Books·The First Page

Solastalgia by Sofiyah Shariff

Solastalgia by Sofiyah Shariff is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge of 2022.

2022 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Sofiyah Shariff, 16, is a finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Sofiyah Shariff)

Solastalgia by Sofiyah Shariff is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category for 2022.

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. More than 1,800 students submitted their stories.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners, to be selected by bestselling YA writer Sarah Raughley, will be announced on May 31.

Shariff, 16, a student from Lillian Osborne High School in Edmonton, writes about Indigenous rights.


The feet slap hard on the concrete, taking me in circles. Has the ground always been so hard? The eyes are hungry for colour, swiveling side to side. When was the last time they saw colour? They yearn for contact to be made with them. The street is busy, this body is alone. I could fall down dead and no one would notice. The occasional eyes flick toward me, urgently averting their gaze; I am invisible. Once, I tried to grab someone's arm, desperate for the slightest acknowledgement. They looked down confused and shook me off as though they'd never seen the same ragged body on the same street across from the construction site on Fourth; where freshly poured concrete fills what was once the North Saskatchewan River.

All at once, I'm drowning. Visions of tiny green blades of a strange plant blowing in the wind flash across my mind, bison on the fire, singing, dancing and stories all in a language that sounds like gibberish yet seems familiar, and... wîkinân. A suffocating sense of fear follows, it intensifies the pain that brings me to my knees.

Screaming,
yelling,
whips cracking and children crying...
words in a harsh language that I know but feel so wrong to speak.

Someone has locked eyes with me; they look like me. Their eyes don't look away but stay focused, burning with intensity.

As quickly as it came, it's gone. The feet begin to move with more purpose now, winding through a sea of ignorant people until they suddenly stop. The body stays rooted to its spot, the eyes looking up from their usual view of the ground to stare at something that makes the blood run cold.

Someone has locked eyes with me; they look like me. Their eyes don't look away but stay focused, burning with intensity. I feel a foreign sensation winding its way through my blood and the reflection's… I can feel it tying us together. The reflection tips their head, I nod in their direction.

Like a popped bubble, we slowly return to our bodies. We walk toward each other, understanding all at once, this is the work of our ancestors, uniting us. We pass each other and somehow know we will never feel as detached from the world because it contains more like us.

The land is dying and so are we.

As I round the corner, I can't shake the encounter. I feel the foreign sensation humming through my bones... nipakoseyimon.


About The First Page student writing challenge

The First Page student writing challenge asks students in Grades 7 to 12 to write the first page of a novel from 150 years in the future. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2172. 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 bestselling author Sarah Raughley. 

A writer and lecturer from Southern Ontario, Raughley is the author of the YA Effigies series — which includes Fate of FlamesSiege of Shadows and Legacy of Light — and the fantasy historical novel The Bones of Ruinfor ages 14 and up.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada:

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2022.

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 free YA books. Special thanks to Penguin Random House, Raincoast Books, Scholastic Canada, Annick Press, KidsCan Press, Groundwood Books, Orca Books and Simon & Schuster for donating books for the prize.

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