The Commonwealth Short Story Prize has announced its five regional awards this year have all been won by women.
Held annually to find the best short piece of unpublished fiction, the prize selects a winner each from five Commonwealth areas who all have a chance of securing the main award. This year’s international judging panel, chaired by novelist Caryl Phllips, chose five stories from a 21-strong shortlist following 5,081 submissions.
In the Africa category, Zambia-born Mbozi Haimbe, who now lives in Norfolk, won for “Madam’s Sister”, in which the arrival of a sister from London causes upheaval in a Zambian household.
Malaysian freelance writer and teacher Saras Manickam won the Asia category for her story “My Mother Pattu”, exploring a woman’s violent jealousy towards her daughter.
In Canada and Europe, Cypriot writer Constantia Soteriou won for “Death Customs”, about mothers and wives in Cyprus who were led to believe that their loved ones were missing after the 1974 war, when the state had clear evidence of their deaths. The story was translated by Nicosia-based translator Lina Protopapa.
Alexia Tolas, born and raised in the Bahamas, won the Caribbean category for “Granma’s Porch”, which sees her protagonist navigating the border between adolescence and adulthood, guided by past traumas of her friends, family and her troubled first love.
In the Pacific, writer and artist Harley Hern won for “Screaming”, in which a visit to a New Zealand care home forces two friends to confront deceit, identity and endings.
Phillips said: “The regional winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize explore a remarkably diverse range of subject-matter, including stories about war, love, abuse and neglect. What unites the stories is a common thread of narrative excellence and dramatic intensity. The voices of a truly global cast of characters enable us to engage with, and recognise, universal emotions of pain and loss.”
Each story will now be published online before the overall winner is announced on 9th July and published in Granta.
The contest is run by Commonwealth Writers, a cultural initiative from the Commonwealth Foundation to develop and connects writers across the world, addressing the challenges they face.
Vijay Krishnarayan, director-general of the foundation, said: “This year’s regional winners demonstrate the richness of new writing and it is striking that they are all women. In a world where men still dominate the literary landscape you can see the value of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in bringing less heard experiences to the fore. The stories touch on the gamut of human emotions and speak to each of us. Not only is this the world’s most global prize, it’s the world’s most relevant prize.”