Debut novel a breakthrough, wins top award

Katherena Vermette and her debut novel took home the province’s top literary prize Saturday night.

Her novel The Break, published by House of Anansi Press, won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year at the 29th annual Manitoba Book Awards, also winning the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction as well as the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

The Break tells the story of four generations of indigenous women and the way they react to and cope with the brutal assault of a teenage girl in a neighbourhood modelled on Winnipeg’s North End. In his October 2016 review, Free Press book reviewer Morley Walker wrote The Break touches on many relevant social issues — murdered and missing women, teen gangs, the cycle of poverty, the problems of intermarriage. But it is primarily a story of resilience in the face of overwhelming odds."

The Break was also shortlisted for the 2016 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award, and was a finalist in CBC’s 2017 Canada Reads competition.

Vermette wasn’t the only multiple award winner at Saturday’s gala, held at the Fort Garry Hotel. Angeline Schellenberg won three awards for her book of poetry Tell Them It Was Mozart, including the award for most promising writer and for best first book.

Graphic novelist and writer David Alexander Robertson, who was nominated for multiple titles, also won two awards and tied for a third. His book Will I See, illustrated by GMB Chomichuk, won the award for best graphic novel, while When We Were Alone, illustrated by Julie Flett, won the award for best book for younger people.

Robertson also tied with Trevor Greyeyes for the aboriginal writer of the year award.

Longtime writer and former University of Manitoba English professor David Arnason was presented with this year’s lifetime achievement award.

Manitoba Book Awards April 22, 2017

Some of Canada’s best writers have springboarded to national and international acclaim after winning the Manitoba Book Awards. Previous winners include: Carol Shields (1993), David Bergen (1993,1996, 2009), Miriam Toews (1998, 2000), Margaret Sweatman (1991, 2001), Sandra Birdsell (1992), Jake MacDonald (2002), Allan Levine (2010), Barbara Huck (2014) and Wab Kinew (2016).

The Manitoba Book Awards is an annual project of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild produced with the assistance of the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers.

The Manitoba Book Awards honour books written by Manitobans, published in Manitoba or about Manitoba. More than $30,000 in prizes is awarded each year to Manitoba writers. The Manitoba Book Awards celebrates literary excellence, originality and diverse talent.

The 18 awards to be presented at the 29th annual Manitoba Book Awards include

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