Jesse Thistle & Zalika Reid-Benta shortlisted for $10K Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

Posted: May 06, 2020
Last Updated: May 06, 2020

Canadian authors Jesse Thistle & Zalika Reid-Benta are 2020 finalists for the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. (CBC, Submitted by Zalika Reid-Benta)

Métis-Cree scholar Jesse Thistle and Toronto-based writer Zalika Reid-Benta are among the 17 finalists for the 2020 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

Thistle and Reid-Benta are recognized for their books From the Ashes and Frying Plantain, respectively.

The award, worth $10,000, recognizes the best books written by debut Canadian authors in three categories: nonfiction, literary fiction and the third highlighting a different genre of fiction each year.


This year's third category is speculative fiction.

The winning authors will also receive promotional support throughout the year.

The 2020 shortlist was selected by Kobo's booksellers, who read each book, while considering customer ratings and reviews. 

Thistle's memoir From the Ashes is contending in nonfiction. The book chronicles a journey that begins in a Saskatchewan community and leads to the streets of Toronto.

In his authorial debut, Thistle combines poetry and memoir to share the intimate story of how he overcame addiction and homelessness to become a decorated Indigenous academic.

Reid-Benta's Frying Plantain is a finalist for literary fiction. The short story collection features a series of interconnected stories with a young black woman named Kara Davis living in Toronto.


The coming-of-age story explores race, class and identity as Kara learns to navigate and reconcile her Canadian nationality and Jamaican heritage.

(House of Anansi Press)

Frying Plantain was also longlisted for the 2019 Giller Prize.

This year, three bestselling Canadian authors will choose the winner in their respective category.

Timothy Caulfield, an academic and author of The Cure for Everything, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? and The Vaccination Picture, will judge the nonfiction category. 

Marissa Stapley, the bestselling author of three novels Mating for Life, Things To Do When It's Raining and The Last Resort, will decide the winner for literary fiction.

Lastly, the speculative fiction category will be judged by Andrew Pyper, author of 10 novels, including The Demonologist, The Homecoming and The Only Child.


The complete shortlists can be found below.


Literary fiction:

Speculative fiction:

The winners will be announced in June 2020.

The 2019 winners were How Far We Go and How Fast by Nora Decter, Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris and Steeped in Love by Julie Evelyn Joyce.