A “heart-rending” tale of displacement by the creator of Wall Street statue ‘Fearless Girl’ has been unveiled as the winner of the First Novel Prize.
American writer and creative director Tali Gumbiner scooped the £1,000 award for What Home Is, a novel following the four siblings of Jewish and Native American heritage. Gumbiner hit the headlines last summer when her bronze statue ‘Fearless Girl’ was erected "in defiance of" Wall Street's iconic charging bull, to promote female leadership. She helped create the piece as part of her copywriting work at advertising company McCann, for financial firm State Street Global Advisors, and it went on to scoop four Grand Prix awards at Cannes.
Now Gumbiner’s “original and wonderfully written” story, exploring themes of belonging and displacement, has taken the top spot in the annual competition from London literary consultancy Daniel Goldsmith Associates.
Two British writers were named as runners up, including one novel which has already been snapped up by Simon & Schuster UK after winning another competition.
Neema Shah won the second prize worth £250 for Kololo Hill, about love and sacrifice set amidst the 1972 expulsion of the Ugandan Asians under Idi Amin's regime. Meanwhile, Vicki Bradley came third, winning £100 with Before I Say I Do, a commercial thriller which will be published by S&S UK after it also scooped the publisher's own Write Here, Right Now Prize earlier this month.
HarperCollins senior commissioning editor Phoebe Morgan judged the prize alongside Rogers, Coleridge and White literary agent Sam Copeland, and both praised Gumbiner's winning entry.
“From the moment I started reading, I was completely drawn into the world,” Copeland said. “Heart-rending and beautifully drawn characters, this was original and wonderfully written. Tali Gumbiner is a talent to watch.”
Meanwhile Morgan deemed it as “one of the most original books I’ve read all year”.
“Tali captures the sibling relationship brilliantly and heartbreakingly, creating a moving, unique story about what it means to belong,” she said.
Gumbiner, who recently completed an MFA in fiction at NYU Paris, said: “At its heart, What Home Is tells the story of mothers and sisters trying and doing the best that we can. I am so very honoured to receive the First Novel Prize. With all the amazing writers out there, I am truly grateful to the judges for taking the time to read and recognise my work.”
The senior copywriter has been named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People and AdAge 2018’s Creative of the Year.
Gumbiner and Shah are currently seeking representation while Bradley is considering representation offers. For more information, visit firstnovel.co.uk/2018-winners.