The Kobo Emerging Writer Prize supports Canadian debut authors by helping kick-start their careers. A winning book in each category was chosen by established and respected Canadian authors: Gail Anderson-Dargatz for Literary Fiction, Lynsay Sands for Romance, and Camilla Gibb for Non-Fiction, giving the debut writers an impressive vote of confidence from those at the top of their field.
Literary Fiction Winner – Specimen by Irina Kovalyova
The stories in Specimen are a unique exploration of science and the human heart; the place where physical reality collides with our spiritual and emotional lives.
In “The Blood Keeper,” a young academic travels to North Korea to work on her dissertation and embarks on a dangerous affair. In “Mamochka,” which was nominated for the 2012 Journey Prize, an archivist at the Institute for Physics in Minsk, must come to terms with her daughter’s marriage to a Chinese man in Vancouver. In“Peptide P,” scientists study a disease that seems to affect children after they eat hotdogs. In “Side Effects,” a woman’s personality is altered, and not necessarily for the better, by botox injections. In “The Big One,” a woman and her daughter find themselves trapped in the rubble of an underground parking garage after an earthquake. Stylistically varied and with settings that range from North Korea and Minsk to Vancouver and Gdansk, Kovalyova is daring and confident new voice in Canadian fiction.
Judge: Gail Anderson-Dargatz
“I was entranced with Specimen. Irina Kovalyova is a magician who, with a nudge and a wink, makes us laugh in awe and recognition at each new trick. As at home in the experimental story as in a traditional narrative, she tackles the ordinary, the bizarre and the taboo with equal assuredness. Reading Kovalyova’s magical stories, I again felt that numinous, giddy joy I first experienced as a young writer discovering the endless possibilities found in narrative form.”
Romance Winner – Fury’s Kiss by Nicola R. White
Judge: Lynsay Sands
“Nicola R. White’s Fury’s Kiss: New England Furies Book 1 was a welcome surprise. The idea behind the story was definitely original and Ms. White is a natural storyteller. Her writing flows smoothly, quickly drawing the reader into the world she’s created, and then keeps them there with high doses of action, suspense, and of course romance. The characters, though, are where Ms. White truly shines. Her female lead is strong but still relatable. However, her secondary characters really added to the story, giving it depth and personality. This story is definitely a winner.”
Non-Fiction Winner – The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who’d raised him. The Reason You Walk spans that 2012 year, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father’s traumatic childhood at residential school. Kinew writes affectingly of his own struggles in his twenties to find the right path, eventually giving up a self-destructive lifestyle to passionately pursue music and martial arts. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence. Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond. By turns lighthearted and solemn, Kinew gives us an inspiring vision for family and cross-cultural reconciliation, and for a wider conversation about the future of aboriginal peoples.
Judge: Camilla Gibb
“Wab Kinew’s story is a deeply moving memoir about the possibility of forgiveness and healing within a family, a community and a country coming to terms with the damaging legacy of the residential school system. The son of an Anishinaabe chief and a non-native woman, Kinew moves within two worlds, as did his father, both seeking to reconcile conflicting parts of selves shaped by different cultural forces. Wab Kinew’s book is a gift to this country.”