Desmond Cole & Michelle Good among finalists for $10K Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

The prize recognizes the best debut books by Canadians in fiction, nonfiction and genre. The winners will be announced in June 2021.

The prize recognizes the best debut books by Canadians in fiction, nonfiction and genre

Desmond Cole (left) and Michelle Good are two of the finalists for the 2021 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. (Chris Young/Canadian Press, Kent Wong)

Toronto-based journalist Desmond Cole and Cree author Michelle Good are among the 18 finalists for the 2021 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. 

The award was created to spotlight new Canadian talent. It 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.

The third category this year is mystery fiction.

Each winner will receive $10,000.

The six books from each category in the 2021 shortlist were selected by Kobo's booksellers, who read each book, while considering customer ratings and reviews.

Cole's The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power is a finalist for nonfiction. It chronicles 2017, a year of the struggle against racism in Canada. 

It pushes back on the naive assumptions of a post-racial nation by highlighting the experiences of Black refugees crossing into Manitoba from the United States, Indigenous land and water protectors resisting Canada Day, and other uniquely racialized situations.

The other nonfiction finalists are Field Notes From A Pandemic by Ethan Lou, They Said THis Would Be Fun by Eternity Martis, Dead Mom Walking by Rachel Matlow, Finding Murph by Rick Westhead and Missing From The Village by Justin Ling. The book is based on the third season 3 of the CBC podcast Uncover, which Ling wrote and hosted. 

Good's Five Little Indians is a contender in the fiction category. The book tells the story of five residential school survivors who try to overcome their collective trauma and fight to fit into a world that doesn't want them.

This novel explores the lasting detrimental effects of residential schools on Indigenous youth and their quest to come to terms with it.

A black and whit book cover featuring purple text with the silhouettes of people young people walking in the woods.

Five Little Indians was on the longlist for the 2020 Giller Prize and a finalist for the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. The book is also shortlisted for the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award and the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction

The other literary fiction finalists are When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald, Good Citizens Need Not Fear by Maria Reva, Hunger Moon by Traci Skuce, Aftershock by Alison Taylor and We Two Alone by Jack Wang. 

This year, three Canadian authors will choose the winners in their respective categories. 

Kamal Al-Solaylee, the author of the memoir Intolerable and associate professor at Ryerson University's School of Journalism, will judge the nonfiction category.

Jennifer Robson will decide the winner for literary fiction. She has authored six internationally bestselling historical fiction novels including Our Darkest Night, The Gown and Goodnight From London.

Amy Stuart, the author of the thrillers Still Mine, Still Water and Still Here will be picking the mystery fiction winner.

The complete shortlists can be found below.

The nonfiction finalists are:

The literary fiction finalists are:

The mystery finalists are:

  • The Woman in the Attic by Emily Hepditch
  • Black Iris by Linda Keith
  • Tell Me My Name by Erin Ruddy
  • Dark August by Katie Tallo
  • Night Call by Brenden Carlson
  • True Patriots by Russel Fralich

The winners will be announced in June 2021.

The 2020 winners were From The Ashes by Jesse Thistle, Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta and Different Beasts by J.R. McConvey.

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