19 Canadian writers to watch in 2019
The 2019 edition of our annual writers to watch list is here! Meet 19 authors who are making their mark on Canadian literature.
Aminder Dhaliwal is a comic writer and television animator originally from Brampton, Ont. Her serial webcomic Woman World was released as a graphic novel in 2018. The sweet and satirical book describes a world in which men have gone extinct and women have rallied to continue human existence.
Alicia Elliott won gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2017 for her essay A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, published in the Malahat Review. She turned the essay into a book-length collection of the same name, offering a wide-ranging and critical look at the impact of colonialism on Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S.
In 2018, Elliott was chosen by Tanya Talaga to be the recipient of the $10,000 RBC Taylor Prize for emerging writers.
Samra Habib is a journalist and photographer. Her first book, We Have Always Been Here, is a memoir about her childhood in Pakistan, arriving in Canada as a refugee and coming out as a proud queer Muslim woman. Habib is also the creator of the photo documentary project Just Me and Allah, in which she travelled the world to document the diverse stories of LGBTQIA Muslims.
Shazia Hafiz Ramji published her first book, the poetry collection Port of Being, in 2018. The book is a smart and often sinister look into the many ways we are surveilled — online, on the street, by the government or otherwise. Ramji is based in Vancouver.
Port of Being was shortlisted for the 2019 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.
Tyler Hellard's debut novel, Searching for Terry Punchout, was a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award and Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. The book follows a struggling sportswriter named Adam Macallister, who visits his estranged father — a notorious hockey enforcer — in an effort to revive his career.
Hellard is a novelist, copywriter and nonfiction writer based in Calgary.
Philip Huynh's first book is the short story collection, The Forbidden Purple City, released in 2019. Across nine stories, Huynh explores the diverse experiences of the Vietnamese diaspora. Among his characters are poets, outcast private school teenagers and a lonely young bride.
Huynh is also a lawyer and lives in British Columbia.
Doyali Islam is the editor of Arc Poetry Magazine and has published two poetry books. Her first was the book Yusuf and the Lotus Flower, published in 2011, followed by heft in 2019.
heft looks at the nature of illness, pain and sexuality and explores the notion of home in light of chronic pain and suspected autoimmune illness.
Ben Ladouceur's first collection Otter, an exploration and celebration of friendship, love and queerness, won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best debut collection. His latest is the book Mad Long Emotion, which gazes playfully at relationships and love in the natural world.
In 2018, Ladouceur, who lives in Ottawa, won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers.
Téa Mutonji published her first book, Shut Up, You're Pretty, in the spring of 2019. The short story collection traverses the vibrant inner-worlds of women, exploring themes of race, class, migration and femininity as they collide in Scarborough, Ont., where Mutjoni lives.
- Why Téa Mutonji wanted her first short story collection to challenge what diverse literature is supposed to be
Hasan Namir's first book, the 2015 novel God in Pink, won the Lambda Literary Award for best gay fiction. Set in war-torn Iraq in 2003, God in Pink tells the story of a young queer Muslim man named Ramy who is pressured to find a wife by his strict brother and sister-in-law.
In Namir's first poetry collection, the 2019 book War / Torn, the writer offers a spiritual exploration of religion and masculinity.
Lindsay Nixon's first book, the memoir nîtisânak, was released to critical acclaim in 2018. nîtisânak draws from Cree, Saulteaux and Métis tradition, exploring how the writer's life has been shaped by love, loss, family and community.
In 2019, Nixon won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize, an annual $5,000 prize given to an emerging writer from the LGBTQ community.
Ben Philippe published his debut novel, The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, in the spring of 2019. The YA book follows a wisecracking black French Canadian teenager named Norris who moves to Austin, Texas. Philippe has contributed to publications like Vanity Fair, The Guardian and Playboy.
Philippe was raised in Montreal, spent time in Texas, and is now based in New York.
C.L. Polk's debut novel Witchmark stormed the fantasy writing scene, landing on shortlists around the world — including the Nebula Award, Locus Award and Lambda Literary Award — and in Canada, where it is nominated for a Sunburst Award and Aurora Award. The book takes place in the aftermath of a major war and follows a young doctor named Miles Singer who must hide his magical healing gifts or be committed to a witches' asylum.
Polk is based in Alberta.
Zalika Reid-Benta explores race, identity and culture through the lens of second-generation Caribbean Canadians in her work. The Columbia MFA graduate's first book, Frying Plantain, is a series of interconnected stories featuring a young black female protagonist in a Toronto neighbourhood.
Bindu Suresh is a fiction writer and pediatrician based in Montreal. Her first book, the novel 26 Knots, weaves a poetic and very complicated love story: Araceli falls for a fellow journalist named Adrien, who is already in love with Pénélope, who can't decide between him and Gabriel, who is too traumatized by his father's abandonment to be a good partner.
Arielle Twist made a powerful debut with the poetry collection Disintegrate/Dissociate in 2019. The book depicts life for an Indigenous trans woman, one dreaming of a hopeful future and a clear path for self-discovery. The Nehiyaw writer has previously contributed to publications like CBC Arts, Them, The Fiddlehead, PRISM International and Canadian Art.
Twist is from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan and now lives in Halifax.
Matthew Walsh released their debut poetry collection under the title These are not the potatoes of my youth in 2019. The book offers a confessional chronicle of Walsh's upbringing in rural Nova Scotia and then meanders across the country as the poet explores their queer identity with humour, surprise and frankness.
Walsh now lives in Toronto.
Lindsay Wong's debut memoir The Woo-Woo is a darkly comic story of her dysfunctional family who blame their woes on ghosts and demons. The Woo-Woo was a finalist for the 2018 Hilary West Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction and was defended by Joe Zee on Canada Reads 2019.
Wong lives in Vancouver and holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and an MFA in literary nonfiction from Columbia University.
Teresa Wong's first book Dear Scarlet is a moving graphic memoir about the author's experience with postpartum depression. Written as a letter to her eldest daughter, Wong offers an honest and tender account of motherhood, family and mental health.
Wong lives in Calgary.