The 2018 Women's Prize For Fiction Shortlist Is A Major Win For Diversity
With less than two months to go until we find out which woman writer will take home the most prestigious, gender-based prize in fiction, the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist has made its online debut. Two months after the longlist for the same prize pitted them against Jennifer Egan, Arundhati Roy, and other renowned writers, just six authors remain, including three debut novelists. Keep reading to find out who is still in the running to win the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction.
Founded in 1996, five years after the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist featured no women authors, the Women's Prize for Fiction was known as the Baileys Women's Prize prior to 2017. The annual award honors one novel that shows "excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world." The prize includes a £30,000 cash element, or about $41,000 U.S., along with a seven-and-a-half-inch bronze satuette called a Bessie. According to the Women's Prize for Fiction F.A.Q. page, "The winner and other five shortlisted authors also receive a bespoke leather-bound edition of their novel created by Christine Cleaton."
The 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction ditched big names in favor of debut authors. Sarah Sands, the chair of the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction judges panel, said in a statement accompanying the Monday announcement: "The shortlist was chosen without fear or favour. We lost some big names, with regret, but narrowed down the list to the books which spoke most directly and truthfully to the judges. . . . The themes of the shortlist have both contemporary and lasting resonance encompassing the birth of the internet, race, sexual violence, grief, oh and mermaids. Some of the authors are young, half by Brits and all are blazingly good and brave writers."
The six titles on the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist are:
- The Idiot by Elif Batuman
- The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
- Sight by Jessie Greengrass
- When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy
- Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Four of the six books on the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist were written by writers of color. That's a 100 percent improvement over the 2017 shortlist, on which only two of the titles — Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien and Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀ — were written by women of color.
Three of the books on the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist — The Idiot, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, and Sight — are their authors' debut novels. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is Gowar's first book. The Idiot author Batuman previously published a nonfiction book, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Novels and the People Who Read Them, in 2010. Sight author Greengrass published a short-story collection, An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It, in 2015.
Several of the novels on the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist have been previously nominated for literary awards. The Idiot was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and When I Hit You was nominated for the 2018 Dylan Thomas Prize. Home Fire garnered nominations for the Man Booker Prize and the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction, both in 2017. Finally, Sing, Unburied, Sing won the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and has been nominated for a number of other honors, including the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Fiction.
The novel that wins the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction joins an elite shelf of other books by women, including The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (2011), Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007), and On Beauty by Zadie Smith (2006). The last winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction was Naomi Alderman's The Power in 2017.
The winner of the 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction will be announced on June 6.