Leilani and Russell make Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist

Leilani and Russell make Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist

Raven Leilani and Kate Elizabeth Russell are among four debut writers shortlisted for the £20,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize.

The year's six nominations for the young writers' prize feature four US writers and another two who have dual US nationality. HarperCollins imprint 4th Estate and Pan Mac's Picador each have two books on the list.

New York City novelist Leilani is picked for the “sharp and incisive” Luster (Picador), which “speaks a fearless truth that takes no hostages”, according to Aslam.

Russell makes the list with her “darkly shocking” debut My Dark Vanessa (4th Estate). Sexton said: “Timely, harrowing, of supreme emotional intelligence, My Dark Vanessa is the story of one girl; of many girls, and of the darknesses of western literature.”

Texan Rye Curtis lands a place on the shortlist with debut Kingdomtide (4th Estate). Ferris hailed it as “a propulsively readable and frequently very funny book about the resources, personal and natural, necessary to survive a patently absurd world”.

There is also another new voice on the list with Syrian-American writer Dima Alzayat's “visceral” collection Alligator and Other Stories (Picador). judging panelist Francesca Rhydderch described it as “the arrival of a major new talent”.

Pew by Catherine Lacey (Granta) also makes the cut, with Rhydderch saying it was “beautifully written, sharply observed, and sophisticated in its simplicity”.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Nigerian-American writer Akwaeke Emezi (Faber) completes the list. Namita Gokhale called it a “triumph of narrative craft”.

The shortlist was selected by a judging panel chaired by writer, publisher and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival Namita Gokhale alongside founder and director of the Bradford Literature Festival, Syima Aslam, poet Stephen Sexton, writer Joshua Ferris and novelist and academic Francesca Rhydderch.

Gokhale said of the shortlist: “We are thrilled to present this year’s extraordinary shortlist—it is truly a world-class writing showcase of the highest order from six exceptional young writers. I want to press each and every one of these bold, inventive and distinctive books into the hands of readers, and celebrate how they challenge preconceptions, ask new questions about how we define identity and our relationships, and how we live together in this world. Congratulations to these tremendously talented writers—they are master storytellers in every sense of the word.”

This year’s winner will be revealed at a virtual ceremony on 13th May, the eve of International Dylan Thomas Day.