Books

Tanya Tagaq shortlisted for $60K Amazon Canada First Novel Award for Split Tooth

The annual award honours the best Canadian debut novel. The other finalists are Joshua Whitehead, Ian Williams, Casey Plett, Liz Harmer and Tyler Hellard.
Split Tooth is Polaris Prize-winning artist Tanya Tagaq's first book. (Penguin Random House, Peter Power/Canadian Press)

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq is among the six debut novels shortlisted for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, which comes with a grand prize of $60,000.

The award recognizes the best Canadian debut novel of the year. The 2019 prize amount has been increased by $20,000 from previous years.

The full shortlist is:

Split Tooth takes place in Nunavut in the 1970s, following a young girl's upbringing amidst the Arctic's natural wonders, which juxtaposes harshly against the violence and alcoholism in her community. Split Tooth was also longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller PrizeTagaq is a Juno and Polaris Prize-winning musician.

Whitehead's novel Jonny Appleseed centres on a self-described "NDN glitter princess" who works as a cybersex worker in his city. Whitehead's first foray into fiction — he previously published the poetry collection full-metal indigiqueer — landed him on the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction shortlist and the longlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Williams' Reproduction is a love story that weaves in themes of race, class and identity as it plays into the lives of Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family.

Casey Plett's Little Fish is a novel that follows Wendy Reimer, a 30-year-old transgender woman, as she reflects on her life and the possible secrets of her family members. The Windsor, Ont.-based writer previously published a short story collection called A Safe Girl to Love.

Harmer's The Amateurs takes place in world where people can choose to return to a beloved moment in time — but they may not be able to return to the present, leaving it nearly empty.

The final book on the shortlist is Hellard's Searching for Terry PunchoutIn the novel, the Calgary writer envisions the life of an unsuccessful sportswriter who travels to a small maritime town to interview his estranged father — a reclusive and notorious hockey player — as a last-ditch effort to save his career.

The winner of the Amazon Canada First Novel Award will be announced in Toronto on May 22 at an event hosted by Shelagh Rogers, host of CBC Radio's The Next Chapter.

The jury panel is comprised of Diane Schoemperlen, Dimitri Nasrallah and Doretta Lau.

The 2018 winner was The Water Beetles by Michael Kaan.

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