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2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Winners Announced

June 20, 2018

The best debut Canadian books in Literary Fiction, Mystery, and Non-Fiction have been chosen

Toronto, ONJune 19, 2018 – Canada boasts a long list of celebrated authors and today, Rakuten Kobo adds to this remarkable roster with the announcement of its 2018 Emerging Writer Prize recipients. A winner in each of the Literary Fiction, Mystery, and Non-Fiction categories received a $10,000 CAD cash prize as well as promotional, marketing, and communications support to help grow their promising careers.

Literary Fiction Winner

The Literary Fiction prize has been awarded to Omar El Akkad for American War, published by McClelland & Stewart.

About the book: An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Author Lori Lansens, this year’s Literary Fiction judge, says: “Set in the near future, in an America ravaged by civil war and decimated by the changing climate, American War introduces us to Sarat Chestnut and her ill-fated family, southerners struggling to live a new normal. With beautifully crafted prose, deft character strokes and a propulsive narrative, Omar El Akkad creates a hellish, all-too-believable ethical wasteland where Sarat, thirsty for vengeance, becomes radicalized. War is hell, and while this novel charts the ruination of a country, a family, a woman, there are poignant reminders that humanity is not so easily destroyed.”

Mystery Winner

The Mystery prize has been awarded to Sheena Kamal for The Lost Ones, published by HarperCollins.

About the book: It begins with a phone call that Nora Watts has dreaded for fifteen years—since the day she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption. Bonnie has vanished. The police consider her a chronic runaway and aren’t looking, leaving her desperate adoptive parents to reach out to her birth mother as a last hope.

Author Linwood Barclay, this year’s Mystery judge, says: “Sheena Kamal’s writing in The Lost Ones is as fearless as her protagonist, Nora Watt. It has a dynamite premise that reminded me of Michael Connelly’s Blood Work, in which the hero is asked to solve the murder of the woman whose heart ended up in his chest. Kamal has an equally devious starting point, when Nora is asked to find a missing girl who happens to be the grown child she gave up for adoption. Kamal uses the conventions of the crime novel to cast a critical eye on Vancouver’s societal dysfunction, racism and poverty.”

Non-Fiction Winner

The Non-Fiction prize has been awarded to Maria Qamar for Trust No Aunty, published by Simon&Schuster.

About the book: Based on her popular Instagram @Hatecopy and her experience in a South Asian immigrant family, artist Maria Qamar has created a humorous, illustrated “survival guide” to deal with overbearing “Aunties,” whether they’re family members, annoying neighbors, or just some random ladies throwing black magic your way.

Author Jay Ingram, this year’s Non-Fiction judge says: "Honestly this has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make, but in the end, I chose Maria Qamar’s Trust No Aunty, a book that in a light-hearted (and laugh-out-loud funny) way weaves together art, human nature and culture and leaves the reader enlightened, or at least more aware, than before.”

More about the prize

The winners were selected among a shortlist of talented Canadian authors, chosen by Kobo’s team of booksellers, with book completion rates, customer ratings and reviews taken into consideration.

Shortlist (announced May 1, 2018)

Literary Fiction

The Church In The Wildwood by Alanna Rusnak - Alanna Rusnak Publishing
Death and the Intern by Jeremy Hanson-Finger - Invisible Publishing
American War by Omar El Akkad - McClelland & Stewart
Uncertain Weights and Measures by Jocelyn Parr - Goose Lane Editions
The Last Wave by Gillian Best - House of Anansi Press
Dominion by Shane Arbuthnott - Orca Book Publishers


The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova - Coach House Books
Our Little Secret by Roz Nay - Simon & Schuster
Full Curl by Dave Butler - Dundurn Press
The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal - HarperCollins
The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir by Peter Staadecker - Robert P Staadecker


Out Standing in the Field by Sandra Perron - Cormorant Books
Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar – Simon&Schuster
F-Bomb by Lauren McKeon - Goose Lane Editions
One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul - Doubleday Canada
How to Fall in Love with Anyone by Mandy Len Catron - Simon & Schuster
Beautiful Scars by Tom Wilson - Doubleday Canada

“It is with great pleasure that we present these deserving new Canadian writers with our award, which not only provides a cash prize, but also the support needed to get started in the tough business that is publishing. Finding an audience online takes even more work than ever, cutting through the millions of titles as opposed to the thousands that can be housed within the four walls of yesteryear’s local bookshop,” said Michael Tamblyn, CEO, Rakuten Kobo. “Our goal with this prize is to promote new, must-read authors to help them find their audience. As a Canadian-built company, we are proud to support our very own talent however we can.”

To be eligible for this year’s Kobo Emerging Writer prize, entrants must be Canadian citizens or legal residents of Canada who published debut books during the 2017 calendar year in the categories of Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction (Mystery this year; a different genre is highlighted each year), or Non-Fiction. All submitted books must be available at

For more details:

About Rakuten Kobo Inc.

Owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten and headquartered in Toronto, Rakuten Kobo Inc. is one of the world’s most innovative eReading services offering more than 6 million eBooks and audiobooks to millions of customers in 190 countries. Believing that consumers should have the freedom to read any book on any device, Kobo provides people with a choice when reading. Kobo offers an eReader for everyone with a wide variety of E Ink eReaders to suit any Reader’s style including Kobo Clara HD, Kobo Aura H2O, and Kobo Aura ONE; along with the company’s free top-ranking eReading and audiobook listening app for Apple® and Android®. Kobo’s award-winning eReaders can be found in major retail chains around the world. For more information, visit

Media Contact
Sinead McElhinney
Rakuten Kobo Inc.
Manager, Public Relations
416 977 8737 ext. 3382

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