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Omar El Akkad among winners of $10,000 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

Omar El Akkad (Michael Lionstar)

Omar El Akkad, Maria Qamar, and Sheena Kamal were named the winners of the third annual Kobo Emerging Writer Prizes on June 19. Canadian writers working in literary fiction, non-fiction, and mystery were each awarded a $10,000 prize by Rakuten Kobo.

El Akkad won the literary fiction prize for American War (McClelland & Stewart), set in a future America ravaged by a second civil war. Judge Lori Lansen praised El Akkad’s “beautifully crafted prose, deft character strokes, and propulsive narrative.”

Qamar won the non-fiction award for Trust No Aunty (Simon & Schuster), her hilarious illustrated “survival guide” about cultural identity. Judge Jay Ingram admired how Qamar “weaves together art, human nature, and culture.”

Kamal won the mystery category for The Lost Ones (HarperCollins), a psychological thriller about a woman in Vancouver who sets off to find her daughter after she goes missing, despite having given her up for adoption at birth. Judge Linwood Barclay was impressed with how Kamal “uses the conventions of the crime novel to cast a critical eye on Vancouver’s societal dysfunction, racism and poverty.”

“Our goal with this prize is to promote new, must-read authors to help them find their audience,” Michael Tamblyn, CEO of Rakuten Kobo, said in a statement. “As a Canadian-built company, we are proud to support our very own talent however we can.”

The shortlists for the 2018 prize was constructed by Kobo booksellers who considered book-completion rates, customer ratings, and reviews posted to Kobo.