Six stories have been shortlisted for the 2017 Guardian 4th Estate BAME short story prize, demonstrating to the judges “how many different stories publishers are missing when they pass on publishing British BAME writers”.
Sian Cain, judge and Guardian books website editor, praised the “sheer range of styles and settings” of stories on the shortlist. They span a number of topics with plots featuring an unlikely friendship between two fathers, a Malaysian student's connection to Keats, the experience of an immigrant cleaner in Hong Kong and of an Indian soldier fighting in the second world war. Authors of the works include an Oxford graduate and a news agent's daughter.
Oxford graduate Henry Wong is shortlisted for "7-Eleven", a story about - in the author's words - "this kid from Malaysia who’s drowning in American culture and doesn’t understand [the poetry] – but finds an intense connection in Keats".
Avani Shah, who grew up behind the counter of several news agents around London, is shortlisted for "Greed", telling the story of 12-year-old Puja, who is struggling with a religious fast while trying to make sense of a changing relationship with a family friend. Shah is already one of Word Factory's 2017 apprentices.
Hong Kong-born poet Kit Fan is shortlisted for "Duty Free", a story centred on the character of Sheila, an immigrant divorcee and mother, who works as a cleaner in Hong Kong International Airport.
Jimi Famurewa, a journalist from Kent, is in the running for his story "Teddybird" about two dads who clash in a dispute over a cuddly toy.
Former journalist and TV producer Arun Das is shortlisted for "Words for Sounds", exploring a complex relationship between an Indian soldier and his English commanding officer during the Second World War.
And Goldsmiths University student Lisa Smith, from south east London, is recognised for "Auld Lang Syne", a snapshot of the life of Rufus Samuels, who ends up in prison on New Year’s Eve after a domestic dispute.
The prize celebrating work from black, Asian and minority ethnic writers in the UK and Ireland launched in 2016 to help address publishing's diversity problem in the wake of 2015's Writing the Future report. It is now in its second year.
Anna Kelly on the judging panel, 4th Estate commissioning editor, said: “These six stories evoke a rich array of lives and situations with what felt like natural gifts for storytelling. But they go beyond that. They each in some way surprised us, challenged us, or made us look at something differently. They each opened our eyes in some way and made us think. And last but by no means least, they managed all this while being hugely enjoyable to read.”
Other judges comprised author Niven Govinden, Elle UK literary editor Sharmaine Lovegrove - soon to start her own "inclusive" imprint at Little, Brown - and Emma Paterson, literary agent at Rogers, Coleridge & White.
The winner will receive £1,000 and a workshop with 4th Estate and be published on the Guardian website, due to be chosen on 13th July.