Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom Shortlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021

The selections, says the chair of judges Bernardine Evaristo, are “gloriously varied and thematically rich . . . and grapple with society’s big issues expressed through thrilling storytelling.”
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Yaa Gyasi by Cody Pickens for TIME.

Photo Credit: Yaa Gyasi by Cody Pickens for TIME.

Weeks ago, we reported that Yaa Gyasi’s second novel Transcendent Kingdom, her follow up to 2016’s Homegoing, was one of 16 titles longlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. The novel is now one of six books shortlisted for the prize. Remarkably, all the writers on the shortlist this year have never been shortlisted for the prize before—the first time in 16 years that this is happening.

Three of the shortlisted books—British writer Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground, Barbadian Cherie Jones’ How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, and Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom—“are about marginalised communities, and they are very fresh because of that,” the chair of judges Bernadine Evaristo told The Guardian.

Unsettled Ground really digs deep into rural England and people who are left behind by the system,” she said. “Jones’ novel looks at what happens behind the scenes of the tourist industry, in a community of people who aren’t written about in the Caribbean. And Gyasi tells of a Ghanaian family in the deep south and how they struggle to cope when their lives are torn asunder—it’s another forgotten community.”

Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom by Books Upstairs.
Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom by Books Upstairs.

The other shortlisted titles are: Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, described by the judges as a “beautifully written novel, and psychologically very complex”; Susan Clarke’s Piranesi, which Evaristo calls “a trip… It’s probably the closest you can come to taking a hallucinogenic drug if you’ve not taken one before”; and Patricia Lockwood’s debut No One Is Talking About This, a book that “takes risks while maintaining warmth, being very moving and profoundly insightful into human nature.”

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This year’s shortlist, Evaristo writes, is “a gloriously varied and thematically rich exploration of women’s fiction at its finest. Fiction by women defies easy categorisation or stereotyping, and all of these novels grapple with society’s big issues expressed through thrilling storytelling. We feel passionate about them, and we hope readers do too.”

Created in 1996, the Women’s Prize for Fiction seeks to honour the best novels by women. It was necessitated by the 1991 Booker Prize shortlist’s failure to include a book by a woman. The prize comes with £30,000 and Bessie, a bronze sculpture created by Grizel Niven.

Previous winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadies Smith, Helen Dunmore, Ann Patchett, and Tayari Jones.

The 2021 winner will be announced on 7 July 2021.

Open Country Mag congratulates the shortlisted writers.

Ernest Ogunyemi
Ernest Ogunyemi
Ernest O. Ògunyemi is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Tinderbox, Sierra Nevada Review, Journal Nine, The Indianapolis Review, Down River Road, Capsule Stories, No Tokens, The West Review, The Dark Magazine, Mud Season Review, Isele, and in the anthology 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry III. He is the curator of The Fire That Is Dreamed of: The Young African Poets Anthology.

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