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UNB alum Sarah Bernstein wins 2023 Giller Prize

Author: Kelly Anderson

Posted on Nov 20, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton , UNB Saint John

Sarah Bernstein

Sarah Bernstein (MA’12) has been named the winner of the coveted 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel, Study for Obedience.

Sarah, who lives in the highlands of Scotland and gave birth to her first child ten days prior, attended the ceremony virtually and said in her acceptance speech, "I'm really privileged to have been afforded the opportunity to tell this story and I think often now how important it is more than ever to support writers in material ways to tell the stories of their own people in their own ways, especially when their stories challenge dominant historical narratives."

Sarah is a graduate of the master’s program in English and the creative writing program from UNB, and while on campus became involved with The Fiddlehead and Qwerty publications and participated in the Frye Literary Festival. “At The Fiddlehead and Qwerty, I read and responded to submissions, which is useful for writers, I think, in that it reminds you how subjective the selection process is when you're submitting your own work and having it turned down.”

She says that she developed key mentors at UNB that helped her grow and hone her work, and who assisted her in securing funding to attend the University of Edinburgh for a PhD in English literature. “I really cannot say enough good things about the UNB program and the people.”

Sarah is now writing, as well as teaching literature and creative writing in Scotland. Her winning novel, Study for Obedience, was published in the U.K. and Canada in the summer of 2023. In addition to the Giller Prize, Sarah’s novel was one of six books shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. She didn’t win, but just being shortlisted for this prestigious international prize was a significant accomplishment. Sarah was also named to Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2023 list.

Study for Obedience explores the world of a woman who leaves her hometown to move to a "remote northern country" where locals, already suspicious of newcomers, become hostile toward her as she tries to find a way to shape her life. This is Sarah’s third publication.

Learn more about Sarah’s Canadian and Scottish journey, her writing process and her current work.