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Congratulations to our 2021 winners!

Canada’s best debut books in Nonfiction, Literary Fiction, and Mystery have been chosen.

About the 2021 prize

Rakuten Kobo has chosen the winners of its seventh annual Emerging Writer Prize, adding three new Canadian authors to its growing list of celebrated writers. Debut authors in Nonfiction, Literary Fiction, and Mystery each were awarded a $10,000 CAD cash prize, and will receive promotional, marketing, and communications support from Rakuten Kobo to help get them started in the world of publishing.

Surprising this year's winners over Zoom

2021 Non-Fiction Winner

In They Said This Would Be Fun, Eternity Martis rewrites the grammar of the memoir and reconfigures its boundaries to make room for her wide-ranging experiences and reflections on anti-Black racism in a Canadian university, violence against women, and the intersections of colorism, mixed-race identities and the coming of age of a Black woman in Ontario. All that and a winning, defiant sense of humor that cuts through the founding myths of a racially tolerant Canada with alacrity and surgical precision. I loved every word in this sensational debut. It moved me to tears almost as often as it made me laugh, think and pause to admire the beautiful writing that leaps off the page—sometimes with joy, other times with deep but meaningful sadness. They Said This Would Be Fun is essential reading for anyone invested in the future of Canada and its next generation of storytellers.

— Kamal Al-Solaylee Author, journalist, and this year’s Nonfiction judge

The 2021 Non-Fiction Shortlist

2021 Literary Fiction Winner

While all the shortlisted books were written to a very high standard, it was Ms. Good’s book that stood out for me — not only because it is an assured and mature novel in its structure and execution, but also because it’s a book that I feel certain will pass the test of time. Five Little Indians is a novel that people will be reading, and taking to their hearts, for decades to come. Reading from the perspective of a settler, I was humbled and profoundly moved by Ms. Good’s characters, the injustices they endured, the weight of the lasting trauma inflicted upon them, and the courage, dignity, and fortitude of the survivors among them. Five Little Indians may be categorized as fiction, but it is rooted in honest, unflinching, and necessary truth.

— Jennifer Robson Novelist and this year’s Literary Fiction judge

The 2021 Literary Fiction Shortlist

2021 Mystery Winner

The Woman in the Attic is the sort of confident and assured mystery you’d expect from a seasoned writer, not one in the very early stages of a promising career. In this twisty and compelling novel, Emily Hepditch takes readers to the windswept and remote corners of Newfoundland, where her young narrator, Hannah, has returned home to a mother struggling with dementia and a house in just enough disrepair to begin revealing its secrets. A modern thriller with gothic touches, The Woman in the Attic ends on such a propulsive note that I found myself reading the final pages over and over again. With this truly surprising mystery under her belt, I can’t wait to read what Emily Hepditch conjures up next.

— Amy Stuart Novelist and this year’s Mystery judge

The 2021 Mystery Shortlist

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