The shortlists for the Society of Authors’ Awards 2022 were announced on May 5, 2022.
The Society of Authors’ Awards is the UK’s biggest literary prize fund celebrating poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Held annually, it is a unique evening of celebration with each award chosen by authors for authors and judged by celebrated authors, writers, and poets; many former winners themselves. Some previous African winners of this prize have been Anietie Isong, Masande Ntshanga, Kayo Chingonyi, and Omar Robert Hamilton, as well as Nadifa Mohamed, Noviolet Bulawayo, and Helen Oyeyemi. In 2020, Kadish Morris, Amina Jama, Okechukwu Nzelu, and Inua Ellams were recognised.
This year’s awards are a showcase of the written word across all genres and formats, celebrating novels, children’s books, and short stories, and exploring themes from race and social injustice, to coming of age, loneliness, grief, and reconciliation.
Here are the writers of African descent that made the cut;
The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award
Sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award is awarded for a short story by a writer who has had at least one short story accepted for publication.
Judged by Claire Fuller, Sophie Haydock, Billy Kahora, and Mary Watson.
- Roland Watson-Grant, The Disappearance of Mumma Dell
ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award judge Claire Fuller said:
It’s been such a joy to choose a shortlist for the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award. Each story has given me a view into a tiny magical world, showing me places, situations, and characters I instantly believed in, whether they were based in reality or something more odd and unsettling, and the writing in each story was of course, outstanding.
Betty Trask Prize & Awards
The Betty Trask Prize and Awards are presented for a first novel by a writer under 35.
Judged by Sara Collins, Michael Donkor, and Alex Preston.
- Natasha Brown, Assembly (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin General)
- Caleb Azumah Nelson, Open Water (Penguin Random House, Viking)
Betty Trask Prize & Awards judge Alex Preston said:
It was thrilling to encounter such a strange, rich, and often dazzling collection of novels when reading for this year’s prize. I felt the presence of Rachel Cusk in many of the works: nameless or shadowy protagonists, formal inventiveness, a recognition of the fertile creative territory that lies between memoir and fiction. Choosing our winners was difficult, but we ended up with a handful of novels that will, I believe, not only delight and engage those who read them now, but will endure into the future.
The McKitterick Prize is awarded for a first novel by a writer over 40.
Judged by Selma Dabbagh, Rebecca Foster, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, Anietie Isong and Nick Rennison.
- Celeste Mohammed, Pleasantview (Jacaranda Books)
McKitterick Prize judge Anietie Isong said:
The shortlisted titles take us on a spiralling journey. We glimpse the dark side of paradise, meet the likeable residents of an industrial town and follow three souls on a quest for survival in a post-pandemic world. A woman flees her home in search of answers and another navigates the complexities of motherhood. These are deeply engaging works that swell with vitality.
Paul Torday Memorial Prize
The Paul Torday Memorial Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60. The prize includes a set of the collected works of British writer Paul Torday, who published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at the age of 60.
Judged by Mavis Cheek, Denise Mina, and Donald S Murray.
- Yvonne Bailey-Smith for The Day I Fell Off My Island (Myriad Editions)
Paul Torday Memorial Prize judge Donald S Murray said:
Judging the Paul Torday Award was like embarking on an exploration of the world, both in its past and present shapes and forms. It took me to a wide range of times and places, to edges of both history and humanity where I had rarely stepped before. I felt both enriched and honoured by many of my encounters during the experience.
The winners will be announced on 1 June 2022 at an in-venue ceremony at Southwark Cathedral, which will also be live streamed.