Stories of migration from around the world are longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction


LONDON — EMBARGOED UNTIL 1800GMT

Novels that give voice to the often unheard stories of migrants around the world are among the nominees for the 2024 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The 16-book longlist announced Tuesday for the 30,000 pound ($38,000) award includes works by writers from Ghana, Barbados, Britain, the United States, Ireland, South Korea and Australia.

Novelist Monica Ali, who is chairing the panel of judges, said the works range from science fiction — Barbadian writer Karen Lord’s “The Blue, Beautiful World” — to historical fiction, coming-of-age stories, “intimate domestic dramas” and epic sagas. The settings include Sri Lanka, the Middle East, Australia and Korea.

Ali said many of the books deal with themes of migration or immigration, in very different ways.

Maya Binyam’s “Hangman” and Isabella Hammad’s “Enter Ghost” deal with emigrants’ return to their homelands. Peace Adzo Medie’s “Nightbloom,” about two childhood friends in Ghana and the U.S., confronts racism and the immigrant experience. Aube Rey Lescure’s “River East, River West” depicts west to east immigration through Americans in China.

Migration is often in the headlines, but Ali said that “what fiction can do so brilliantly is to humanize these experiences.”

“When you’re talking about numbers, you’re in a way dehumanizing those people, because they’re voiceless,” said Ali, who wrote about Bangladeshi immigrants to London in her 2003 novel “Brick Lane.”

Numbers don’t do justice to the complexities of the situation, she said. “When you talk in politicians’ soundbites, none of that shines through.”

The list is weighted towards new writers: Eight contenders are debut novels and four are second novels. The most published authors are Ireland’s Anne Enright, nominated for her seventh novel, “The Wren, The Wren,” and Australia’s Kate Grenville, a previous Women’s Prize winner who makes the list with her eighth, “Restless Dolly Maunder.”

One of the debut novelists, British author Chetna Maroo, was a finalist for the 2023 Booker Prize with “Western Lane,” the story of a squash prodigy grappling with family tragedy.

Founded in 1996, the prize is open to female English-language writers from any country. Past winners include Zadie Smith, Tayari Jones and Barbara Kingsolver, who won last year for “Demon Copperhead.”

This year, awards organizers launched a companion Women’s Prize for Nonfiction to help rectify an imbalance in publishing. In 2022, only 26.5% of nonfiction books reviewed in Britain’s newspapers were by women, and male writers dominated established nonfiction writing prizes.

Six finalists for the fiction prize will be announced on April 24, and winners of both fiction and nonfiction prizes will be crowned at a ceremony in London on June 13.



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