On citizenship and literary prizes

Every year there’s someone on at least one of our lists that makes people go, “Uh, are they even Canadian?” People who just got here, people who left long ago, people who’ve never been here but have citizenship for some reason, etc. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t care. I love that we’re a (supposed) nation of immigrants and that we’re always bringing in new blood. That said, Canada has always been willing to call anyone with even a moderate level of success Canadian, or at the very least crow about their connection to our land of forests and moose and decent beer. Emily Bishop? She spent summers here. Ernest Hemingway? Worked for the Star. If you’re famous, you basically just need to have once stood in Vermont and pissed northward over the border into Canada and we’ll call you one of ours. That said, it’s not the case in many places, and citizenship is a requirement for many literary prizes. Should it be? Strikes me that it’s mostly there to ensure the bloated elephants of certain sleeping imperialistic cultures (coughusacough) don’t roll over on the mice bedding down next to them. Thoughts?

Did you know that approximately 7% of the people presently living in the United States are ineligible for nomination to the Pulitzer Prize due solely to the prize’s citizenship requirement?

This 7% are, according to 2017 PEW Research Center data, made up of some 12.3 million people living in the United States who are immigrants with permanent resident status, and the 10.5 million people living in the United States who are undocumented. Combined, this totals 22.8 million people who call the United States their home, but are ineligible to win one of the nation’s highest literary honors.

Of course literary awards, like any other prize or competition, must have rules. Eligibility requirements also put parameters around things like the dates between which a book has to be published for eligibility in a certain award year, for example. But why is citizenship used as a rule?

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