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2020 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Winners Announced
Laatste Weduwe

Meet our winners

The best debut Nonfiction, Literary Fiction, and Speculative Fiction writers in Canada are here

From the Ashes

NONFICTION
WINNER

From the Ashes

Jesse Thistle

Frying Plantain

LITERARY FICTION
WINNER

Frying Plantain

Zalika Reid-Benta

SPECULATIVE FICTION
WINNER

Different Beasts

J.R. McConvey

The Kobo Emerging Writer Prize supports Canadian debut authors by helping kick-start their careers. A winning book in each category was chosen by established and respected Canadian authors: Marissa Stapley for Literary Fiction, Andrew Pyper for Speculative Fiction, and Tim Caulfield for Nonfiction, giving the debut writers an impressive vote of confidence from those at the top of their field.

NONFICTION WINNER

From the Ashes

$9.99 CAD

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From the Ashes

by Jesse Thistle

Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around.

In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education—and newfound love—he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family.

An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.

“ From the Ashes is a moving and haunting story of struggle and redemption. An incredible journey. I was blown away. It feels like an instant Canadian classic – one that provides unique insight into issues of social justice, addiction and life on the street. Jesse Thistle’s writing is straightforward, uncluttered, engaging and, at all the right moments, powerfully poetic. Both heartbreaking and inspiring, this is a book that everyone needs to read.

JUDGE

Tim Caulfield

From the Ashes

From the Ashes

by Jesse Thistle

$9.99 CAD

Add to cart

Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, whose tough-love attitudes quickly resulted in conflicts. Throughout it all, the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member.

Struggling with all that had happened, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. Finally, he realized he would die unless he turned his life around.

In this heartwarming and heart-wrenching memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful past, the abuse he endured, and how he uncovered the truth about his parents. Through sheer perseverance and education—and newfound love—he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family.

An eloquent exploration of the impact of prejudice and racism, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help us find happiness despite the odds.

“ From the Ashes is a moving and haunting story of struggle and redemption. An incredible journey. I was blown away. It feels like an instant Canadian classic – one that provides unique insight into issues of social justice, addiction and life on the street. Jesse Thistle’s writing is straightforward, uncluttered, engaging and, at all the right moments, powerfully poetic. Both heartbreaking and inspiring, this is a book that everyone needs to read.

JUDGE

Tim Caulfield

LITERARY FICTION WINNER

Frying Plantain

$4.99 CAD

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Frying Plantain

by Zalika Reid-Benta

Kara Davis is a girl caught in the middle — of her North American identity and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, of her mother and grandmother’s rages and life lessons, of having to avoid being thought of as too “faas” or too “quiet” or too “bold” or too “soft.” Set in a neighbourhood known as “Little Jamaica,” Kara moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood, from elementary school to high school graduation, in these twelve interconnected stories. We see her on a visit to Jamaica, startled by the sight of a severed pig’s head in her great-aunt’s freezer; in junior high, the victim of a devastating prank by her closest friends; and as a teenager in and out of her grandmother’s house, trying to cope with the ongoing battles between her unyielding grandparents.

A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, Frying Plantain shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker.

“ This novel brought to mind Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women: the writing is similarly assured, the excavation of the inner lives of the characters equally complete, the reading experience wholly satisfying and masterful. There is conviction in Reid-Benta’s prose, and yet this book offers an effortless reading experience — which is no small feat. There is genuine beauty in the honest simplicity of this story, and, make no mistake: this is not a simple, nor a straightforward, story. Reid-Benta’s writing is both relatable and illuminating, and that is a special kind of alchemy. There is not a single false note or misstep in this debut novel, which is as close to perfect as any I have read. I look forward with eager anticipation to reading whatever Reid-Benta writes next.

JUDGE

Marissa Stapley

Frying Plantain

Frying Plantain

by Zalika Reid-Benta

$4.99 CAD

Add to cart

Kara Davis is a girl caught in the middle — of her North American identity and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican, of her mother and grandmother’s rages and life lessons, of having to avoid being thought of as too “faas” or too “quiet” or too “bold” or too “soft.” Set in a neighbourhood known as “Little Jamaica,” Kara moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood, from elementary school to high school graduation, in these twelve interconnected stories. We see her on a visit to Jamaica, startled by the sight of a severed pig’s head in her great-aunt’s freezer; in junior high, the victim of a devastating prank by her closest friends; and as a teenager in and out of her grandmother’s house, trying to cope with the ongoing battles between her unyielding grandparents.

A rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds, Frying Plantain shows how, in one charged moment, friendship and love can turn to enmity and hate, well-meaning protection can become control, and teasing play can turn to something much darker.

“ This novel brought to mind Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women: the writing is similarly assured, the excavation of the inner lives of the characters equally complete, the reading experience wholly satisfying and masterful. There is conviction in Reid-Benta’s prose, and yet this book offers an effortless reading experience — which is no small feat. There is genuine beauty in the honest simplicity of this story, and, make no mistake: this is not a simple, nor a straightforward, story. Reid-Benta’s writing is both relatable and illuminating, and that is a special kind of alchemy. There is not a single false note or misstep in this debut novel, which is as close to perfect as any I have read. I look forward with eager anticipation to reading whatever Reid-Benta writes next.

JUDGE

Marissa Stapley

SPECULATIVE FICTION WINNER

J.R. McConvey

$15.99 CAD

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Different Beasts

by J.R. McConvey

A bear runs amok in a luxury hotel. A daily swim at the local pool becomes a question of life or death. The champion of a border wall faces an unexpected adversary.

The twelve stories in Different Beasts ask what it means to be both human and monster. Shape-shifting waifs, haunted stuffies, scavenging drones, insectoid demon-gods, and mutant angels all come to life in this wildly imagined debut. As do broken soldiers, disgraced politicians, tired parents, ogres and children, opportunists, and desperate survivors — human beasts each struggling with the animalian aspects of their nature.

In this wild, fantastical, viscerally memorable debut, J.R. McConvey explores the power dynamics that undergird social relationships and crystallize into structures of fealty and worship, fear and control, aspiration and desire.

“ The twelve stories of J.R. McConvey's Different Beasts are, indeed, different and frequently beastly. This is involving, often surprising, tension-filled short fiction told with a cinematic eye - the kind of storytelling that burns certain images into the reader's mind. McConvey's imagination is curious and ready for travel, which lends suspense to even the collection's quieter tales. It was a difficult task choosing a winner from this year's shortlist, which is good news for everyone: we can look forward to a number of new voices we'll be hearing from for years to come. J.R. McConvey is one such voice. And I'm confident that readers will find something to their delight - or their horror - in Different Beasts.

JUDGE

Andrew Pyper

Different Beasts book cover

Different Beasts

by J.R. McConvey

$15.99 CAD

Add to cart

A bear runs amok in a luxury hotel. A daily swim at the local pool becomes a question of life or death. The champion of a border wall faces an unexpected adversary.

The twelve stories in Different Beasts ask what it means to be both human and monster. Shape-shifting waifs, haunted stuffies, scavenging drones, insectoid demon-gods, and mutant angels all come to life in this wildly imagined debut. As do broken soldiers, disgraced politicians, tired parents, ogres and children, opportunists, and desperate survivors — human beasts each struggling with the animalian aspects of their nature.

In this wild, fantastical, viscerally memorable debut, J.R. McConvey explores the power dynamics that undergird social relationships and crystallize into structures of fealty and worship, fear and control, aspiration and desire.

“ The twelve stories of J.R. McConvey's Different Beasts are, indeed, different and frequently beastly. This is involving, often surprising, tension-filled short fiction told with a cinematic eye - the kind of storytelling that burns certain images into the reader's mind. McConvey's imagination is curious and ready for travel, which lends suspense to even the collection's quieter tales. It was a difficult task choosing a winner from this year's shortlist, which is good news for everyone: we can look forward to a number of new voices we'll be hearing from for years to come. J.R. McConvey is one such voice. And I'm confident that readers will find something to their delight - or their horror - in Different Beasts.

JUDGE

Andrew Pyper

Looking for more great reads?

Explore the shortlist.