In London, the Women’s Prize for Fiction Names Its Shortlist

In News by Porter Anderson

Two titles on this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist are debuts. The winner of the 2021 edition is expected to be announced on May 7.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction’s shortlist comprises six titles. Image: Women’s Prize

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Evaristo: ‘Gloriously Varied’
As publishing and book awards continue on their springtime collision course of announcements, the newest is from England, where  the Women’s Prize for Fiction this evening (April 28) has announced its 2021 shortlist.

Publishing Perspectives readers will remember that the program’s longlist of 16 titles was named last month. The winner is expected to be named this year on July 7.

The purse for that winner will be worth £30,000 (US$41,926) and is endowed by an anonymous donor. The winner also traditionally receives the limited edition “Bessie” figurine made and donated by artist Grizel Niven.

The shortlist features two British authors, one from Barbados, two Americans, and one Ghanian-American writer. Two of the six books on the shortlist are debut publications–No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood and How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones.

Three novels are by authors who have previously published only one other work of fiction: Brit Bennett, Susanna Clarke, and Yaa Gyasi.

In a prepared comment, this year’s jury chair Bernardine Evaristo is quoted, saying, “Coming up with a longlist of 16 books for this prize was relatively easy compared to whittling the selection down to six novels, which by necessity demands more consensus. Sadly, we had to lose so many exceptional books that we loved.

“However, with this shortlist, we’re excited to present a gloriously varied and thematically rich exploration of women’s fiction at its finest.

“These novels will take the reader from a rural Britain left behind to the underbelly of a community in Barbados; from inside the hectic performance of social media to inside a family beset by addiction and oppression; from a tale of racial hierarchy in America to a mind-expanding tale of altered perceptions.

“Fiction by women defies easy categorization or stereotyping, and all these novels grapple with society’s big issues expressed through thrilling storytelling. We feel passionate about them, and we hope readers do too.”

Evaristo is joined on the judging panel by podcaster, author, and journalist Elizabeth Day; television and radio presenter, journalist and writer, Vick Hope; print columnist and writer Nesrine Malik; and news presenter and broadcaster, Sarah-Jane Mee.

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021  Shortlist

Author Title Imprint Nationality
Brit Bennett The Vanishing Half Hachette / Dialogue Books American
Susanna Clarke Piranesi Bloomsbury British
Claire Fuller Unsettled Ground Penguin Random House / Fig Tree British
Yaa Gyasi Transcendent Kingdom Penguin Random House / Viking Ghanaian-American
Cherie Jones How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House Hachette / Tinder Press Barbadian
Patricia Lockwood No One Is Talking About This Bloomsbury Circus American

Events on the crowded UK market awards calendar include:

  • A digital ‘Shortlist Festival’: June 14-16
  • A shortlist readings event: July 6 in London
  • The winner’s announcement and ceremony: July 7 in London

The Women’s Prize—formerly known by its sponsors, Orange (1996 to 2012) and then Baileys (2013 to 2017)—is in its 26th year and, as Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the program named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie its “winner of winners” in a 25th-anniversary readers’ vote last year. Baileys and National West remain sponsors of the program.

Jurors for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. From left, Vick Hope, Elizabeth Day, Bernardine Evaristo, and Sarah-Jane Mee. Nesrine Malik is not pictured. Image: Women’s Prize

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here.  More on the Women’s Prize for Fiction is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.