The Writers’ Union of Canada announced today that Zalika Reid-Benta is the recipient of the $10,000 first prize in the 23rd annual Danuta Gleed Literary Award, recognizing the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2019 in the English language.
Of Zalika Reid-Benta’s book Frying Plantain (published by Astoria, an imprint of House of Anansi Press Inc.), jury members Lesley Choyce, Norma Dunning, and Djamila Ibrahim said: “Zalika Reid-Benta's debut short story collection, Frying Plantain, is brilliant. Through Reid-Benta's quiet but unflinching prose, we witness a Black girl's journey into adulthood. Along the way, we meet characters that are by turns lovable and frustrating, stubborn and vulnerable. Reid-Benta writes her characters into existence with great assurance, skill, and tenderness. Frying Plantain is as accomplished as it is delightful.”
Zalika Reid-Benta is a Toronto-based writer whose debut short story collection, Frying Plantain, was longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize and shortlisted for the 2020 Trillium Book Award. Frying Plantain is currently shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and nominated for the 2020 Forest of Reading Evergreen Award presented by the Ontario Library Association. Frying Plantain was also listed as one of Indigo’s 50 “Best Books of 2019.” Zalika received an MFA in fiction from Columbia University, was the 2019 John Gardner Fiction Fellow at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and is an alumnus of the 2017 Banff Writers’ Studio. She is currently working on a young-adult fantasy novel drawing inspiration from Jamaican folklore.
Photo: Michele Comeau
Runners-up Christy Ann Conlin and Terry Doyle will each receive $1,000.
Of Christy Ann Conlin’s Watermark (Astoria, an imprint of House of Anansi Press Inc.) the jury said: “Watermark is an unforgettable collection of mostly dark tales of psychological insight about characters that jump right off the page. Conlin's characters grapple with difficult life circumstances, old family secrets, and dark thoughts. The stories are often heartbreaking, surprising, and sometimes even creepy. Mystery and danger abound in a deceptively familiar Canadian landscape. An irresistible read.”
Of Terry Doyle’s DIG (Breakwater Books Ltd.) the jury said: “Terry Doyle brings a true East Coast Canada feel and understanding to his work. What may seem simplistic in his work actually makes the reader think and double-think about what his stories tell us. He is obviously a humble writer and humble man, a quality that rarely shines through in the works of many authors. Simple is not easy writing. Simple is difficult. Doyle is able to hold the attention of the reader as he tells you a story, giving you the feeling you are sitting across from him at his kitchen table. He is a writer who works within a true art form and is one to be admired.”
The short list of five books was announced on May 5, 2020, and also included Darci Bysouth, Lost Boys (Thistledown Press) and Kat Cameron, The Eater of Dreams (Thistledown Press).
The Danuta Gleed Literary Award was created as a celebration of the life of Danuta Gleed, a writer whose short fiction won several awards before her death in December 1996. Danuta Gleed’s first collection of short fiction, One of the Chosen, was posthumously published by BuschekBooks. The award is made possible through a generous donation from John Gleed, in memory of his late wife, and is administered by The Writers’ Union of Canada.
To date, the award has presented more than $177,000 to writers and has recognized more than 105 first collections of short fiction for their excellence. The first recipient was Curtis Gillespie for The Progress of an Object in Motion. Other winners have included Dennis Bock for Olympia, Pasha Malla for The Withdrawal Method, Ian Williams for Not Anyone’s Anything, Heather O’Neill for Daydreams of Angels, Kris Bertin for Bad Things Happen, and last year’s winner Carrianne Leung for That Time I Loved You.
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The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,100 members strong, TWUC promotes the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers. TWUC believes a lively and diverse literary culture is essential in defining Canada and its people. Learn more at writersunion.ca.
For additional information
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 ext. 221
DATE: June 24, 2020