Five Little Indians by Michelle Good wins $60K Amazon First Novel Award

Five Little Indians was also shortlisted for the 2020 Writers's Trust Fiction Prize and the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for fiction. 
Michelle Good is a writer of Cree ancestry and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. (Kent Wong, Harper Perennial)

Michelle Good has won the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award for her novel Five Little Indians.

The $60,000 prize honours the best first novel in English published the previous year by a citizen or resident of Canada.

Five Little Indians chronicles the quest of five residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and find a way forward. Released after years of detention, five teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn't want them. 

Five Little Indians was also shortlisted for the 2020 Writers's Trust Fiction Prize and the 2020 Governor General's Literary Prize for fiction

Good is a Cree writer and lawyer who is a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. She was named by CBC Books in 2020 as a writer to watch.

"I am amazed, overwhelmed, and overjoyed that my book and the love that's in this book reached out and touched the jurors in such a way that they named it the winner of this very important prize," Good said in a statement in response to her win.

"I say this is a very important prize because not every voice that should be heard is in a position to be heard, and I'm certainly one of those voices."

Featured VideoMichelle Good, who is nehiyaw from Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, wrote about a fictional story about five residential school survivors who stuck together as children but, chart their own difficult paths as young adults.

The other finalists were Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi, Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados, You are Eating an Orange. You are Naked. by Sheung-King, Gutter Child by Jael Richardson and Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi.

Richardson is the books columnist for q on CBC Radio,

Each of the remaining finalists received a $6,000 cash prize. 

The 2021 panel of judges was comprised of Michael Kaan, Kagiso Lesego Molope, Laurie Petrou and Danny Ramadan.

The Youth Author Award went to 17-year-old Rama Altaleb for her short story Lost Childhood. Authors between the ages of 13 and 17 were invited to submit a short story under 3,000 words. Altaleb  will receive $5,000 and a mentorship lunch with editors of The Walrus.

Altaleb is a 17-year-old Syrian immigrant living in Nanaimo, B.C. After arriving in Canada in 2018 from the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Rama began to reflect on her own lost childhood. It sparked her interest in reading and writing about children in crises.

"Winning this award has proven to me that I am on the right track and has assured me that I'll achieve my dream of writing my memoir in the future," said Altaleb in a statement.

The First Novel Award program was established in 1976. It is currently presented by Amazon and The Walrus.

Last year's winner was The Dishwasher by Stéphane Larue, which was translated into English by Pablo Strauss.

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

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