Germany’s BücherFrauen Honor Mely Kiyak With Their First ‘Christine’ Prize

In News by Porter Anderson

The new biennial prize includes a financial award of €10,000 and is named for the Venetian-born poet and author Christine de Pizan.

Mely Kiyak speaks at the BücherFrauen award ceremony at Literaturhaus (Literature House) Berlin. Image: BücherFrauen

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

Jury: A ‘Brave Path Into Independence’
As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, Germany’s BücherFrauen—Book Women—this year has created a new biennial literary prize.

The “Christine,” is named for the French writer Christine de Pizan (1364- circa 1429). And the eponymous new honor, the program says, “is intended to recognize the work of female authors whose writing contributes to gender equality and the empowerment of women and  girls.”

Author Mely Kiyak has been named the inaugural winner of the prize for her book Frausein (Womanhood), published by Hanser Literaturverlage. The award carries a purse of €10,000 (US$11,444) and was announced at Frankfurter Buchmesse, handed to Kiyak on November 5, and reported to us on November 11.

In addition to the money, Kiyak receives a copy of a statuette, Christine, created for the BücherFrauen by the Swiss-born artist Kassandra Becker of Karlsruhe.

The program is open both to work originally published in German and work translated into German during the two years prior to the presentation. In the future, should a translated work win the prize, the money will be shared between author and translator.

Kiyak’s book, we’re told, is written as a first-person narrative and tells a story of a woman with Kurdish roots, coming into her own as an independent person and as a writer.

The three jurors, in their rationale, write that the book looks at issues “of illness, of being alone and of discovery of her own language.

“Mely Kiyak,” they write, “tells of her brave path into independence, personally and yet comprehensively, with literary density and clarity. Womanhood won us over with its linguistic artistry, its contents, and its relevance for society. With her book, Mely Kiyak contributes to gender equality and to strengthening women and girls, as the prize criteria stipulate. Her book Womanhood offers strength to readers who want to follow their own pathways.”

The 2021 jury comprised:

  • Britta Jürgs, a publisher
  • Susanne Martin, a bookseller
  • Nicole Seifert, a literary scholar

In a report from Deutsche Presse carried by Süddeutsche Zeitung, it’s reported that Kiyak is 45 and a journalist who has received the Kurt Tucholsky Prize and the Theodor Wolff Prize.

Nominees for the 2021 BücherFrauen Prize

The full list of nominees for this first prize cycle for the program is here:

BücherFrauen is an industry network for women in the German-language book industry founded in 1990 and based on England’s Women in Publishing organization. The German group has a membership of some 900 people and says its participants include women publishers, booksellers, translators, literary agents, and others who work in the field.

More from Publishing Perspectives on women in publishing is here, more on publishing and book awards is here, and more on diversity and inclusivity is here. More on the 2021 Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.

More from us 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.