Veteran author and editor Wayne Grady, best known for his compelling writing on science, nature, natural history and culture, is now an award-winning novelist as well.

After publishing more than a dozen non-fiction books, Windsor, Ont.-born Grady was named winner of the First Novel Award for his debut novel Emancipation Day during a Toronto gala Tuesday evening.

Emancipation Day

After writing more than a dozen non-fiction titles, editing a host of literary anthologies and extensive work as a French-to-English translator, Canadian author Wayne Grady published his debut novel, Emancipation Day. (

The novel, which draws from discoveries about his own family background, is set against the jazz-fuelled 1930s and 1940s of his hometown. It explores the racism and race relations of Windsor during that era and family tensions — between father and son as well as husband and wife. Last fall, the book was also longlisted for the Giller Prize.

Grady, now based near Kingston, Ont., is also renowned as an anthology editor and French-to-English translator.

He was selected as the $7,500 First Novel Award winner by a jury panel that included journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee, writer Angie Abdou and author Brian Francis.

The other finalists were:

  • Kenneth Bonert for The Lion Seeker.
  • Krista Bridge for The Eliot Girls.
  • Susan Downe for Juanita Wildrose: My True Life.
  • D.W. Wilson for Ballistics.

Originally founded by literary magazine Books in Canada, the First Novel Award has been presented since 1976 to the best first novel — published in English in the previous year — written by a Canadian citizen or resident.