Amazon Canada and The Walrus are pleased to announce the shortlists for the forty-fifth annual Amazon Canada First Novel Award – Adult Novel category and Youth Short Story category.
- Butter Honey Pig Bread, Francesca Ekwuyasi (Arsenal Pulp Press)
- Five Little Indians, Michelle Good (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.)
- Happy Hour, Marlowe Granados (Flying Books)
- You are Eating an Orange. You are Naked., Sheung-King (Book*Hug Press)
- Gutter Child, Jael Richardson (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.)
- Vanishing Monuments, John Elizabeth Stintzi (Arsenal Pulp Press)
The winner of the Adult Novel category will receive $60,000, and each of the six finalists will receive $6,000. All of the shortlisted books are also available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon.ca.
The winner will be announced on Thursday, May 27.
“I am proud of this shortlist. It speaks to the diversity we see in the Canadian literature scene today, and invites more voices to the forefront,” says Danny Ramadan, who is also a 2021 judge. “I hope that when aspiring authors from marginalized communities see this list, they would know that there is a space for their voices, and an appreciation for their stories.”
Francesca Ekwuyasi’s debut novel tells the interwoven stories of twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi, who feels she was born an Ogbanje — a spirit that plagues families by dying in childhood to cause its mother misery. Having chosen to stay alive, Kambirinachi’s worst fears come true when Kehinde experiences a devastating childhood trauma that fractures the family. Alone in Montreal, Kehinde struggles to find ways to heal, while her twin flees to London, numbing the loss of her sister with reckless hedonism. Now, after more than a decade of living apart, Taiye and Kehinde have returned home to Lagos to visit their mother. An intergenerational saga about three Nigerian women, Butter Honey Pig Bread is a story of the malleable line between the spirit and the mind, of finding new homes and mending old ones.
Taken from their families and sent to a remote residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are released. The teens soon find their way to the seedy world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, striving to find a place of belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. Fuelled by rage, Clara falls into the machinations of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain, while Kenny moves restlessly from job to job trying to outrun his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures secret compulsions as she waits for Kenny’s return. Howie serves time in prison, hoping to eventually begin life anew. With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the criss-crossing lives of residential-school survivors struggling to overcome the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.
Isa Epley is twenty-one years old and wise enough to understand that the purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure. In her diary she chronicles her New York City adventure during the sweltering summer of 2013. By day, Isa and her best friend, Gala, sell clothes in a market stall, pinching pennies for their Bed-Stuy sublet and bodega lunches. By night, they weave from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side among a rotating cast of celebrities, artists, and bad-mannered grifters. Money runs ever tighter and the strain tests their friendship as they try to convert their social capital into something more lasting. Through it all, Isa’s bold, beguiling voice captures the precise thrill of cultivating a life of glamour and intrigue as she juggles paying her dues with skipping out on the bill.
A young translator living in Toronto frequently travels abroad—to Hong Kong, Macau, Prague, Tokyo—often with his unnamed lover. In restaurants and hotel rooms, the couple begin telling folk tales to each other, perhaps as a way to fill the undefined space between them. Theirs is a comic and enigmatic relationship in which emotions are often muted and sometimes masked by verbal play and philosophical questions, and further complicated by the woman’s frequent unexplained disappearances.
Set in an imagined world in which the most vulnerable buy their freedom by working off their debt to society, Gutter Child uncovers a nation divided into the privileged Mainland and the policed Gutter. Elimina Dubois is one of only 100 babies elevated from the Gutter as part of a social experiment led by the Mainland government. But when her Mainland mother dies, Elimina is forced into an unfamiliar life of servitude, unsure of where she belongs. Sent to an academy, she befriends Gutter children who are making their own way however they know how. Richardson’s Gutter Child reveals one young woman’s winding journey through a fractured world of shocking injustices. Elimina is a modern heroine in an altered but all-too-recognizable reality who must defy a system that tries to shape her destiny.
Alani Baum, a non-binary photographer and teacher, hasn’t seen their mother since they ran away with their girlfriend almost thirty years ago. But when Alani gets a call from the assisted-living facility where their mother lives, they learn that dementia has claimed her ability to speak. Staying at their mother’s empty home, Alani attempts to tie up the loose ends of her life, grappling with memories grown animate — ones they’re now terrified to lose. Stinzi’s tenderly written debut explores what haunts us most, grieving not only what is lost, but also what remains.
The Shortlisted Authors
Youth Short Story Category
Now entering its fourth year, the Youth Short Story category will also be presented at the award ceremony on Thursday, May 27. Authors between the ages of thirteen and seventeen were invited to submit a short story under 3,000 words. The winner in this category will receive $5,000 and a mentorship lunch with editors of The Walrus.
This year’s shortlist for the Youth Short Story category, listed alphabetically, are:
- Rama Altaleb, “Lost Childhood”
- Stella Braun, “The Sound of Light”
- Aimée Després-Smyth, “The Thing That Wasn't a Thing”
- Yanxi Li, “The Gates of Heavenly Peace”
- Diya Singh, “The Escape from Alcatraz”
- Malcolm Wernestrom, “Troy”
Youth Author Special Guest Speaker
Lawrence Hill is the author of ten books, including The Book of Negroes, The Illegal, and Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. His 2013 Massey Lectures were based on his book of essays Blood: The Stuff of Life. His books have won many awards, including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and Canada Reads, and have been published around the world. Hill co-wrote the television miniseries based on his novel The Book of Negroes, which attracted millions of viewers in the United States and Canada, as well as won the NAACP Image Award for outstanding writing and eleven Canadian Screen Awards. His essay about his mother, “Act of Love: The Life and Death of Donna Mae Hill,” appeared in the Globe and Mail in 2018 and enriched a national conversation about medically assisted dying. His new novel for children, Beatrice and Croc Harry, will be published in 2021. Hill is currently working on a novel about the African American soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway during the Second World War, and he teaches creative writing at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Past Shortlists and Winners
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