On Friday, June 15, at the 30th annual Manitoba Book Awards gala in Winnipeg, Michael Kaan was announced the winner of the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction and the McNally Robinson Book of the Year for his debut novel, The Water Beetles. This marks the second year in a row that a debut novel has received the top honour of Book of the Year.
First published in April 2017, The Water Beetles is “a literary high wire act” (Toronto Star) set in China following the Japanese invasion. Loosely based on the diaries and stories of the author’s father, this mesmerizing tale vividly captures the horror of war through the eyes of a child with unsettling and unerring grace. The Georgia Straight has described it as “a work of lasting power.”
The novel recently won the 2018 Amazon.ca First Novel Award, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award in Fiction, and was named a “Best Book of 2017” by National Post and a Walter Scott Prize Academy Recommended Historical Novel of 2017.
The novel was acquired and edited by Goose Lane’s fiction editor Bethany Gibson.
"It is an understatement to say Kaan’s novel is an impressive debut. It immediately enters into the canon of coming-of-age stories, as powerful as any you can name." — Winnipeg Free Press
Presented by the Manitoba Writers' Guild, in collaboration with the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers, the Manitoba Book Awards have celebrated literary excellence in Manitoban writing and publishing since 1987. This year’s gala was hosted by Rachel Lagacé at the Robert B. Schultz Theatre in St. John’s College at the University of Manitoba.
Other titles shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction included Armin Wiebe’s Grandmother, Laughing (Turnstone Press) and Méira Cook’s Once More with Feeling (House of Anansi Press).
Other titles shortlisted for the McNally Robinson Book of the Year included Méira Cook’s Once More with Feeling (House of Anansi Press), Gerald Kuehl’s Portraits of the North (Les Éditions des Plaines/ Vidacom), Margo Goodhand’s Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists (Fernwood Publishing), and Janis Thiessen’s Snacks: A Canadian Food History (University of Manitoba Press).
The Water Beetles was also shortlisted for the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book.
About Michael Kaan
Michael Kaan was born in Winnipeg, the second child of a father from Hong Kong and a Canadian mother. He completed a degree in English from the University of Manitoba, later completing an MBA in Health Economics from the same institution. He has worked as a healthcare administrator since 2000, primarily in mental health and health research. He currently manages a mental health clinic. His father died in 2006, and Michael came into possession of his memoirs shortly thereafter. The Water Beetles is his first novel.
To learn more about The Water Beetles, click here.