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

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

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.

She 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.

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.