Sharon Bala, Omar El Akkad among finalists for $40K First Novel Award

Six Canadian books, including two that appeared on Canada Reads 2018, make up the shortlist for the annual prize.
Sharon Bala and Omar El Akkad are among the finalists for the 2018 First Novel Award. (CBC)

Books from Sharon Bala, David Demchuk and Omar El Akkad are among the finalists for the 2018 First Novel Award, a $40,000 annual prize that celebrates debut Canadian novels.

The six books that comprise the 2018 finalists are: 

The 2018 jury is made up of professor and author Irene Gammel, award-winning author Dimitri Nasrallah and literary journalist, lecturer and critic Donna Bailey Nurse. The winner will be announced May 22, 2018 in Toronto. 

The 2017 winner was Katherena Vermette's The Break. Keep reading to learn more about each of the 2018 finalists.

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

Sharon Bala is the author of The Boat People. (Nadra Ginting/McClelland & Stewart)

Sharon Bala is nominated for The Boat People, which tells the story of a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage to reach Canada — only to face the threat of deportation and accusations of terrorism in their new land. The Boat People was defended by Mozhdah Jamalzadah on Canada Reads 2018.

The Bone Mother by David Demchuk

David Demchuk's horror novel was on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. (David Demchuk)

David Demchuk, who works at CBC as a communications officer, is nominated for The Bone Mother, a collection of horror fairy tales from a group of Eastern European mythical creatures who are sharing their stories before possibly being destroyed by war. The book made the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist in 2017.

American War by Omar El Akkad

Omar El Akkad
American War is Omar El Akkad's debut novel. (Michael Lionstar/McClelland & Stewart)

Omar El Akkad's American War takes place in a country devastated by environmental disasters and civil unrest and examines the risks people take to protect their family. It was one of five books in contention on Canada Reads 2018, where it was defended by actor Tahmoh Penikett.

The Water Beetles by Michael Kaan

Michael Kaan is the author of The Water Beetles. (Goose Lane Editions/Leif Norman)

The Water Beetleswhich was also a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, is about a family dragged into a spiral of violence, repression and starvation in early-1940s Hong Kong. 

The Black Peacock by Rachel Manley

Rachel Manley is an author based in Toronto. (Cookie Kinkead, Cormorant)

The Black Peacock by Rachel Manley features two Caribbean-based characters who reflect on their love, life and friendship over the decades. Manley won the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction in 1997 for the memoir Drumblair

Dazzle Patterns by Alison Watt

Alison Watt is a Vancouver-based painter and author of Dazzle Patterns. (Freehand Books)

Dazzle Patterns, is a fictionalized account of a year in the life of three young people in a love triangle, trying to deal with life in the aftermath of the Halifax explosion.