books

Breaking News: winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2023 announced

Nigerian writer Arinze Ifeakandu has been awarded one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – for his ‘exhilarating’ debut God’s Children Are Little Broken Things, a stunning short fiction collection, whose nine stories simmer with loneliness and love, and depict what it means to be gay in contemporary Nigeria.

Described as ‘gorgeous…full of subtlety, wisdom and heart’ by Sarah Waters, ‘quietly transgressive’ by Damon Galgut and awarded the 2022 Republic of Consciousness Prize, God’s Children Are Little Broken Things has established twenty-eight-year-old Ifeakandu as a vital new voice in literary fiction.

Ifeakandu was awarded the prestigious £20,000 Prize for God’s Children Are Little Broken Things (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) at a ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May, with November 2023 marking seventy years since the Welsh poet’s death.

Arinze Ifeakandu was born in Kano, Nigeria. An AKO Caine Prize for African Writing finalist and A Public Space Writing Fellow, he is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in A Public SpaceOne Story, and GuernicaGod’s Children Are Little Broken Things is his first book.

God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

In this stunning debut from one of Nigeria’s most promising young writers, the stakes of love meet a society in flux.

A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A daughter returns home to Lagos after the death of her father, where she must face her past – and future – relationship with his long-time partner. A young musician rises to fame at the risk of losing himself and the man who loves him.

Generations collide, families break and are remade, languages and cultures intertwine, and lovers find their ways to futures; from childhood through adulthood; on university campuses, city centres, and neighbourhoods where church bells mingle with the morning call to prayer.

These nine stories of queer male intimacy brim with simmering secrecy, ecstasy, loneliness and love in their depictions of what it means to be gay in contemporary Nigeria.

 

 *this post was created using a press release but all opinions are my own.

books

Dylan Thomas Prize Shortlist – winner to be announced on May 11th!

This year’s shortlist includes three of the most talked about British female authors writing about contemporary womanhood: Somali-British writer Warsan Shire, the world-famous poet behind Beyoncé’s features Lemonade and Black is King, pays homage to refugees, Black women and teenage girls in her electrifying debut collection, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her HeadSheena Patel – recently longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Jhalak Prize – offers a piercing critique of social media and heteronormative relationships in her era-defining debut novel I’m a Fan; and Saba Sams, who burst onto the UK writing scene after winning the BBC National Short Story Award 2022 and who is the youngest contender for this year’s prize (aged 26), is recognised for her tender and witty Send Nudes – a short story collection which highlights the confusing double standards facing women today.

Completing the shortlist are three international authors at the forefront of their home nation’s literary scenes. From Ireland comes Sara Baume – winner of the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award, the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature – who is nominated for her poetic third novel Seven Steeples, which depicts a couple escaping into the wilds of South-West Ireland. Australia’s Robbie Arnott, a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist, has been nominated for his spellbinding third novel Limberlost, which transports readers to the folkloric setting of the Tasmanian wilderness. The final contender for this year’s prize is Nigeria’s Arinze Ifeakandu, an AKO Caine Prize for African Writing finalist, who makes a confident debut with his exquisite short story collection, God’s Children Are Little Broken Things – a bookwhich explores what it means to be a queer male in his home country.

The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize winner will be announced at a Winner’s Ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May.

*this post was created using information from a press release but all opinions remain my own.

books

The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize has been announced.

The shortlist – featuring four debuts and four female writers, as well as three titles from independent publishing houses – comprises three novels, two short story collections, and one poetry collection.

–          Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books) – novel (Australia)

–          Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press) – novel (Ireland)

–          God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – short story collection (Nigeria)

–          I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books/Granta) – novel (UK)

–          Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing) – short story collection (UK)

–          Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus, Vintage) – poetry collection (Somalia-UK)

Di Speirs, Chair of the judges, and Books Editor at BBC Audio, said:

There’s brilliance and beauty in the six books shortlisted for this year’s Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize. All six – while hugely different in style, subject and genre, and ranging from rural Tasmania and the wild Irish coast to the sharply contemporary in Nigeria and the UK – exemplify not only the talent and excitingly fresh, often startling, writing we were seeking, but draw the reader in and on. There’s wit and wisdom, pleasure and pain, acute observation of the natural world and of human relationships and above all, so much to savour. That we all agreed so clearly on our shortlist is testament to the strength of this potent mix of poetry, short stories and novels and to the power of the six writers.”

The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize winner will be announced at a Winner’s Ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May.

blog tour, books, reviews

Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist Review: I’m a Fan – Sheena Patel

Celebrating the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama, the annual Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most important awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, one of the most influential, internationally renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, and invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

The full longlist for 2023 is:

–               Limberlost byRobbie Arnott (Atlantic Books) – novel (Australia)

–               Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press) – novel (Ireland)

–               God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – short story collection (Nigeria)

–               Maps Of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)

–               Phantom Gang by Ciarán O’Rourke (The Irish Pages Press) – poetry collection (Ireland)

–               Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduor (Oneworld) – novel (Kenya)

–               Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu (Canongate Books) – novel (UK)

–               I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books) – novel (UK)

–               Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing) – short story collection (UK)

–               Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus) – poetry collection (Somalia-UK)

–               Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)

–               No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib (Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin) – novel (Lebanon)

Worth £20,000, the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

American poet, novelist and essayist Patricia Lockwood received the award in 2022 for her inventive debut novel, No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury Publishing). Chair of the 2022 Judges, Namita Gokhale, said: “No One Is Talking About This is a vital reflection on online culture today. A deeply timely winner, Patricia Lockwood is the voice of a generation of new writers who grew up under the constant pressures of real-time news and social media.”

The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist will be announced on Thursday 23 March followed by the Winner’s Ceremony held in Swansea on Thursday 11 May, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on Sunday 14 May.

In I’m A Fan a single speaker uses the story of their experience in a seemingly unequal, unfaithful relationship as a prism through which to examine the complicated hold we each have on one another. With a clear and unforgiving eye, the narrator unpicks the behaviour of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world, in turn offering a devastating critique of access, social media, patriarchal heteronormative relationships, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed. In this incredible debut, Sheena Patel announces herself as a vital new voice in literature, capable of rendering a range of emotions and visceral experiences on the page. Sex, violence, politics, tenderness, humour—Patel handles them all with both originality and dexterity of voice.

Sheena Patel is a writer and assistant director for film and TV who was born and raised in North West London. She is part of the 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE collective, has been published in 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE (Rough Trade Books) and a poetry collection of the same name (FEM Press). In 2022 she was chosen as one of the Observer’s Top 10 best debut novelists. I’m a Fan is her first book.Follow her on Twitter @Sheena_Patel_

My thoughts: I’m from the same part of North West London as the author and the narrator of this book, so every now and then as a place was mentioned I’d get a little surprise jolt of nostalgia. But otherwise the narrator and I are nothing alike. I couldn’t tell if this was purely fictional, autofiction or a mix of the two.

The obsession with “the man I want to be with” and his many girlfriends, especially the one she’s stalking on Instagram, the fact that he’s serially unfaithful to his wife, the way he toys with the narrator’s feelings and she never seems willing to just get away from him, the boyfriend she clearly doesn’t love anymore. All of it left me cold, we would not be friends.

The stream of consciousness style was interesting, the way it felt like the inner monologue of a young woman’s mind, her constant sense of being unbalanced, she knows none of this behaviour is healthy but yet can’t seem to break out of the cycle.

We all use social media to look at lives we want to live – the comparison, the shameless “where is that from?” and the copycatting of bits of other lives we can afford and hope will somehow make us more like them. This I could totally relate to. But her stalking of the other other woman, that I found a bit much.

As a story of obsession, emotional self harm this totally hits the mark. You’re not a fan, you’re obsessed and it needs to stop. Though I am now a fan of Sheena Patel, can’t wait to see what she writes next.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Dylan Thomas Prize 2021 Shortlisted – The Death of Vivek Oji – Akwaeke Emezi – book review

The winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize – which is for international young writers – will be announced today. So keep an eye on Twitter for the winner.

Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence. Worth £20,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

I was kindly sent a copy of one of the shortlisted titles – The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi to read and review and my thoughts are below. It arrived a bit later than planned due to a delivery mix up but better late than never!

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom. 

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.

My thoughts: this is beautiful and terribly, terribly sad, for several reasons.

From the title you know that someone dies, but the book is about how that someone, Vivek Oji, lived. It’s about his childhood, told through his cousin’s words and about his secrets, told through his friends. Vivek is only young when he dies, and his grief-stricken mother searches for answers – how did he die, who brought his body to the door of their house and left it there?

Slowly, as Vivek’s story unfolds, we learn about him, about who he really was, about the secrets he kept from all but his closest friends.

Beautifully written, moving and tragic, this is the story of one life, but it could be the story of so many, keeping parts of themselves hidden and secret, keeping love and truth buried, even as it causes them pain.

**some of the above text is taken from a press release about the shortlist but the review is entirely my own opinions and words**