Jesse Wente, Pik-Shuen Fung, Damhnait Monaghan win $10K Kobo Emerging Writer Prizes

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

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

Jesse Wente, left, Pik-Shuen Fung and Damhnait Monaghan are Kobo Emerging Writer Prize winners. (Red Works/CBC Media Centre,, Rachel Elizabeth)

Jesse Wente and Pik-Shuen Fung are among the winners for the 2022 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

The annual $10,000 prize recognizes the year's best debut books by Canadian writers. This year, winners from three categories were selected: nonfiction, literary fiction and romance.

Anishinaabe writer, broadcaster and arts leader Jesse Wente was the nonfiction winner for his memoir Unreconciled. It weaves together Wente's personal story with a larger exploration of society, sports, art, popular culture and more. He shares his family's history, including his grandmother's experience in residential school, and his own frequent incidents of racial profiling by police. Wente argues that the notion of reconciliation between First Nations and Canada is not a realistic path forward.

Wente is the co-executive director of the Indigenous Screen Office and chair of the Canada Council for the Arts. He has been an arts columnist for CBC Radio's Metro Morning for more than two decades, and also worked at the Toronto International Film Festival for 11 years.

"Deftly weaving together memoir and essays on topics that range from police power to cultural appropriation, he builds a devastating but convincing critique of Canada's shameful relationship with Indigenous people. There is anger in this book, but justified anger, as well as humour and hope," said author Katherine Ashenburg, this year's nonfiction judge.

LISTEN | Jesse Wente on The Next Chapter

Jesse Wente talks to Shelagh Rogers about his memoir, Unreconciled.

Pik-Shuen Fung's debut novel 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.

Ghost Forest also won the 2022 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. 

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

"An exquisite novel about a woman in an 'astronaut family' — one in which the mother and children immigrated to Vancouver, while the father stayed behind to work in Hong Kong. In this story, the narrator has to grieve the death of her father, after only spending time with him sporadically throughout her life. The preciseness of the imagery and emotions in the novel is astounding and each paragraph has the beauty and visceral evocation of a poem," said author Heather O'Neill, this year's literary fiction judge.

The romance prize was awarded to Damhnait Monaghan for New Girl in Little Cove.

The book is about a new teacher, whose arrival in a tiny fishing village prompts the realization that the most important lessons are the ones she learns outside the classroom. 

Monaghan is a Canadian author and flash-fiction writer.

"Little Cove is the quintessential small town no reader will want to leave. Newfoundland's rich history is present in the delightful Irish-Catholic dialect, dry wit, and poker-faced slow burn of a romance that thoroughly satisfies. If you've ever longed for the Derry Girls to grow up and fall in love, gentle Jaysus in the garden, you'll love this book," said author Nana Malone, this year's judge of the romance category.

Last year's winners were Michelle Good for Five Little Indians (fiction category), Eternity Martis for They Said This Would Be Fun (nonfiction) and Emily Hepditch for The Woman in the Attic (mystery).


  • This story has been updated to correct the past winners of the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.
    Jun 27, 2022 11:11 AM ET

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