The International Dylan Thomas Prize 2019 Longlist Has Been Released & It Will Leave You Feeling Seriously Empowered
Nothing brings me as much joy as getting lost in a good book. To find something that is so well written that it challenges your own ideas, makes you see things in a new way, or simply lets you escape is a really rare thing. But if you are in need of a new read look no further. The International Dylan Thomas Prize 2019 longlist has been released and women are dominating. Heralded as an award to celebrate experimental and challenging young literary voices this longlist is a round-up of authors you need to get to know.
Made up of eight novels, two short story collections, and two poetry collections the books that complete this year’s Swansea International Dylan Thomas Prize longlist discuss topics such as domestic violence, mental health, rape, racism, gender, and identity. These really are the hottest literary voices right now.
The award is for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under. It got its name from renowned Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas and is a celebration of his 39 years of work.
Professor Dai Smith from Swansea University is the chair of the judging panel and said in a press release, “the longnlist of twelve for the 2019 Swansea University Dylan Thomas International Prize is a starburst of young literary talent. Writers from across the world, from diverse communities and backgrounds, tackle challenging subject matter in ways both unexpected and exhilarating, through short stories, novels or poetry, in folk tale or Gothic mode, with a contemporary scalpel or an historical viewfinder. The list is a treat!”
1. 'Friday Black' by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is from New York and Friday Black is his first book. Described in the Guardian as "both funny and frightening," Adjei-Brenyah uses his short stories to consider race, racism, and love in spite of it all. Fellow writer Roxanne Gay said of the collection, "the writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope." I am going to have to get my hands on a copy of Friday Black.
2. 'Hold' by Michael Donkor
Michael Donko was born in London, to Ghanaian parents. Hold is a coming of age novel set during a hot London summer. Covering topics such as friendship, secrets, family, shame, and forgiveness, it follows Belinda and Mary as they try to navigate a new life and growing up. The Scotsman wrote, "Belinda is a character who will stay with the reader," and the Guardian described it as a "debut novel with quiet dignity" proving why it belongs on this list.
3. 'How the Light Gets In' by Clare Fisher
Clare Fisher was born in London but is based in Leeds. Her first novel, All the Good Things, was published in 2017 and How The Light Gets In is her first short story collection. Described as a "moving and compassionate writer" by the Sunday Times, Fisher explores how you cannot have light without dark, making funny and challenging observations about British life.
4. 'Folk' by Zoe Gilbert
Folk is Gilbert's debut novel. This magical fantasy is the definition of escapism. The New Statesman described it as "starkly original and expertly written, it draws you, like a faerie song, into a kingdom from which you may never escape, and may not want to." And this isn't the first time Gilbert has found herself on an awards list. She won the 2014 Costa Short Story Award. If you want to be whisked off to far off lands pick up a copy of Folk.
5. 'Peach' by Emma Glass
Born in Swansea and living in London, Peach is Emma Glass' first book. Peach is a story of immense pain and trauma written incredibly beautifully. Stylist said, "Glass's tale of a girl neglected by her parents and abused by others is a dark poetic read that is visceral in its telling. It's an extraordinary debut that we urge you to seek out." Be prepared to have your heart broken.
6. 'In Our Mad and Furious City' by Guy Gunaratne
In Our Mad and Furious City is Gunaratne's first novel and was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize, as well as The Gordon Burn Prize and the Writers Guild Awards. So to say it has caused a stir is a bit of an understatement. Discussing racism, prejudice, community, and friendship In Our Mad and Furious City is the exact definition of a page turner.
7. 'Trinity' by Louisa Hall
Trinity is Louisa Hall's third novel. A professor at the University of Iowa, she is both a published novelist and poet. The story follows J. Robert Oppenheimer — a problematic protagonist with many secrets. Discussing power, betrayal, and the human ability to believe exactly what it wants, this will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.
8. 'Melmoth' by Sarah Perry
Melmouth is Perry's follow up to the massively successful The Essex Serpent, and if it is as gripping as the first instalment, readers are in for a treat. The story follows Helen Franklin who has trapped herself in guilt for something she did 20 years ago. Franklin comes into possession of a document that turns her quiet life upside down. Even reading about Melmouth gives me chills.
9. 'Normal People' by Sally Rooney
Normal People is Rooney's second novel and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018. Immensely talented with more award nomination and wins to count, Normal People follows Marianne and Connell as their relationship changes and evolves over the years. Covering abuse, young love, and fragility, Rooney is a master of her craft. The Guardian wrote, "what’s most extraordinary and moving about this novel is the portrait of modern male psyche at its heart."
10. 'Soho' by Richard Scott
In his publishing debut, Scott tackles the difficult subject of love and gay shame. Through his series of poems, he looks at childhood, violence, betrayal, sexual encounters, and joy. His publisher, Faber and Faber describe the books crescendo as "Oh My Soho," where he writes about "a night stroll under the street lamps of Soho Square becomes a search for true lineage, a reclamation of stolen ancestors, hope for healing, and, above all, the finding of our truest selves."
11. 'House of Stone' by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma grew up in Zimbabwe, and has lived in South Africa and the USA. Her novel, House of Stone is set in modern Zimbabwe as a teenager goes missing. The family turn to the only person they think can help them, a charismatic lodger. Tshuma tells the story of what it means to change history, the pain and sacrifice that comes with that, and family.
12. 'Eye Level' by Jenny Xie
Last but certainly not least is a collection of poetry by Jenny Xie. A finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Poetry, this book has already received critical acclaim. It takes readers from Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and beyond, exploring loss and departure and "all that is untouchable as far as the eye can reach." Seriously beautiful and undeniably clever, Eye Level is one to pick up.
Adding to my ever growing book wish list, I am certainly glad I am not in the judge's position. A shortlist will be released on April 2 with the winner being announced on May 16. However, I think they are all worth picking up.