Pemi Aguda was announced the winner of the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award 2020 today, May 12, 2020.
Deborah Rogers (1938-2014) was a literary agent renowned for her taste, her loyalty and her immense generosity in the support she gave to authors. The UK agent’s particular genius lay in identifying and supporting talented young people considered one of the most influential of her generation. The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award was set up to support an unpublished writer to enable them to complete their first book in 2016. Previous winners have been Deepa Anappara (2018) and Sharlene Teo (2016).
The shortlist for 2020 announced on May 1 by judges Ian Rankin OBE, Sarah Perry, and Max Porter had three manuscripts by Pemi Aguda, S. Bhattacharya-Woodward, and Stephen Buoro. Ian Rankin, Chair of the Judges, announced the winner today stating, “we had a longlist of eight from which to choose. All eight had their strengths. We encountered a series of unique and powerful authorial voices from many corners of the globe. As a reader I found myself challenged, enthralled, amused and given fresh insights into the casts of characters and their individual worldscapes.”
He added, “And to our winner: first prize goes to ‘Pemi Aguda for The Suicide Mothers. This novel begins with a real wow moment and sustains momentum as it draws us into a world that is utterly contemporary yet has room for the mythic and the supernatural. The politics of Lagos, environmental concerns and the coming of age of the young and pregnant protagonist make for a wonderfully kinetic and gripping story”.
Pemi Aguda stated on her win, “first of all I want to shout out to Lagos that marvelous and strange city and the people in it that inspire me and suffuse every single story I write. Thank you to Lagos. Thank you to the women that raised me. The judges have said many lovely things about this work in progress and it’s so encouraging that writers of this caliber who I respect so much have seen both beauty and worth in a manuscript so young. As I continue to work on this project, every time that I stall or I am fearful, I will look back and think on your words and hopefully that will push me right along.”
Watch the full statement below.
Pemi Aguda first came to be known around the continent after winning the Writivism Short Story Award in 2015 and the Stellenbosch residency that came with the prize. She has an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan, where she is currently a Zell Fellow. Her short stories appear in Granta, American Short Fiction and Zoetrope: All-Story, among others.
She receives a prize of £10,000 and the two runners-up will receive £1,000 each.