Reproduction by Ian Williams

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100,000 words hardcover
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US: Europa Editions, April 2020
Canada: Random House, January 2019
UK: Dialogue Books/Little, Brown, July 2020
World English Audio: Audible
Italy: Keller Editore


Ian Williams (Photo: Justin Morris
(Photo: Justin Morris)

Ian Williams is the author of the novel Reproduction, winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize; Personals, which was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award; Not Anyone’s Anything, winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for the best first collection of short fiction in Canada, and You Know Who You Are, a finalist for the ReLit Prize for poetry. In 2020 he published his latest poetry collection, Word Problems, winner of the Raymond Souster Award. In fall 2021 he will release Disorientation: Being Black in the World. In fall 2021 he will release Disorientation: Being Black in the World.
Williams is Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto. He completed his doctorate in English there under George Elliott Clarke. He spent four years teaching poetry in the Creative Writing Department at the University of British Columbia. In 2014-2015 he was the Writer-in-Residence for the University of Calgary's Distinguished Writers Program. He has held fellowships or residencies from Vermont Studio Center, the Banff Center, Cave Canem, and the National Humanities Center. He is currently on the board of the Griffin Poetry Prize. Born in Trinidad, Williams grew up in Brampton, Ontario, and has worked in Massachusetts and Ontario.


a novel by Ian Williams



“Williams’s imaginative, intricate tapestries are dazzling […] In his rich probes of language and intimacy, legacy and inheritance, he slyly shows that reproduction is consequential, but so is everything else.” — THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Captivating…. The consequences of procreation between unsuited partners—a lifetime of misery and the likelihood of subsequent generations repeating the same mistakes—are explored with subtlety and wit over the novel’s four decades….There’s a fluidity and zest to Williams’s insightful writing, underpinned by numerous experiments with form and style: a flow-chart illustrating a character’s thought process; absent-minded asides embedded in a smaller font within sentences; and short paragraphs, sometimes just a couple of lines, that read as distilled prose poems…. Williams has a penchant for juggling multiple perspectives…. A finely balanced novel.” — THE GUARDIAN

“Vastly enjoyable…. Top-notch comic dialogue makes this light-footed navigation of race and gender politics fizz on the page, as the steady dopamine hit of Williams's deliciously juicy phrasemaking works in tandem with typographical high-jinks that look gimmicky but earn their keep.” — DAILY MAIL UK

“This gorgeous novel vibrates with life. Williams’ compassion for his characters transforms them from ordinary beings into uncommon souls. We know these people: their flaws, their foibles and their fuck-ups. We recognise them because we share the same vagaries of living, wherever we are born. Stylistically inventive and narratively compelling, Reproduction is a stunning achievement.”  — AMINATTA FORNA, author of The Memory of Love

“Innovative, smart, funny, joyous, poetic, generous and forgiving of human foibles. Reproduction is Williams’s first book of fiction, but it is clear he will be around for a long while.” — ALEKSANDAR HEMON, author of The Lazarus Project

“Ian Williams’s Reproduction is many things at once. It’s an engrossing story of disparate people brought together and also a masterful unfolding of unexpected connections and collisions between and across lives otherwise separated by race, class, gender and geography. It’s a pointed and often playful plotting out of individual and shared stories in the close spaces of hospital rooms, garages, mansions and apartments, and a symphonic performance of resonant and dissonant voices, those of persons wanting to impress persuade, deny, or beguile others, and always trying again.” — JURY CITATION, Scotiabank Giller Prize

Reproduction UK edition cover

Told with the savvy of Zadie Smith, Reproduction is a tale of love among inherited and invented families. Ian Williams’ rambunctious novel sweeps through a world of racial and religious mash-ups, cultural collisions, and cross-pollinations galore. Consider only three of them: Felicia, Army, and Riot.

Felicia Shaw never planned on getting pregnant. But here she is, a young woman from a little-known Caribbean island who can’t be pregnant with Edgar Gross’s baby. Because he’s a married man. Because he’s a married German man who is more than twice her age and who doesn’t want any children. Also because he had a vasectomy.

Then there is Army, her son. Turns out that Army has big plans for his life and a huge capacity for denial. He wants to earn 100K with his garage barbershop by the time he’s sixteen, and by twenty-one he plans to have a cool million. That is, if he can manage the upstairs landlord, Oliver, a needy, volatile, recently divorced man whose teenage daughter is now pregnant. Baby? What baby?

And Riot—Oliver’s grandson, child of a child—all he wants to do is make art films. Who cares if he’s about to be kicked out of school for making porn?

Beginning in a palliative care ward and ending in a cancer ward, Reproduction is the twenty-first-century proof of John Lennon’s famous claim that “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” It is the story of strangers from strange places who accidentally become forever tangled.

Reproduction Canadian trade paperback edition Reproduction US edition cover Reproduction Italian edition cover


“With so many hundreds of books, it’s hard even to scratch the surface, but one debut to look out for is Canadian prizewinner Reproduction by Ian Williams (Dialogue, September), an enjoyably offbeat family saga set in polyglot Toronto.”

“…This work successfully examines major themes of empathy, responsibility, secrecy, race, multiculturalism, misogyny, and honesty.” — LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred review

“Williams’s unsparing view on the past’s repetition is heartrending. This ambitious experiment yields worthwhile results.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“An intergenerational novel…that examines how love can supersede blood ties. [Reproduction’s] complicated path mirrors how many families are built on experiences that don’t make the photo albums, and illuminates how dark and painful moments can share equal space with joy and laughter…. With Reproduction Williams joins authors like David Chariandy and Catherine Hernandez—whose recent novels are set in Scarborough—showcasing the bounty of stories of those who live beyond the CN Tower’s shadow.” — TORONTO STAR

“Driven as much by its relationships as its characters, and is intensified and enriched by an inventive style that borrows from Williams’s giant poet’s brain.”

“Virtuosic B.C. writer Ian Williams extends the linguistic playfulness and stylistic legerdemain from his poetry and short fiction in a debut novel that explodes the very notion of the conventional multigenerational family saga. Combining Joycean wordplay, formal innovation, and stylistic pyrotechnics, and mixing in pop cultural references that run the gamut from The Maury Povich Show to The Silence of the Lambs, Williams enthusiastically deconstructs a series of interconnected stories that find their genesis in a hospital room where two strangers meet while their respective mothers lie dying. What sounds lugubrious actually proves to be one of the most energetic, lively, funny, and sad novels of the year. — QUILL & QUIRE

“I hardly know where to start with my need to talk about this book! Reproduction is a love story spanning three decades, from the early ’80s to the 2000s, starting in Toronto, a city of vast differences in wealth and cultures. The unlikely couple (Edgar, a rich, idle German, and Felicia, a poor 19-year-old immigrant from the West Indies) meet and start an unconventional relationship, with lifelong consequences for them both. Don’t let the 550-page count fool you: The writing style is the opposite of weighty and dense—it is mischievous, funny, moving, and full of stunning revelations about how strangers become family. Simply breathtaking!”
 — Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA (American Booksellers Association)

“The debut novel by Ian Williams is a stunner. By any measure. Structurally daring, emotionally profound, intellectually engaged, playful and irreverent, it’s one of those books that makes you feel glad to be alive.” — 49th SHELF

“This year’s Giller winner is a family saga like no other, with vivid characters and spectacular narrative twists. Edgar, a wealthy and ethically compromised capitalist of German extraction, and Felicia, a much younger Black woman from a never-named Caribbean island, meet in a Toronto hospital where their mothers lay dying. A brief—and strange—affair produces a son named Army, whereupon Edgar vanishes and Felicia fashions her own chaotic chosen family with her landlord, Oliver, and his two children. Men behave badly, women make bad decisions and everyone struggles to cope in the digital age. What makes it all work is Williams’s exquisite writing and his willingness to take risk with form. This is a fresh and exciting literary voice.” — NOW

“Ian Williams thrives on stylistic daring in debut novel Reproduction…[it] thrums with an array of devices, from a chorus of perspectives to discussions written as asides, which reflects [Williams’s] taste for surprise and delight in literary endeavours&hellip. Divisions due to race and class, and kinship that transcends, embroider his work.” — THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT

“[A] sprawling novel that is both funny and poignant, powerful and playful. It spans 40 years in its exploration of fragile family ties…[and] explores big-canvas ideas about family, love, death, disease, the immigrant experience and even sexual assault.” — CALGARY HERALD

“Reproduction is an inventive and tender portrait of family life in all its forms…. The book’s capacity for levity only lends a sharper contrast to its tragic moments…. With each section, the book reinvents its style of storytelling, widening the lens to include more voices and perspectives…. Reproduction applies a subtle and persistent form of pressure to complex questions surrounding masculinity, violence, family, love, and the ways we care for one another.” —

“This debut novel by poet Ian Williams is a wise, funny, sad multi-generational family saga that proves the more specific a story is, the more universal it feels. It’s the perfect novel for anyone who has a family, either by blood or by choice.”

“Williams’ Reproduction contains examples of the compromises and mutually agreed upon lies that bind families together. The ability of humans to wilfully ignore past misdeeds, to keep secrets for decades and forge on despite human frailty and failings are all clearly depicted in Williams’ story.” — WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“In this novel about fathers who vanish and the families that spring up in their place, the Vancouver-based poet deftly weaves together the voices of a 14-year-old Black boy, a 16-year-old white girl and a motley crew of middle-aged parents who are all struggling to do right by their children—with mixed results.”
 — CHATELAINE Magazine

“Reproduction’s genius is its weaponized empathy, the precision-etched intensity of Williams’ gritty, witty, wholly unsentimental exploration of the collision of human hearts and the messy aftermath. Love, and its lack, form a spectrum that the characters bounce between, searching for connections, redemption and meaning.”— EDEN ROBINSON, author of Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift

“The startling brilliance of Ian Williams stems from his restlessness with form. His ceaseless creativity in sussing out the right patterning of story, the right vernacular nuance, the right diagram and deftly dropped reference—all in service of vividly illuminating the intermingled comedy and trauma of family.”
— DAVID CHARIANDY, author of Brother and I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You

“In Williams' book, human reproduction becomes the container of numerous themes: the female body (in its declinations of race and class), parenthood (rejected, sought after, and suffered), and the family (natural, acquired or chosen)…. The absence of punctuation in the dialogue and the mixture of it with the thoughts—interrupted, resumed, and misaligned—of the characters open a direct and particularly successful line of communication with the reader's head.” — LA REPUBBLICA, Italy

“He has no doubts, Vittorio Graziani, our trusted bookseller. You ask him what are the books to give away at Christmas and he replies: ‘The book to give this year for me is only one. The number 1. Reproduction by Ian Williams, published by Keller Edizioni.’” — AMICA, Italy

“Reproduction by Ian Williams is a joyful and poetic novel, a reflection on blood ties, on the evolution of the concept of family, on the comparison between different cultures and on the delicate balance between life and death.” — GRAZIA, Italy

“There is an entire modern Canadian literature that fortunately arrives in Italy and shows what is possible with words…. In this brainy structure, Williams puts all his ability to experiment by generating a novel that reproduces itself, in a complicated yet brilliant metaphor of the process of forming a family, the center of the analysis contained in "Reproduction": how it is formed, how it crumbles before it is even born, how it survives or reforms out of necessity.” — L'INDIEPENDENTE, Italy

“Other unfortunate couplings follow, which bring back to the fundamental question around which the whole novel revolves with irony: perhaps there would be so many fewer problems in the world if you paid more attention to who you mate with. There is even the hypothesis that some people would do better not to reproduce themselves, given that the result of the marriage between mismatched partners is often the proliferation of unfortunate lives, a drama that tends to perpetuate itself in subsequent generations, which continue to give birth to problematic outsiders: all perfect subjects for a debut novel.” — PICCOLO, Italy

One of “30 books to give away this Christmas.’ — VANITY FAIR, Italy

Interviewed in The Globe & Mail
Margaret Atwood & Ian Williams

Ian Williams on the front of the Canadian supplement
of Publishers Weekly, October 2020

Click to view Ian Williams' poety reading




Author Ian Williams at Between the Pages, Toronto, October 2019
Ian Williams reading from novel, Reproduction
Author Ian Williams wins the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Ian Williams wins 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize





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