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Casey Plett, author of Little Fish, Wins 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award Presented by Amazon Canada and The Walrus
[May 22, 2019]

Casey Plett, author of Little Fish, Wins 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award Presented by Amazon Canada and The Walrus

Jenniffer Meng wins the Youth Short Story category for "Where Do All the Birds Go?"

SEATTLE, May 22, 2019 /CNW/ - Tonight, Amazon Canada and The Walrus named Casey Plett, author of Little Fish (Arsenal Pulp Press) the winner of the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award (, which celebrates first-time Canadian novelists. As the winner, Plett received a $60,000 prize. The 43rd annual award ceremony was held this evening at the Globe and Mail Centre in Toronto, hosted by CBC's The Next Chapter radio host Shelagh Rogers, with guest speaker and Man Booker prize-winning author Yann Martel. Casey Plett is originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Amazon Canada (CNW Group/Amazon Canada)

Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined. It is the dead of winter in Winnipeg, and Wendy Reimer, a thirty-year-old trans woman, feels like her life is frozen in place. When her Oma (grandmother) passes away, Wendy receives an unexpected call from a distant family friend who tells her a startling secret: Wendy's Opa (grandfather)—a devout Mennonite farmer—might have been transgender himself. Can Wendy unravel the mystery of her grandfather's world and reckon with the culture that both shaped and rejected her? She's determined to try.

Plett's book was chosen from a shortlist of six, which also included:

  • The Amateurs, Liz Harmer (Knopf Canada)
  • Searching for Terry Punchout, Tyler Hellard (Invisible Publishing)
  • Split Tooth, Tanya Tagaq (Viking Canada)
  • Jonny Appleseed, Joshua Whitehead (Arsenal Pulp Press)
  • Reproduction, Ian Williams (Random House Canada)

This year's panel of judges is composed of Diane Schoemperlen, a Governor General Award–winning author of fourteen books, including This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, rison, and Other Complications (2016), which was shortlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize; Dimitri Nasrallah, winner of the Quebec Writers' Federation's Hugh MacLennan and First Book Prizes and author of three novels, most recently The Bleeds (2018); and Doretta Lau, author of the short-story collection How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? (2014).

"Whereas last year's crop seemed more focused on Canada's place in the world, with an emphasis on international conflict, this year's most evocative writers have trained their gaze inward exploring the nuances of identity, history, and class that have systemically defined and divided Canadians," says 2019 judge Dimitri Nasrallah.

From 2019 judge Diane Schoemperlen: "With so many great books to choose from, I have come away from the judging process feeling more confident than ever before that the future of the Canadian novel will continue to be vibrant, passionate, and always illuminating."

"Our most difficult job was to shortlist just six books out of dozens of contenders," says Doretta Lau, also a 2019 judge. "These books show us the power that story has to bring our communities together and how literature enriches our hearts, minds, and spirits."

For over fifteen years, Amazon Canada has been part of the First Novel Award. Now in its second year, the Youth Short Story Category celebrates authors between the ages of thirteen and seventeen who have written a short story under 3,000 words. Sixteen-year-old Jenniffer Meng was chosen as the winner by the First Novel Award's panel of judges. The prize for her winning short story, "Where Do All the Birds Go?" is $5,000 along with a mentorship lunch with editors of The Walrus.

"I feel lucky to have had the chance to read this range of stories by young writers," says Alix Hawley, 2019's Youth Short Story Category judge and 2015 Amazon Canada First Novel Award winner. "Many of them were extremely good, some outstanding, and all had the writer's heart in them. The breadth of subjects, genres, and voices gave a beautiful variety of reading experiences, from dystopian fantasy to comic adventure to astute psychological observation, set in this world or others. It was an honour to be allowed to share in them."

"During tonight's 43rd annual award ceremony, not only did we get a chance to celebrate the winners and shortlisted authors, we also had the opportunity to celebrate the diversity and creativity of all Canadian storytellers," said Mike Strauch, country manager for Amazon Canada. "The First Novel Award is truly an investment in the future of Canadian novelists by supporting up-and-coming talent and fostering their careers. We look forward to what is next for all of the flourishing, creative, and talented writers across the country." 

Established in 1976, the First Novel Award program has launched the careers of some of Canada's most beloved novelists. Previous winners include Michael Ondaatje, Joan Barfoot, Joy Kogawa, W.P. Kinsella, Nino Ricci, Rohinton Mistry, Michael Redhill, Mona Awad, Katherena Vermette, and Michael Kaan.

For additional information about the finalists and the Amazon Canada First Novel Award, visit or

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About The Walrus
The Walrus provokes new thinking and sparks conversation on matters vital to Canadians. As a registered charity, we publish independent, fact-based journalism in The Walrus and at; we produce national, ideas-focused events, including our flagship series The Walrus Talks; and we train emerging professionals in publishing and non-profit management.

The Walrus is invested in the idea that a healthy society relies on informed citizens.

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