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2023 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Winners Announced

June 22, 2023

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

TORONTO, ONJune 22, 2023 - Today, Rakuten Koboannounced the winners of its ninth annual Emerging Writer Prize, adding three new Canadian authors to its growing list of celebrated writers. Debut authors in Nonfiction, Literary Fiction and Speculative Fiction were each awarded a $10,000 CAD cash prize, and will receive promotional, marketing and communications support from Kobo throughout the year and beyond, to help drive the success of their work in the world of publishing.

“At Kobo, we admire the courage and perseverance it takes first-time authors to get their work out into the world, and we created this prize to help discover and support Canada’s newest literary talent,” said Michael Tamblyn, CEO of Rakuten Kobo. “This year, we were overwhelmed by impressive debut authors but there was something special about the books our author judges – Emily Urquhart, CS Richardson and Robert J Wiersema – selected as this year’s winners. We are proud to recommend these books and excited that for these authors, this is just the beginning.”

Nonfiction Winner

The Nonfiction prize has been awarded to Harrison Mooney for Invisible Boy, published by HarperCollins Canada.

About the book: Throughout this most timely tale of race, religion and displacement, Harrison Mooney’s wry, evocative prose renders his deeply personal tale of identity accessible and light, giving us a Black coming-of-age narrative set in a world with little love for Black children.

Author Emily Urquhart, this year’s Nonfiction judge, said of the book:

Invisible Boy is an extraordinary coming of age story of being Black in a white world, living in the shadow of fundamentalist religion, surviving abuse, and deciphering the deep complexities of transracial adoption, all narrated in a singular and clear voice. Harrison Mooney captures his younger self exquisitely and it is clear he has been writing this book his entire life. Young Harrison has survival skills—he is sharply observant, funny, intelligent, and insightful—but his ultimate talent, shared with the most accomplished memoirists before him, is as a storyteller. There are no tidy conclusions to be had in life, but, as Mooney shows us, we can turn back and retread our route to explore how we came to be ourselves. I couldn't put this book down, and all I cared about was the boy at its centre and who he might become. Bravo to Harrison Mooney for writing this compelling, humorous, heartbreaking, and beautiful work.”

Literary Fiction Winner

The Literary Fictionprize has been awarded to Erica McKeen for Tear, published by Invisible Publishing.

About the book: Tear is both a horrifyingly deformed bildungsroman and a bristling reclamation of female rage. Blurring the real and the imagined, this lyric debut novel unflinchingly engages with contemporary feminist issues and explores the detrimental effects of false narratives, gaslighting, and manipulation on young women.

Author CS Richardson, this year’s Literary Fiction judge, said of the book:

Tear is a bold, unflinching bildungsroman that moves, chimera-like, between the real and the imagined; among the confusions and traumas of youth; from the humane to the monstrous. And therein author Erica McKeen accomplishes the truly remarkable. While walking in the steps of such gothic icons as Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson, McKeen manages to forge her own path: avoiding the clichéd, the gratuitous, and the overwritten to create in Tear an inventive, affecting, modern work. With assured control of her craft and respect for both her readers and her genre forebearers, McKeen writes with an originality, sophistication, and expertise well beyond her years.”

Speculative Fiction Winner

The Speculative Fictionprize has been awarded to K.S. Covert for The Petting Zoos, published by Dundurn Press.

About the book:  A post-apocalyptic sex adventure and a woman’s journey of self-discovery, The Petting Zoos is an erotic love story for an age of extreme caution, in which the value of safety itself is questioned.

Author Robert J. Wiersema, this year’s Speculative Fiction judge, said of the book:

“The Petting Zoos delivers exactly what many readers look for in their Speculative Fiction: something bracingly new, but rooted in a fundamental sense of humanity. From a somewhat salacious concept, Covert creates a story of a world reawakening after disaster, an analysis of the nature of intimacy and love, of human connection. While Lily's is a personal, sexual odyssey, the novel is expansive, finding hope in dark corners, the soul-affirming power of fresh fruit, of nature, of touch. It's a most unusual and powerful work.”

More about the prize

The Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize is now in its ninth year. The winners were selected from a shortlist of talented debut Canadian writers chosen by Kobo’s team of booksellers, with book completion rates, customer ratings and reviews taken into consideration.

The 2023 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Shortlist


Literary Fiction

Speculative Fiction

To be eligible for the 2023 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, entrants must be Canadian citizens or legal residents of Canada who published debut books during the 2022 calendar year in the categories of Nonfiction, Literary Fiction or Genre Fiction (the genre this year is Speculative Fiction; each year, a different genre is chosen). All submitted books must be available at


About Rakuten Kobo Inc.

Rakuten Kobo Inc. is the world’s digital bookseller created by and for booklovers. Owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten Group, Inc. and headquartered in Toronto, Rakuten Kobo’s millions of worldwide users can read anytime, anywhere, and on any device. With a mission to make reading lives better for all, Rakuten Kobo connects readers to stories using thoughtful and personalized curation of eBooks and audiobooks, and the best dedicated eReaders and apps for reading. With the singular focus of making reading lives the best they can be, Kobo’s open platform allows people to fit reading into more moments in their busy lives.

To learn more about Rakuten Kobo, visit

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