The Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writers Prize honors and supports the best new Canadian writers. A winning book in each category was chosen by established and respected Canadian authors: Marissa Stapley for Literary Fiction, Andrew Pyper for Speculative Fiction, and Tim Caulfield for Nonfiction, giving the debut writers an impressive vote of confidence from those at the top of their field.

Jesse Thistle has won in the category of nonfiction for his searing memoir From The Ashes (Simon & Schuster). Judge Tim Caulfield said of the memoir:

“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.”

Jesse Thistle is Métis-Cree, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He is an assistant professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto. He is a finalist for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and the Indigenous Voices Awards, won a Governor General’s Academic Medal in 2016, and is a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a Vanier Scholar. He lives in Hamilton, Ont. He is represented by Samantha Haywood.

Zalika Reid-Benta has won in the category of fiction for her collection of interconnected short stories, Frying Plantain (Astoria/House of Anansi Press). Judge Marissa Stapley said of the book:

“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.”

Zalika Reid-Benta is a Toronto-based writer whose debut short story collection, Frying Plantain, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, was longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the 2020 Trillium Book Award, and nominated for the Evergreen Award (Ontario Library Association). Frying Plantain was also listed as one of Indigo’s 50 “Best Books of 2019.” Zalika received an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, was the 2019 John Gardner Fiction Fellow at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and is an alumnus of the 2017 Banff Writers’ Studio. She is currently working on a young-adult fantasy novel drawing inspiration from Jamaican folklore. Zalika is represented by Amy Tompkins.

To see the full list of winners, please visit: