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Congratulations to our 2021 winners!

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

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.

2021 Emerging Writer Prize Winners' Announcement Video

2021 Nonfiction Winner

The Nonfiction prize has been awarded to Eternity Martis for They Said This Would Be Fun, published by McClelland & Stewart.

About the Book: A powerful, moving memoir about what it's like to be a student of colour on a predominantly white campus.

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 e-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 and this year’s Nonfiction judge

2021 Literary Fiction Winner

The Literary Fiction prize has been awarded to Michelle Good for Five Little Indians, published by Harper Perennial.

About the book: With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.

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 Author and this year’s Literary Fiction judge

2021 Mystery Winner

The Mystery prize has been awarded to Emily Hepditch for The Woman in the Attic, published by Flanker Press.

About the book: The Woman in the Attic is a claustrophobic psychological thriller wrought with suspense. This novel will put you on the edge of your seat… and make you wary of the unused spaces collecting dust in your home.

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 Author and this year’s Mystery judge

Thank you to our winners and shortlisted emerging writers!

Please browse all shortlisted books here.

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