Six writers named finalists for $60K Amazon Canada First Novel Award

The prize, established in 1976, honours the best first novel in English published the previous year by a citizen or resident of Canada. The winner will be announced June 25, 2020.
Top, from left: Nancy Jo Cullen, Victoria Hetherington and James Gregor. Bottom, from left: Andrew David McDonald, Nazanine Hozar and Stéphane Larue. (See invidiual credits below)

Six Canadian writers have been named finalists for the $60,000 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

The 2020 shortlisted books are:

The prize, established in 1976, honours the best first novel in English published the previous year by a citizen or resident of Canada.

The five remaining finalists each receive $6,000.

The winner will be announced online on June 25. The in-person ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's jury consists of Liz Harmer, Shani Mootoo and Anakana Schofield.

The youth short story category has three finalists. The winner will receive $5,000 and an opportunity to workshop their writing with editors from the Walrus.

The youth short story category finalists are:

  • 74 Percent of the Victims of Nonfamily Abductions are Girls by Cate Freeborn
  • Remnants of an Orange by Yaani Dinu Mahapatuna
  • Bibi & Me by Nazanin Soghrati

The juror for the youth short story category is Chelene Knight.

Casey Plett won the 2019 Amazon First Novel Award for Little Fish.

Other past winners include Michael Ondaatje, Joy Kogawa, W. P. Kinsella and André Alexis.

Get you know the 2020 finalists below.

The Western Alienation Merit Badge by Nancy Jo Cullen

The Western Alienation Merit Badge is a novel by Nancy Jo Cullen. (Biblioasis, Wolsak & Wynn)

The Western Alienation Merit Badge is set in Calgary in the 1980s in the midst of the reception. One family in particular, the Murrays, are on the brink of financial ruin. The Western Alienation Merit Badge is a book about a family coming together just as they are falling apart.

Nancy Jo Cullen is a fiction writer and poet living in Toronto. She is also the author of the short story collection Canary and three poetry collections: Science Fiction Saint, untitled child and Pearl.

Going Dutch by James Gregor

Going Dutch is a book by James Gregor. (Simon & Schuster, Alan Reid)

Going Dutch is a novel about a graduate student named Richard who is struggling with anxiety and writers' block. When a classmate offers to help Richard write his papers in exchange for company ⁠— despite Richard clearly being gay ⁠— what begins as a simple agreement evolves into a complex relationship that becomes a big problem when Richard meets an attractive lawyer named Blake.

James Gregor is a writer based in Halifax. Going Dutch is his first book.

Mooncalves by Victoria Hetherington

Mooncalves is a novel by Victoria Hetherington. (Now or Never Publishing)

Mooncalves is about a cult in Sainte-Pétronille, Que., and how it falls apart. After a sexual assault breaks the cult apart, Erica Strickland barely escapes with her life and must rebuild her life. Mooncalves explores ambition, power and the draw of cults and similar social collectives.

Victoria Heatherington is a writer based in Toronto. Mooncalves is her first book.

Aria by Nazanine Hozar

Aria is a novel by Nazanine Hozar. (Tenille Campbell, Penguin Random House Canada)

Aria is the story of a young orphan girl, growing up in the midst of the mounting dissent that preceded the Iranian revolution. Discovered on the side of the road by a soldier, Aria is shaped by three very different women as she grows up, falls in love and becomes a mother. 

Nazanine Hozar is a writer based in British Columbia. Aria is her debut novel.

The Dishwasher by Stéphane Larue, translated by Pablo Strauss

The Dishwasher is a novel by Stéphane Larue, translated by Pablo Strauss. (Le Quartanier, Justine Latour, Biblioasis)

Stéphane Larue had the least glamorous job at a restaurant — a dishwasher. But it gave him an inside look at the hard-living characters working in frenetic, stress-filled kitchens. He turned those experiences into a novel, The Dishwasher, that takes the reader into the demi-monde of restaurant kitchens. 

The French version of the book, Le Plongeur, won the Prix des libraires du Québec and the Prix Senghor and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for French-language fiction. The Dishwasher is Stéphane Larue's first book.

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

When We Were Vikings is a book by Andrew MacDonald. (Simon & Schuster Canada)

When We Were Vikings is a novel about Zelda, a 21-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother Gert. The pair have some basic rules to guide their lives, such as "A smile means thank you for doing something small that I liked" and "Strange people are not appreciated in her home." When Zelda finds out that Gert has been resorting to questionable means to make money for the both of them, Zelda decides to launch into her own quest: to become a living legend. 

Andrew David MacDonald is a writer from Edmonton. When We Were Vikings is his first book.

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