Every year, the UK Women’s Prize for Fiction awards this literary prize to one female author chosen from the millions of women all over the world who focus on feminity and other related different themes.
After receiving 163 entries, the organisers of the UK Women’s Prize for Fiction have announced their 2019 long list of 16 books.
Making the announcement, Professor Kate Williams, Chair of Judges said, “Each of them has been a privilege to read. They have taken us into places a million miles from each other, exploring the lives of women and men in so many different but utterly compelling ways.”
This year’s list features two Nigerians - Akwaeke Emezi‘s debut, ‘Freshwater’ and Oyinkan Braithwaite’s thriller, ‘My Sister, the Serial Killer.’
She is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist, who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She identifies as neither male or female, and uses the pronoun ‘they’. This nomination marks the first time in the literary award’s 27-year history that a nonbinary trans author has been up for the award.
Congratulations to Akwaeke Emezi, the first non-binary trans author ever nominated for the Women’s prize for fiction. Emezi is nominated for their first novel ‘Freshwater.’ https://t.co/V3mI8KHpQR
— TIME'S UP (@TIMESUPNOW) March 5, 2019
Emezi’s nominated work is their* debut novel Freshwater. It explores Igbo spirituality, culture as well as identity, mental illness and multiple realities. It has also been listed as a most anticipated book by Esquire, The Rumpus, Elle, Bustle, and Book Riot.
This nomination has been met with criticism because of how their* gender identity. However, the judges maintain that they were unaware of this.
Speaking with the Guardian, Williams the chair of the judges said, “We’re very careful not to google the authors’ names while judging. But the book (Freshwater) found great favour among us. They are incredibly talented authors and we’re keen to celebrate them.”
She added, “Fiction, right from the beginning of the novel in the 18th century, has been there to explore identity. Novels are deep explorations of personality, identity and what makes a person. That is what Freshwater and all the books on our longlist are doing.”
Emezi has reacted to the critics via their* Twitter page writing:
wow good morning to the shitstorm that is my mentions, i partially retract tf out of this statement, i do not look forward to the discourse™️, most of y'all are transphobic + do not have the range, exclude me from this narrative!!!!!!!! https://t.co/KKLoAgM0Pf
— akwaeke emezi (@azemezi) March 4, 2019
She is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. She got shortlisted as a top ten spoken word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam in 2014. Two years later, she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
Her thriller, ‘My Sister, the Serial Killer’ tells the story of a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.
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I am so incredibly proud to be on this list alongside these ingenious women and it is surreal to see #MySistertheSerialKiller amongst these unique stories. Thank you to the judges of @womensprize for considering MSTSK to be worthy. #Repost @womensprize ・・・ We’re thrilled to reveal the 2019 #WomensPrize longlist! Congratulations to our sixteen brilliant longlisted authors 👏📚
The New York Times describes it as a “Pulpy, peppery and sinister, served up in a comic deadpan…” The review adds, “This scorpion-tailed little thriller leaves a response, and a sting, you will remember.”
This long list of 16 books will be reduced to a shortlist, which will be announced on April 29, 2019. The winner will be revealed on June 5th at an awards ceremony in London where the person will get a cheque for £30,000.