Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung wins $60K Amazon First Novel Award
Pik-Shuen Fung has won the 2022 Amazon Canada First Novel Award for her novel Ghost Forest.
The $60,000 prize honours the best first novel in English published the previous year by a citizen or resident of Canada.
The announcement was made at an in-person gala event in Toronto on June 1.
Ghost Forest revolves around an unnamed protagonist forced to process the death of her father in the face of her family's silence. Her father was one of Hong Kong's "astronaut fathers" — a man who worked in Hong Kong while his family started a new life in Vancouver.
Fung is a Canadian novelist raised in Vancouver and currently based in New York City. Ghost Forest was published in mid-July of 2021 and was named by CBC Books as one of the best fiction works of that year.
"I wanted Ghost Forest to feel really spacious and expansive. Even though grief is so universal, it's also really personal and private. Each of us experiences it so differently every time. So I wanted readers to be able to bring their own memories and experiences and emotions and draw their own connections as they were reading," said Fung during the event.
"One way I did that was to incorporate empty space directly in the layout of the piece. Another way I did it was to use this non-linear, fragmented structure because I wanted to mimic the way that grief feels and also the way that memory works, which is not linear but associative," she added.
The other finalists were We, Jane by Newfoundland writer Aimee Wall, Probably Ruby by Cree-Métis writer and poet Lisa Bird-Wilson, All the Quiet Places by B.C.-based author Brian Thomas Isaac, Avenue of Champions by Edmonton writer Conor Kerr and Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Ottawa author Emily Austin.
Each of the remaining finalists received a $6,000 cash prize.
"It's really hard to pose for pictures when you are crying," an emotional Fung said during the winner ceremony. "I never imagined that I would become a writer when I was growing up. It wasn't in the realm of possibility. It's only possible because of so many people who supported me along the way."
The Youth Author Award went to 17-year-old Caitlin Mah for her short story Mei-Ying, the Heavens Are Crying. Authors between the ages of 13 and 17 were invited to submit a short story under 3,000 words. Mah will receive $5,000 and a virtual mentorship workshop with editors of The Walrus.
"When I stepped out into the world and decided to throw stories at [the Youth Author Award], it was honestly a big surprise to be standing here. Not only because I didn't know I could write like this, but because in-person travel, who would have thought?" said Mah during the ceremony.
"But I'm so grateful to be able to stand up here and share funny stories about my town…I'm thankful for everyone that's been giving me the opportunity to come here all the way from Vancouver."
The First Novel Award program was established in 1976. It is currently presented by Amazon and The Walrus.
Last year's winner was Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, which also won Canada Reads 2022, championed by Ojibway author and Vogue fashion writer Christian Allaire.
Other past Amazon Canada First Novel Award winners include Stéphane Larue for The Dishwasher, Joy Kogawa for Obasan, Rohinton Mistry for Such a Long Journey, Anne Michaels for Fugitive Pieces and Madeleine Thien for Certainty.