Stories from Little Jamaica earn Toronto writer a place on Kobo’s Emerging Writer Prize Short List


Zalika Reid Benta

Another week, another Caribbean Canadian author has been nominated for a top national literary prize.

Zalika Reid-Benta, a  Toronto-based Jamaican Canadian novelist has made the longlist for the Sixth Annual Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

Reid-Bent is in the running for the $10,000 prize for literary fiction for her book Frying Plantain was published last year and nominated for the 2019 Giller Prize, Canada’s most  prestigious award.

Since then it has won the 2019 Byblacks People’s Choice Awards for Best Author and has been nominated for the  Ontario Library Association’s 2020 Forest of Reading Evergreen Award and The Canadian Writers’ Union Danuta Gleed Literary Award.

Rakuten Kobo, the Toronto based global eBook and audiobook online seller will be announcing the winners of the Emerging Writer Prize in June.It recognizes exceptional books written by first-time Canadian authors in three categories: Literary Fiction, Genre Fiction and Nonfiction.

Frying Plabtain

Now in its sixth year, previous winners of the Emerging Writer Prize include Robyn Doolittle for her groundbreaking book Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story , Omar el Akkad for his renowned debut novel  American War , and Maria Qamar (known online as @Hatecopy) for her acclaimed book  Trust no aunty .

Reid-Benta debut story collection Frying Plaintain  is a series of linked short tales centring on the coming of age of Kara Davis, a young  Jamaican Canadian  girl growing up in “Little Jamaica” (the Eglinton West  neighbourhood in Toronto.)

She is caught in the middle between her Canadian identity and her desire to be a “true” Jamaican. She lives through her mother and grandmother’s rages against the changing times.  She also survives the life lessons of having to avoid being thought of as too “faas” or too “quiet” or too “bold” or too “soft.”

Kara moves from girlhood to the threshold of adulthood, from elementary school to high school graduation, in a dozen interconnected stories. Set in both Toronto and Jamaica, this is a rich and unforgettable portrait of growing up between worlds.

Zalika Reid-Benta was born and raised in Toronto. She studied at the University of Toronto and New York City’s Columbia University. She currently works as the program manager at Diaspora Dialogues, a Toronto-based organization for emerging writers of colour.

Just asTthe Caribbean Camera was going to press, the Province of Ontario announced the shortlist for Ontario’s prestigious literary prize, the 2020 Trillium Book Award/Prix Trillium.

Zalika Reid-Benta (Frying Plantain) is a finalist for the $20,000 Trillium English Language Book Award. The winners in four categories will be announced during an online event on June 17, 2020.