Kate Harris's travelogue Lands of Lost Borders wins $10K nonfiction prize for emerging writers

The literary fiction award was given to How Far We Go and How Fast by Nora Decter and the romance category winner was Steeped in Love by Julie Evelyn Joyce.
Kate Harris is a writer and explorer. (Piia Kortsalo, Knopf Canada)

Lands of Lost Borders, a modern-day travelogue of the Silk Road by Kate Harris, has won the 2019 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for nonfiction.

Rakuten Kobo annually gives three $10,000 awards to Canadian writers for their debut books in three categories: literary fiction, nonfiction and genre fiction.

A different genre fiction category is highlighted each year. In 2019, the category is recognizing romance.

Harris's book chronicles her 10-month cycling trip on the ancient Silk Road, a 10,000 km journey that took her and her travel companion through 10 countries.

Along the journey, Harris explores the political, cultural and environmental history of the places and people she encounters, weaving in personal anecdotes that inform her perspective as a contemporary explorer.

"This is so much more than a travelogue; in sharing her adventure biking the Silk Road, Kate Harris gives us a meditation on both our yearning to explore and that darker impulse to divide ourselves into walled-off nations," said nonfiction judge Michael Harris.

"Lands of Lost Borders is a rhapsodic, deeply researched and elegantly written book. I cannot wait to see where this writer goes next."

Other books on the shortlist included The Fruitful City by Helena Moncrieff, Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, Son of a Critch by Mark Critch, The Measure of My Powers by Jackie Kai Ellis and The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi.

The literary fiction award was given to How Far We Go and How Fast by Winnipeg-born, Toronto-based writer Nora Decter.

The novel tells the story of a 16-year-old girl named Jolene who takes solace in the fact that her dysfunctional, drunken family have a passion, and maybe a little talent, for music.

"I'm a sucker for coming-of-age books, and Nora Decter's hit my sweet spot big-time. In her teenage narrator, Jolene Tucker, Decter gets it all right: the angst of youth, that simmering rage and bewilderment, looking in the mirror wondering who you are and what your worth to humankind may (or may not) be — Decter nails that mindset, really, she does," said fiction judge Craig Davidson in a news release.

"The narrative voice, plus the way Decter renders Winnipeg with such organic but effective brushstrokes, are the primary reasons why (in what was by no means an easy choice) How Far We Go and How Fast is my choice."

Other books on the fiction shortlist included: Summer Cannibals by Melanie Hobson, The Philistine by Leila Marshy, Searching for Terry Punchout by Tyler Hellard, The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka and Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq.

The romance winner was Steeped in Love, a self-published book by Ottawa-based writer Julie Evelyn Joyce.

The novel follows a young entrepreneur searching for clues about her love life in tea leaves, while a nearby novelist eavesdrops on her regrettable dating experiences.

"This story has a unique premise that's driven by witty dialogue keeping the reader hooked into the flow of the story," said romance judge Dale Mayer in a news release.

"The plot is simple but that helps seat the reader in the character's romantic problems and ultimate happy ending. It was an enjoyable and fun read!"

Other books on the romance shortlist included: Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, My Dear One by Deborah Small, The Long Weekend by Mimi Flood, The Reluctant Traveler by Corinne Aarsen and Archibald Full Frontal by Kasey Goldstraw.


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