Leilani wins £20k Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for 'fearless' debut

Leilani wins £20k Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for 'fearless' debut

Raven Leilani has won the £20,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize for her "fearless" debut Luster (Picador).

Her "riveting" novel follows Edie, a woman navigating the everyday realities of casual racism and sexual inequality. Just beginning to see herself as an artist, she becomes involved with a suburban white couple starting to experiment with an open marriage. When her office work is cut short because of sexual improprieties, she finds herself pulled into their family with life-changing results.

The New York writer was awarded the £20,000 prize in a virtual ceremony hosted by actor and screenwriter Celyn Jones on 13th May, the eve of International Dylan Thomas Day.

Chair of the judges, Namita Gokhale, said: "Luster is an accomplished and fearless novel that carries the ache, uncertainty and vulnerability as well as the harsh reality of being a young Black woman in America. The narrator Edie’s incisive eye for all registers of racist bias is unblinking and masterly. This is an important, uncomfortable book, in turns funny and angry, and always compelling. Raven Leilani is an astonishingly original new voice. We are delighted that the jury of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize unanimously decided on this riveting debut novel as its choice for the 2021 prize. We cannot wait to see what comes next from this uncompromising talent."

Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

The other titles shortlisted for the 2021 prize were Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat (Picador), Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (Fourth Estate), The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber), Pew by Catherine Lacey (Granta) and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Fourth Estate).

Other writers who have won the prize include including Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, Kayo Chingonyi, Fiona McFarlane and Max Porter.