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Winner of the 47th Annual First Novel Award -- The Island of Forgetting by Jasmine Sealy

First Autthor Award 2023

Jun 01, 2023

Established in 1976, the First Novel Award program has launched the careers of some of Canada’s most prestigious authors. Previous winners include Michael Ondaatje, Joan Barfoot, Joy Kogawa, W. P. Kinsella, Nino Ricci, Rohinton Mistry, Michael Redhill, Mona Awad, Katherena Vermette, Casey Plett, Michelle Good, and last year’s winner, Pik-Shuen Fung for Ghost Forest.

Congratulations to Jasmine Sealy for winning this prestigious award for her book The Island of Forgetting! You can find the shortlist and the winner in the booklist below. Place a hold today to enjoy this intimate saga spanning four generations of one family who run a beachfront hotel. Loosely inspired by Greek mythology, this is a novel about the echo of deep—and sometimes tragic—love and the ways a family’s past can haunt its future.

The winner was announced at the in-person award ceremony in Toronto last night at an event hosted by Jennifer Hollett, executive director of The Walrus, and included Michelle Good as the 2023 youth author special guest speaker.

Now entering its sixth year, the Youth Short Story category was also presented at last night’s award ceremony. Authors between the ages of thirteen and seventeen were invited to submit a short story under 3,000 words. Chosen by an esteemed panel of judges, the winner in this category was Danica Popovic for her short story Local Shopper. Danica received a $5,000 cash prize and her short story will be published on The Walrus website later this year.

The panel of judges for this year was composed of Sharon Bala, author of The Boat People, Kim Fu, author of the story collection Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, Heather O’Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals and Zalika Reid-Benta, author of the short story collection Frying Plantain.

This year the award was sponsored by Amazon and The Walrus. While founded and originally solely managed by the literary magazine Books in Canada, sponsorship changes throughout its history have renamed the award many times.

47th Annual First Novel Award Shortlist
by Collection_Development

The 47th annual First Novel Award honours the achievements of Canadian authors and their debut novels. Sponsored this year by Amazon and The Walrus.

  • In the Upper Country
    This fascinating series of stories within stories reflects the fragmentary history of African and Indigenous people experiencing the effects of enslavement, particularly from a Canadian perspective. Engrossing and intensely readable, this book represents just the beginning of a larger narrative, with many chapters yet to be told; very highly recommended.
  • The Island of Forgetting
    WINNER! British-born, Barbadian Canadian writer Jasmine Sealy’s debut novel The Island of Forgetting grew from a short story idea into a coming-of-age family saga that spans four generations.
  • Hollow Bamboo

    Hollow Bamboo

    A Novel

    By Ping, William
    The hilarious and heartbreaking story of two William Pings in Newfoundland--the lost millennial and the grandfather he knows nothing about.
  • Bad Cree

    Bad Cree

    Acimoi·n : A Novel

    By Johns, Jessica
    The novel serves as a window into a world where dreams intersect with waking reality, and where that unseen dimension is as much a part of the life of a tight-knit family and community as bingo, jokes, and video games. It works equally well as spine-tingling thriller and a touching meditation on grief.
  • In the City of Pigs
    Alexander Otkazov is finished with Montreal. Having wasted his youth on classical music and bohemian excess, he's ready for a life of anonymous condo towers and profitable boredom. But when he starts a new job as a journalist, he comes to realize that the world he is so anxious to leave behind is not quite finished with him yet, and that art and money might be more closely related than he thinks.
  • A Minor Chorus

    A Minor Chorus

    A Novel

    By Belcourt, Billy-Ray
    An unnamed narrator abandons his unfinished thesis and returns to northern Alberta in search of what eludes him: the shape of the novel he yearns to write, an autobiography of his rural hometown, the answers to existential questions about family, love, and happiness. What ensues is a series of conversations, connections, and disconnections that reveals the texture of life in a town literature has left unexplored, where the friction between possibility and constraint provides an insistent background score.