Women’s Prize for Fiction – My Shortlist Votes

Today brings the announcement of which 6 books from the extraordinary 16 longlisted titles remain in contention for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Though the world has changed dramatically over the course of the six weeks since the longlist was announced, the prize board has decided to proceed with the shortlist announcement as scheduled, but to delay the final award announcement until September.

Despite the added home responsibilities of homeschooling and what I am calling my “frontier mama” existence of making things from scraps and scratch, I have been able to squeeze in reading fairly consistently and have, therefore, made it through fourteen and a half of the sixteen nominees. The sixteenth book, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, is essentially impossible to get in the US, so I am begrudgingly but patiently awaiting my copy from across the pond. The half is the spectacular “The Mirror and the Light” by Hilary Mantel, because it is nearly 900 pages long and I had eloans from the library that had to be read before they disappeared and and and….

Okay. Here are my selections for what I think should be the top books among the sixteen nominated for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel – True, I haven’t even finished it yet, BUT what I have read is as good as it gets and it is the third in a trilogy in which the first two books were exquisite and BOTH won the Booker Prize. Mantel feels like a gimme.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – I know! I haven’t even touched a copy. But O’Farrell is a beautiful writer, her newest work sold out in the US even though I pre-ordered a copy, and it is on the lists of bookish folk everywhere. So there.

Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo – As I mentioned in my earlier post about this year’s prize, Evaristo’s novel is an absolute treasure. This free verse novel of intergenerational, queer, feminist delight won the Booker Prize, and I don’t think it is a bit greedy for it to gobble up the Women’s Prize as well.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes – I am not a classicist, but in the last few years, I feel like I could play one on TV thanks to profound retellings by artists like Natalie Haynes, Madeline Miller, and Pat Barker. A Thousand Ships weaves together the deeper stories of countless women who received only a line in the epics of old – The Odyssey and the Illiad, for instance. It is a feminist retelling of history and lore, and I am Here. For. It.

Weather by Jenny Offill – Jenny Offill is a goddamn genius. This contemporary story of life and chaos and the maddening voices in society and in our heads is Offill at her finest. Even though I read this novel only 6 weeks ago, I feel like it would read differently in the new world in which we live, with Offill’s characters’ insular and incisive personalities being even more charming and familiar.

Number 6 … I can’t do it!!! I have 5 books that I would rate 4½ stars and can’t seem to put one above the others. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, How We Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara, and The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. I read three of these longer ago (prior to the announcement), so judging them against the others is an even more difficult proposition. So I just won’t. My list contains 5. And then 5 more.

Later today we’ll see how my votes stack up against those of the Women’s Prize panel. Until then and always, happy bookish thoughts!


Centering Authors of Color – Essays and Memoirs

During my two years of writerly silence, my life and thoughts were frequently focused on increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity, and, because my soul is built around bookish thoughts, much of that translated into bookish action. In my own reading, I continue to make it a greater and more intentional part of my lens to center authors of color. There is no way I can possibly shoulder the expectation (self-imposed or otherwise) of writing full reviews of some of the gems I have explored in the past two years, but I would like to at least call them to mention here. Let this series of posts serve as strong recommendations.

Essays and Memoirs Edition

the-book-of-delightsThe Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Gay is a poet by nature as well as training, now writing short essayettes (did I make that word up?) about everyday delights. Just what the doctor ordered in times of existential dread.

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom05bookbroom1-superJumbo
The author writes the story of her family by telling the story of their New Orleans East home. It is a multigenerational story of love of place, of familial pride, and of a New Orleans the world often tries to ignore.

dreamhouse-greywolf-1In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado eviscerates with her writing in this memoir that is its own form – part free verse, part dramatic monologue, part late night confession. Carmen Maria Machado speaks of her experience as a queer Latinx who finds herself in an abusive relationship and how the intersectionality of her identities inform her sense of self.

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton91mEkEEMRCL
Anthony Ray Hinton was one of the extraordinary beneficiaries of the work of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative. Wrongly accused and languishing on death row for years, Hinton writes the story of his life and learnings, experiences most of us will thankfully never have but from which all of us should learn.

714AHFDDeDLOne Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
Scaachi Koul might make you pee a little with laughter – I feel it is my duty as a fellow human to warn you. With acerbic wit, Koul tells of her experiences as a brown woman in Canada, always feeling a little out of place and simultaneously invisible and all-too-visible.