Michelle Good & Francesca Ekwuyasi among finalists for $60K Amazon Canada First Novel Award

The prize recognizes the best Canadian debut novel of the year. The winner will be announced later in May.

The prize recognizes the best Canadian debut novel of the year

Michelle Good (left) and Francesca Ekwuyasi are two of the finalists for the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. (Kent Wong, CBC)

Cree author Michelle Good and Halifax-based writer Francesca Ekwuyasi are among the six finalists shortlisted for the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. 

Good is nominated for her book Five Little Indians while Ekwuyasi is in the running for Butter Honey Pig Bread.

A black and whit book cover featuring purple text with the silhouettes of people young people walking in the woods.

The award is a collaboration between Amazon Canada and The Walrus. It recognizes the best debut Canadian novel of the year. 

This winner will receive $60,000 while the remaining finalists will each receive $6,000.

Good's Five Little Indians tells the story of five residential school survivors who try to overcome their collective trauma and fight to fit into a world that doesn't want them. While each of them copes with their pain differently, their paths still crisscross over the decades.

This novel explores the lasting effects of residential schools on Indigenous youth and their quest to come to terms with it.

Five Little Indians was on the longlist for the 2020 Giller Prize and a finalist for the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Ekwuyazi's Butter Honey Pig Bread chronicles the interwoven stories of twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi feels like she was an Ogbanje — a spirit that plagues families by dying in childhood to cause its mother misery. She chose to stay alive, but her worst fears manifest when Kehinde goes through a devastating childhood event that fractures the family.

A tale about three Nigerian women, this book blurs the line between the spirit and the mind, and forces conversations about old wounds in order to reconcile and move forward. 

Butter Honey Pig Bread was longlisted for the 2020 Giller Prize and shortlisted for the 2021 Lambda Literary Awards. It was championed on Canada Reads 2021 by Roger Mooking.

The other finalists are Gutter Child by Jael Richardson, Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados, You Are Eating an Orange, You Are Naked by Sheung-King and Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi.

Gutter Child paints a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter and explores one young heroine's journey through shocking injustices. Richardson is q's books columnist and the co-founder and director of the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD).

Happy Hour is a refreshing tale about Isa Epley, a 21-year-old figuring out life in New York City. As she understands that the purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure, she and her best friend rack up social capital yet struggle to pay the bills.

You Are Eating an Orange, You Are Naked showcases an enigmatic relationship between a translator and his unnamed lover. This novel borrows from established creatives Haruki Murukami and Wong Kar-Wai to deliver an intimate tale that challenges Western tropes and Orientalism.

Vanishing Monuments follows a non-binary photographer who ran away from home at 17, almost 30 years ago. But after learning their mom has dementia, they find themselves grappling with painful memories and a vanishing sense of closure. 

The jury is comprised of Michael Kaan, author of The Water Beetles, which won the Amazon Canada First Novel Award in 2018, Kagiso Lesego Molope, whose novels include Such a Lonely, Lovely Road and This Book Betrays My Brother, Laurie Petrou, the author of the thrillers Sister of Mine and Love, Heather, and Danny Ramadan, who is the author of The Clothesline Swing.

This marks the fourth year of the prize having a Youth Short Story category. 

Writers between the ages of 13 and 17 could submit a short story under 3,000 words for a chance to win $5,000 and a mentorship lunch with the editors of The Walrus. The story will be published in The Walrus later in the year.

The same panel of judges will pick the short story winner.

The Youth Short Story finalists are:

  • Lost Childhood by Rama Altaleb 
  • The Sound of Light by Stella Braun
  • The Thing That Wasn't a Thing by Aimée Després-Smyth
  • The Gates of Heavenly Peace by Yanxi Li
  • The Escape from Alcatraz by Diya Singh
  • Troy by Malcolm Wernestrom

The winners for both prizes will be announced at an online ceremony at the end of May.

Last year's winners were The Dishwasher by Stéphane Larue and 74 Percent of the Victims of Nonfamily Abductions are Girls by Cate Freeborn.

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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