Malorie Blackman Wins England’s 2022 PEN Pinter Prize

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The former children’s book laureate in the UK, Malorie Blackman will select English PEN’s next ‘International Writer of Courage.’

Malorie Blackman. Image: English PEN

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

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Writing ‘for the Most Discerning, Honest Audience’
Among the highest-visibility writers and activists for young readers’ literature in the United Kingdom, Malorie Blackman has this morning (June 21) been named EnglishPEN‘s 2022 PEN Pinter Prize winner.

A former holder of the children’s author laureate designation sponsored in England by Waterstones—an honor currently held by Cresida Cowell—Blackman will be fêted in a ceremony at the British Library on October 10. She’s to give an address at that point and will name a co-winner of the prize, who will be recognized as PEN’s “International Writer of Courage,” drawn from “a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN.”

The PEN Pinter Prize awards £5,000 (US$6,138), which is shared equally by the Pinter Prize winner and the International Writer of Courage designee.

As you’ll remember, the PEN Pinter Prize annually honors “a writer from Britain, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel [Prize] speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world, and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies.'”

Pinter, especially near the end of his celebrated career, was focused on human rights transgressions, especially in the area of torture, but also in explorations of linguistic suppression, abuse of power, and authoritarianism. He would find the current era fertile.

In acknowledging the award today, Blackman is quoted, saying, “I’m truly honored and more than a little stunned to be the recipient of the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize.

“I’ve long admired Harold Pinter for his courage and dedication to human rights and social justice and have always believed in the power of the creative arts to connect and communicate with others. I especially believe in the power of fiction to shine a spotlight on the truth and feel truly blessed that I predominantly write for the most discerning, honest audience—young adults and children.

“Thank you, English PEN, for considering me a worthy recipient of this award.”

Blackman’s prodigious output includes more than 70 books for children and young adults. She’s a scriptwriting graduate of the National Film and Television School. Her work on television includes Pig-Heart Boy (shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal), which was adapted into a BAFTA-winning six-part television series.  She co-wrote the Doctor Who episode titled Rosa.

She was named the 2005 Eleanor Farjeon Award recipient.  In 2008, she was honored with an OBE for her services to children’s literature. Blackman’s term as children’s laureate ran from 2013 to 2015. Endgame, released in September, is the sixth and final installment of her Noughts and Crosses series from Penguin Random House UK.

Daniel Hahn: ‘A Writer of Serious Commitment’

Books by Malorie Blackman, from Penguin Random House UK. Image: MalorieBlackman.co.uk

Jurors for this year’s selection are author, editor, translator and founder of the TA First Translation Prize, Daniel Hahn; publisher and broadcaster Margaret Busby; and English PEN’s chair, Ruth Borthwick.

Daniel Hahn

In comments, Hahn says, “Encouraging young people to engage with political and social issues is vital work, and no one has done it better than Malorie Blackman.

“Many of her books raise ethical and moral questions, with narrative energy and an uncompromising honesty—usually presenting characters who find themselves in complex situations—challenging young readers to think and to question.

“A writer of serious commitment to her readers and to the power of stories.”

Margaret Busby

Busby says that Blackman’s “commitment to the fact that young adult reading, as well as exciting the imagination, can shape a lifelong ethical engagement with issues concerning social and political justice—such as racism and cultural difference—is outstanding.

“For more than two decades she has delivered visionary and challenging work that resonates far beyond the written page.”

And Borthwick says, “This is the first time the PEN Pinter Prize has been awarded to a writer for young people, so you’d expect [that winner] to be exceptional.

Ruth Borthwick

“Malorie Blackman has transformed the world of writing for young adults.

“Her work never talks down, and her readers have responded by taking her to their hearts.

“Malorie has created dynamic imaginary worlds in which her protagonists are living with and challenging issues of injustice in a way that is totally engaging as she is above all a wonderful storyteller.”

Past winners of the PEN Pinter Prize:

  • Tsitsi Dangarembga (2021)
  • Linton Kwesi Johnson (2020)
  • Lemn Sissay (2019)
  • Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie (2018)
  • Michael Longley (2017)
  • Margaret Atwood (2016)
  • James Fenton (2015)
  • Salman Rushdie (2014)
  • Tom Stoppard (2013)
  • Carol Ann Duffy (2012)
  • David Hare (2011)
  • Hanif Kureishi (2010)
  • Tony Harrison (2009)

Former International Writers of Courage:

  • Kakwenza Rukirabashaija (2021)
  • Amanuel Asrat (2020)
  • Befeqadu Hailu (2019)
  • Waleed Abulkhair (2018)
  • Mahvash Sabet (2017)
  • Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury a.k.a.Tutul (2016)
  • Raif Badawi (2015)
  • Mazen Darwish (2014)
  • Iryna Khalip (2013)
  • Samar Yazbek (2012)
  • Roberto Saviano (2011)
  • Lydia Cacho (2010) 
  • Zarganar (Maung Thura) (2009)

This is Publishing Perspectives’ 112th awards-related report produced in the 115 publication days since our 2022 operations began on January 3.


More from Publishing Perspectives on children’s and YA books is here, more on the work of Malorie Blackman is here, more on the PEN Pinter Prize is here, more from us on publishing and book awards programs is here, and more on the United Kingdom’s market 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 is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (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.

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