Zalika Reid-Benta & Christy Ann Conlin among finalists for $10K Danuta Gleed Literary Award

The annual prize, which is organized by the Writers' Union of Canada, recognizes debut Canadian short story collections.

The annual prize recognizes debut Canadian short story collections

Zalika Reid-Benta and Christy Ann Conlin are two of the finalists for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, which recognizes debut short story collections. (, Kate Inglis)

Zalika Reid-Benta and Christy Ann Conlin are among the five finalists for the 23rd annual Danuta Gleed Literary Award, recognizing the best debut short fiction collection by a Canadian author published in 2019.

Reid-Benta and Conlin are recognized for their books Frying Plantain and Watermark, respectively.

The prize, awarded by the Writers' Union of Canada, annually honours the three best first collections, with first place, worth $10,000, and two runner-up prizes of $500.

The shortlist was selected from 24 submitted collections.

This year's jury is made up of Lesley Choyce, Norma Dunning and Djamila Ibrahim.

Frying Plantain features a series of interconnected stories with a young black woman named Kara Davis living in Toronto.

The coming-of-age story explores race, class and identity as Kara learns to navigate and reconcile her Canadian nationality and Jamaican heritage.

"Reid-Benta writes her characters into existence with great assurance, skill and tenderness," said the jury in a statement.

Frying Plantain was also longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Conlin's Watermark, focuses on various characters navigating the elemental forces of love, life and death, including an insomniac in Halifax's streets, a runaway bride, a young woman accused of a brutal murder, a man who has no choice but to live in exile in order to survive and a woman coming to terms with her childhood in a cult on the Bay of Fundy shore.

"The stories are often heartbreaking, surprising, and sometimes even creepy. Mystery and danger abound in a deceptively familiar Canadian landscape. An irresistible read," said the jury.   

Watermark is also nominated for the 2020 Forest of Reading Evergreen Award.

The other three finalists are British Columbia's Darci Bysouth for Lost Boys, Edmonton's Kat Cameron for The Eater of Dreams and Newfoundland's Terry Doyle for Dig.

Lost Boys is a collection of stories that explores what it means to live after love is lost.

The Eater of Dreams is 15 connected stories that play with magical realism, each about a character that is grappling with trauma. 

Dig is a collection of 12 stories that are linked thematically ⁠— they explore misfortune and redemption.

The winners will be announced in June 2020.

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