The Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize shortlist has been revealed, with subjects ranging from the Grenfell Tower fire to a historic village plagued by a mysterious smell.
Varaidzo, an assistant editor at literary journal Wasafiri, is one of the nominated writers for her story “Bus Stop” about a close friendship between “black sheep” Marley and Laura which exposes a world of pixies, whispering trees and changeling children.
Former charity worker Savannah Burney is shortlisted for “Spam”, an encounter between a cynical B&B owner and a bright young girl, who, along with her mother, become unexpected guests in the morning after the Grenfell Tower fire. The London-based writer has also worked at the World Health Organisation and is due start a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work.
Meanwhile, secondary school teacher Jason Deelchand’s “Something Buried in the Ground” explores how a stench invades the historic village of Xīliú and the villagers begin to die. Deelchand is based in Bristol, and previously studied in Bath and Exeter.
Poet and fiction writer Kit Fan has made the list again for the second time in two years. Earlier this year he won a Northern Writers’ Award for Diamond Hill, a novel-in-progress and has previously been shortlisted for the TLS Mick Imlah Poetry Prize. His submission, “City of Culture”, follows Mai, a teenage girl from a seaside northern city who lives with her absent mother and works in her grandmother’s Chinese takeaway after school. In a wake of a family crisis, she struggles to find her voice while participating in her school debate on the EU Referendum.
Gurnaik Johal made the shortlist for his story about a widower Reggie who misses his wife’s music so puts her old piano out on the street for anyone to use, causing a group of strangers to come together as a community. He was born in West London and studies English Literature with Creative Writing at The University of Manchester.
Clockwise from top left - Savannah Burney, Jason Deelchand, Yiming Ma, Varaidzo, Kit Fan and Gurnaik Johal
Finally, “Swimmer of Yangtze” by Yiming Ma completes the shortlist. The story is set in Cultural Revolution China and follows an armless swimmer born into a nameless village near Wuhan. Narrated by an elder, the story is an unforgiving exploration of how societies create and abandon their heroes, a 4th Estate spokesperson said. Ma is a Chinese-Canadian writer and recent graduate of Stanford University. Previously he lived in London, where he worked with schools for low-income families in SE Asia and Africa. His writing has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine and been shortlisted by Glimmer Train and Geist. His story ‘Swimmer of Yangtze’ was shortlisted for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and 2018 LitMag Virginia Woolf Award. He will join Penguin Random House this fall.
Fourth Estate commissioning editor Anna Kelly, who chairs the judging panel, told the Guardian that all six were “really exciting and compelling new voices who stood out from the rest and I’m looking forward to seeing their careers progress over the coming years”.
“I expect to see many of the shortlisted and longlisted writers signing with agents very soon,” she said.
Fellow judges include "Mostly Lit" podcast co-host Alex Reads, agent Elise Dillsworth and former online editor and producer at The Bookseller Sarah Shaffi.
The winner, who will receive £1,000, a one-day publishing workshop and online publication on the Guardian website, will be announced on 12th September.
Last year Goldsmiths University student Lisa Smith won the award for her story "Auld Lang Syne", a "subtle and sly" look at ageing and masculinity.
The prize was launched the prize two years ago. It is open to black, Asian, minority ethnic writers living in the UK and Ireland aged 18 and above.