The Most Diverse Booker Prize Shortlist in History

Reena talks through the 2020 Booker Prize shortlist.

In its 51 year run, the distinguished Booker Prize shortlist has never featured a more diverse selection of writers. Announced September 15th, the six authors shortlisted for Fiction include four writers of color and four women, with only one author from the UK.

Considered one of the most recognized literary privileges in the English-speaking world, such an interesting feat proves that the publishing industry is embracing the importance of new and unheard voices. By rejecting exclusivity and instead embracing openness, this year’s diverse selection of books celebrates the cultural variety that the chosen writers bring with them. 

The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

Bea wants to save her five-year old daughter, Agnes, from being consumed by the smog and pollution of their home city. In The New Wilderness, Diane Cook creates a captivating and daring tale of endurance, survival, and motherhood. Built on the foundation of maternal relationships, this environmental dystopia shows the lengths of sacrifice and resilience in the face of destruction – and the cost of it all.

This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga

The final installment of Tsitsi Dangarembga’s episodic trilogy navigates the prospects of hope in the life of a young girl struggling to create a better life for herself. Through the struggle of the protagonist, Tambudzai, This Mournable Body showcases the obstacles and hardships facing women in Zimbabwe. 

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor’s debut novel follows the life of Wallace, a queer black man, attempting to break free of his childhood in Alabama as he studies at a Midwestern university. This campus novel told from the perspective of a character that would usually be sidelined offers a refreshingly new tale of desire, alienation and reconciling grief. 

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

Bringing to light the narratives of women soldiers who had been written out of African and European History, The Shadow King tells the story of female empowerment and the untold experience of women at war. The novel follows Hirut, living in 1935 Ethiopia, who conjures a plan to inspire women to take up arms in the face of Mussolini’s impending army. 

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Exposing the brutality of poverty, Douglas Suart’s debut novel takes place in 1981 Glasgow. The story follows the lives of Agnes Bain and her three children, left to fend for themselves after their father leaves them in a city dying of destitution. In the strife for hope against the odds of all society, Shuggie Bain explores the unconditional love only children can have for their parents, no matter how damaged they may be.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Burnt Sugar – also known as Girl in White Cotton – tells the story of an unstable mother-daughter relationship set in India. Tara, who once abandoned her mundane life in pursuit of freedom and recklessness, now finds herself older and growing sick. Her grown daughter must care for her, despite never having her as a mother figure. This novel tests the boundaries of relationships, loyalty and the love between a mother and daughter.