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Presenting the 2020 winners of the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

On 25 June 2020, Canada’s best debut books in Nonfiction, Literary Fiction, and Speculative Fiction by Canadian authors were chosen by a panel of three judges.

Watch Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn surprise the winners over Zoom

The 2020 Literary Fiction Winner

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.

— Marissa Stapley Novelist and this year's Literary Fiction judge

The 2020 Literary Fiction Shortlist

The 2020 Non-Fiction Winner

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.

— Timothy Caulfield Author and this year’s Non-fiction judge, said of the book

The 2020 Non-Fiction Shortlist

The 2020 Speculative Fiction Winner

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.

— Andrew Pyper Novelist and this year's Speculative Fiction judge

The 2020 Speculative Fiction Shortlist

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