Casey Plett wins $60K Amazon Canada First Novel Award for Little Fish

Windsor, Ont. writer Casey Plett's debut novel follows Wendy Reimer, a 30-year-old trans woman, who reflects back on her life and the possible secrets of her family members.
Little Fish by Casey Plett won the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. (Arsenal Pulp Press, CBC)

Little Fish by Casey Plett has won the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, a $60,000 prize that goes to the year's best debut novel in Canada.

The Windsor, Ont. writer's novel follows a 30-year-old trans woman named Wendy Reimer, who reflects back on the trials and triumphs of her life and discovers a surprising secret about her devout Mennonite grandfather.

Plett received the award at an event in Toronto, hosted by The Next Chapter's Shelagh Rogers.

"I don't know what to say. This is an incredible honour," said Plett, accepting the prize to cheers and applause.

"If you had told me four or five years ago that there would be this much reaction, gratitude, appreciation and love for this story about a young, poor, sex working transsexual in Winnipeg dealing with poverty, addiction and mental health... it's more than the world. It's more than I can begin to say."

Plett is currently a finalist for the Writers' Trust of Canada's $5,000 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers and  Little Fish is  shortlisted for the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards in the transgender fiction category.

Plett is also the author of the short story collection A Safe Girl to Love. A Safe Girl to Love won the 2015 Lambda Literary Award in the transgender fiction category.

Plett works as a publicist for the indie publisher Biblioasis.

The other Amazon Canada First Novel Award finalists were Split Tooth by Tanya TagaqJonny Appleseed by Joshua WhiteheadReproduction by Ian WilliamsThe Amateurs by Liz Harmer and Searching for Terry Punchout by Tyler Hellard. The judging panel this year included Diane Schoemperlen, Doretta Lau and Dimitri Nasrallah.

Michael Kaan won the award in 2018 for the novel The Water Beetles.

Other past winners include Joy Kogawa for Obasan, Rohinton Mistry for Such a Long Journey, Anne Michaels for Fugitive Pieces and Madeleine Thien for Certainty