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2024 Shortlist

The Sleeping Car Porter

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ABOUT
THE BOOK

It’s 1929, and Baxter is considered lucky, as a Black man, to have a job as a porter on a train that crisscrosses the continent. He has to smile and nod for the white passengers when they call him ‘George.’ He’s obsessed with teeth, and saving up tips for dentistry school.

On this trip, the passengers are unruly, especially when the train is stranded for days – their secrets leak out, blurring with Baxter’s sleep-deprivation hallucinations. When he finds an illicit postcard of two men, Baxter’s longings are reawakened; keeping it puts his job in peril, but he can’t part with it or his memories of a certain Porter Instructor.

2024 JUDGES’ COMMENTS

An unconventional historical novel that combines meticulous research and deep imagination, The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr takes readers on a vividly depicted train ride in the 1920’s from the perspective of a Black and queer sleeping car porter as he tries to make a life that is a little less precarious and a lot more hopeful despite the odds stacked against him. As the train travels through the rural Canadian landscape, Baxter, the porter of the title, similarly traverses the vistas of memory, the reality that surrounds him, and his hopes and visions of the future on his own interior journey of discovery and self-creation. Written in a concise yet evocative style, this slim novel combines the epic scope of history with the lift and verve of ghost stories and queer narrative, creating a quietly propulsive read that at the same time takes stock of an entire life in the space of a single train voyage.

“He drinks melting glacier, plunges his hands into the water past the point of ice just to wake himself up and calm himself down. He ascends into the vestibule, his legs shaky, his hands icy numb.”

‘You can almost taste the exhaustion and despair in this quiet, yet vivid, story of a black man working as a porter on a sleeper train in Canada in 1929. Beautifully written, melancholy but never without hope.’ Ingunn Snaedel, 2024 Dublin Literary Award Judge

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR Suzette
Mayr

Suzette Mayr is the author of six novels including her most recent, The Sleeping Car Porter, winner of the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Award, the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction, and the City of Calgary Book Prize. Mayr’s other novels have won the ReLit Award and City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, and been nominated for the Commonwealth Prize, the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Awards, and the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction. Mayr is a former President of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Calgary, and is a Killam Laureate.

Suzette Mayr is the author of six novels including her most recent, The Sleeping Car Porter, winner of the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Award, the Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction, and the City of Calgary Book Prize. Mayr’s other novels have won the ReLit Award and City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize, and been nominated for the Commonwealth Prize, the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Awards, and the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction. Mayr is a former President of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Calgary, and is a Killam Laureate.

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NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS

Presenting an important part of Black history in Canada, this popular novel tells the story of a black queer train porter in 1929 who must contend with unruly passengers when the train stalls for several days near Banff. While working to fulfill the relentless, and often unnecessary, demands of passengers, Baxter becomes undernourished, sleep-deprived, and experiences hallucinations. An imaginative, well-written novel with vivid characterizations. Winner of the 2022 Giller Prize. Vancouver Public Library holds 54 copies of The Sleeping Car Porter in print, along with ebook and audiobooks, and the story shares a lesser known aspect of Canadian history. Suzette Mayr is an award winning author. Her novel The Widows was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in the Canada-Caribbean region.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Date published
10/11/2022
Country
Canada
Original Language
English
Author
Publisher
Coach House Books
Borrow this book from Libraries Ireland

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