Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sri Lankan Writer’s Novel Wins 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction

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V.V. Ganeshananthan receives the prestigious award for her novel “Brotherless Night”

Sri Lankan Writer’s Novel Wins 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction

American writer of Sri Lankan descent, V. V. Ganeshananthan, has been honored with the 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. The award, valued at $150,000 ($205,074.75 CAD), recognizes the finest fiction book authored by a woman or non-binary writer from the United States and Canada. It currently stands as the largest international literary prize dedicated to women writers. Along with the monetary prize, Ganeshananthan will also receive a residency at the Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland.

Ganeshananthan’s award-winning novel, “Brotherless Night,” tells the compelling story of 16-year-old Sashi in 1981 Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Aspiring to become a doctor, Sashi finds herself drawn into the turmoil of the civil war, choosing to work as a medic for the Tamil Tigers, a militant group fighting for Tamil self-determination. As the conflict escalates and Sashi witnesses atrocities committed by both the Tigers and Indian peacekeepers, she begins to question her beliefs and takes on a perilous role documenting human rights violations.

Sri Lankan Writer’s Novel Wins 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction

In her acceptance speech, Ganeshananthan expressed deep gratitude for the recognition, highlighting the novel’s feminist themes set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war. “Brotherless Night is from the first-person point of view of a middle-aged woman, a doctor who belongs to the ethnic Tamil minority, who recalls her teenage years and young adulthood in Northern Sri Lanka during the first decade of that country’s civil war,” she said. She dedicated the award to those who lived through the war and continue to remember despite ongoing oppression.

Reflecting on her literary influences, Ganeshananthan acknowledged the impact of Carol Shields on her work. “I remember reading Carol Shields as a young writer. I read her work at a formative moment and its intimacy and scope were really astonishing to me. It means so much to me to be honored by a prize in her name.”

Ganeshananthan is an accomplished writer and journalist of Ilankai Tamil descent. She has served as Vice President of the South Asian Journalists Association and is an active board member of several organizations, including the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies and the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. She teaches at the University of Minnesota and co-hosts the podcast Fiction/Non/Fiction. Her debut novel, “Love Marriage,” was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The 2024 jury, consisting of writers Jen Sookfong Lee, Eden Robinson, Laila Lalami, Claire Messud, and Dolen Perkins-Valdez, praised “Brotherless Night” for its ambition and beautiful writing. “Through her sensitively crafted characters, V. V. Ganeshananthan asks us to consider how history is told, whom it serves, and the many truths it leaves out,” they noted.

The other finalists for the prize included Canadian authors Eleanor Catton, Claudia Dey, and Janika Oza, as well as American writer Kim Coleman Foote. Each received $12,500 ($17,089.94 CAD).

(Source: CBC)

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