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Author Katherena Vermette.Marta Iwanek/The Globe and Mail

Katherena Vermette has won the $40,000 First Novel Award for The Break, a piercing exploration of violence, trauma and resilience, it was announced on Thursday.

Set in a tight-knit neighbourhood in Winnipeg's North End, The Break revolves around the sexual assault of a teenage girl and the consequences it has for her family, friends and community. The novel has been a mainstay of bestseller lists since it was published last September, and garnered both critical acclaim and been nominated for a host of literary awards, including the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor-General's Literary Award. The novel also competed on the most recent edition of CBC's literary debate show, Canada Reads.

A Métis writer and documentary filmmaker, Vermette is also the author of the poetry collection North End Love Songs, which won the Governor-General's Literary Award in 2013.

The Break was selected by a jury consisting of Wilfrid Laurier professor Tanis MacDonald, as well as authors Gurjinder Basran and Casey Plett.

The other finalists, who each receive approximately $6,000, were Catherine Cooper for White Elephant; Kaie Kellough for Accordéon; Rebecca Rosenblum for So Much Love; and Yasuko Thanh for Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, who coincidentally won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize for which Vermette was also nominated.

Previous winners of the award, which has helped launch the careers of some of the most-recognizable names in Canadian literature, include Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Anne Michaels, André Alexis and Madeleine Thien.

Mona Awad won last year's prize for 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. Mark Medley

Jeff Lemire says he worked on his new graphic novel Roughneck at the same time as the Gord Downie project, Secret Path. The illustrator says “Roughneck” addresses themes of violence and addiction in indigenous communities.

The Canadian Press