Books·The First Page

Post-War Privation by Zoya Anwar

Read the first page of Zoya Anwar's novel imagining the world in 150 years.

2017 finalist: Grades 7 to 9 category

Zoya Anwar is a finalist for the 2017 The First Page student writing challenge in the Grades 7 to 9 category. (Courtesy of Zoya Anwar)

Post-War Privation by Zoya Anwar is one of 10 stories shortlisted for CBC Books' The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 7 to 9 category. Students across Canada wrote the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, imagining how a current-day trend or issue has played out. Over 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Anwar, a student at École Harbour Landing Elementary School in Regina, Sask., tackles the tension between U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in her piece.

Nyssa mindlessly wrestled a pebble with her foot as she walked down the streets of her hometown. That morning, the clouds had drawn themselves closely together, dimming the quiet city below. When her opponent lost itself in a gutter, she had nothing to distract her from the eerie watchful eyes behind drawn curtains. 

Now that she was forced to observe her surroundings, she unwillingly complied. It was no secret that her country still hadn't recovered from the American-Korean War, a mishap between two power-hungry leaders. In fact, it had only gotten worse. As she passed by a shop window, she caught a brief glimpse of herself, dressed head to toe in men's clothing. It was like Americans had fallen back into their old habits, with chauvinism making a comeback. 

Nyssa stopped in front of an old, vacant house. Its windows had been smashed in, leaving only the Victorian-style frame behind. The most striking feature of the house was not its years of enduring vandalism, but the fading 'X' that had been painted on the front door. It stood completely destroyed by people, the one thing it was meant to protect. As an air-raid shelter, it was pretty useless now. Yet it still stood as an unwelcome reminder of why it was there in the first place. 

As she made her way to the polling station, Nyssa had made sure to tuck any stray hairs under her hat. With every step up the stairs she took, her panic could only be countered by the thought of who she was going to vote for. The least authoritarian candidate. The second in lead. If she got caught and was forced to forfeit her freedom then, well, you can't lose what you've already lost, right? 

That day, she learned the definitive answer to that question. Even though the events that lead up to her having a ballot in her hand were perfectly sequential to what she had initially planned, what came after was not. Nyssa crossed the circle by her candidate's name and hastily shoved her ballot in its box. 

Any feelings of satisfaction and relief she felt were cut short, though. Because when she heard her name, her real name, and looked up, she saw nothing. She did, however, feel the barrel of a gun pressed tightly to her forehead.

About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2167. They wrote the first page of a book set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that's topical today and set the scene for how it's all playing out in a century and a half.

Two winning entries — one from the Grades 7 to 9 category and one from the Grades 10 to 12 category — will be chosen by award-winning YA writer Erin Bow, author of The Scorpion Rules. The winner will be announced on CBC Radio's q on Jan. 24, 2018.

Both winners will receive a one-year subscription to OwlCrate, which sends fresh boxes of books to young readers across Canada on a monthly basis. In addition, each of the winners' schools will receive 50 YA books.

CBC Books' next student writing competition is the Shakespeare Selfie Student Writing Challenge, which will open in April 2018.