
“As an indie press on the left coast of Canada, we are ecstatic and quite stunned that both Francesca and Joshua made the finals of Canada Reads,” says Arsenal Pulp Press publisher Brian Lam. “Most of all, we’re grateful that now more readers across the country will come to read, love, and be moved by both Butter Honey Pig Bread and Jonny Appleseed, books by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors that are emblematic of what it means to be Canadian. Our thanks to Devery Jacobs and Roger Mooking for being passionate champions of these books, and to the CBC for its continued support of Canadian writers and publishers.”
In the final round, Jonny Appleseed faced off against Butter Honey Pig Bread, defended by celebrity chef and TV host Roger Mooking. The other contenders in the four-day competition were Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots, defended by actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee; The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk, defended by former Olympian Rosey Edeh; and Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee, defended by musician Scott Helman.
This win is historic for Arsenal Pulp Press authors, the press, the competition, and the reading public. It is Arsenal’s first Canada Reads win as a publisher, and the first time in the twenty-year history of Canada Reads that two books from the same independent press were named top-five finalists. It is also the first time two books from the same independent press went head to head in the final. The last time the press was featured in the competition was in 2019, when Joe Zee defended The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong.
A Lambda Literary Award winner, and a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and Amazon Canada First Novel Award, Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead is a tour-de-force debut novel about a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man and proud NDN glitter princess who must reckon with his past when he returns home to his reserve. Jonny Appleseed, which was also longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize and named a Globe and Mail’s Best Book of the Year, is a unique, shattering vision of First Nations life, full of grit, glitter, and dreams.
We want to extend our deepest thanks to Jonny Appleseed’s champion Kahnawà:ke Mohawk actor and filmmaker Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, who defended Jonny Appleseed with passion, intelligence, eloquence, and grace. Jacobs is best known for her debut in the award-winning feature film Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013). Her directorial debut of the short film STOLEN (2016) won Best Aboriginal Film at the 2017 Yorkton Film Festival, while Rae (2017), her second short film, garnered Best Youth Work prize at ImagineNATIVE Film Festival.
And a special thank you to celebrity chef, restaurateur, television host, author, and award-winning recording artist Roger Mooking for defending Canada Reads runner-up Butter Honey Pig Bread with such vigour, spirit, and dedication.
Devery Jacobs championed Jonny Appleseed to victory at Canada Reads, but we acknowledge that the book industry is full of incredible champions who helped bring this book to a national stage. Thank you to our distributors, sales force, reviewers, booksellers, librarians, and you, the reading public, for supporting this magical, urgent, gorgeous story. This is a huge win for our community!