Tayari Jones Wins 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction

Tayari Jones won the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel An American Marriage.Jones also won the Aspen Words Literary Prize this year, and beat out two Booker Prize winners for the award. Kate Williams, chair of judges for the Women’s Prize, said of An American Marriage: “This is an exquisitely intimate portrait of a marriage shattered by racial injustice. It is a story of love, loss and loyalty, the resilience of the human spirit painted on a big political canvas—that shines a light on today’s America. We all loved this brilliant book.”

Formerly the Orange Prize and Baileys Prize, the Women’s Prize for Fiction recognizes the best English-language novel by a woman published in the U.K. in the previous year. The £30,000 prize celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.” It is the U.K.’s only literary prize for fiction by women. Bonus Link: Our quick guide to the 2019 Women’s Prize shortlist—it’s never too late to read the other nominees!

Lambda Literary Awards Names 2019 Winners

The Lambda Literary Awards named its 2019 winners in a ceremony last night in New York City. The annual award, now in its 31st year, celebrates the “best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year and affirm[s] that LGBTQ stories are part of the literature of the world.”

In addition to the category awards, Lambda’s Trustee and Visionary Awards were given to Alexander Chee and Masha Gessen.

The winners of the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards were announced in 24 categories. Here are some highlights:

Lesbian FictionThe Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai

Gay FictionJonny Appleseed by Joshua WhiteheadBisexual FictionDisoriental by Négar Djavadi and translated by Tina Kover (One of our Most Anticipated titles from 2018)

Transgender FictionLittle Fish by Casey PlettLGBTQ NonfictionLooking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry (A “must read” according to Well-Read Black Girl’s Glory Edim)

Bisexual NonfictionOut of Step: A Memoir by Anthony Moll

Transgender NonfictionHistory of the Transgender Child by Julian Gill-PetersonLesbian Memoir/BiographyChronology by Zahra PattersonGay Memoir/BiographyNo Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L. Moore

Graphic NovelThe Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish

Lesbian PoetryEach Tree Could Hold a Noose or a House by Nina Puro

Gay PoetryIndecency by Justin Phillip Reed (One of Nick Ripatrazone’s Poems That End with Questions)

Bisexual PoetryWe Play a Game by Duy DoanTransgender PoetryLo Terciaro / The Tertiary by Raquel Salas Rivera (Described as “artful” by Ada Limón in her 2018 Year in Reading post)

The full list of winners can be found here.

And the Winners of the 2019 Best Translated Book Awards Are…

The 2019 Best Translated Book Awards were given to Slave Old Man and Of Death. Minimal Odes this evening at a ceremony at the New York Rights Fair in Manhattan.

Slave Old Man, written by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated by Linda Coverdale, and published by The New Press, won for fiction. Of Death. Minimal Odes, written by Hilda Hilst, translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin, and published by co-im-press, took the prize for poetry.

Slave Old Man is translated from the French and Creole. It is the first BTBA win for a book from the French. It is also the first victory for an author from Martinique.

Of Death. Minimal Odes is translated from the Portuguese. It is the second time poetry from Brazil has claimed the prize, after Rilke Shake won the 2016 award.

It is the first victory for both translators, and for The New Press and co-im-press. Linda Coverdale and The New Press were previously finalists for Jean Echenoz’s The Lightning.

Here is the jury’s statement on Slave Old Man:
In turns biblical and mythical, Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man is a powerful reckoning with the agonies of the past and their persistence into the present. It is a modern epic, a history of the Caribbean, and a tribute to Creole languages, all told through the story of one slave old man. Linda Coverdale’s translation sings as she beautifully renders language as lush and vividly alive as the wilderness the old man plunges into in his flight to freedom. It is dreamy yet methodical prose, vivid, sensual but also a touch strange, forcing you to slow down and reread. Thoughtful, considered footnotes provide added context and explanation, enriching the reader’s understanding of this powerful and subversive work of genius by a master storyteller. Slave Old Man is a thunderclap of a novel. His rich language, brilliant in Coverdale’s English, evokes the underground forces of resistance that carry the slave old man away. It’s a novel for fugitives, and for the future.
And here’s the jury statement on Of Death. Minimal Odes:
The first collection of Hilda Hilst’s poetry to be appear in English, Of Death. Minimal Odes is masterfully translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin. Hilda Hilst’s odes are searing, tender blasphemies. One is drawn to Of Death in the way we’re drawn to things that might be dangerous. These are poems that lure readers well beyond their best interests, regardless of whatever scars might be sustained. In language that is twisted, animalistic, yet at times plain, Eglin reveals another layer in the work of this Brazilian great.
The fiction jury included Pierce Alquist (BookRiot), Caitlin L. Baker (Island Books), Kasia Bartoszyńska (Monmouth College), Tara Cheesman (freelance book critic), George Carroll (litintranslation.com), Adam Hetherington (reader), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Sofia Samatar (writer), Elijah Watson (A Room of One’s Own). The poetry jury included Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), and Laura Marris (writer and translator).

We announced the longlists and finalists here at the site earlier this spring.

Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership, the living winning author and the translators will each receive $2,000 cash prizes. Three Percent at the University of Rochester founded the BTBAs in 2008, and since then, the Amazon Literary Partnership has contributed more than $150,000 to international authors and their translators through the BTBA. For more information, visit the official Best Translated Book Award site and the official BTBA Facebook page, and follow the award on Twitter. 

‘Celestial Bodies’ Wins the Man Booker International Prize

Celestial Bodies, written by Jokha Alharthi and translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Booth, won the 2019 Man Booker International Prize. The prize awards £50,000 to the best works of translated fiction from around the world, with prize money split evenly between translator and author. Alkharthi is the first female Omani novelist to be translated into English, and the first author from the Arabian Gulf to win the Man Booker International. Bettany Hughes, who chaired the panel of five judges, said of the novel, “Its delicate artistry draws us into a richly imagined community—opening out to tackle profound questions of time and mortality and disturbing aspects of our shared history. The style is a metaphor for the subject, subtly resisting clichés of race, slavery and gender. The translation is precise and lyrical, weaving in the cadences of both poetry and everyday speech.Celestial Bodies evokes the forces that constrain us and those that set us free.”

Best Translated Book Awards Names 2019 Finalists

The Best Translated Books Awards today named its 2019 finalists for fiction and poetry. The award, founded by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, comes with $10,000 in prizes from the Amazon Literary Partnership.

In the past seven years, the ALP has contributed more than $150,000 to international authors and their translators through the BTBA.

This year’s BTBA finalists are as follows—and be sure to check out this year’s fiction and poetry longlists, which we announced last month.

Fiction Finalists

Congo Inc.: Bismarck’s Testament by In Koli Jean Bofane, translated from the French by Marjolijn de Jager (Democratic Republic of Congo, Indiana University Press) 

The Hospital by Ahmed Bouanani, translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (Morocco, New Directions)

Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale (Martinique, New Press)

Pretty Things by Virginie Despentes, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, (France, Feminist Press)

Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated from the Persian by Khalili Sara (Iran, Restless Books)

Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer, translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire (Germany, Fitzcarraldo Editions)

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori (Japan, Grove)

The Governesses by Anne Serre, translated from the French by Mark Hutchinson (France, New Directions)

Öræfï by Ófeigur Sigurðsson, translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith (Iceland, Deep Vellum)

Fox by Dubravka Ugresic, translated from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac and David Williams (Croatia, Open Letter)

Poetry Finalists

The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn by Tanella Boni, translated from the French by Todd Fredson (Cote D’Ivoire, University of Nebraska)

Moss & Silver by Jure Detela, translated from the Slovenian by Raymond Miller and Tatjana Jamnik (Slovenia, Ugly Duckling)

Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst, translated from the Portuguese by Laura Cesarco Eglin (Brazil, co-im-press)

Autobiography of Death by Kim Hyesoon, translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi(Korea, New Directions)

Negative Space by Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated from the Albanian by Ani Gjika (Albania, New Directions)

The winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 29 as part of the New York Rights Fair.

Aida Edemariam Wins 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize

The Royal Society of Literature today named Aida Edemariam the winner of the 2019 RSL Ondaatje Prize for The Wife’s Tale, a work that blends memoir, fiction, and poetry and is based on the life of her nonagenarian grandmother. The annual prize, now in its 15th year, awards £10,000 to a work of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry for “evoking the spirit of a place.”

Judge Michèle Roberts said of the winning book, “The Wife’s Tale is beautifully written, carefully researched and richly imagined, an exquisite blend of memoir, fiction, poetry and invocation. This is a book I shall constantly re-read as well as recommend to everyone i know who loves literature.”

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi Wins 2019 PEN/Faulkner Prize

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi was awarded the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Prize for her novel, Call Me Zebra. This year’s judges, Percival Everett, Ernesto Quiñonez, and Joy Williams, said of the winning title: “Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Call Me Zebra is a library within a library, a Borges-esque labyrinth of references from all cultures and all walks of life. In today’s visual Netflix world, Ms. Van der Vliet Oloomi’s novel performs at the highest of levels in accomplishing only what the written novel can show us.” (For more, check out our review of Call Me Zebra.)The prize—which selects the best works by American citizens published in the last calendar year—has the distinction of being America’s largest peer-juried contest for fiction. The award brings with it a $15,000 prize for the winner, and $5,000 for each of the four finalists.

Women’s Prize for Fiction Names 2019 Shortlist

The Women’s Prize for Fiction announced its 2019 shortlist.

Formerly the Orange Prize and Baileys Prize, the Women’s Prize for Fiction recognizes the best English-language novel by a woman published in the U.K. in the previous year. The award celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.”

The shortlist includes one debut author (Oyinkan Braithwaite), one previously shortlisted author (Anna Burns), a previous Orange Prize for Fiction winner (Madeline Miller), and an Orange Award for New Writers winner (Diana Evans). The list also includes a few Year in Reading alums, and all the books were featured in our 2018 First-Half and Second-Half Book Previews.

Here is the 2019 shortlist, with Publishers Weekly reviews:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Read Publishers Weekly’s review here: Barker, author of the Booker-winning The Ghost Road, speculates about the fate of the women taken captive during the Trojan War, as related in Homer’s Iliad. Briseis, queen of the small country of Lyrnessus, was captured by the Greek forces and awarded to Achilles, fated to serve him as slave and concubine. Through her eyes readers see the horror of war: the sea of blood and corpses, the looting, and the drunken aftermath of battle. When Agamemnon demands that Briseis be handed over to him, Achilles reacts with rage and refuses to fight, and when his foster brother and lover Patrocles is killed, having gone into battle in Achilles’s stead, Briseis becomes the unwitting catalyst of a turning point in the war. In Barker’s hands, the conflict takes on a new dimension, with revisionist portraits of Achilles (“we called him the butcher”) and Patroclus (he had “taken his mother’s place” in Achilles’s heart). Despite its strong narrative line and transportive scenes of ancient life, however, this novel lacks the lyrical cadences and magical intensity of Madeline Miller’s Circe, another recent revising of Greek mythology. The use of British contemporary slang in the dialogue is jarring, and detracts from the story’s intensity. Yet this remains a suspenseful and moving illumination of women’s fates in wartime.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Here’s what Publishers Weekly’s starred review had to say: Braithwaite’s blazing debut is as sharp as the knife that twists in the chest of Femi, the now-dead boyfriend of Ayoola, whose boyfriends, curiously, seem to keep winding up dead in her presence. Femi makes dead boyfriend number three—each were killed in self-defense, according to Ayoola—and, per usual, Ayoola’s older sister, Korede, is called upon to help dispose of the body. The only confidante Korede has is a coma patient at the Lagos hospital where she works, which is the only place she can go to escape Ayoola. It is also where she can see the man she loves, a handsome and thoughtful doctor named Tade. Of course, this means that when the capricious Ayoola decides to start visiting her sister at work, she takes notice of him, and him of her. This is the last straw for Korede, who realizes she is both the only person who understands how dangerous her sister is and the only person who can intervene before her beloved Tade gets hurt, or worse. Interwoven with Korede, Ayoola, and Tade’s love triangle is the story of Korede and Ayoola’s upbringing, which is shadowed by the memory of their father, a cruel man who met a tragic and accidental death—or did he? As Korede notes when she considers her own culpability in her sister’s temperament: “His blood is my blood and my blood is hers.” The reveal at the end isn’t so much a “gotcha” moment as the dawning of an inevitable, creeping feeling that Braithwaite expertly crafts over the course of the novel. This is both bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.

Milkman by Anna Burns

Here’s Publishers Weekly’s starred review: In her Booker-winning novel, Burns (No Bones) gives an acute, chilling, and often wry portrait of a young woman—and a district—under siege. The narrator—she and most of the characters are unnamed (“maybe-boyfriend,” “third brother-in-law,” “Somebody McSomebody”)—lives in an unspecified town in Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s. Her town is effectively governed by paramilitary renouncers of the state “over the water,” as they call it. The community is wedged between the renouncers, meting out rough justice for any suspected disloyalty, and the state’s security forces. One day, “milkman,” a “highranking, prestigious dissident” who has nothing to do with the milk trade, offers the narrator a ride. From this initial approach, casual but menacing, the community, already suspicious of her for her “beyond-the-pale” habit of walking and reading 19th-century literature, assumes that she is involved with the rebel. Milkman, however, is in essence stalking her, and over the course of several months she strives, under increasing pressure, to evade his surveilling gaze and sustained “unstoppable predations.” There is a touch of James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus in the narrator’s cerebral reticence, employing as she does silence, exile, and cunning in her attempt to fly the nets of her “intricately coiled, overly secretive, hyper-gossippy, puritanical yet indecent, totalitarian district.” Enduring the exhausting “minutiae of invasion” to which she is subjected by milkman, and the incursion of the Troubles on every aspect of life, the narrator of this claustrophobic yet strangely buoyant tale undergoes an unsentimental education in sexual politics. This is an unforgettable novel.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Read what Publishers Weekly had to say: Evans’s striking novel (following 26A) investigates the relationships of two sets of friends as they navigate pivotal moments during 2008. Melissa and Michael remain engaged after 13 years; Melissa misses her former job as a magazine’s fashion editor, which she left to care for her seven-year-old, Ria, and infant, Blake, while Michael longs for the passionate relationship they used to have. Continually feeling rebuffed at home, Michael searches for attention from others and notices a younger woman in his office. Hesitant to be unfaithful, Michael plans an outing to connect with Melissa, but the evening falls short of expectations and Melissa withdraws further. Meanwhile, in the second narrative, Michael’s friend Damian is frustrated with Stephanie, his wife of nearly 16 years, because she refuses to live in London like their friends, opting instead to raise their children in the suburbs, thereby squelching his dream of city life and ambition of being a writer. Along with coping with the recent loss of his activist father, Damian believes his wife and her family don’t share his values, and instead measure their success by the size of their home and the private lessons they provide their children. With penetrating emotional and psychological observations, Evans creates a realistic portrayal of the couples as they struggle to redefine commitment. Readers looking for careful studies of relationship dynamics will find much to contemplate.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Read Publishers Weekly’s review: Jones (Silver Sparrow) lays bare the devastating effects of wrongful imprisonment in this piercing tale of an unspooling marriage. Roy, an ambitious corporate executive, and Celestial, a talented artist and the daughter of a self-made millionaire, struggle to maintain their fledgling union when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison on a rape charge he is adamant is false. Before Roy’s arrest, the narrative toggles between his and Celestial’s perspectives; it takes an epistolary form during his imprisonment that affectingly depicts their heartbreaking descent into anger, confusion, and loneliness. When Roy is proven innocent and released seven years early, another narrator is introduced: Andre, Celestial’s lifelong best friend who has become very close to her while Roy has been away. Jones maintains a brisk pace that injects real suspense into the principal characters’ choices around fidelity, which are all fraught with guilt and suspicion, admirably refraining from tipping her hand toward one character’s perspective. The dialogue—especially the letters between Roy and Celestial—are sometimes too heavily weighted by exposition, and the language slides toward melodrama. But the central conflict is masterfully executed: Jones uses her love triangle to explore simmering class tensions and reverberating racial injustice in the contemporary South, while also delivering a satisfying romantic drama.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Read Publishers Weekly’s starred review here: Miller follows her impressive debut (The Song of Achilles) with a spirited novel about Circe’s evolution from insignificant nymph to formidable witch best known for turning Odysseus’s sailors into swine. Her narrative begins with a description of growing up the awkward daughter of Helios, the sun god. She does not discover her gift for pharmakeia (the art of using herbs and spells) until she transforms her first love, a poor fisherman, into a god. When he rejects her in favor of vain Scylla, Circe turns Scylla into a sea monster. Now considered dangerous, Circe is exiled to an island, where she experiments with local flora and fauna. After returning from a visit to Crete to help her sister give birth to the Minotaur, Circe is joined on the island by errant nymphs sentenced to do their penance in her service. By the time Odysseus’s ship arrives, winding its way home from the Trojan War, Circe reigns over a prosperous household. Welcome guests enjoy her hospitality; unwelcome guests are turned into wild pigs. Neither the goddess Athena nor the deadliest poison known to man makes Circe flinch. Weaving together Homer’s tale with other sources, Miller crafts a classic story of female empowerment. She paints an uncompromising portrait of a superheroine who learns to wield divine power while coming to understand what it means to be mortal.

The winner will be announced on June 5.

Mystery Writers Honored at 2019 Edgar Awards

The 2019 Edgar Allan Poe Awards were handed out last night in New York City. Presented by the Mystery Writers of America, the Edgar Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, and television published or produced in the previous year. The full list of nominees can be found here.


Here are some of this year’s winners:

Best Novel:
Down the River unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Best First Novel:
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Best Paperback Original:
If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin

Best Fact Crime:
Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler

Best Critical/Biographical:
Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s by Leslie S. Klinger

The full list of winners can be found here.

Richard Powers Wins the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

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Richard Powers’s novel The Overstory was awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

In a starred review, Kirkus called the book “a magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naïve.”

Here’s a sampling of this year’s Pulitzer winners and finalists, with bonus links where available.

Fiction:

Winner: The Overstory by Richard Powers (This book was the subject of two essays on the site.)The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (Read our interview with Makkai here.)There There by Tommy Orange (Read his Year in Reading.)

Drama:

Winner: Fairview by Jackie Sibblies Drury (Drury is mentioned, briefly, in Donald Quist’s Year in Reading.)Dance Nation by Clare BarronWhat the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck

History:

Winner: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. BlightAmerican Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic by Victoria JohnsonCivilizing Torture: An American Tradition by W. Fitzhugh Brundage

Biography:

Winner: The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart (Winner of the 2018 National Book Award in Nonfiction.)Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris by Caroline WeberThe Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam by Max Boot

Poetry:

Winner: Be With by Forrest Gander (Mentioned in Ada Limón’s Year in Reading.)feeld by Jos Charles (An August 2018 Must-Read.)Like by A.E. Stallings (A September 2018 Must-Read.)

General Nonfiction:

Winner: Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza GriswoldIn a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers by Bernice YeungRising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush

Winners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer website.