Edmonton author Conor Kerr wins 2022 ReLit Award for debut novel Avenue of Champions

The awards celebrate the best Canadian books by independent presses. The 2022 ReLit Awards, known for releasing long shortlists, celebrated its poetry, short fiction and novel prizes in May.

The awards celebrate the best Canadian books by independent presses

Avenue of Champions is a novel by Conor Kerr. (Nightwood Editions, Zachary Ayotte)

Edmonton author Conor Kerr is the winner of the 2022 ReLit Award for his debut novel Avenue of Champions.

Kerr's book, published in 2021 by Nightwood Editions, was among 15 nominees in the novel category of the awards, which honour the best Canadian books published by independent presses.

Set in Edmonton, Kerr's Avenue of Champions explores the lives of Indigenous youth and the colonial contexts in which they grow up, including the violence, racism and trauma they endure and the cultural lessons, land rights, elder relationships and language revitalization they fight for.

The novel is also a finalist for the 2022 Amazon Canada First Novel Award

LISTEN | Conor Kerr on Edmonton AM:

Kerr is a Métis and Ukrainian educator, writer, poet and harvester. He is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and is descended from the Gladue, Ginther and Quinn families from the Lac Ste. Anne and Fort Des Prairies Métis communities and the Papaschase Cree Nation. His poem Prairie Ritual was on the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize longlist

"It's so surreal I'm not quite sure it's happening. I never imagined that I would have a book published. Never thought that it would have a larger readership than my friends and a few family members. And definitely didn't think that anyone east of Treaty 3 would understand the story nuances enough to put it up on a shortlist, let alone award it," Kerr told CBC Books in an email.

"[Through this book], I hope that people learn a bit more about the nuances of Métis prairie life and what that looks like in an urban setting."

The ReLit Awards, founded in 2000 by Newfoundland filmmaker and author Kenneth J. Harvey, are now managed by Harvey's daughter Katherine Alexandra Harvey.

"It's a rare thing to find an author with such a strong voice and clarity of vision in their story," Harvey said. "Congratulations to Conor for his major success with both." 

The 2022 ReLit Awards, known for releasing long shortlists, celebrated its poetry, short fiction and novel prizes throughout the month of May. Award winners include Toronto writer Charlie Petch in the poetry category for Why I Was Late and Toronto author Sydney Hegele for short fiction collection The Pump.

"Thank you for joining us in celebrating the ReLits this year, and congratulations to all the nominated authors and independent presses," said Harvey. "We look forward to seeing what next year brings."

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