Sharon Bala’s best-selling debut novel, The Boat People, won the 2020 Newfoundland & Labrador Book Award and the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, was short listed for several awards, and is in translation in four languages. In 2017 she won the 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. She’s currently working on a second novel and writing a play. Visit her at:

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