Books·Writers to Watch

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.

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

Aminder Dhaliwal is a Canadian cartoonist and animator. (Kenneth Hung)

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.

Woman World received nominations for both the Doug Wright Spotlight Award and Eisner Award for best humour publication.

Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott is the author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

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

Samra Habib is a journalist and photographer based in Toronto. (Yuula Benivolski)

Samra Habib is a journalist and photographer. Her first book, We Have Always Been Hereis 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

Shazia Hafiz Ramji is a poet based in Vancouver. (Invisible Publishing)

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

Tyler Hellard is a novelist, copywriter and nonfiction writer based in Calgary. (Monique St. Croix)

Tyler Hellard's debut novel, Searching for Terry Punchoutwas 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

Philip Huynh is a B.C.-based writer and lawyer. (Goose Lane Editions)

Philip Huynh's first book is the short story collection, The Forbidden Purple Cityreleased 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

Doyali Islam is a Toronto poet. (Arden Wray)

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

Ben Ladouceur is a poet from Ottawa. (Scott Lemoine)

Ben Ladouceur's first collection Otteran 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 Emotionwhich 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

Tea Mutonji is the author of Shut Up, You're Pretty. (Sandro Pehar)

Téa Mutonji published her first book, Shut Up, You're Prettyin 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.

Hasan Namir

Hasan Namir is a poet and novelist based in Vancouver. (Tarn Khare)

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

Lindsay Nixon is a Cree-Saulteaux-Métis writer and editor. (Writers' Trust of Canada)

Lindsay Nixon's first book, the memoir nîtisânakwas 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

Ben Philippe is a Montreal-raised writer based in New York. (HarperCollins)

Ben Philippe published his debut novel, The Field Guide to the North American Teenagerin 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

C.L. Polk is a fantasy writer from southern Alberta. (@clpolk/Twitter)

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

Zalika Reid-Benta is a Toronto-based author. (House of Anansi Press)

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 Plantainis a series of interconnected stories featuring a young black female protagonist in a Toronto neighbourhood.

George Elliott Clarke previously named Reid-Benta a writer to watch.

Bindu Suresh

Bindu Suresh is a novelist from Montreal. (Stefan Makwana/Invisible Publishing)

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

Arielle Twist is a poet based in Halifax. (Sweetmoon Photography)

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

Matthew Walsh is a poet from Nova Scotia who now lives in Toronto. (Goose Lane Editions)

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

Lindsay Wong is a Vancouver-based nonfiction writer. (CBC)

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

Teresa Wong is a comic creator from Calgary. (Ken Hurd)

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.