Sharon Bala’s bestselling debut novel, The Boat People, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2018 and the 2018 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. Last November she won the 2017 Writers’ Trust/ McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize for her short story “Butter Tea at Starbucks” and had a second story on the long-list. Sharon is a member of The Port Authority, a St. John’s writing group. Her short fiction has won three Arts & Letters Awards and been widely published in literary magazines across the country.

Speaking Topic

In August 1986 a group of asylum seekers were found floating in life boats, adrift off the coast of Newfoundland. Two decades later, 492 refugees arrived in a cargo ship that docked in British Columbia. Despite having fled the same civil war in Sri Lanka, the two groups were met with very different receptions. Comparing Canada’s reactions to these maritime arrivals, and weaving in her own family’s story, author Sharon Bala will explore the twin roles of timing and luck in our capricious refugee system and the two faces of nationalism.

To book Sharon Bala, contact Rob Firing at